As the first autumn winds and rains arrive, don’t you wish your car was less exposed to the elements? And don’t you also wish you had more garden storage? Bikes and outdoor furniture all fare better indoors in autumn, and a winter garden looks less desolate with the jetsam of summer living stored safely inside.
Your car too would benefit from some shelter. There’d be less risk of gales blowing your neighbours’ bins into the car and denting a door or wing. And you’d no longer waste precious morning minutes scraping ice from the windscreen.
So why not invest in a DIY garage this winter? There are now so many affordable timber garages kits on the market that buying one is no longer a major investment. And a timber garage is more eco-friendly than the traditional bricks and mortar garage, especially if you use Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood.
Another change from tradition is how attractive garages and garden buildings look nowadays. Having a low-price garage often used to involve buying a flimsy 1970s-style carport. They might have protected 1970s cars from direct sun or acid rain (as long as both came straight down from above), but they didn’t do much for the look of anyone’s garden. Nor did the rusting or chipped paint of old-style metal garage doors.
In contrast, the timber garage of the 2010s is attractive and robust. The timber can be stained with neutral colours to retain the natural finish of the wood, or painted or stained in colours that blend in with your garden or house. What’s more, they are designed to be built by those with even modest DIY skills.
The financial attractions
Today’s garages have other attractions as well. For example, Moneysupermarket.com advises: “Parking your car in a locked garage …reduces the statistical likelihood of theft as well as vandalism and … will lower your insurance costs”. A garage could also add to the value of your house (as long as you do not lose too much garden space when you build it), and certainly increase its attractiveness to buyers.
Allow for some extra space
One age-old problem with garages does still apply today: the fact that they fill up too quickly. The car starts to be edged out of its own space by a gathering multitude of other possessions: the garden containers that need to be protected from frost; the guinea pigs that your children acquire once the garage is there to provide winter quarters; the rug that is no longer right in the dining room but must be saved in case you change your mind.
And other uses for the garage emerge: workroom, table football room, or back-garden pub. Pretty soon the car is back in its old place on the driveway or the street.
The optimum solution is to buy a garage with spare space – either around the car or in a dedicated storage area. Garages with extra storage allow you space for a new hobby, or enable you to clear your home and garden of clutter (and keep the car out of the winter weather).
Having been hooked by the idea of a timber garage, you’ll find there is a growing choice on the market. In order to make sure you end up with a building that (a) really is weatherproof and (b) stays attractive and robust beyond the first winter, look out for the following features and design specifications:
Timber: The type of wood used will affect the garage’s longevity and weatherproofing ability. Hardwood, when sustainably sourced, is the best option, but it is very expensive. Slow-grown timber has a closer grain and is denser than fast-grown timber, and is therefore more durable. Look for timbers that are grown in northern regions, such as the Nordic and Baltic countries, rather than Mediterranean and other southern countries.
Log thickness: The thicker the log, the better insulated and warmer the garage will be. The standard advice on garden buildings is that timber up to 28mm thick is fine for summer use (based on the UK climate), and 34mm logs sufficient for spring and early autumn too. If you plan for your garage to double up as workshop or games room, 40mm or 70mm logs will provide a warmer space for winter too.
Wood treatments: All timber is vulnerable to damp, especially doorframes, the posts of carports, and foundation joists. Look for buildings with laminated wood doorframes and posts, and pressure-treated foundation joists, to provide protection against damp and rot.
Roof: If you want the garage to blend in with your home or other garden buildings, look at the pitch of the roof. Try to choose a similar gradient to those you have already. If you live somewhere subject to regular snow and rain, the roof pitch should be steep enough to let water run off.
There are two other elements you must also think about when buying a timber garage:
Foundations: any garden building needs to be built on a firm, level base. If the ground beneath is not stable, the immediate problems could include construction problems, with walls and fixtures not fitting together properly. Later on, you could also face subsidence, leaks, and doors and windows warping. So do pay attention to the base on which the garage will stand.
Wood preservation: any timber building needs to be treated with wood preservative as soon as possible. Untreated wood is vulnerable to mould, insect attack, rot and decay, so don’t procrastinate on this. There are plenty of good wood preservative treatments on the market, including eco-friendly wood stain. And, finally, one last piece of advice, once you have applied wood preservative, you should paint, stain or varnish the timber to protect it from timber and rain.
So if you’re fed up of getting soaked through or freezing cold hands before you even start the daily commute, maybe it’s time to consider a better way to start the working day in winter?