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Established Member
21 Apr 2004
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Hi there, it's been quite a few years since I posted on here. Good to see this group is still so active!

So I'm looking to build a garden office - to building regs, fully insulated, etc. Can anybody recommend the most cost effective place to buy building supplies from ? I can get to Wickes, Jewsons, B&Q, etc and a few independent Timber merchants, such as A10 Timber. (I live in Hertfordshire).

I assume Screwfix/Toolstation is best for most fixings etc, let me know if any other ideas on this.

This would be the first undertaking of such a large project so any tips from people who have done this would be appreciated.

Many thanks!


you might find the cheapest way to buy timber is to work out the lengths you want, then find a supplier that is stocking that length.

if you want 3.6M lengths but the cheapest supplier has only got packs of 3.0m and 4.8m lengths you might end up having lots of short offcuts.

Also you might be best choosing the best quality timber rather than the cheapest -without going and having a look its difficult to know, also some lengths might be better than others at my merchant, 2.4m lengths were like bananas but the 4.8m lengths were great.

If you are cladding with timber you might be best to go to a timber merchant -maybe Brooks bros will supply you if you need quite a few metres in cedar or siberian larch.

Sadly builder merchants are dinosaurs -they don't cater well for non account holders and what prices you can get will depend very much on what discount the sales person will give you. Some places like Travis Perkins and Selcos will give you a cash account which will give you a standard discount.

Also think about deliveries -if you want it spaced into a few deliveries, make sure each delivery value qualifies for free delivery.

hardware: toolstation and screwfix are good, but if you want bolts try orbital fasteners or even ebay marketplace.

for insulation: I found a roofing supplier much cheaper than the merchants (it was about roofing, which is only local to me -but there maybe similar in your area).
+1 for Ridgeons if you are in East Anglia. They are now part of Huws Grey.

When we moved in here (S Cambridge) in 1996 I wanted a woodburning stove which they stocked at the time. Guy behind the counter said - can you wait a week or so - yes - well if you open an account we will deliver it for free. So I did and I still have it, some years spending less than £100 but it doesn't seem to trouble them. You can find stuff cheaper in the big sheds but I stick with Ridgeons for most things because its decent quality and fair prices. Facilities and stock vary by branch, sheet cutting available in some. 99% of the people I've dealt with have been helpful even with silly person questions. Very limited hardwood though, but you are not after that.
Robin, Mike and Richard, thanks for the quick and useful replies already.
Great idea about opening an account. I had assumed you had to be trade, but I guess you can just ask... Some good tips about lengths too. Agree on quality, so may go for a local timber merchant to view stocks.
MikeG - excellent post with your diagram on who to build a shed properly... That's exactly the kind of info I'm looking for.

Can anybody recommend a good book I should buy to keep me on the straight and narrow. Mike you're info is perfect, but I could use more tips on all the steps of construction.. I've got lots of woodworking experience but will be my first 'proper' building construction..
archpa":rslvl41y said:
........MikeG - excellent post with your diagram on who to build a shed properly... That's exactly the kind of info I'm looking for. ........Mike you're info is perfect, but I could use more tips on all the steps of construction.. ..

This thread will almost certainly help you. It talks you through the construction of my own workshop in minute detail with a squillion photos. It's a slight variation on the basic version in my signature which you have already looked at.

Besides that, I am here and quite happy to answer questions throughout the design and construction process. There are getting on for 200 projects around the world that I know of that have followed my "how to build a shed" advice.
archpa":1zwyr599 said:
........So I'm looking to build a garden office - to building regs.........

Are you sure you mean this? Building Regs will mean, for instance, orthodox footings (min 1m dig, tons of concrete), or a structural engineer-designed raft. If you want somewhere warm and dry and under 30 square metres floor area, and you don't want to spend £1000 per square metre, then a variation on my "how to" version makes an excellent home office...and indeed, that's what my previous workshop now is.
To second this (what Mike said) - be very aware what you are getting into with building regs. On one I did, on clay and with trees nearby, regs required 1.8 metre depth of concrete in the perimeter footings. This is a significant challenge for an inexperienced or DIY digger operator and you have no chance of doing this in any reasonable timeframe with anything less than a 3 tonne machine paired with a dumper. Then you either need space to remove the waste on your land (I built planting banks) or pay (a lot) for waste disposal via skips.

Structural engineer is going to cost you circa £1,000 plus if you go down that route I would say, unless you have existing relationships. They will adopt a risk averse approach.

If you have freely draining soil, no heave risk and no fences or trees nearby - then it is all much easier.
Good spot Mike - as you suspected, I just want to build it properly, warm, dry with electricity, heating , insulated and double glazed.

Most likely to be no more than 15sqm internal floor area, but < 1m from two boundary fences. So under permitted development and avoiding building regs if at all possible.

I understand two key constraints here are :
1) max height of 2.5m (to avoid planning)
2) can't use combustible materials (such as wood cladding) as I will be < 1m from the boundary. Do you think I need to clarify this with my local building control? I'm not sure I fully understand the requirements here.

