// HOW TO BUILD A LEVEL BASE IN 7 SIMPLE STEPS.

As expert shed and summerhouse builders, it should come as no surprise that we’ve installed thousands of sheds, summer houses and garden buildings in Chesterfield and across the region. 

We’re always happy to share our knowledge, expertise and top tips to help you get the best out of your shed, summerhouse and garden buildings.

It’s essential that your shed, summer house and garden buildings are installed on level ground. 

Why?

Other than the general discomfort and impracticalities that you would experience if your timber building was built on an uneven surface, it’s important to remember that the structural forces that are acting on your timber shed or summerhouse can seriously impede the structural integrity of a garden building that is not constructed on a level base. 

  • Initially, it will look displeasing and interfere with the aesthetic harmony of your garden and outdoor space but the problems are likely to worsen, pretty quickly.

  • As the timber framework, base and roof structure is not balanced it will continue to contort and twist over time which could lead to the weakening of the shed or summerhouse and likely reduce any weather resistance against the lightest of adverse conditions. Naturally, timber is a flexible material, that expands and contracts, and this does not bode well for a shed or summer house that is not built on a level surface.

  • Over time, in some more extreme cases, it’s possible that a shed or summerhouse could suffer severe structural damage or even collapse; meaning that it has to be repaired, relocated or dismantled.

An investment in your outdoor space offers great potential to your quality of life and function of your garden. Here are two common ways to ensure that your installation site is level and ready for your brand new shed, summer house and garden buildings. 

Option 1: PAVING SLABS

Recommended skill level: Suitable for all levels. 

This is a straightforward option that you could have finished within a couple of hours and a few cups of tea. It’s a less committed option than a concrete slab as you could easily remove the base in future should you wish to rearrange your outdoor space. Naturally, there are more than two ways to skin a cat but here are some simple steps to follow if you fancy having a go:

Tools: Tape measure, spirit level, rubber mallet, a ball of string, four wooden pegs, set-square (tri-square), spade, wheelbarrow.
Materials: Paving slabs, sand and cement.

Step 1: PLAN!

There is no substitute for a good plan. Make a cuppa and take a bit of time to sketch out the base that you are going to make and work out your sums. Take into consideration the size and orientation of the paving slabs and the area of the base.


S
tep 2: Measure out the footprint.

Get your boots on and head outside! 

Hammer a wooden peg into the ground to mark out the four corners of your base. Join the four pegs together with string and use a set-square (tri-square) to check that the angle of each corner is 90°.

Ideally, the base will be little larger than the footprint area of your shed, summerhouses or garden building. We recommend adding an extra 6 inches of space on each side. Ie. If the base of your shed or summerhouse is 6x4’ then you’re base will measure 7x5’. This means that the timber structure will be more stable because the weight of the building will not be sat along the outside edges of the paving slabs. 


TOP TIP: Take into consideration the dimensions of the paving slabs that you intend to use before you measure out the base. Paving slabs come in multiple sizes so you may need to adjust your calculations to ensure that the slabs are evenly spaced to support the weight of your timber building. Alternatively, you might want to use paving slabs of various sizes which will require a few extra calculations.


Step 3: Dig!


Stick the spade in the ground and dig the area that you’ve marked out. You’re not trying to tunnel to China - 2-3 inches deep is usually sufficient. You’ll want to make sure that it is as level as it can be at this stage as it will help you in the following steps. You can use a long piece of timber (‘a straight-edge’) and a spirit level to check for any raised areas. 

 

Step 4: Mix your sand and cement.

Using a wheelbarrow or a large container, make a dry mix of sand and cement. For best results, we recommend a mix of 1 part cement to 8 parts sand. You don’t need to add water, we’ll be relying on the air and surface moisture to cure the mixture so that it binds sufficiently.

 

Step 5: Spread the mix.

Use a rake to spread the dry cement mix evenly. Ideally it will be approximately 1.5” deep. Again, use a long piece of timber (‘a straight-edge’) and a spirit level to check that it is completely level. If it’s not level, it will make your life difficult when you start laying the paving slabs. 

 

Step 6: Lay the paving slabs.

Start from a corner and work your way outwards. When you lay down each slab, tap it down with your rubber mallet to ensure that it is secure. For best results, you’ll need to make sure that the slabs are butted firmly against each other. Also, remember to use the spirit level to check the each slab that you lay is level with the last and so on. You can make small adjustments as necessary with a few gentle taps of the rubber mallet.

Step 7: Brush down.

Once your base is complete. Check it over with the spirit level just to ensure that you’re completely satisfied that you’ve got a level base. Brush away any excess cement mix or dirt from the surface and leave it to rest. For best results, you’ll want to allow up to a week for the ground to settle and the mix to cure naturally.

Now take off those mucky boots and get the kettle on!

 

ALTERNATIVES

If you’re looking for a more heavy-duty options, a concrete slab is the best option. It’s stable and long-lasting which means that your shed, summerhouse or garden building will be well supported and much less likely to succumb to the negative effects caused by less stable foundations. 

option 2: CONCRETE SLAB (The best option)

Recommended skill level:  Experienced DIYers & professionals.

There is no doubt that the best option is to install your shed or summer house onto a concrete slab. This offers a complete and solid base which acts as a stable foundation for your timber building.

Pros: A long-term solution that offers the most solid foundation.

Cons: Higher costs. More labour intensive and perhaps less suitable for those looking for a DIY option. More difficult to remove if you wish to reorganise your outdoor space. 


option 3: GRAVEL (A quick-fix but not recommended)

Recommended skill level: Suitable for all levels.

This is a quick-fix solution. Follow steps 1-4 above and simply cover the excavated area with gravel. Again, you’ll want to check that it is as level as possible. This should only really be done if you are unable to spend time or money to build a more stable base for your shed, summerhouse or garden building.

Pros: Quick and lower cost.


Cons: May reduce the lifespan and efficiency of your shed, summerhouse or garden building. May increase the likelihood of repairs that could have been avoided by opting for a more stable base.

option 4: BLOCKS (Desperate times. Not recommended)

Recommended skill level: Suitable for all levels.

In our opinion, this is the worst option by far and is only really one to reach for as a desperate last resort. Measure out the exact footprint of your shed, summerhouse or garden building and place a paving slab or block in each corner and at regular intervals along the circumference of the footprint. Your shed, summerhouse or garden building will simply sit on top of the blocks. Needless to say, this is not a great option and you risk the efficiency and lifespan of your timber building.

Pros: Quickest and cheapest.

Cons: Most unstable. The base of the shed, summerhouse or garden building is not completely supported. The structural integrity of the timber building could be placed at high risk due to increased stress and forces during the lifespan of the timber building. 

We applaud anyone who likes to get their hands dirty and have a go at learning new skills but sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan. If you don’t feel up to it or you’re feeling overwhelmed and need help, our professional team of groundworks experts are just a phone call away. 

 

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