Sunday, 12 August 2012

Interior Decor

Well I'm nearing the end of the shed build. As I type this I'm waiting for the glue on the skirting board to set, and will likely be spending the next few days boxing up the mountain of paperwork and computer stuff on my desk, in preparation to move in!

In this post I'm going to detail what I've been doing over the last week. This includes painting the walls, painting the door/window (aka the wood work) and laying the floor.

Lets get started:

Interior Painting

I really didn't know what colour I wanted to paint the room. All I knew is that it had to be reasonably light, as there is only light coming in one one wall, which the sun doesn't shine on until late in the afternoon. 

With this in mind, I had planned to go with an off-white on three walls, and then a light green on one wall to add a bit of colour into the room. 

Well that didn't exactly happen. I went into homebase to see what paint was available and to try and get an idea of what I should go for. While I was there we accidentally found a 'clearance' shelf, with misc paints on it. 5 minutes later I'd picked out a coffee/mushroom type light colour for the three walls, and a darker chocolate colour for the feature wall, in addition to a "Liquor-off-white" colour for the ceiling. 

The total cost? £0.00. Yep, thats right. Free. 
  • The cost of the the light-coffee (big tin) colour was originally £32.99, but was reduced to £15. 
  • The cost of the chocolate tin (a smaller tin) was originally £14.99, but was reduced to £8.
  • The cost of the liquor-off-white (big tin) colour was originally £14.99 but was reduced to £8.
So thats £62.97 worth of paint, that once reduced was £31. However upon pulling the nectar card out we were informed that we could pay for it on the points we had, so did that instead, resulting in it being (effectively) free!

The paint went on beautifully and worked really well. I was a bit worried about the darker chocolate colour and that it may make the room seem too dark, but thankfully it doesn't.

Wood-work Painting

For the door/window/windowsill I had planned on staining the wood to a dark-brown colour, so bought a tin of Homebase wood stain, called something like "ash oak". On the tin, it was very dark, however once painted onto the windowsill, it came out a very ugly bright orange! Despite having three coats, it just looked terrible, so in the end I had to change the plan and go for white. This meant the wood had to first be primed before it could be painted. Here's where that nice bargain I got at homebase on the interior paint gets off-set. For the primer, undercoat and eggshell white paint it cost £60. A complete rip off, but I had little other options. 

Thankfully as it turned out, I didn't need the undercoat as the primer was a 2-in-1, so I can get £20 back on that. I still fell £40 is still a heck of a lot of money to paint such a small area white, but maybe I'm just being a tight git!

The whitework didn't come out brilliant, with a few streaky marks on the door, but it will suffice. I certainly wasn't going to go about doing it all over again, as by this point I'd already waisted 4 days in the process.


For the flooring, I opted for laminate. I did look into both carpet and solid (bamboo) wood, however for the low-cost and efficiency, laminate seemed like the best option. I'd have loved a solid bamboo floor, however I know it'd get scratched to bits and would need replacing in half the amount of time. 

The laminate I chose was a Wickes branded one called 'Butter Oak'. It's a mid-range flooring that uses a lock-together system, so doesn't require any glue. 

I used a silver-faced underlay, which acts as a vapor barrier in addition to levelling any minor imperfections. I'd have liked to use the green fibreboard, however from the information I've read, on thinner laminate flooring such as mine, it would have created a very bouncy floor. 

The silver underlay went down very easily, and has an adhesive strip on it to fix each length together. This creates a complete vapor seal (much like using aluminium tape on celotex does). 

Once the underlay was done, the flooring went down and was surprisingly quick and easy to do, with minimal cutting needed. In total it probably only took a couple of hours to do!
Laying the floor

Skirting Board

I added a pre-finished white skirting board around the edge of the room. I paid the extra for the pre-finished ones as not only is the paintwork way better than I could do (it looks like its sprayed on), but it would have saved me a good 2 days waiting for the primer and paint to dry.

The skirting boards were fixed to the wall using small soffet nails (which have a white head, making them blend in) and some instant grab adhesive. 

Room complete!

At this stage the room is now complete and ready to be used! There are still a number of fairly minor things to do on the outside (such as a guttering and another coat of exterior paint before winter), but these can all be done over the next couple of months. So long as they get done before the end of summer, it'll be fine. 

This certainly is not the end of the blog posts. I'll be posting a price roundup soon in addition to a tips and common problems that happened, as well as more photos of when I move in, how security is done, heating, lighting, etc as well as some posts after I've been in there over winter and such.

