The most basic regular maintenance requirement is cleaning. This won't improve the durability of the shed but aesthetically over a period of time the surfaces will need a wash and brush up to clean off any grime that has accumulated.
The roof is the most likely place for leaves and assorted detritus to collect, so, first of all, remove any debris that has built up with a soft bristle brush. Anything harsher may scratch the surface.
Then hose down, before using soapy water and a mop to clean the surface. Some grime may require extra attention with a slightly more abrasive sponge. Any bird droppings and stubborn debris should be soaked first, just place a wet towel on them for a while and they'll be much easier to clean off.
Then hose the roof again and repeat the exercise for the outside walls using a cloth, soap or a mild detergent, and warm water. If you can afford one, a pressure washer can be very effective instead of a mop or cloth but makesure the pressure is not excessive or there is a chance that the plastic might be damaged.
As for the inside, regularly sweep the floor as you would in your own home, and wipe over surfaces.
If you keep tins of paint, varnish, wood stain etc in the shed, some spillages are inevitable. These can easily be cleaned up with turpentine or white spirit from a floor that is stain resistant.
And that's about it, plastic sheds really are the answer if you haven't the time, you're not as young as you used to be, or you just prefer not to undertake any strenuous, and sometimes expensive, maintenance tasks.
The number one enemy of a wooden shed is rainwater, which is why good roofing felt is essential to prevent leakage and eventual decay. You also don’t want water dripping onto what might be expensive items stored inside.
Replacing Roofing Felt
When felt needs replacing go for the best mineral coated bitumen you can afford. If it’s good quality this felt will last upwards of 15 years, you pay for what you get and in the long run it will be worth the extra expense.
Replacing felt is simple enough. First flatten out the new roll and take off the wooden gables that hold the existing felt in place. Either remove the felt it’s in poor condition, making sure not to leave behind any projecting nails and repairing any damaged boards, or keep the felt and brush off any anything that may damage the new covering.
Measure the length of the shed, adding four inches to account for a small overhang at each end. Place the felt on the lower half of the roof, overhanging the sides and ends by about two inches. Fix the new felt in place by using clout nails at about 3 – 4-inch intervals along the overhang and top edge. Repeat on the other side. Now cut a strip of felt about 12 inches wide and nail into place along the ridge. Job done when the gables are replaced.
Once the roof is fixed, the other timber parts need protecting using preservatives or paint. The former is preferable since it should soak into the timber while allowing it to breathe. There are lots on the market, either water or solvent-based but all are effective materials for shed maintenance.
As with any product, the range is from the most basic to more expensive formulations that contain wax to actively repel rainwater. Others have UV filters to maintain colour and active ingredients to protect and act against rot and decay.
The other decision to make is whether to brush on or spray. Remember these aren’t interchangeable, you will need a preservative that is specially formulated for spraying.
Brushing takes more time but the preparation is shorter as you only need to cover the edges of immediately adjacent areas, such as windows, with tape. Spraying is less controllable, more areas need to be covered and you can’t spray in windy conditions.
Maintaining Metal Fittings
The third simple tip for shed maintenance is to look after door hinges. Not only do rusty hinges look unattractive, but they also don’t function as well as they should.
Replace any cheap fixtures and fittings with equivalents made from galvanised steel to prevent corrosion. Oil the hinges at least twice a year, preferably before any winter weather arrives and then in the spring. There are quite a few rust suppressants on the market with some doubling as lubricants, search them out rather than applying grease that attracts grit and grime.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Be alert to any problems that the shed might suffer from. Inspect the roofing felt for any tears, especially after bad weather. When you cover a shed roof there’s always bits of felt leftover, so keep these and use them to patch it up.
Look out for decaying floorboards and cladding, these will need to be removed and replaced. Local houses are always being extended and demolished, so find a building site and ask whether you can have any old floorboards and timber offcuts. Use these to replace woodwork on the shed.
Take time to clean anything you use and store thoughtfully. Don’t leave valuable tools in a damp environment where they will rust, replace the tops of paint cans securely so when you come to use the paint again it’s not a solid block. Use white spirit to clean brushes, wipe saw blades over with an oil cloth, roll roofing felt neat, don’t fold it or throw it in the corner.
Just a small number of essential tools that will get most jobs done. Remember, shed repairs don’t have to be costly or time-consuming.
If you have to buy them, get the best you can afford within your budget, it’s a false economy not to. Car boot or jumble sales and markets are good sources but, if you have to buy from a high street shop, go to a retailer who can give you advice.
They know what’s worth buying and what’s a cheap alternative that will prove a waste of money – this goes for screws and nails as well as high-end tools. And the more times you go in there, the greater knowledge they have of your needs.
Arm yourself with a good-sized claw hammer that’s heavy enough to do most jobs but light enough to carry around, a drill (preferably cordless if you are working in the garden), a screwdriver (manual or cordless) and a set of bits (Slotted, Phillips and Pozi Drive), perhaps a spirit level, a 3m (10ft) retractable tape measure, a general-purpose handsaw, pliers (probably vice grip) and a utility or Stanley knife.
Safety glasses and a can of WD40 wouldn’t come amiss either.
If the repairs are going to be a one-off or you are unlikely to use a particular tool again, consider hiring it. The tools from hire shops are designed to be rigorously used by all types of amateurs and professionals, serviced regularly and therefore reliable.
There’s no doubt you can repair a shed on a budget, it just takes care, attention and improvisation.