Incorporating Buildings into a Garden

Sheds, gazebos, garden pavilions and other types of buildings are often constructed in gardens. Buildings can make it easier to maintain a garden (giving you somewhere to keep tools); or may serve some other functional purpose, allowing you to be in and use a garden, while offering you protection from the weather. Garden buildings can also be a feature in themselves, decorating the landscape in the same way that a statue, water feature, or any other visual feature might do.

 
The type of garden structure you choose will depend on a number of factors including:
 
 
Cost/Availability
Which is the cheapest alternative? Is this the best value for money or do you need to compromise. Often it is worth paying that little bit extra to get something that is more functional, better looking, or more durable.
 
Function
How is the structure to be used? Are the structures available to you going to fulfill your requirements? Consider whether or not these structures are to have more than one use. Are these uses complementary or will you need to settle for something that fulfills most of your needs?
 
Maintenance
Maintaining garden structures requires time, labour and materials, so it is important to ensure you choose carefully so that maintenance is kept to a minimum; for example, if you choose untreated timber then painting may become a regular chore, whereas, if the timber has been treated then painting is not necessary. Consider also is it easy to obtain new parts, such as cladding materials? Does your structure come with a manufacturer’s guarantee? Metal buildings are normally protected from rust by a galvanized coating, though a scratch can allow rust to gradually cause corrosion.
 
Preferences
Everyone has different preferences relating to style, shape, colour and sizes. Current fashion or trends may also be a consideration in your choice. Decide on what you want the structure to look like, and plan around these preferences. It is often a good idea to find out the opinions and preferences of the rest of your family before committing yourself, as they will likely be using the structure as well as you.
 
 
Ease of Assembly
This is very important if you plan to construct the structure yourself.
Consider whether or not you have the skills or tools to build the structure. Does the structure come in a kit form? Do you have detailed plans or instructions?
 
 
Ventilation
In hot climates, ventilation is an extremely important consideration. Buildings and screens can restrict the movement of air through a garden, and that can make cooler areas hotter. The inside of a gazebo or shed can become muggy and unbearably hot at times if vents aren’t included in the roof, or sufficient windows or doors can't be opened. In very wet situations, good ventilation is important to allow the structure to dry out quickly after rain. A shed set in a low part of the garden, with no windows and one small door may remain wet for months, particularly if surrounded by lots of plants which further restrict air flow. Avoid storing anything which might rust or go mouldy in such situations.
 
 
Buildings Always Need Maintenance
It is important to treat building materials so as to extend their life and improve their visual appearance. There is a large range of paints and preservatives available at hardware and paint stores that are very good for this purpose.
 
Gutters on buildings are prone to be blocked by fallen leaves and debris.
 
This causes them to overflow when it rains and for the gutters to corrode or rust. Gutters and down pipes should be regularly cleaned. On the market are many gutter guards that assist in preventing leaves blocking and destroying gutter systems.
 
 
It is wise to regularly check any metal structures (walls, nuts, bolts, supports for poles, washing lines, children's swings etc) and treat if rust appears. Aluminum won't rust, but other supposedly rust free structures can develop rust sometimes if damaged or if not made properly in the first place. Usually you can avoid major problems by removing rust and treating damaged areas with a rust preventative before the problem develops.
 
All doors should be well lubricated, particularly in the humid environment of a greenhouse. Doors, windows, louvers and other opening structures can deteriorate if not maintained.
 
 
Floor surfaces need to be kept clean, well drained, non slippery and functional during all weather conditions.
 
 
Consider the Floor of Your Buildings
 
There are a number of materials that can be used to provide a surfacing for your structure. Each has different advantages/disadvantages. Costs can vary, some are easier to keep clean, some are more comfortable to stand or sit on, and some will deteriorate faster than others. 
Flooring options may include:
  • Timber decking
  • Paving (eg. brick or concrete pavers on a sand base
  • Gravel
  • Bare earth
  • Asphalt
  • Concrete slab 
 
 
 
Where Should a Structure be Located in the Garden?
Often little consideration is given to siting of structures within the garden.
Spending a little time and effort to choose the best site to use will often reduce the number of, or prevent any, problems occurring that may be difficult, time consuming or expensive to rectify.
 
 
What To Consider:
 
 
Physical Characteristics of the Site
  • is the site level or on a slope
  • how stable is the soil, is it easily dislodged/eroded, or likely to slip
  • is the site easy to excavate/level .... is it very hard or rocky..... even just digging holes for the upright supports of a pergola or verandah can be back breaking work in rocky soil.
  • is excavated material going to be used as backfill to create a level site.....has this backfill been compacted/stabilised?
  • is the site exposed to strong winds that may damage the structure?
 
Adjacent Features
  • are there any underground services such as storm water drains, water mains, etc. that should not have structures sited over them, or that may be disturbed by any digging involved in levelling or placing upright supports, etc.
  • are there nearby trees that may drop branches or leaves onto your structure causing damage, blocked guttering, etc. Will they cause excessive shade? Will the tree roots be a problem.....making it hard to dig while construction/erection is underway, perhaps also causing damage to the tree making it prone to falling over or dying back. Will they be a problem afterwards as the tree grows perhaps causing the structure to be lifted?
 
 
Drainage
  • is the site naturally damp....will you need to improve drainage prior to building/erection of your structure?
  • will the building/erection of a structure interrupt existing drainage patterns, for example by excavating a level site will you interrupt or expose groundwater flow, or will you create a low spot where water accumulates? Will building the structure cause surface runoff to be diverted elsewhere... perhaps into a neighbours property?
  • where will you direct storm water from the roofs of solid structures such as garden sheds too?
    • into a stormwater drain,
    • into a water tank from where it can be used,
    • into a water garden or pond,
    • into a natural drainage point such as a creek, etc.
 
Appearance
  • Do you want your structure to stand out to be a major feature of your garden that can be viewed from many angles or do you want it to be hidden providing a surprise as you round a corner on a pathway to find it revealed before you.
  • Do you want it to blend into your garden, do you want it to stand out in contrast to your plants?
Shade
  • Will the shade created by the structure be beneficial or create problems?
 
 
Accesibility
  • Is there good access during the construction/erection stage
    • to bring materials in
    • to remove rubbish, excess soil, etc.
  • Is there good access after construction
    • are access areas/pathways clearly defined?
    • are access areas well lit?
    • do the access areas have a good/safe surface to walk on?
    • is there space enough to carry equipment, machinery, furniture, etc. that is to be used or stored to the structure.
    • will the equipment that you presently own fit through the doors of the new structure?
 
 
Council By laws
  • are there any relevant regulations covering the siting or size of such structures in your area?
  • any regulations covering what materials can or can't be used?.
  • are there any easements or covenants relating to your property?