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Unconverted loft? Expensive shed?

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#1 jamespetts

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 21:20

Some years ago in 2015, shortly after I moved into my present house, I considered completing a railway layout that I had started, with assistance from my father, back in the early 1990s when I was a young lad but which had never been completed. I posted a thread about it on this forum, the upshot of which was that the attic in which I was thinking of completing such a layout did not seem suitable and in any event that it would probably be better to start from scratch than try to revive an old layout now in poor condition; at the time, having recently moved house, I did not think that the amount of effort and money required would be feasible, and I had worked out that I would not have been able to do what I wanted to do in the space available in the loft (4.1m x 3.1m) so I left the matter there and have not done any railway modelling since.

 

However, I have of late been overtaken by an urge to try railway modelling again. I still live in the same house, none of whose main rooms are available for railway modelling purposes. I should like to build a new layout, and have worked out that I can fit what I consider to be an interesting design into a 4m x 3m space (and probably a slightly more interesting design into a 4.1m x. 3.1m space - I had not found my records of the exact measurements of the loft when I was preparing the plans).

 

Loft

 

I have spent some considerable time researching building regulation issues relating to lofts. The regulations themselves are drawn very vaguely and thus appear to leave a great deal of room for differing interpretations; the most authoritative guidance on how they are likely in practice to be interpreted by local authorities that I have been able to find is here.

 

According to that website,

 

 


If your project involves adding a permanent fixed stair or fixed ladder, installing a floor or lining walls/rafters then the works are considered to be a loft conversion and an application will be required, irrespective of the proposed use of the room. The key thing to consider is: if it looks like a room – it’s a room.

 

As I understand the regulations, the critical issue is not so much how people actually use the room, but rather whether the characteristics of the room are consistent with it being used as a "residential room" (sometimes called "habitable room"). Thus, if I have understood the regulations correctly, there would be no (legal) issue with me building and using a model railway in a loft that is not a "residential room", but if I were to change the loft so that it becomes like a residential room (e.g., by adding insulation to the inside of the roof), Building Regulations compliance would be required. As should be apparent from the pictures on my earlier thread, the loft already has lighting and flooring.

 

Compliance with the Regulations would be impractical in my situation: I do not wish to make the sort of major changes to the main part of the house (installation of fixed stairs and consequent changes to the landing, removing the original, period Edwardian wooden doors and replacing them with modern fire doors, etc.) that would be required for Building Regulations compliance.

 

Thus, if I am to use the loft, it will have to be used largely as it is, with limited insulation from outside temperature differences, wiring only for lighting, cross braces of wood in the main walking space, and no natural light or ventilation. I could have a built-in loft ladder fitted (I currently have to get a portable ladder from the garden to access the attic), and possibly also a Velux window without invoking the Building Regulations (at least, the people who sell a combination of fixed ladders and Velux windows implicitly seem to think so). I should have to work around the cross-members, use a portable electric heater in the winter, endure the heat in the summer, and use a long extension cord from the sockets on the landing to power the layout (and heater in winter).

 

Has anyone here any experience of using an unconverted loft to house a model railway and whether it is merely sub-optimal or whether it is irredeemably unsuitable? This chap seems to have put a model railway in an unconverted loft which looks very similar to mine (although he did insulate the roof with stapled on foil and paint the brickwork, as well as adding power sockets - query whether this would invoke the Building Regulations), and there seem to be many other layouts in unconverted lofts.

 

Shed

 

The only other possibility is to have a substantial shed built at the bottom of the garden. That would give me a similar space to the loft (possibly slightly (~20cm in width) more as there would be no chimney breast) and would not have the cross-member, insulation and ventilation issues of the attic, as well as not needing to climb a ladder to reach it. Having looked into the matter, given the size of shed/outhouse that I could fit into my garden, planning permission would not be required, and Building Regulations would not apply either (provided that the building meet certain relatively easy to accommodate criteria).

