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Steel vs brick workshop

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Muzzer27/12/2015 18:28:05
2904 forum posts
448 photos

Unless there is a disaster and the sale falls through at the last minute, we should move into our own house (finally) in a few weeks. One rather critical feature we had to compromise on was the garage / workshop - or more accurately the lack of one in this case. The house has an ancient single garage that will need to be knocked down and replaced with something larger and more workshop-like.

Question is - do I launch into a massive building project resulting in a brick built megalith or do I go for a prefabricated, steel-framed construction?

A steel structure would be quicker to erect and probably cheaper. They can include insulation, skylights, side doors etc. And they can be made reasonably pleasant on the eye. I'd expect to have to construct a concrete pad for either solution, possibly less monumental in the case of a steel structure.

Are there any recommendations / lessons learned / warnings / thoughts I can learn from? I'd love to hear constructive suggestions.


Andrew Johnston27/12/2015 18:44:08
6668 forum posts
701 photos

A couple of (random) thoughts. The thickness of the concrete pad should probably be set by the weight of the machine tools you want to install rather than building regulations. The choice of steel versus brick may well be down to what the local planners consider to be appropriate to the area. Steel would certainly be quicker but I can't imagine the planners being happy if it looks like an Atcost barn! Have you considered a room above as a man cave. It would also be neat to have a loo and kettle point and sink included. The only danger is that you might find yourself relegated there, even if it is better than the doghouse.


martin perman27/12/2015 19:01:35
2055 forum posts
86 photos

I'm not building any building structure but earlier this year I had my drive and foot path replaced as trees had dug both up. When the old concrete was lifted, put down when the house was built it was only about four inches thick, when my builder laid the new parking area he used the old drive as rubble then had two twenty ton trucks deliver fine hard core followed by steel reinforcing and finally the concrete which in total is about a foot thick. Your base would I assume be similar.

Martin P

V8Eng27/12/2015 19:07:10
1726 forum posts
6 photos

Whilst I was investigating Workshop replacement, I saw these metal buildings.

Steel/foam composites with various insulation levels, in a range of sizes, with all sorts of door and window options.

Still need a purpose base but it sounds like that might not be a problem for you.

They looked a good unit, might be worth checking out on their website here:-



Edited By V8Eng on 27/12/2015 19:10:13

Bob Brown 127/12/2015 19:12:21
1021 forum posts
127 photos

It depends a bit on the size? so this is probably worth a read **LINK**

What sort of size were you thinking?

I've recently done something similar all be it an attached garage 7 metres x 4.5 metres.


Chris Evans 627/12/2015 20:02:41
2067 forum posts

Would a timber framed/wood clad effort look out of place ? Wooden buildings are nice and warm, may be a Heritage style oak framed thing if budget allows.

terry callaghan27/12/2015 20:30:59
237 forum posts
10 photos

I had a steel workshop at my last house. turned out to be a big mistake. rust was the order of the day, my tools started getting surface rust, and even with a heater on all day during wet days, it was a cold damp place to be.

If I had to do it again, I would go timber build or brick. michael

Bazyle27/12/2015 21:06:46
6378 forum posts
222 photos

UK regulations: If close to the boundary (and who can afford an estate where it won't be) no larger than just a little smaller than a garage, about 60m2 I think if made of wood. However, helpfully pointed out by Neil on another shed thread if it is 'essentially non inflammable' then it can go to about twice the size next to the fence.

A few years ago there was a ME or MEW article showing a steel frame with steel sheet hung on it which looks the way to go for me but using the foam filled steel sandwich sheets which are now standard on industrial business park buildings. Seconds and used sheets are available but don't look so good as brick or timber. Probably 6 in for the roof and at least 4 in for the walls. This is more expensive that brick or timber but less labour. It is a no-brainer for the roof either way. I'll try to find the issue later, I think I know which pile of 30 mags it's in but you know how one gets sidetracked when looking for something in ME.

Foundation depends on substrata to some extent. 4in reinforced will hold a ton or two over 4in of polyurethane insulation. Remember to have insulation round the perimeter of the slab and the walls outside that. That means decoupling brick walls from the slab on separate foundations but steel sandwich can hand down outside the slab.
Worth considering laying in underfloor heating pipes while you are doing it, just in case you decide it is a good idea as they can't go in after.

