18a. ‘The Shed’ Fights Back!


14th May 2008. Not too long ago, I described my air of great satisfaction, on clearing the garden shed. I said, even, that: “This represents the last of ‘the big jobs’ that need to be done in this, my new house.” Ah: but how complacent we can so easily become. The garden shed had to be cleared, because the little sun-room on the back of house was full of garden (and other) tools, and I wished to reclaim it as a living space. The garden tools, including the Flymo & the strimmer could then all live in the garden shed, and I could live in the sun-room, as the Spring arrived. What could be simpler? I began my previous Diary entry with a shot of the cluttered sun-room. I reproduce it here, side by side with a new one, taken this afternoon.




Why, I hear you ask, is the sun-room just as chaotic as it was six weeks ago, if not more so? Well: (a) The exercise machine belongs to my son Julian, and we are still trying to figure out a way to get rid of it. He can’t use it in his flat, as it makes a noise, and the old lady who lives in the flat below knocks on the roof of her flat with a ten-foot long pole she evidently keeps for the purpose, if there is even the slightest noise from above; (b) The washing machine, microwave & fan belong to my daughter Georgina who is keeping them here while she is in the process of buying a house. But above all: (c) The Shed is not quite ready yet for my stuff to go in it. Some small & fairly indestructible stuff can, such as the fork, the spade, the hoe, the broom. But not the electric things like the grass-mower, the strimmer, the electric drill and screwdriver, the bench grinder & so on. Why? There are two reasons. First, there isn’t very much room in the shed, even though it’s empty now. Oh yes, it measures 6 foot by 8 foot (~1.8m x 2.4m), but the previous owner built inside it many shelves, racks &c., which makes the floor area quite small. Accordingly, we began to remove these in order to increase the floor area.




Here are some of them. They were very well-constructed and took a lot of knocking down. But eventually these shelves, along with many other pieces of wood which we had left inside in case they might come in handy, were taken to the local Recycling Centre. Surely now, all would be well? No: the second reason – the crucial one – was only too apparent, and indeed, had been present all along. The roof leaks. So we can’t put electrical stuff in there, as a damp environment is not good for them.



Here is the roof of the shed. Though I am greatly interested in Archaeology and love reading books on all periods of History, I seldom get a chance to practise Archaeology. But here was a good simple beginner’s exercise. Going down through the layers of this roof, we arrived at the following:


Phase I: Date unknown; probably circa 1970s.

The Shed was erected. It is constructed of ‘tongue & groove’ boarding, and as is quite apparent in these photos., the front, side & rear walls of The Shed still remain in tolerably good condition. The roof, too, is constructed of ‘tongue and groove’ boarding, but this roof was of course overlaid with Roofing Felt, folded over & nailed down round the edges. It was a good shed, and this was a promising start.


Phase II: Date unknown; probably circa 1980s.

The Roofing Felt deteriorated. Under the prolonged annual cyclic onslaught of sunlight, rain, heat, cold, frost, snow, the Felt became de-natured. It cracked, split, broke up. Rain could get in past it, & wet & start to rot the roofing boards. But repairs were carried out. The old, cracked Roofing Felt was totally overlaid by a new layer, folded over & nailed down. All was well again.


Phase III: Date unknown; probably circa 1990s. 

This second layer of Roofing Felt eventually deteriorated, for the same reasons as given in Phase II above. Repairs were again carried out. However, in this case, the method employed was different. The two old layers of Felt were again overlaid, but this time by chipboard. This was nailed to the roof of the shed, hence accounting for the now-rusty nails sticking through the ceiling into the interior of the shed. A single run of Roofing Felt was nailed over the central portion, this being the worst-affected by the ingress of rainwater. It must be recorded here, that though this repair doubtless enjoyed initial success, it was not a satisfactory long-term solution.


Phase IV: The present day: 2008.

Besides the nailed-down chipboard, as you can see in the photo. above, some sections of wood have been laid across the roof. These are not secured in place, and their function is not clear. The obvious explanation is that they are meant to hold the roof down in case high winds tore off the chipboard: but some of them are so small in cross-section that they can never have effectively fulfilled that purpose. And equally, however useful chipboard is as a cheap material for more-or-less ephemeral indoor structures (e.g. shelves in the garage), it is certainly not an appropriate material for unprotected outdoor use. This may imply that the Phase III repair was meant merely as a temporary expedient, and never made good? At any rate, the condition of the roof is now parlous in the extreme. We moved one of the larger timber sections, and a very large number of centipedes, beetles, woodlice and worms were revealed living in the damp & decaying chipboard. Still, the answer is simple: during a prolonged period of fine weather, the entire roof-covering must be dismantled & got rid of. After patching up the very small decayed section of roof-boarding (a single bucket is capable of catching the rainwater that drips into The Shed), a new layer of Roofing Felt can be applied in the normal way. What could be simpler? Well; there is just one snag…



It is evident that, for a long period of time, the space behind The Shed has been used as a dumping ground for undesired things. Such as old fencing, inexplicable blocks of brick & concrete &c. As it were, ‘Out of Sight, Out Of Mind’. But in order to work safely on the roof of The Shed, it will be necessary to clear this area, as if one were to stand on it (as I did to take the shot of the roof), it can suddenly give way & be dangerous, which it

actually started to do while I was taking the photos!


Things are never as simple as we would like. And in the meantime, my little sun-room remains cluttered…





Page written 22nd May 2008.