 

However, my garden is small, and I have recently had work done to it, some of which would have to be undone to accommodate an outhouse. Also, these sheds seem to be fantastically expensive (my research so far suggests £10-£20,000 for a shed of similar dimensions to the loft space). Prefabricated sheds seem to be a little cheaper, but I have no as of right rear access to my property, and one cannot (presumably) drag a concrete shed through the hallway, dining room and kitchen of a small terraced house. Rear access is physically possible, but the land to the rear, which comprises an access drive for a set of three modern terraced houses built in the middle of a triangle of land bounded on each side by back gardens of much older terraces, is privately owned by a local property developer who seems to let the property to tenants on leases short enough not to show up on the Land Registry. I could seek permission for access for a lorry to unload a prefabricated shed, but I am not sure what, if any, response that I might get to such a request, or even whether the owner's address as found on the Land Registry is up to date.

 

Also, security in a shed is a concern: burglars would have difficulty getting into the main house, let alone the attic, but a shed is a much easier target, especially as they tend to be less substantially built. I could not sensibly drag all the various items of rolling stock from house to shed and shed to house every time that I wanted to go and use a model railway.

 

Has anyone here any experience of shed building for model railway purposes and in particular any insights into the issues that I outline above?

 

I should be very grateful for any insight.


Edited by jamespetts, 11 February 2018 - 21:24 .




#2 bgman

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 22:09

I think you may have opened yet another can of worms here ( said with the greatest of respect ) and there are several threads on RMWeb which relate to this subject one of which is very recent 

 

http://www.rmweb.co....h-loft-layouts/

 

It might be worth reading through and making up your own decision on the matter.


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#3 jamespetts

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 23:08

I think you may have opened yet another can of worms here ( said with the greatest of respect ) and there are several threads on RMWeb which relate to this subject one of which is very recent 

 

http://www.rmweb.co....h-loft-layouts/

 

It might be worth reading through and making up your own decision on the matter.

 

Ah, thank you: I had not spotted that thread for some reason, even though I did try to search for loft topics before I posted this, only finding one from 2012 for some reason. I will look through that thread with interest now.

 

In the meantime, one thought had occurred to me, which is that the sort of silver foil insulation used in the first of the videos to which I linked does not on the face of it seem entirely consistent with what one would normally think of as a "residential room". In any event, even if I were wrong about that, the invariable consequence of detection of a violation of building control is an enforcement notice; if stapling insulating foil to my rafters turned out to be a violation of building control, all that I should have to do is remove the foil, suggesting that the risk of building control issues relating to this sort of insulation is, in practice, minimal. Given that insulation appears to be one of the main impediments to loft usage, this is potentially significant.

 

In any event, I shall go and read the thread that I missed - no doubt, there are some useful insights there. Thank you for directing me to that.

 

Edit: That was an interesting thread. There appear to be real issues about the structural capacity of the joists to carry a "live load" which I had not earlier considered in detail. As a result of that, I have dug up the building survey that I had done when I bought my house in 2014. It contains the following passage,

 


The ceiling joists that effectively form the roof void floor are not designed to take heavy loads therefore nothing other than light domestic goods should be stored in this area (no domestic goods or insulation have been moved or lifted and there was a considerable amount at the time of my inspection, which limited my overall view).

 

On that note, what experiences do people have with model railway outbuildings?


Edited by jamespetts, 12 February 2018 - 00:29 .

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#4 bgman

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 23:24

James,

 

May I also suggest that you persevere with your Local Authority regarding any Building Control matters.

 

I have mentioned elsewhere that I spent many years as a Building Control Officer ( now very happily retired ) and wherever possible I would happily give unbiased advice in respect of loft conversions.

BCO's are not there to impede anyone or issue Notices in respect of Non Compliance ( far too much paperwork to be honest ! ).

 

I offer this advice in the hope that you will get a satisfactory result in getting an enjoyable environment for producing a model railway layout.

 

Regards

 

Grahame



#5 Damo666

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 00:20

In the meantime, one thought had occurred to me, which is that the sort of silver foil insulation used .....

Please check with your Local Authority Building Control as there has been a lot of discussion over the years as to whether MultiFoil insulation (generic term) actually complies with the Building Regulations.

See this link to download the BCA guidance notes.

 

I recall many discussions a few years ago in the trade press and I don't know what the current situation is, but the final points on the BCA guidance notes seems to suggest that some products with Agrément Certificates may be acceptable if installed in the strict accordance with the manufacturer's certificate.


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#6 LBRJ

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 00:28

If you genuinely cannot see the answer to your question.....may I suggest a period of quiet reflection. possibly a very long one.