Plumbing in a loo will give you planning problems as it looks like you are intending to let it out to migrants. Even mains water attracts that attention in a summerhouse in London.

Planning also allows you a carport style structure (2 sides must be open) so try to plan that into your layout even if you don't make it initially.

I am currently building a small timber shed on thermalite stub walls with slab insulated as above and clearing the site for the main shed which will be tin sandwich.

Bazyle27/12/2015 21:10:30
6378 forum posts
222 photos

BTW Keep the garage separate from the workshop. The garage is probably already covered by the initial build planning permit leaving your whole allowance for the workshop. However I think they must be separate items.

Mike Lightfoot27/12/2015 21:18:41
76 forum posts
24 photos

Hi for what it's worth here's my suggestion, we have just totally refurbished an old cottage literally down to 3 walls, I had thought, since we had room I would build a big workshop and steel frame seemed the way to go research done and gentle suggestion to the treasurer! She said " sod that it will look awful and you will always be cold in there so I won't be rid of you for any length of time, build a brick one" so I did and don't regret it for 1 moment cavity wall insulated and the concrete base is almost the same in all the cost was about the same check out the government planing portal you can build upto 40% the area of your garden under permitted development which means you only need building control and not planing permission

Muzzer27/12/2015 21:47:16
2904 forum posts
448 photos

I'm thinking of something the size of a double (width) garage (ideally it would be bigger obviously!) but with only a single car door, as the driveway is only a car wide. Something like 7m x 10m would work very nicely I'm sure.

To my mind, garages are not for cars anyway but it could be a a "garage" if that is better for planning purposes.

One problem with garages next to the boundary is that you need planning unless it is almost flat roofed. The place is surrounded with pitched roof garages so I can't imagine a problem getting approval so I may as well discuss it with the planning officer and get something reasonably compelling out of the exercise.

It needs to be insulated and either wood-clad or vaguely domestic looking. And yes, some form of heating would be sensible.


frank brown27/12/2015 22:00:01
436 forum posts
5 photos

i have now fitted out two engineering sheds (AKA Man caves) and have come to the conclusion that they should be designed from the inside out.. for instance if you want a "Grand Design", i.e. big white walls, a single bench a machine over in the corner, then a plastered interior which needs supports at 400mm centres. If you go for the more typical hodge podge of home shelving, recovered kitchen units and a home made bench, then you need 3/4" chipboard internal walls so brackets can be put in any where. These would need support at 600mm centres. The floor should be insulated in all cases.Concrete screed gets slippery with oil spillage. Carpet picks up swarf. I think 22mm T&G P5 chipboard is a good compromise. The ceiling can be made from any sheet material but must be painted white immediately after construction.

Thought should be given to how and where the power is going to be run and especially for that gizmo you lust after (but can't afford yet).

Now you have a theoretical box which you need to clad in insulation and make weather tight. Unless you expect people to throw bricks at it, the skin need not be very strong, for instance I think 6mm marine ply would be the optimum solution, if painted with a suitable proofer it should last with zero maintenance for over 30 years. My shed #1 did and looked the same when I sold the house after 31 years.

If a single brick wall is of any length it would need double brick piers every 2m, which complicate the inner box. You will also need some roof ties to stop the roof blowing off, you need frame work for the windows and door. You need to engineer some way of fastening the inner box to the outer brick one.

It could be built as a conventional cavity wall with internal insulation. Takes up a lot of room, but is very nice, paint it white , put fixings in any where, but expensive.

Insulated steel cladding made by Corus, ready insulated. needs an internal frame to carry its weight and to keep the roof on. Very awkward to get the roof to seal at ridge and eaves.and to fit rain water goods. It can look very nice if you manage to buy suitable shapes/colours. Look at your local B&Q/Wickes etc, this is what they are made from. One problem is that the roof is mean't to sit on purlins (RSJs in the stores) hard to do in sheds.*

hard to interface with your 3/4" universal bracket locating boarding?

Corregated iron, like the Corus stuff with out any advantages and many disadvantages.

In non brick cases think about water dripping of the structure and splashing UPWARDS and possibley under your construction. raise a wooden structure 12" of the ground?