Floor and skirting board finished!
Another view from the door.

Completing the walls

(Sorry its been almost a month since the last post. I've not been able to upload pictures. All fixed now though!)

After the electrics were all finished in the last post, I set about completing the walls.

Joining/Taping the walls

Given that there were some fairly large gaps that needed filling (in most part due to my poor cutting of the plasterboard), I opted to go down the standard taping and filling route. Had the walls been a little more level with no gaps between the boards, I'd have probably not bothered.

As you'll know if you've been following the blog, I'm a complete DIY novice, so this was something completely new to me that I was convinced I'd royally screw up! I spent a good few hours researching the best way of doing the taping/filling. This included watching countless guides on youtube too.

When it came down to it though, this information was fairly useless and it's just a case of going for it and seeing what happens. So thats what I did!

The first few bits came out pretty poor, however once I got the hang of it and figured out how much filler you needed, it wasnt too bad.

For the edge of the door and windows, I used a metal corner bar to support the edges (aka "Plasterboard Anglebead" - pictured below). This will ensure that if the corners are nocked, it wont rip the (cut, so very flakey) plasterboard apart. These just tack onto the plasterboard, and were then covered with the tape (I used the mesh-style tape, not the solid paper style tape as this allows the filler to go in-between it) and then used filler to effectively make it part of the wall. The end result is that you cant see any part of the metalwork, and the corners are near perfect smooth 90 degree angles.
Wickes Metal Anglebead used to protect the corners of the walls.


Once the filler had dried, it needed sanding to get it as level as possible with the plasterboard. For this I used an electric sander. A word of warning. This is messy. In fact, its probably the worst and most messy part of my entire build. It took a good 6 hours of solid sanding to get a half decent result. The cleanup work afterwards took another good hour!

Final Result

The end result of the joint and taped walls was ok. It wasnt perfect, but then I never expected to get it perfect, this being my first time doing it.

To help smooth the walls even more, I used a 1200 grade lining paper, which made the walls MUCH better, with only a sight line visible on either side of the wall where there was filler.

Walls done, just putting up the lining paper!


One thing I did need to do was get a windowsill put in. I initially planned to just go and buy a length of windowsill from Wickes and cut it to size, however given its extortiantly high price, I decided to first attempt to make my own. I already had a huge amount of leftover wood from the shed build, so used a spare roof plank and cut it down to the correct length, then used an electric plainer to flatten the surface, and to create a curved edge (and to remove the tongue/groove that was on the edges). Once it was plained to a rough size and shape, I finished off the edges and corners by manually sanding them. The end result was pretty much exactly what I'd have paid £15 for at Wickes, and it only took 10 minutes to make...result!
My home-made windowsill in place!

In the next article I'll detail the interior finish!

(Note: more photos from this post are on the flickr set!)

Monday, 16 July 2012

Electrics and wiring complete!

On Friday the electrics were brought into the shed. Thankfully we had a dry morning so the electrician was able to get the SWA cable in before it rained! The power comes in at the left corner and goes into a fused switch box to isolate the room. It then goes off to three double sockets.

Obviously its just the back-boxes in place and the wires, and the actual faceplates will go on once the plasterboards are up.

I also brought the coaxial (for Virgin Tivo TV) and a Cat5e in from the house. There was an existing hole on the outside wall that the Tivo box used to get into an upstairs bedroom. Thankfully it was big enough to take both a coax and ethernet cable without having to make the hole any bigger.

The coax/ethernet cable is then tacked to the wall at a low level, and is kept roughly half a foot away from the power cable to help avoid any possible interference (however it is unlikely unless you were to literally wrap the cables around each other). The ethernet comes in at the front of the shed and runs along the left wall, where it will terminate in a wall-mounted network faceplate. The Coax cable will literally just stick through the corner of the plasterboard as you loose a lot of power on the cable if you first go into a faceplate. Since there is likely already a fairly big drop in power from the house, I'd rather not risk loosing the signal all together.

I've also now finished all walls with insulation, and am currently awaiting for some expanding foam to set before sealing up the edges with aluminium tape. The plasterboard can then finally go up on the walls.

One bonus for the power is that the electrician lives less than a minute's walking distance away, so once the plasterboard is up he'll be able to pop round quickly to do the faceplates.