 

I will give you a clue - the answer is to be found in your garden, not your roof space ;)


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#7 Damo666

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 00:32

Shed.......Also, these sheds seem to be fantastically expensive (my research so far suggests £10-£20,000 for a shed of similar dimensions to the loft space).

 

I've seen these Log Cabins and they look very interesting. Been checking them out against other suppliers, and the fact that the timber log is thicker than a lot of the other suppliers, and the doors / windows are double-glazed, makes it quite attractive.

 

The Chiltern design is 4m x 3m for £2,200 self install, or £2,900 which includes installation. Add in the cost of a concrete base and some paint / stain for finishing.

 

(Not affiliated in any way to the manufacturer or supplier, etc etc)



#8 Damo666

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 00:36

If you genuinely cannot see the answer to your question.....may I suggest a period of quiet reflection. possibly a very long one.

 

I will give you a clue - the answer is to be found in your garden, not your roof space ;)

For clarity, I don't think LBRJ is saying, 'go to the bottom of your garden and look back at your roof and think, Ahhhh, up there. Perfect!'  :no:

[I'm off to bed now]


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#9 LBRJ

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 00:37

I have mentioned that I sometimes do a spot of building and landscaping, as well as the occasional house refurb.

 

so these are real figures from "people I know" to create a shed or whatever you wish to call it, which just about comply with any regs you wish to have.

 

14x 8 foot shed in a domestic garden £1200 to what may be called "first fix"

24x12 in an agricultural setting (God knows what rules they really have! :D ) £2600

 

Both have double glazing units to the windows, 3 inches of intra wall insulation, 34mm  timber walls, 11 mm +2 inch OSB insulated ceilings acceptable as workshop standards


Edited by LBRJ, 12 February 2018 - 00:40 .

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#10 jamespetts

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 00:53

I had not spotted all of these replies when I edited my post above having read the long loft thread and realised that the loft is probably not the place for a model railway given that all the people who have some professional understanding of the topic recommend strongly against it, for some quite specific reasons relating to the ability of roof joists to carry a live load.

 

Perhaps, given that the loft issue has been exhausted on the other thread, it might be sensible for this discussion to focus on the world of sheds. Thank you very much to those who have given shed-based replies.

 

After reading the loft thread, I went out and measured my garden, which looks like this:

 

22135756_10155831211118169_7765458833167

 

From the rear fence to the centre of the smaller paved circle is 3.5m, and to the edge nearest the house of the smaller paved circle is 4.2m. The width between fences is 4.7m, but I will need to leave an extra allowance on the right hand side as there were formerly two fences along that side, the nearest of which was removed when my garden was refurbished, and was also probably the fence along the correct line of the boundary between mine and my neighbour's property, so I do not wish to risk having to demolish any outbuilding as may have been constructed if the owner of neighbouring house wishes to re-align the fences. The inside width of the bedroom in the house (which is the full width of the house) is 4.3m, so that might give a good idea of the achievable inside width of an outbuilding. Thus, if I were to have a shed at the back of the garden terminating at the middle of the current small circle of paved stones or at the edge of that circle nearest the house, I could have a room with more space than there is in the loft for a layout.

 

To do so would sacrifice some garden space, which is a shame, as I only had the garden refurbished last year. I was planning on putting a herb garden at the end in the spring. Perhaps I could have some herbs next to the outbuilding. The washing line is also a potential issue; I only had that installed last October, too. Perhaps I could move the far pole to be the same distance from the house, but the opposite side of the garden, as the other pole, and have both lines terminating on the shed?

 

LBRJ - thank you for that information. That seems a little more encouraging than the figures that I have seen so far. The 14ft x 8ft shed (4.6 x 2.6m) is similar to the size that would fit in the garden (perhaps wider and not as long). Do the people whom you know have a website with examples of the sorts of shed that one could have installed for that sort of price (and can that sort of price be obtained in London)? Also, does that include a concrete base?

 

Does anyone have any views on whether a timber outbuilding is preferable to a brick/concrete outbuilding? How effectively can one secure an outbuilding?

 

Thank you again for all of your replies.

 

Edit: Also, can anyone give any insight on how one might have such an outbuilding installed if one lacks rear access?


Edited by jamespetts, 12 February 2018 - 00:55 .


#11 LBRJ

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:11

Both the sheds I mentioned were "self built", or maybe rather "scratch-built" in our context.