Given the above, I think my main challenges are how to make it look nice (I like the idea of painted wood cladding like your workshop) given possible constraints on materials, but also how to make it look nice given the roof pitch will be limited to keep within 2.5m.

I had a look at your workshop build thread - what a goldmine of information, I'm sure I will be reading it in detail. Lovely workshop by the way! And thanks for the offer to answer questions :)

AJB - Building regs sounds like a nightmare! Thanks for the warning...will avoid going this route!
archpa":3b6dvst0 said:
.......2) can't use combustible materials (such as wood cladding) as I will be < 1m from the boundary. Do you think I need to clarify this with my local building control? I'm not sure I fully understand the requirements here..........

No, you've got this wrong. If you are under 15 sq m (internal floor area) then no regs apply (other than electrics), and you can build using whatever you like. This assumes you aren't providing sleeping accommodation. So you can clad in timber feather edge boards if you want.
I live in Worcester and used Kellaway for my current build, they came in cheaper on timber than a few yards and they also do all the bricks, aggregate for under the slab, mesh etc.

They've a few branches dotted around.

All the timber is eased edge planed c24, though the invoice only says sawn c24.

I just made up the list of everything I wanted and contacted a few places and asked for a price. In my build thread you can see the prices I paid for everything so far if you want to compare to what you've seen.
I recently started to plan a workshop style building for my sons timpani drums (he's a recent graduate classical musician now living at home since all freelance work stopped). We found another solution - bigger kitchen table - so never built it.

Anyway in early planning I found a visit to a big garden centre shed display helpful. No intention of buying, but standing in sheds of different sizes, shapes, roof shapes, door and window positions, really helped visualise what I wanted and didn't want. For me it's better to stand in an 8x12 space than try to imagine one.

It might help you in early stage thinking.

*bigger kitchen table=can all comfortably eat together in kitchen=no need for dining room=space for timpani.
Thanks for all the advice so far, most appreciated.

I'll be taking the 'Building a shed Mike's way' design approach - thanks Mike :)
So here is my first rough design.
(Hope the image works)

Going for an L shaped building with a pitched roof (why can't I keep things simple!)
Internal floor Area <= 15sqm, height 2.5m limit. (may tweak dimensions to maximise this later)
French doors at 45 degrees
Mike, I liked your recommendation of the corrigated Onduline Roofing as a possible option.
As you can see at this stage I've ignored things like roof design, overhang of rafters, gutters, roof extension over french doors etc.

So the main challenge I see is having a pitched roof and keeping all within 2.5m height.
Most designs I've seen with these constraints have the door on the gable side, allowing the door to be about 2m high.
So I'm wondering how practical this design is. Is it even possible without making the door too obviously short? If it is possible, I'm wondering what rule of thumb dimensions should be for example from top of concrete base (50mm above ground level) to top of the top plate, and therefore minimum door height,..How would roof design change for onduline roof instead of felt? So I can calculate thickness of roof.

I managed my own house- and shed- builds (including organising almost all supplies) in Gloucestershire and found the local independent builders' merchants (Kellaway) to be the best and cheapest for most things apart from timber, where the specialist timber merchants won out. It's definitely worth shopping around, although there is, of course, a balance to be struck between getting the cheapest price on everything vs the hassle of getting prices from lots of places. Building a good relationship with a local merchant is also worth it, in case you ever need a favour.
If you're after construction timber then I don't think you'll find it cheaper/straiter/more economical than Volunds in Crews Hill just off the A10. He supplies the events world, a mass consumer of timber and has huge amounts of stock in whatever length you require. Nice bloke too.

Sheet material, Id check with Laver first then possibly Blumsons. Laver will have nice ply, whatever the requirement. Their sheet material is top quality. Blumsons occasionally surprise me with nice stiff, especially the Far Eastern.

Bulk purchasing screws and fixings should be done online. You'll do well avoiding screw fix and tool station as their price per box is relatively high. Alpha Pneumatics in Hatfield have a massive amount of stock and are cheap in comparison.

Not sure where you'll head with your roof but I have used three of these over the last month or so and so easy/clean/quick. 2/3 days for delivery and a couple of hours to fit.

Doesn't have to be these guys, I usually shop around.

Good luck
Thanks everyone for your helpful replies. Joel, especially for the local contacts, I will be sure to get in touch with them when I'm ready. I also spoke to A10 Timber this morning and they are happy to setup a cash account so I can get a trade-like discount on this project.. So I'll get quotes from both.

Thanks again.
One more option. Tw parker.
First left turn as you travel north on the a10 from the m25. Nice guy. Warehouse full of good quality timber.
Happy/patient enough to deal with non trade but recommended to me by local trade guys and roofer cousin in lawish. Meddite and construction pine and oak I have bought there is good quality.
Nice guy and fair price. Timber only, no fixings /extras etc afaik. He does a cutting service and is open atm.