Pictures to follow soon - it's currently chucking it down with rain (shock horror!) and the camera is locked in the shed.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Update on the cabling & a few plans

That was some speedy delivery from! I ordered the 30 meter WF100 Coaxial cable yesterday, and it arrived around 1PM today.

I gave it a good test and it successfully works with the Tivo box!

I've also now ordered the networking supplies. I did plan on going with Cat6 but the only speed back to the house that I'll really need is going to be for the internet connection. I cant see Virgin Media giving us a free upgrade that takes us over 1gbps any time soon!

For the network connection I'm using a cat5e cable, which will terminate into a standard network wall socket in the shed. The plan is that this will then go into the back of a Netgear WNR2000 router (its the one we used for Virgin prior to them switching us over to the Superhub). This will then offer 5ghz wireless inside the shed, in addition to being hooked up to a gigabit 8 port network hub, simply because  wireless in our area is TERRIBLE due to some clever idiot at BT decided to have their routers bounce around different channels. I regularly find that every channel has at least 2 routers on it.

For the network supplies I went with an eBay supplier for a 50 meter outdoor grade cable (I dont need the full 50m so will cut it and have a good 15 meters spare for making internal cables). I also managed to get hold of a networking kit which included the punch, crimping and cutting tools.

The rj45 module and wall plates are coming from ToolStation.

The plan of things to do between now and next Friday (when the electrics are being fitted) is as follows:

  • Give the shed a clear out (I've been a bit messy with my offcuts, screws and tools!)
  • Clear space for the cables to be run to the shed
  • Seal around the roof facia boards to help reduce water dripping at the front and sides of the shed
  • Cut back the neighbours trees as they are making the shed roof constantly wet. 
  • Finish battening out the front (door/window) wall and insulate.
  • Touch up some paint on the outside
Most of this 'to-do list' is weather permitting!

I should really also be looking at interior stuff right now. I've got a folder on my desktop with a bunch of photos that I've picked up around the web of other peoples garden office interiors. My own goal is to make it a bright workspace, but not hospital-style white washed walls. So it'll be light walls, a laminate flooring (Although I have had my eye on some rather nice solid bamboo flooring with great insulation properties), etc. 

Any suggestions or inspiration ideas for the interior are welcome! :)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Small update on progress!

Just a small update on the current situation. I had to wait until I could get a quote from the electrician before proceeding, that is now complete.

The original plan for the electrics was to go from the consumer unit to the shed with a completely new ring main. The biggest problem (or more of a pain) with this is that the consumer unit is in a downstairs toilet at the FRONT of the house, while the shed is as far away from the BACK of the house as possible. This would mean a cable would have to:

  • Go out the side wall of the downstairs toilet, into the garage
  • Run along the side and back of the garage wall, and then through the wall into the utility room
  • Along the utility room wall, then through the (brick) wall to the kitchen
  • Across the top of the kitchen cupboards
  • Out the main wall to outside (at 2nd level height)
  • Down the wall, along the fence to the shed
This would mean a very long run of cable. 

The electrician worked out that I really dont need that kind of dedicated ring main as the room will be running 2 computers, 2 screens a tv and a Tivo box plus an uplight - remember I'm not having a fixed ceiling light added, so no extra fuse will be needed for that.

After some fiddling round behind cabinets, we found that there is a plug socket on a 13 amp circuit for the dishwasher that can be tapped. So we're basically taking a spur from that socket which can then go directly out the wall to the garden then along the fence, saving a good 20 meters of extra cable!

So the complete job will be:
  • Fit fused switching spur in kitchen (I assume that's something along these lines but could be completely wrong)
  • Fit ~20-25 meters of SWA cable through to the shed
  • Three double plug sockets in the shed 
We did discuss an extra consumer unit in the shed, however from the looks of things it really isn't needed. The only benefit would be that if there was a fault in the shed, it would trip in the shed instead of the house. Given that I'm happy to walk 20 paces back to the house to flip the switch (assuming it ever goes off), it really wasn't worth having it put in. Obviously if I ever decide I want it in, it wouldn't be much of a job as the SWA cable can be cut and put into a consumer unit with minimal cable threading required.

The total cost for the electrics was way lower than I was thinking it would be. I've been scouting round forums looking to see how much people were quoted, just to get a rough idea. It was messy! Some people would be quoted £100 while some were quoted £1000+! I played safe and budgeted £600 as a precautionary measure. Much to my surprise the quote came in at a little over £200 - very reasonable! This is obviously all Part-P verified work too, so is completely legitimate. This means I can spend a little more on the interior and other finishing touches.