Its not that difficult to do, but if you are a novice it could take some time - maybe have a shed build party and get friends to give their time and talents to you in exchange for beers and butties? 

There is a lot of information on US websites, where people do seem to do these things, and have fun, while doing it the right way - It might not quite be Building Alaska to quote a popular TV show, but I bet it has the same "Done It! " effect!

 

Oh and if it is built  by the section in situ, piece by piece, the largest things to have to access through your home are the sheets of OSB to be used for the internal walls/floor and maybe ceiling (which can of course be cut to size previously)


Edited by LBRJ, 12 February 2018 - 01:17 .

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#12 jamespetts

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:17

Ahh, I see - not quite the same index of comparison. I am not really very talented in the DIY department - I can probably just about manage track laying for a model railway (although I am seriously contemplating getting a carpenter to build the baseboards), but I think that building a shed is not really my thing, so will have to get one made.

 

Prefabricated sheds do seem to offer potentially good value for money. I remembered that one of my friends had one installed a few years ago; I have just looked up her pictures of it on Facebook, and I note with interest that she has a prefabricated wooden shed (fully insulated with concrete base and electrical supply, clearly to a good internal standard) installed quickly even though she has no rear access. The pictures show large panels being delivered by lorry, so they must have fitted through the house somehow.

 

Does anyone here have any experience of this?



#13 LBRJ

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:24

Most of the individual "Shed Panels" will fit through a domestic doorway, they are rarely more than 6 foot by 6 foot; though how they go through the house is a mystery (just move the ornaments etc!)

Log Cabins are as the name suggests, individual timbers so they should fit too. The guys or gals fitting them do it all day every day, the are (I hope) well versed in every eventuality they face ( I just do it as and when wanted, on a more bespoke basis ( I LOL'd at using that word!))


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#14 jamespetts

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:26

Splendid, thank you. Does anyone have any thoughts on model railway shed security?



#15 LBRJ

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:37

Security?

 

You already have decent fences around the area of your garden

 

if you build the shed close to the boundary there should not be much of a gap for access to three of the walls

 

PIR lights covering the shed front

 

Berberis planted along the front of the shed

 

Small windows ( if any) high up the walls

 

a proper door with a deadlock on the shed, maybe even an "entrance porch" with another door

 

The Washing line could be anchored at the far end to your new shed !!


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#16 jamespetts

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:40

Splendid, thank you. Does the shed/cabin/outbuilding need to be made of especially strong wood to be secure enough?



#17 LBRJ

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:46

i think (only my view) that anything above 16mm (5/8th inch)thick timber is strong enough for the walls.

Suitably braced, that would need an axe or lump hammer to break through- they would have to be very keen on stealing your trains!!


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#18 jamespetts

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 01:48

Excellent - thank you very much for all your help.



#19 JZ

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 06:36

Wired glass in the windows and a burglar alarm.



#20 teaky

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 07:00

A few thoughts...

 

If you have a reasonably unrestricted run from front door to back though there shouldn't be any problem getting materials through.  If you do have a problem then if your neighbours to the right have better access to the rear of their house than you do, you could consider asking if they will allow you to slide a fence panel out and use that to get materials in.

 

The weak points on a shed are the door and windows.  As suggested by others: wired glass, strong frames, possibly window bars and good locks.  You could consider not having windows and opt for a securely fitted glazed or part-glazed roof.  Whether roof or windows make sure the glazing is obscure glass so that no one can see what is in the shed and that there is protection from sunlight.

 

In addition: properly adjusted security light, simple alarm, mark all your stock, photograph all your stock and don't leave anything lying around outside which could be used to pry open the shed.

 

Burglars don't like plants with thorns e.g. berberis and pyracantha but I don't know if you have the space for much planting if you are out to maximise the shed size.

 

You could opt for a rotary airer in place of the washing line?

 

I recommend searching RMweb.  The topics of sheds and security have been discussed a few times.


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#21 Pannier Tank

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 07:17

 

Does anyone have any views on whether a timber outbuilding is preferable to a brick/concrete outbuilding? How effectively can one secure an outbuilding?

 

 

Being of a combustible material you would need a 1 Metre Gap between your building and your property boundary to meet Building Control / Planning Permission. Search for Permitted Development rights.

