A metal garden shed is the answer to your garden storage problems if you are looking for a storage solution that is cost-effective, long lasting and low maintenance.
Unlike wooden sheds, a metal shed requires virtually no maintenance, it will not rot and is weatherproof, rodent proof, insect proof and fireproof.
Metal garden sheds are also more secure than their wooden counterparts - an important consideration if you have valuable items to store.
But there is a bewildering choice of metal sheds on the market so how can you be confident that you are making the right choice?
If you've already had a look around for a suitable metal garden shed you will know that prices vary widely although it's not always obvious why.
I hope the information below will help you identify key features, including those that you can expect to pay more for.
Rust is the greatest enemy of any metal building and your metal garden shed won't last long if it hasn't been manufactured from rust proofed materials.
Whatever your budget, look for a shed made from either hot dipped galvanized steel or aluminum, and finished in a baked-on polyester enamel or a tough vinyl coating to further protect it from the elements.
Check also that all nuts, bolts, screws and other fixings are corrosion resistant.
A good guide to the quality of materials used in each model is the length of the manufacturer's guarantee. These typically run from 10 years to 15 years, and even, in some cases, 25 years!
This gives a good indication of the longevity you can expect from your shed. Of course many metal garden sheds will last a lot longer than this which compares very favourably with their wooden counterparts.
The majority of metal sheds are built around a galvanized steel frame (although some aluminum sheds are wood framed). The frame provides the skeleton of the shed and gives it its strength.
Models with heavy duty framing will be more robust, and, of course, more expensive.
Tip: If you live in an area subject to heavy snowfalls or high winds, look for a metal storage shed with a snow or wind load rating. Some manufacturers also supply optional strengthening or 'storm' kits for their sheds.
The walls are constructed from sheet metal panels attached to the outside of the frame. The thickness of these panels is a major factor in determining the resilience and durability of your metal shed. Thinner sheet materials are usually ribbed or corrugated to increase their strength and rigidity.
Typical thickness values run from 0.25mm, for a low cost budget shed suitable for storing general gardening odds and ends, to 1.2mm for a much more expensive top of the range security shed to house your expensive power tools and ride on mower.
Your metal garden shed can have sliding doors or regular hinged doors. Some larger units may also have 'up and over' garage style doors
Which style you choose is a matter of personal preference but make sure that the opening is wide enough for you to get larger items in and out easily. If you choose hinged doors you will have to allow enough clearance for the doors to open fully.
Most metal sheds come with some sort of door locking mechanism but if you intend to store valuable items look for doors with at least a three point, or better still, a five point locking mechanism as these are much harder to break into.
Other high security features may include steel lock housings, reinforced doors and door surrounds, reinforced joints and integral steel floors. These add to the cost but may be worth it to keep your expensive equipment safe.
Condensation can be a problem with any metal shed so look for a model with some form of ventilation system that allows a decent airflow.
Some manufacturers supply a wide range of optional extras including access ramps (important if you are storing heavy equipment!), and integrated shelves and racking systems which allow you to easily fit out the interior of your shed to suit your exact requirements.
Many of the problems associated with metal garden sheds are the result of inadequate foundations.
All but the smallest metal garden sheds need foundations of some sort, and these need to be level and to incorporate a damp proofing membrane to reduce condensation problems.
Uneven foundations make it difficult to erect your shed easily, create a strain on the fixings and allow the ingress of water.
You can either prepare a foundation yourself using pressure treated timber bearers or sleepers, paving stones, or a poured concrete slab, or you can look for a shed model with an optional foundation kit which can make the job a whole lot easier.
All reputable shed manufacturers and suppliers will give you advice on the best type of foundation to use for their metal sheds.
The majority of metal sheds also do not come complete with a floor.
If you choose to build a paving stone or concrete slab foundation, this can also do duty as the floor surface.
Other types of foundation will need a separate floor of wood or OSB board. You can construct your own or buy one of the optional floor kits supplied by most metal shed manufacturers.
Metal sheds are relatively light for their size and need anchoring to the ground or foundations in some way. Most manufacturers will supply suitable anchoring kits that either screw into the ground (augers) or bolt into paving or concrete foundations.
If you do not take the trouble to anchor your shed there is a real risk of it shifting, or even blowing away in strong winds!
Most major online DIY and building supply retailers offer a selection of basic metal storage sheds but I would recommend looking at the online ranges of specialist metal shed manufacturers and retailers.
They offer a wide selection and will be more than happy to give advice by email or telephone.
They are also more likely to supply a wide range of optional extras and are usually very competitively priced - many also offer free delivery.
For another low maintenance garden storage solution read the information on plastic garden sheds.
If you think you would prefer a wooden shed, you can find more information at wooden garden sheds.
For an overview of choosing the right shed, including advice on size, materials and siting, head over to garden sheds.