So, there's the electrics! It's being hooked up on Friday 13th...I just hope thats not an omen!

Solar Power

I should add at this point that being a bit of a computer geek kid of guy, I've bought a few of these new Raspberry Pi computers. Its basically a micro-computer that is about the size of a credit card, and runs on a measly 5v USB power supply. The three I've bought are on backorder and should be here within 10 weeks. My plan for them is to hook them up to a solar panel. I'm on the look out for a very simple panel on a stick. Maplin used to sell one but seem to have stopped now. The idea is that these three mini computers will run my local web server which I use for development. This means that I can avoid having a second beefy computer plugged in, and instead run these little devices off free power. Further down the line I may extend my options and opt for a bigger panel however I'm planning on starting small for now.


I'm also looking into running one of these Raspberry Pi's as a security system. I should be able to hook up a night-vision webcam which could be mounted in the corner of the room. Then using the raspberry pi, set it to record to a network drive inside the house (would be a bit silly having the drive in the shed). This on top of a standard motion sensor and door sensors should be ample security. 

There will actually be very little value in anything sold as I'm going to be selling my desktop computer and getting one of the new MacBook Pro's as these support 2 screens. Meaning I can use it as a desktop computer in the office during the day, then take it out with me at night. Meaning the most anyone could get away with would be a couple of cheapo screens and a badly screen-burnt TV. These however would be anchored to something non-movable using a Kensington lock.

Additional Wiring

I was planning on using a 'Slingbox Pro HD' to basically allow me to pick up TV from my Virgin TIVO box. This transmits the picture over your local network and allows you to change the channel. Unfortunately some clever person at Slingbox decided not to support HDMI, and another clever person at Virgin/Tivo decided not to support component cable connections from the box.

Because of this I've ordered a 30 meter WF100 Coaxial cable from and will be running this to the shed and placing the Tivo box in there. This is assuming there isn't a huge amount of signal loss.

Assuming the cable works (I'll be testing it down there first before fixing it into place) Im also going to run ethernet to the office. I was going to skip this and stick with the trusty home-plugs however if I've got to run a cable down there anyway, I may as well run 2 and get a solid network connection. 

The end is really in sight now. Once the electrics are in place I can get the room completely plaster-boarded and skim over the joints (that should be fun...remember that I've got practically zero DIY experience prior to this!). Once its skimmed over I can get on with the interior work. I've also got to find some sort of vent to fit into the wall which is proving to be a nightmare to find anything that will work with the thickness of wall. 

Right thats all for now. I'll probably be posting an update on or around Friday 13th when the electrics are being done!

(Sidenote: Hmm...ok I lied, that wasn't a small update at all!)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Battening and insulating the walls

I spent yesterday and today battening the internal walls. The first step was to effectively wrap the walls in a breathable membrane. This would help to prevent condensation forming, however it shouldn't be an issue as I'm using the same 'warm' method used for the ceiling. This will mean there is no air around the wall, thus condensation can not form. To be on the safe side though, the insulation will be sealed in with silver foil tape, preventing any form of air movement.

Once the membrane was up, I started on the stud work.

To get the correct widths, I cut a sheet of Celotex in two lengthways, creating a 600mm width (or near enough to 600mm as the sheets are ever so slightly smaller than that), and basically used it as a guide as to the distance between battens.

Once the vertical battens were in place, I placed a single noggin across the middle of each. 

The same was done for the back wall, the only difference being that smaller gaps were used between the vertical supports. 

For the left hand wall, I opted to use two sets of noggins as this wall will likely have a cupboard on the wall, in addition to monitors mounted on it. Because of this, I've basically strengthened a few parts of it to allow for heavy loads to be supported. 

I've opted not to add the insulation to this wall just yet as the electrics need to be added. I've also not yet sealed the insulation in place yet as I'm waiting for some more silver foil tape to be delivered (damn you eBay!).

Once the walls are sealed up, I'll get the right and back wall covered in plasterboard.

At this point you may notice I'v not talked about the 'front' wall (I.E the wall with the door and window). I had a bit of a problem with this one. The door and window that came with the shed have a 1.5cm frame built into them. The floor bearer does not. Meaning that the roof bearer is 1.5cm out. So I basically need to add a 1.5cm piece of wood across the top, to support the plasterboard. I've actually got a ton of spares from the shed build so hopefully I can find something half decent to use for this. Once that's done I can get that wall insulated and boarded up. Thankfully there will be no major weight load on this wall, just plasterboard, otherwise it could have cause a potentially annoying problem resulting in an odd shaped wall.

