How to Protect Your Shed from Rust and Corrosion this Winter

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It doesn’t matter if you have a small shed just for a few gardening tools, or a large shed fit enough to store your vehicles, jet-skis, ATVs and boat - sheds are a great way to add that little extra space for the things you ‘need’ in your life. However, large or small, there are still maintenance issues to think about for your shed, and one of these issues is rust and corrosion.

Although not usually a top priority for many shed owners, rust and corrosion pose a serious issue for your shed, and can lead to unnecessary rebuilds of your storage facility if not maintained and prevented properly. Whether you live in a coastal region near saltwater, or in hot and humid regions, there are definitely a few things you can do to ensure your shed stays rust and corrosion-free this winter.

Make sure you choose the right materials

Sheds on the current market are made from a wide variety of materials, with some being unconventional or purely designed for aesthetic appeal. When you’re choosing a shed, you want one that’s going to be visually attractive, strong, durable, and made to stand the test of time.

Before buying a shed, ensure the it’s made out of steel. Although other materials might look nice, metal sheds can actually also look quite impressive, as well as serving their purpose well. The old, drab metal backyard shed of the past is no more, and there are now a wide range of colours and build features that can make a metal shed look extra appealing.

Galvanised steel is the perfect material to choose for your garden shed. Metal sheds have few enemies, as they can withstand many weather conditions such as high winds and heavy rains. Steel sheds also are resistant to fires and won’t rot like wooden sheds can.

Choosing the right size

You may not think that choosing the right size shed has anything to do with rust or corrosion. However, the size of your shed and how much it is used can help you to deter potential rust problems in the future.

When choosing your shed size, choose one that fits your needs. If you’re only going to be storing a couple of the kid’s pushbikes or gardening tools, a storage locker may be the best option. It’s small enough to not take up all the room in your yard, however it’s big enough to store all the items you need to protect over winter.

If you’re looking to store a car, a boat, a whole load of Christmas decorations, surfboards and anything else you can muster into a shed, you’ll obviously need a shed that is larger in size and can fit all of these items. If need be, get a shed that is slightly larger than you think you’ll need, as usually your items will take up more room than you realise.

By choosing a shed that is the right size for you, you will have a better idea of how much space is being used and what items are stored where, meaning it will be easier for you to keep an eye on rust and corrosion issues. If you have a huge shed but only a handful of items, you’re unlikely to pick up on that rust in the far right corner that you never go near.

Building your shed correctly

Moisture which enters your shed is the leading cause of rust and corrosion. The best way to stop moisture from getting in in the first place is to build your shed correctly. Because some sheds can be rather pricey to purchase and build, it is common for some people to want to cut corners in order to save a few dollars. Truth is, doing so can lead to issues arising sooner than if you’d have built the shed properly in the first place.

As a start, you need to set up the shed’s foundation. Regardless of the foundation that you choose for your shed, make sure it is levelled out properly. A foundation that isn’t consistent in thickness will lead to an ill-fitting shed and therefore, the risk of moisture and rain getting in is more prevalent.

If your budget allows it, one of the best ways to ensure your shed is built correctly is to have it built by professionals right from the start. Shed building companies will know exactly how to create the best foundation and erect your shed for you, ensuring all parts, features and joints are handled and installed correctly. This can save you many headaches throughout the building process, especially if you have little to no experience in building backyard sheds.

Install windows and vents

It may seem like a feature that is designed simply to be pleasing to the eye, but the fact is, installing windows in your shed is a great idea for a number of reasons. Not only does it allow for a lot of extra natural sunlight to enter your shed so you can find your tools more easily, but it’s also a great way to keep the air flowing. This prevents damp conditions from creating further issues for your shed.

If you’re not too keen on the idea of having windows installed in your shed (because you just know the kids are going to have a cricket ball through them in no time!), then air vents are a great option. They can allow air flow throughout the shed, and depending on the type of vents you install, you may be able to shut them when you don’t need air to be going through as much, such as in winter.

Windows and vents keep fresh air entering the shed and can help to dry out areas of your shed that may get moist, especially during wet weather. They’re an easy, simple way to keep your shed the ideal environment for the safe, long-term storage of tools and equipment.

Cat litter and other tricks

Yes, you are still reading the right article. You may be wondering what cat litter has to do with your shed. The fact is, cat litter is actually repackaged and often sold to garages to help with any oil spills. Cat litter, as you may imagine, is great for absorbing liquids and moisture. It’s actually also a great product for absorbing humidity in the air. For this reason, cat litter is great to keep in your garden shed. You can either sit a bag open in the shed or even lay some out in a tray in the corner, depending on the size of your shed.

