/ Home & Energy, Money

How can you improve the security of your garden shed?

The garden shed used to be where you threw a few garden tools and the man of the house went to escape the family. But many now store thousands of pounds of equipment making shed security a bigger issue.

Once home to little more than a rustling petrol mower and a few bottles of turps, these days the humble shed can be anything from a home office to a garden room.

There’s even an award for shed of the year. Perhaps it’s a sign of how much pressure there is on space for many of us within our homes.

But it seems that the new use of a shed not only creates extra opportunities for us – but also for thieves. We’ve found that nearly one in three Which? members now keeps more than £2,000 of equipment in their shed or garage. And the theft of computers and mobile devices from sheds and outbuildings is increasing.

This is especially a problem in summer when shed theft shoots up by about 25% in the London area. Between 2012-14, 342 laptops, 387 computers and 447 phones were stolen from sheds in the London area alone.

Would you be covered if your shed was broken into?

But you have to watch out. Things you keep in sheds and garages are usually covered for theft under your home contents insurance. But it depends on how much they’re worth. Eight of 38 standard policies we looked at didn’t cover thefts worth more than £2,500 from outbuildings.

Many insurers have a ‘single article limit’ (the most they will pay to replace one specific item). This could mean that if expensive items like high-end bikes or ride-on lawnmowers are stolen, you may not receive the full value.

Tips on protecting your shed

  • Keep it securely locked. Use a padlock attached to a strong hasp and staple
  • Secure door hinges with coach bolts or non-returnable screws
  • If you keep a bike in it, the shed must be kept locked otherwise insurers might not pay out for a replacement if it is stolen
  • Replace rotten doors or window frames. If your whole shed needs replacing, read more about the shed brands
  • Use Perspex or polycarbonate as a more secure alternative for outbuilding windows

Would you store valuable items in your shed? Would your insurance cover you for the loss of high-value items? Have you lost valuable items from your shed?


We thought we were fully insured for shed theft and we had a new for old policy.

What we didn’t realise, was the insurance company did the replacing with the cheapest rubbish they could find.

So when our shed was cleared out one night, we could luckily prove most of the power tools but not all the other heavy duty tools and various items that came from 3 households.

In the end, for the items we could not prove, we accepted their valuation as cash to replace the items ourselves and lost out big time. Some of their valuations were as much as a tenth of what we had paid for them, but less good quality tools of our choice were worth a lot more to us than a load of cheap tools that would not last long.

It can be surprising how much your belongings are worth. To make sure we were properly insured, we had gone round the house, garage and shed and written down everything we possessed with its value, so it was fairly easy to tell what was missing. We were also in the process of taking photographs but unfortunately hadn’t got round to the shed.

It is also not a good idea to keep garden bags and trugs with your tools as you make it very easy for the scumbags to load them up for removal as we found out.

We no longer keep good tools in the shed.

You go several years waiting for an article about making sure your shed is insured then two come along at once! Only yesterday I was reading a piece in the Eastern Daily Press property pages advising people to check that their outbuildings, sheds, summerhouses, gazebos and so on were fully covered against not just theft but other perils. To some extent this is a consequence of the much greater security that people often have for their own home with better locks, stronger doors, double glazing, and monitoring and alarm systems. The shed or garden office might offer easier pickings than the house.

Every year there seem to be spates of thefts from sheds and it’s often found that the padlock, hasp & staple were stronger than the timber to which they were affixed so they could easily be jemmied off. Using coach bolts with large washers and tight nuts on the inside is a good way of fixing the hasp and staple rather than using woodscrews. Good hasp & staple sets usually have at least two square holes on each part to take coach bolts, and the added advantage is that it is then much more difficult to twist the fitting round. But all that is pointless if it’s being fixed to thin or rotten wood.

Alfa reports the current tactics of many insurance companies to limit payouts for theft by insisting on replacing goods through their own procurement arrangements. As he found, if you can’t prove the make and model of the equipment stolen then you are at their mercy over the quality of the ‘new for old’ goods they will provide. This policy was introduced by the insurance industry in an attempt to fend off inflated insurance claims, deter false claims for money rather than replacement goods, and to save their costs because they could procure replacements cheaper than the householder. It’s best to always keep the purchase documentation and instruction manual for all significant purchases as evidence in the event of a claim, but for workshop tools this is virtually impracticable as you acquire them progressively over time but cumulatively they add up to a huge replacement cost [even if you can remember all you had]. This insurance company ploy also applies to indoor white goods and most other household electrical items plus cameras, laptops, and similar products – even if they don’t physically replace them, they only allow the claim up to the replacement cost for the goods that they could achieve. If loss adjusters are involved they are very hard on this and don’t mind causing considerable upsetment as they drive down the claim.

Generally thieves go for one or two easily convertible items and to have a complete clear out, as Alfa did, is unusual. Chaining larger equipment like mowers together and to a solid fixed point is a good idea because it increases the time needed to remove them and might also make a lot of noise. I found that putting the chain through the aluminium step ladders was a good way of making it difficult to take things quietly. I bought three American high-grade plastic unglazed sheds for the DIY tools and materials, garden tools, and garden chairs etc and these seem very secure with good padlock eyes integrated with the door handles. Their positioning also deters break-in attempts, but nothing [not even the deepest vault] will survive an informed attack over a bank holiday or when people are away. If we suffered a clear-out of our garden storage the total financial loss would probably be a big shock and I doubt I could recall the entire stock let alone prove it.

Bear in mind also that a garden spade is one of the best shed-breaking [and housebreaking] tools you can get so don’t leave it stuck in the vegetable patch, and securely stow any other object that could do a lot of damage to a wooden shed or its glazing with just one short application of force.

Our local police (Suffolk) sell padlocks which have an integral very loud alarm for under £10. I got one for my (small) shed because although I don’t keep anything particularly valuable in it the spades therein would be a great help in breaking into my house and/or garage. Obviously how useful it would be depends on the local situation – one of my brothers in law suffers from alarms going off repeatedly for no apparent reason in a couple of houses near him and clearly another alarm going off wouldn’t attract any attention there.