Finally, taking the idea from someone else who is currently converting a shed (whom I met via the forums), I've decided to add a 'lessons learnt' section to each post, basically saying what I screwed up or would do differently next time, so here it is:

Lessons Learnt

  1. Never underestimate the amount of wood and screws you'll need. I did three separate trips back to Wickes to get more supplies!
  2. A staple gun is very helpful when putting up a breathable membrane. You still need to seal it to the wall with a waterproof tape (I opted for duct tape) but it helps hold it in place while you get it all lined up.
  3. Cutting Celotex is a pain. If using a saw, get one with extremely fine teeth. I found a kitchen knife (The kind they use in Subway to cut sandwiches - very sharp!) to generate zero dust, compared to a saw, which got it everywhere!




Stud wall

Messy insulation
The full set of photos so far can be found on the Flickr Page.

The end does seem to be in sight. The main big jobs remaining as of this post are:
  • Seal the insulation on the right and rear wall
  • Sort out the 1.5cm gap on the front wall, and add insulation
  • Plasterboard over the front, right and back wall
  • Get the electrics fitted on the left wall
  • Insulate (and seal) the left wall
  • Plasterboard the right wall
  • Skim over the plasterboard gaps
  • Paint the room
  • Add the flooring
  • Add a skirting board
  • Move in!
Actually, when you put it into a list, there is still a hell of a lot to get done. My feeling is that once the electrics are in place I'll be finished in no time. However while I'm waiting for the electrics to be done, I can still get the three other walls finished.

One thing I also want to do at a later stage is add a seal around the roof. I noticed that the roof edging boards do have a very tiny gap, meaning water can trickle under them. It would never get into the shed as its on the overlap, however I've bought a bitumen sealant that is designed to fill gaps around fascias. I'll likely also add some extra sealant on the joins of the roof felt just to make me feel that bit happier about it being water tight.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Ceiling Done!

I (well...we) got the plasterboard up on the ceiling today...what a hellish task that was! Couldn't believe how hard it was to get it to go up, but got there in the end. The shear weight of the boards combined with the fact that we had to get them to fit perfectly made it a tiring task.

I've also modified my plans slightly. To speed up the process, I've opted to just go for 3 double sockets on one wall, and nothing on the other 3 walls. This means I can get three walls completely insulated and plasterboarded and then get the electrician to work his magic on the final wall. I was originally planning on four double sockets (2 on each of the 12ft walls) however I really don't think I'll need it, and can always use an extension lead if I need more.

I also opted not to have a ceiling light as I've previously found that you can get away with a cheap-ish Ikea up-light in the corner. I'll then top it off with a couple of desk lamps, these will all use a strong white light bulb instead of a standard yellow-ish bulb. This should help a lot as I'll obviously be using the room as an office, so want a very crisp, clear light in there.

I've not got photos of the plasterboard up yet as it started pissing it down with rain just as I finished.

One really annoying thing I found was that because of the odd spacing on the roof batters, we had to cut the plasterboard in odd places to get it properly supported. We then had to add the top of the wall supports just under the plasterboard to give it extra support around the edges. In all it took about 2 and a half hours. Once the room is pretty much finished, I'll add joining tape and then skim over the gaps. I'll then probably line both the walls and ceiling in a thick lining paper before painting.

Next on the list is getting the wall studs in place, weather permitting, I should be doing it tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Insulating the roof

When it came to the roof insulation, my original plan was to use 100mm Celotex, and have a 50mm air gap above, creating whats known as a 'Cold Roof'. Soffit vents would then be placed at each side of the shed, to allow airflow on the upper side of the celotex, preventing condensation.

BUT. I messed up. I went to fit the 100mm celotex, to find my rafters were only giving me 120mm gap, meaning my air gap could only be 20mm, which would not be enough.

Because of this I opted for a kind of 'hybrid warm roof'. A breathable membrane is attached to the roof from the inside, coating it completely. The 100mm celotex is then placed between the rafters. At this point there will be little to no gap between the Celotex and the plasterboard that'll be added later.

I sealed up any gaps with expanding foam, and used Celotex Foil Tape to completely seal the gaps around the celotex. This means no air can get above the celotex, thus there should be no condensation.