* I still have 200+ super long (6"?) self tappers for the sheets that have the tall thin ridges running down them.

Bob Brown 127/12/2015 22:10:29
1021 forum posts
127 photos

At that size 70 m2 you'll need planning and most probably building control to sign of work as it progresses so it will pay to get the plans right. The slab is going to take a lot of concrete so I hope the access is good or you have a lot of mates with wheel barrows.


Bazyle27/12/2015 23:03:22
6378 forum posts
222 photos

The issue I was referring to is MEW 116 June 2006 by Dick Gays. I wonder if he is around to provide some more pictures and report on long term use.

My figure above of 80m2 was rubbish. 160sqft is more like it.

FYI an amateur organisation I know wanting a clubhouse got planning permission for a timber building about 100m2. The paperwork alone cost £2000 and the timber building shell was £25k with the same again to finish the inside. A brick equivalent would be under £10k in materials but needed the specialised labour to put it together. Project currently stalled.

Ady128/12/2015 01:30:16
5160 forum posts
738 photos

When I was a nipper my uncle erected his own garage out of prefabricated concrete slabs, vertical rectangular things

They slotted together and were harled on the outside surface

The kit had all the bits, window cut outs etc

Item 150832849325 on a well known site kinda thing

I wouldn't do a steel one, it will fry you in summer and freeze you in winter

Edited By Ady1 on 28/12/2015 01:55:53

pgk pgk28/12/2015 09:32:11
2591 forum posts
293 photos

Planning regs keep changing and get confusing. I was fortunate enough to ask for and get a visit from local planning officer when i bought this farm. While he vetoed my original bullsh1t over wanting a 'farm office and seperate workshop' he happily pointed out that the pervious owners had illegally planted a row of trees long enough ago to give amnesty and had extended the curtilage by about 3 acres! And that i could erect temporary buildings within that curtilage to (I think) half the area.

My hobby shed went on an insulated concrete base, timber framed, insulated with 3" celcon and UPVC clad with ply lining and a faux tiling alloy roofing. The only real error in all that was not bulding it three times the size.....

Chris Evans 628/12/2015 10:18:17
2067 forum posts

The pre cast concrete structures are a nightmare for condensation and dam cold. My garage was added to the house when it was converted from a Victorian stable block. It is of conventional brick outer and insulated thermalite type blocks, (The ones with insulation in the centre of the block) Years later cavity wall insulation was added, The downside is that it is up to the full height of the house roof so very high to heat. Green oak beams where used to support the roof and an extra bedroom, these have shrunk and moved a bit and allow smells to enter from garage to house no mater how much sealing is done.

JA28/12/2015 11:29:25
1401 forum posts
81 photos

One day you, or your heirs, may want to sell your property. A good double garage will increase the value of the property while a steel shed will be a hindrance.

When I had my second garage (workshop) built, as a double, I needed planning permission and building regulation inspection. I did not mention workshop in the planning application since I thought it smacked of running a business, a good way of upsetting neighbours (remember they can really hinder the progress of a planning application). I read the planning application form and decided you could convert the new garage to a workshop after some time. Also planning officers cannot be naive enough to believe that cars live in garages. Using a local business to draw the plans and get the planning permission etc and a builder recommended by neighbours the whole exercise cost me about £5000 twenty years ago. It was even finished within the time period given by the builder.


Andy from Workshopshed28/12/2015 11:45:21
50 forum posts
9 photos

As far as I can tell the two keys to low rust are insulation and ventilation.

The insulation slows heating and cooling so that condensation does not form on large metal items

The ventilation ensures that any moist air can be extracted and replaced with drier air.

I agree with the others that what you can get past the planners might be the determining factor rather than cost or convenience.

Vic28/12/2015 12:18:53
3089 forum posts
16 photos

I had a 5m x 3m timber cabin erected in my garden for use as a workshop and it's been great. The timbers are 44mm thick and the floor and roof are insulated. The double glazed windows and door are well sealed into the frames. I've had no problems with damp or condensation at all. I painted the inside timbers white so it's nice and bright to work in. I also lined the floor with ply and painted it with floor paint. Previous brick and concrete garages I've worked in were a nightmare for equipment going rusty and terribly cold on the feet.

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