Belfast Telegraph

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Unearth best uses of your garden shed

There's much more to them than simply cobwebs, unused bikes and rusting tool kits. Luke Rix-Standing takes a closer look

Varied choice: a garden shed can be transformed into many things
Varied choice: a garden shed can be transformed into many things

Do you have an old shed (or even a relatively new one) quietly rotting away at the bottom of your garden? It may be housing a few rusting tools or a long-neglected lawn-mower, but is it really paying its way?

Sheds like this can go one of two ways. They can drift towards degradation, becoming grotty grime-holes that kids run past after dark, ruining the aesthetic of even the most lovingly crafted garden.

Or, you can take things in hand and turn it into a designer den.

We know which option we like the sound of. Tempted to work some transformation magic and take your shed from drab to fab? These simple steps should help get you started, along with suggestions for how to use it:

Start with the basics

Replace any rotting boards, use wood filler to seal gaps in the walls or ceiling, and mend any really large cracks that can't be papered over.

Next get the place clean - you don't want to be painting over any spiders' webs or lichen and you certainly don't want to conceal any rot, so a once-over with a fungicidal wash might be a worthwhile move.

Perfect your paintwork

Now for the colour: Apply a layer of oil-based primer and once it dries you're ready for your first layer of paint.

Remember to put down a tarpaulin to protect nearby areas, and cover hinges, handles and window frames with masking tape to stave off unwanted splash. Let it dry, repeat, and let dry again. Depending on your materials, a decent two-coat paint job should last up to five years.

Keep it cosy

Damp is the number one enemy of a shed-turned-living space, and its number one entry point is from the ground, so it may be time to surface your floor.

We recommend vinyl sheeting - it's relatively cheap, insulating, easy to clean and fares well with heavy footfall. Unless your shed is for seasonal use only, you may need to insulate more than just your floor. Mineral wool; wood fibre; insulation board - you've got plenty of options, but it's advisable to get in a professional for a job like this.

Fixtures and fixings

Your shed is now fundamentally functional, but if you are really going to make the most of your new-found space, you'll probably want lights and a heater. Battery-operated appliances do work well, but in the long run it may be more convenient to wire up a power supply. Of course, suitability and safety are paramount for anything like this - so call in the professionals before making elaborate plans, and make sure any electrical jobs are done by a qualified electrician.

How to use it?

Your shed is your oyster - and the options are almost endless. Here are some ideas...

1. The home office

In the age of the internet, laptop and smartphones, more people are working from home. You'll probably want to add wi-fi and be sure that heater is working in winter.

2. The play shed

Playroom or play-house, a little home of their own can keep the kids happy for hours. A cardboard box cooker (or commercially made plastic one) with dishes and utensils, a little table and chairs and they're set.

3. The hobby house

Teenage son wants to play the drums? Partner sick of your model train set covering the sitting room floor? Sheds are the perfect place for housing hobbies the rest of family doesn't share.

4. The art studio

Sheds are particularly good at keeping mess away from your actual home and allowing the creative process to go on unhindered at any time of day or night.

Paint splashes, oozes of glue and a soft layer of wood shavings are much more acceptable in the shed than in the dining room.

5. The man cave

We're not sure why this a male thing particularly (women, quite fairly, might like some peace and quiet sometimes too), but the man-cave-shed is certainly a thing. A comfortable old sofa, a telly, games console and sound system are all simple plug-ins for the well-wired garden room.

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