Roof insulation
The only downside to this method is that an air vent has to be placed somewhere inside the shed to avoid condensation building up on the ceiling. I'll likely place a small vent above the window or door, assuming I can find one that is small enough.

If this was a house build, this method would probably not work, however since its a one room shed conversion, it shouldn't cause any problems with thermal bridging so long as sufficient ventilation exists inside the room.

So far I've got the celotex up and secured, I've now just got to place the plasterboard on the ceiling and can then make a start on the stud work walls.

I had to wait until now to start the stud work as the building has a sloped roof, and it would have been near impossible to work out how high each wall joist needed to be without having the roof completely finished.

Once I have the studs in place, I'll be calling an electrician in to get the power fitted, as I assume this will need to be done before I add wall insulation.

The end is in permitting I should be able to get the stud work done over the next week. That being said, given the weather over the previous few days I'm pretty doubtful. I came very close to going out and buying one of those white plastic gazebos so I could continue working!

Insulating the floor

For the floor I opted to use 50mm Celotex PIR board. This should provide a decent level of insulation underfoot.

I started by lining the floor (Which was basically the HawkLok shed base, and the floor rafters) in a damp-proof sheet. Basically this is just a very thick black plastic sheet. It covered the floor completely, and will stop any water from under the shed damaging the insulation.

The Celotex was laid between the rafters. To cut the Celotex up I used a standard saw, however a kitchen knife or knife with a vert fine set of teeth will be better, and leave much less dust - never, ever cut Celotex up without an asbestos-grade face mask. It's not in any way cancerous, but it will cause breathing problems for a couple of days, and from my research it turns out that the cheap paper masks dont actually do bugger all, so make sure its asbestos grade (they are around £5 each).

Once the insulation was fitted, any gaps were filled with expanding foam. I didn't need to worry about using foil tape around the edges as the celotex was on the sealed plastic sheet, so no air or liquid restriction was needed.

Shed Floor Insulation
The floorboards were then laid from front to back, they interlock a bit like laminate flooring but are made of solid wood. They are then nailed down to the rafters.

I was actually pleasantly surprised at how stable the floor was. I expected a bit of 'bounce' to it, but it was pretty rock solid.

Once the floor was done, it was time to work on the ceiling, which I'll cover in the next post!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Building The Shed

Well the shed arrived last Thursday, direct from Shire.

I have to say that I wasn't impressed by the delivery service. The driver pulled up and had the shed wrapped up on the back of a truck, with a crane. It took him around 45 minutes to unload the shed. Towards the end I had to go and help him as he very nearly dropped it on my Dad's car, despite me asking the driver if the car needed to be moved, which he said it did not. He used two large bands around the palet containing the shed, and as he lifted it, the shed nearly slid off the end. A very poor start, but we got there in the end.

After he left and I started unwrapping I noticed a lot of broken pieces. Thankfully as it turned out it wasn't as bad as it looked, and there were ample spare parts.

One thing I will say: Shire sheds have the WORST instructions ever, they really may as well not bother sending them out. The entire instructions seem to be the same for their entire product lineup as many of the points were totally irrelevant. The wording was pretty poor (e.g 'Drill hole aprx 50 centers from the side' and 'Place WT next to WA and line up WC at the end', without any instructions saying what 'WT' 'WA' or 'WC' was).

Had the instructions been written by someone a little more competent, the shed would have been up within 2 days. As it stood, it took three.

The actual building went together fairly easily. The logs locked together well, and I was very glad that I had opted for the thicker wood (44mm instead of 34mm) as it provided a fantastic seal. I highly recommend going for 44mm or thicker wood. The walls are solid.

A few minor annoyances I found were that the window only has a standard latch at the bottom, with no handle to lock it further up the window, meaning someone could easily get a crowbar in the top of the window and pop it open. I've bought a few extra locks to secure the window properly.

I've also got to sand a little off the window and door as they catch ever so slightly, nothing too major though.

If you take a look at the photos (on the right of the blog, or directly at flickr by clicking HERE) you can see the photos so far.

At this point the basic shell is complete, the shed is up and painted. Next I'm going to be adding insulation to the floor. I was going to go for 100mm Celotex but the floor isn't thick enough for that, so have opted for 50mm which should still be plenty thick enough. That's arriving tomorrow and once laid I can put the floor boards down and then start work on the stud walls.