 

https://www.planning.../outbuildings/2


Edited by Pannier Tank, 12 February 2018 - 07:30 .


#22 gordon s

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 07:43

Only if it is over 15 square metres.  The OP was talking about 4m x 3m.


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#23 Pannier Tank

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 08:04

Only if it is over 15 square metres.  The OP was talking about 4m x 3m.

 

My apologies, you are of course, correct.


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#24 tender

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 09:45

When i built my shed i was told if it were within 1 meter of a boundary there would also be a height restriction of 2.5m above ground level.



#25 pheaton

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 09:53

I have purchased a 4x3 m aforementioned log cabin....

 

the reason for this is my layout originally was in an unused garage....one day the wife decided she wanted a new house (as you do) and so we moved....our new house (which was literally brand new) did not have a garage attached to it and it would have been impossible to run a power supply to the garage (shame cos the layout could have been massive :) ) so in the end i bought a 4x3m log cabin from dunster house (other suppliers are available).

 

Obviously you can go with the loft option and yes others have managed without spending lots of money but on the other thread as rightly pointed out there are inherent risks.

 

loft wasn't an option for me....my new house doesn't have one.....and no arguing with the wife would allow me the comfort of one of the bedroom.

 

So luckily for a new build i had a reasonable sized back garden so i looked into the log cabins available, now to say there are no planning restrictions on these is not exactly true, as mentioned it should be more than 1m from your boundries if it is over 15sqm and built of a flammable material (you can buy an approved paint to mitigate this however) in addition to this it cannot be more than 2.4m high and also cover greater and 50% of your garden. A cursory check with your local building control dept should square things, that is what i did.

 

I purchased a 4 x 3 modetro cabin from dunster house i opted for 25mm thick planks (you can go thicker but the costs go up) double glazed windows and double doors as well as plastic grid for the base (more on this later)

 

the basic cost of the cabin was about £1800 (there was a sale on) but obviously that doesn't include preparing the ground or painting it (cabins come untreated) also that doesn't include the electrical installation (more on this later)

 

Delivery was about 3 weeks later a large pile of wood was in my back garden, have to credit the guy delivering he was very helpful and thoughtful and had a lot of care for the product advising me the best way to store it before building it.

 

construction took about 3 days some fettling was required with the doors and windows but other then that very smooth.

 

i then carpeted it (with cheap carpet) and installed the conduit for the electrical supply which was fed via underground armoured cable to the house and then getting it signed off after inspection from an electrician.

 

Disadvantages

 

the cabin i went for was un-insulated there is an option available but it increases cost and is difficult to install after reading up on it, and i was unsure of the advantages...the cabin would be unheated for long periods so any heat would be lost anyway....i may possibly insulate it myself at a later date but ive not had any issues with the layout over the 3 years ive had it, i have had a tiny bit of condensation form but ive mitigated this with a 40w tubular heater to create an airflow inside the cabin and this resolved the problem.

 

Movement....never underestimate how much wood moves...my cabin expands and retracts over 3" but this is decreasing as the wood dries out a little more and the cabin becomes acclimatised, so be very careful how you build your layout, mine is virtually freestanding apart from the back which is supported by one of the wall logs, by keeping it to one log im not restricting movement, but also at the back its cooler and not in direct sunlight so movement is far less. but be ware of this when attaching things to the wall as it can open up gaps in the wall, and the risk is if the summer comes and the gap is still there the wood will dry out and the gap may be permanent.

 

If built on a solid level footing the issues above are minimal, and if you keep an eye on things you wont get an issue, a lot of negative reviews on the dunster house website are where people haven't paid attention to this.

 

Security.....no its not as secure as your loft....but at the same time if you need a new roof or your house burns down your layout will be fine :) the cabin i bought comes with a prebuilt 3" thick doors with a multi point locking system, yes if a burglar wants to get in he will no doubt about it......you can have the strongest door in the world but all they really have to do is cut through the thinner walls!!! I have linked my shed up to my wireless house alarm, and luckily my back garden is overlooked by all the neighbours so if the alarm is going off they will see it, also to get to the cabin they have to climb an 8 foot brick wall. You can do more to make it secure its all up to you, obviously my layout is insured as well.

 

if you want pictures of the inside and out happy to post just need to do a bit of tidying up on the layout. :)


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