Another option is to use charcoal briquettes. If you read the packaging, you will notice it says to keep them in a dry place. This is because they like to absorb moisture as much as possible. Of course, if this happens, they’re not much use to your barbeque anymore. If you have any spare, keeping some in your shed will also help to absorb moisture. A bag of these is relatively inexpensive and when used in your shed, they should give you some good use for approximately 30 - 60 days.

Use electric fans and dehumidifiers

This option will depend on what you’re storing and how important your items are. If you don’t have windows or air vents installed and you aren’t going to keep the door open each day to try and let some air in and out, you may want to consider an electric fan or dehumidifier.

You might not think an electric fan is going to do much, however they can really help with keeping your shed dry. As simple as this piece of technology is, it’s the perfect appliance to help with air circulation, keep temperatures optimal within your shed and help you to avoid mould and mildew.

If you’re storing important documents, electrical equipment, vintage vinyls or anything of high value, a dehumidifier may be the best option. It may be a costly purchase, but it will be well worth the investment if the goods you’re storing are worth it. Something to note with a dehumidifier is that you will need to keep it maintained so that it continues working properly for you. First, you will need an electrical outlet to keep it powered, and you need to ensure that you drain the water tray regularly. The temperature in the shed cannot go below 21 degrees when using a dehumidifier, so if you’re living in colder locations, this may not be the perfect solution. It does however make it a good option for those living in warm, humid areas and coastal regions.

What to do if you already have rust

If you’ve noticed signs of rust already, you don’t have to tear your whole shed down. Instead, you can take a few steps to see if you can remove the current rust and help to prevent future rust from occurring.

  • Using a steel brush, dip it in white vinegar then scrub away at the rust. The acid in the vinegar will eat away at the rust and the scrubbing motion will help to get it off the surface. You may need to do this a couple of times depending on how severe the rust is.
  • If there are holes in the shed’s metal sheeting, not all is lost. You can try and repair it by using an epoxy repair putty made for steel and metal surfaces. These types of products are great for patching small areas, and most of them can be sanded and painted over. Just be sure to check the product instructions.
  • After assessing the area, use a pressure cleaner to wash away the surface. You want to make sure the area is as clean as possible and free of any dirt, grease, grime or mildew.
  • Using a tack cloth, wipe the area you want to protect once it is dry. If chalk rubs off onto the cloth, this is when you will need to scrub any of the chalky areas with a steel brush. Once this has been completed, re-wash the surface with a pressure cleaner again.
  • Once the building is dry, use a primer or finish on the area. If you’re going to be painting the shed a different colour, use a primer. If you simply want to protect the shed from rust, use an acrylic finish made for metal buildings.
  • Allow this coat to dry for at least two hours or follow the instructions of your product. From here, you can apply a second coat to the shed.

It is ideal to complete this process for the whole shed to ensure there are no further instances of rust or corrosion in any other areas.

Avoid items that encourage dampness

If you want to keep your shed free from moisture to ensure that it remains in top condition for many years to come, there are a few things you can do.

If your shed has gutters installed, always make sure the gutters are clear of debris and that rainwater can easily flow away. Leaves and branches sitting in your gutters is only going to hold moisture and lead to potential mould and mildew growing. This growth won’t just stop at your gutters, so it’s important to keep gutters properly maintained.

Keep elaborate gardens and soils away from the shed. You might think it will be nice to plant a beautiful garden bed surrounding the edges of your new shed, but unfortunately, it’s not ideal for shed longevity. It is best to keep a clear area around your shed, as soils and gardens are likely to retain water, and therefore moisture will literally be sitting next to your shed. Think about when you go to tend to your garden by watering it. You would be adding water directly next to your shed, if not actually onto the side walls. If possible, also keep the area clear of any debris, long grass, leaves or branches, as they too can cause moisture to be near your shed. Always keep the area mowed and tidy.

Preventing rust and corrosion for a long-lasting shed

It may seem like a daunting task, but with a few simple checks and possibly a little help from some extra equipment, you can ensure your garden shed or garage stays moisture and damp-free this winter, and for the entire year. While there are some locations that are more susceptible to moisture in the backyard shed, it’s all easily preventable with a well-build foundation.

If you go through the building process correctly, choose the right materials and have a solid foundation, a lot of the extra work doesn’t even need to be considered. Remember, windows aren’t just to make your garden shed look beautiful - they’ll also add an extra way for you to keep things dry. Depending also on what you’re storing, you may need to invest a little extra into electrical fans or dehumidifiers. Keep the location around your shed moisture free, and for a quick and cheap solution, add a bag of cat litter to your shed to keep humidity inside down. Keep all of these tips in mind and you’ll have a shed with no rust or corrosion for years to come.

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