To wrap a few points up on the actual shed. It is a Shire Dean Log Cabin at 12ft deep by 8ft wide. I purchased it from Elbec Garden Buildings, but it is also sold by Summer Log Cabins and a few others.

Would I recommend Shire again? Yes, however be prepared to get VERY frustrated with the instructions, and also be prepared to help the delivery driver who seemed a bit flustered (wasn't really his fault, his truck had clearly been overloaded).

Ideally Shire need to work on both the packaging and documentation side of things. There were a number of dents and minor splits. Thankfully I was able to make sure there were on the inside (as they will be covered by the insulation/plasterboard) however I can imagine that there are likely a number of times that the boards arrive badly damaged beyond being usable.

Anyway, in my next post I'll be going through the floor and then the stud walls!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Base

The base of a log cabin is very important as it has a number of major structural effects. If the load isn't correctly balanced, your cabin may warp or even break. I did a fair amount of research before picking my base.

One thing to note with my build is that I was placing the new log cabin in place of an old shed, which was sat on paving slabs. Today, I broke a hole in the old shed floor to inspect the state of its base. While I wont be laying my cabin on the existing slabs, I needed to see how the ground was. Thankfully it was completely bone dry (surprising considering we've had the wettest few weeks in years!). With this in mind, I can now dismantle the old shed, leaving the ground covered with a tarpaulin sheet until the rain stops and I can lay the new base.

I'll explain in detail what I'm planning to do later in this post, but first, lets talk about the different types of base that can be used for a log cabin or garden office.

Choosing A Base

The first base type is the most obvious: 

Concrete Base

A concrete base is probably the most stable way to set up any shed. If you choose to go for a concrete base, you first need to dig out the land and level it, then place wooden shutter boards around the edge, do measurements throughout to make sure you've got the right size. 

Once your shuttering is in place, lay a damp proof membrane. This will stop anything coming up through the concrete and help to keep it dry. 

You can now lay your concrete. Depending on how heavy your building is will depend on how thick it should be. Realistically most garden office / log cabin structures are fine with 4 inches (10 cm). You can use ready-mixed bags from the likes of Wickes and Homebase if you wish, these work fine. Its usually best to see if you can get a deal on a wet concrete delivery as in some cases it can be cheaper. I personally wasn't able to find a good deal on this for my build when I first started researching.

There are a few important points to note with a concrete base:
  • Try not to make your base any bigger than your shed. This encourages water to collect.
  • Ideally, you should try and have the base above ground, so it's effectively 4 inches of raised concrete. This does wonders to stop water.
  • The concrete can take up to a month to fully set, however in most cases should be fine to build on after 48 hours.
  • Concrete actually loves water, so dont be too worried if it rains after you've laid it, it'll only make your base stronger.
  • If you are extending an existing concrete base, drill into the sides of the old base and add metal supports, this will help bond the two bases together and prevent them separating.

Wooden Base

I cant stress how much of a bad idea this is if you want your log cabin to last. A wooden base has very little support and will basically be completely rotten within a few years. I'm not going to go into detail on how to erect a wooden base, however I can only say this: dont do it.

Rased Concrete Base

Think about how a pier works, this method works in a similar fashion. You basically create concrete elevated molds (you can buy them ready made) and then place your wooden base on top of these, raising the log cabin up significantly. 

The idea is that you add these concrete blocks under the base, and it created a strong foundation, way off of the ground. 

A very similar method is offered by a few select garden companies that uses metal pads and poles to raise the base.

Plastic Base

Now, this is the method I chose to go with. But before I go into detail, you need to know that there are more than one type of plastic base. There is 'Ecobase' style bases which aren't very thick (between 3 and 6 cm) and a more stable variation called 'HawkLok' or sometimes 'Forest Plastic Base', this is a much thicker, sturdier method where instead of ramming pea shingles into each hold (presumably to hold everything together), the plastic 'pads' each lock into each other, creating a sold, strong pad which acts much like a solid concrete pad. 

When I first looked into this, I immediately dismissed a plastic base as being a bad idea, but the HawkLok style bas is actually pretty clever. It's been tested to apparently support over 28 tons per pad, and can be moved around and reused. For me, it worked out cheaper than a concrete base, and allows me to put it together myself in a matter of hours.

You start by digging out your plot (which is actually optional if you want the shed rased even more). You then place a layer of sand (again, optional but recommended) followed by a damp-proof membrane. You then lay your plastic bads on the membrane and lock them into place, once done you can move it around to get the correct position.

