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How to ventilate your shed

2nd February 2017

Baking hot in summer, freezing during the winter and always damp. If this describes your garden shed then chances are it’s a place you dump your rusty tools and otherwise avoid like the plague.

But by installing an adequate ventilation system, you can keep the heat and damp under control, creating an environment that’s pleasant and appealing to work in. Here’s how.

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At a glance

  • Ventilation for smaller sheds
  • How to ventilate a large shed
  • Heating and ventilating your home office

You’ll get so much more use from your shed if it’s a comfortable place to be. Making sure there’s adequate airflow ensures better temperature control and a drier atmosphere which stops tools and electrical equipment degrading. Good ventilation will help you get the most from your craft room, workshop or as a space to chill, without furniture and materials getting smelly and moldy.

Ventilating a small shed

Opening and closing windows and leaving the door open, are the most basic ways to change the air inside your shed, but you need a solution that works for you even when you’re not there. If you own a shed smaller than approximately 10’ x 6’, it’s important to install a passive ventilation system, especially to prevent buildup of fumes if you use your shed to store petrol and other solvents.

Install vents

static vent in shed wall
Installing a small ventilation grille on opposite gable walls will provide a good air flow
Image: Shutterstock

If you’re building a new shed, give consideration to the most common wind direction when deciding where in your garden to erect it. Siting your shed so the prevailing airstream hits the gable end is best. By installing two vents – one high up on each gable wall – you’re guaranteed a healthy throughflow of air. Make sure the vents you install are mesh backed to prevent bugs making a home in your shed.

Improve your shed’s natural lighting as well as letting hot air out of the building by installing venting rooflights. Made of tough, opaque plastic, like a caravan roof vent, these allow the air to circulate and fumes from paint or petrol to escape, while a grille keeps creepy crawlies out. Ideal for windowless sheds, they’re lightweight and easy to install.

Install roof windows

skylight windows in shed roof
Keep them closed to lock in warmth, or open them up to let heat out in warmer weather
Image: Shutterstock

Go one better by putting in roof windows you can open and close. Skylights are an attractive option if you use your shed as a workshop because they make it so much easier to keep the temperature under control on warm days. By also installing wall vents or leaving the door ajar hot air rising through open skylights draws cooler air into the building from outside. On cold winter days, windows in your roof maximise heat from the sun.

Ventilating a larger shed

Larger sheds over 12’ x 6’ will probably require more throughput of air to freshen the whole space, but this is easy and cost effective to achieve by installing simple, effective equipment.

Whirly gig

whirly gig on top of shed roof
These clever contraptions use wind power to draw hot air out of the building
Image: Shutterstock

You’re probably used to seeing them installed on van roofs – the wind pushes a turbine around, which draws air up and out of the rear of the vehicle. Wind powered shed vents are larger and possibly more attractive than their automotive equivalents, but they work in exactly the same way.

Install your whirly gig in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, but in general, these ventilation units work best when they’re sited near the apex of the roof and in a central location. Do check to make sure the you know where your roof battens are before you cut the hole, so that you don’t damage the structure of the building.

As with all roof-mounted vents, a whirly-gig works much more effectively if it’s complemented by gable wall mounted static vents; to move air through the building, it has to be able to find a way in as well as out.

Electric fan

electric fan in shed wall
Electric fans are great for producing a healthy air flow, as well as cooling your shed
Image: Shutterstock

To avoid sweltering on hot, windless days, install a solar or mains powered electric fan. You simply mount this in one gable wall, make sure there’s a static vent in the opposite wall, and switch on whenever you need a draft. This solution is ideal for those times when you’re mixing paint, or using solvents or petrol. Also consider thermostatically controlled fans which come on and and off in response to changes in ambient temperature.

Special solutions for home offices

office in a shed
Shedworkers need good ventilation to work effectively

Using your shed as an office or workroom? It’s vital to get the right balance of temperature and humidity control, especially when you’re using the space to house delicate IT equipment. Static vents are a must to let air into and out of the building, but you’ll also need some sort of heating.

A great way to combine heating, cooling and ventilation is to install an air source heat pump. This works a bit like a fridge that can be reversed to pump cool air on hot days and warm air on cold days. Cheap to run, air source heat pumps are an excellent way to keep the temperature in your shed stable.

Good ventilation means you’ll be able to make so much more of your shed. If you’re considering turning the space into a she shed or a man cave, a workshop or craft room, or whether you just want to be able to store your tools in your shed without them corroding, now you’ve got the knowledge to get your ventilation sorted.

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