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How to get mains power to your shed

13 February 2017

Get your shed connected to mains power, and its potential uses expand hugely.  You'll be able to use the building as a home office, entertainment hub or teenage den. We give you the lowdown on the whole process, from planning for your power needs, to choosing an electrician, helping out with the installation, and keeping the job on track.

At a glance

  • • Plan out your power needs, and your sockets and lights
  • • Get a qualified electrician to do the work for you
  • • How to find a reliable tradesman
  • • How to spot a rogue trader

Thinking of connecting your shed to the national grid? Doing so gives you the convenience of power at the flick of a switch – at the end of your garden. But connecting your shed to mains power is a job that must be done properly. Here’s how to go about it.

Make a plan

Closeup of a detailed plan
Think about your electrical needs now, and in the future
Image: Shutterstock

Even if all you need is a plug socket to run a laptop, and a light fitting so you can see what you’re doing, it pays to consider how your use of your shed might change in the future.

What if at some point, you decide to convert your shed into a workshop complete with lathe, table saw and drill press? Or perhaps you’d like to transform the space into an outside office or craft room. Draw up a plan of the building, including internal walls and mark where you think your lights and sockets need to go.

At this stage, it’s also worth thinking about installing security lighting or an alarm system. Putting your thoughts down on paper is a great idea; drawing up your plan helps you get the layout of your plug sockets and light fittings right, and gives you a basis for your discussions with the electrician.

Hire a professional electrician

Blown switch box
Electricity is not to be toyed with - always hire a professional
Image: Shutterstock

You may consider yourself to be handy with a pair of wire strippers – and perhaps you are – but taking power outside your house, across the garden, and doing a DIY mains installation in your shed is out of the question. Electricity is dangerous; not only would you be putting yourself and your loved ones at risk, you’d be breaking the law too.

Section P of the Building Regs states that installing electricity to outbuildings including sheds and greenhouses is notifiable. You have to give building notice or else submit full plans of the installation before any work starts. And when the job’s finished, it has to be signed off by a “registered competent person, registered third party certifier, or building control body”. Unless you’re a registered electrician yourself, you must employ the services of a Part P compliant professional.

Still not convinced? Think forward to the time when you come to sell your house. You’ve got a buyer lined up, you’re desperate to move into your new pad, but oh no, the electric to the shed wasn’t compliant...Get a properly qualified spark to do the job right in the first place.

What can you do to help an electrician get power to your shed?

• Digging trenches takes time and elbow grease, both of which are expensive if you pay someone else to do it.

• Use pegs and string to mark the proposed route for the cable, as agreed with your electrician, making sure there aren’t likely to be any other cables or utilities running across the line of the trench.

• Although there’s no official depth to which the cable must be buried, the Health and Safety Executive recommends 450mm or 600mm as specified by the National Joint Utilities Group.

How to find a bright spark

Electrician working on a fuse box
There are lots of resources to help you find the right person to install mains power to your shed
Image: Shutterstock

Just because you’re not going to be running the cabling yourself doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a keen interest in the credentials of the person you eventually choose to do the work for you.

As with any trade, there are cowboy electricians out there, but in 2014, the government launched its consumer safety mark scheme, bringing all officially recognised trades registration schemes under one roof.

To find a registered competent person - electrical mark, visit the Registered Competent Person website and use the search feature to find the nearest suitable technician. All the electricians registered on the database “meet strict qualification requirements and their work is regularly assessed by their electrical Competent Person Scheme Operator to ensure their ongoing competence.”

How to spot a rogue trader

a cowboy electrician is cheap but ultimately no good
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is... Avoid cowboy electricians
Image: Shutterstock

Should you have the misfortune to meet the wrong man or woman to quote for the job, it’s a good idea to be aware of what malpractice looks like and when to steer clear of it.

Always get a few quotes. If one quote for the job is much cheaper than the others, that’s the one to bin. Also beware anyone who wants you to pay up front or who says they can start the next day. Good electricians are booked up for weeks ahead – find someone who can schedule in your work in a month or two’s time.

Avoid anyone who wants to do the job for cash – without a paper trail -  you’ll have no recourse if the job goes wrong. And do check up on references, and testimonials to make sure they’re genuine and that previous customers are happy with the work your spark has done for them.

Good electricians’ work is neat and tidy. If you spot anyone bodging existing DIY electrics, failing to properly secure cables, leaving connections dangling, or other signs they’re being slapdash, tackle them about it.

Running power to your shed is a great idea, but it must be done properly. For safety and to comply with the law, get a professional to do it. But in terms of helping you get the most from your shed, it’s well worth the effort and expense.

Lead image: Proxima Studio

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