At this point, the base is complete...much quicker and simpler. I'll be doing a full review (and walkthrough) of the base once I get started (assuming the rain actually stops at some point!!)

I had many discussions with members of DIY forums and like myself, many thought the plastic bases were a silly idea and were only intended for small, light sheds, but they work just as well as a concrete base, and theoretically should be even better as they allow for a bit more air circulation, shouldn't get anywhere near as cold as concrete does, and can be reused. Only time will tell just how good they are though!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Choosing a Log Cabin

I spent a LOT of time researching which log cabin I wanted. The biggest issue I found was getting answers to a few critical questions:

1) How thick is the wood used?
2) Does the thickness of the wood really make that much of a difference?
3) What kind of windows and doors do I need?
4) What sort of insulation do I need?
5) Will this be way too cold to use in the winter?

I joined several DIY forums including DIYBanter and DIYNot. I got some awesome advice from people on there who were a lot more experienced than I was (the most DIY I've ever done is fixing a bedroom door that wouldn't close!) who were able to point me in the right direction.

Picking The Log Thickness

I opted for a 44mm wood. Whilst I've seen some others get away with 28mm, I wanted the extra thickness as you get an extra groove out of the wood. Take a look at the picture below and you'll see what I mean.

If you look at this picture, you'll see that the 28mm and 34mm wood, only has a single tongue and groove system, whereas the 44mm and 70mm have a double T&G system. This not only makes the wood stronger, as it locks together better, but also adds an extra water barrier, and basically provides a better outer insulation layer.

Initially I looked at a 28mm cabin from Tiger Log Cabins, however ended up opting for a Shire Dean Log Cabin from Elbec Garden Buildings (also sold by Summer Log Cabins). This allowed me to go for the 44mm wood.

Windows & Doors

Since this room is going to be used as an office, I need it to be relatively secure. Generally sheds (and even log cabins) come with either plexiglass/plastic or single layer glass windows. This really wasn't going to be secure enough. The same usually happens with the door. You generally get a thin, flimsy wooden door that really is next to useless if you plan on using the building as anything other than a shed.

As I mentioned above, I chose a Shire Dean Log Cabin. The great thing I found about this model is that you can have double glazed windows and doors. Thats not to say that this is the only model that offers this. Tiger Log Cabins offers it across most of their cabins, and a number of cabins from Dunster House and Garden Buildings Direct also offer full double glazing.

Ultimately you should go for Double Glazing (or toughened double glazing if offered) and it'll not only improve security but also insulation.

I'll be covering the base and insulation in my next post so stay tuned!

Welcome to the blog

Welcome to the first, in what will hopefully be many posts. My name is Rick and I'm a self-employed web developer, mobile app developer, online 'handy-man' or at least something along those lines.

I've been working from home since I left University a few years ago, and basically work out of a bedroom, which is not ideal. Distractions are aplenty with a dog, 2 cats and a parrot constantly trying to get your attention, it makes concentrating and getting 'in the zone' while working virtually impossible.

A few months ago I started looking at ways to get rid of these distractions so I could focus and commit time to actually getting some real work done. I toyed with the idea of converting our garage into an office, but this really wouldn't solve the issue. I'd still be in the house, which is full of distractions. I needed to get away from the house.

This lead me to look at a garden office. At first I started looking at the big garden office companies, Henley, Roomworks, Smart Garden Offices, etc. I got all the brochures, and had a good look through them all. The problem is...they cost a fortune! I quite simply couldn't afford to spend £8,000+ on this. They look fantastic, and are well built, but for me, the cost of them made them totally unviable. When I did find some lower-end cheaper ones, they didn't look too attractive at all, more like a temporary hut (e.g the 'Micro Garden Office' by Smart Garden Offices. The inside looks great, but it looks pretty awful from the outside.

After some extensive research, it turns out that once you've got all your details sorted correctly, its actually quite a simple process to convert a box-standard log cabin into a garden office. So, thats what I'm doing.

As of writing this, I've decided on a log cabin, on how it'll be insulated, etc and will post about these things individually in other blog posts.

I'm hoping that this blog will serve as a useful base to share ideas and any pitfalls that may will occur during the build, so I can hopefully warn people of any potential 'gotchas' before they bite!

So, stick with me and with any luck I'll soon have a garden office built, complete with photos, info and guides for anyone reading this!