Friday, March 27, 2009

Protecting your garden office

We welcome regular Shedworking reader Nicholas Tims as today's guest poster on an important subject for all shedworkers: security.
At least one computer, two screens, a mini-server, an occasional laptop, a priceless Cuban cigar collection – my shed (a work in progress), will probably contain all of these things. Um, except the cigars. And it won’t be practical to remove all the equipment on a daily basis. Naturally, everything will be insured – and its actual worth is small. However, should the shed get burgled, the inconvenience of needing to restore it all would be painful.

I’m struggling to sex this topic up (which is probably why Alex suggested I guest post!) but: alarms? Does your shed have one?

I’m considering two options:
(i) wiring the shed into our house alarm – which is monitored and alerts the police
Pros: one system, as secure as the house when on holiday
Cons: potentially expensive as must be done professionally, would involve setting zones when at home (but not in shed)
(ii) fitting an external alarm
Pros: cheaper
Cons: not as secure as the house, need to remove high-value stuff when away for an extended time, relies on kindly neighbours to alert someone if it goes off and you’re not at home

Although I’m yet undecided, I’m leaning towards the second option. I’m a homeworker (soon to be a shedworker). I’m here a lot. If it goes off while I’m asleep/in the house, I figure I’ll hear it. If I’m out, well, the neighbours have my mobile number. So, given this, what do I want out of an alarm?
a) a visual deterrent – which means an outside box
b) one PIR, one door sensor (in fact, the PIR alone should do it)
b) the ability to set it remotely from outside the shed which means a wireless keypad and/or keyfob (ideally both)

There are numerous packages out there which will suit me but the challenge seems to be in finding one small (and cheap!) enough to suit needs. Most systems are intended for houses and hence contain numerous PIRs, door sensors, etc. that you won’t need. Yale have just updated their standalone series which nattily wirelessly transmits a signal to a mini siren in house/flat, which then sounds. Cheapish at £50 at Argos. But it fails my wish for an outside box and truth be told, I’d rather the alarm were going off on the shed than muffled in the house. Still, it will undoubtedly suit some.

Staying with Yale, you could try and pick up a cheap HSA3200 (or similar), which is around the same price on eBay, or if you’re quick, there’s one here. This full system includes an outside box, keyfob, 1 PIR and 1 door detector. So it ticks most of my boxes above. The main advantage of this unit is that it’s expandable with HSA3000 and the current model HSA6000 accessories, which are readily available on eBay. So, adding a wireless keypad (for backup when that keyfob goes missing…) would be around £20.Otherwise, there are similar options that exist among the larger alarm makers, e.g. Friedland. And for around £150 or so, you can pick up systems such as this one at Secure Home Direct that take a sim card, dialling/texting you so, at worst, you know you’re being robbed.

Or you handy types could of course just try this if you have three minutes spare...
Please do share your security solutions in the comments below.


  1. i am planning a practice studio shed in my backyard and have been thinking about this issue.

    i think a very loud and well hidden and/or secured standalone system would be the thing.
    i am designing a shed with the side facing into the yard as all glass with a sliding or couple of french doors. the other windows would be high and too narrow to crawl through. the all glass side will probably have two large carriage style doors that swing open really wide and would cover the whole wall when closed. a roll down security shutter is an idea but expensive. have also thought of placing some sort of steel in the walls - rebar or angle iron

    i think the important thing is to make robbing the space difficult and slow to the smash and grab thief.

  2. That all seems sensible. I think the well-hidden bit might apply to the inside (which is relatively simple as you shouldn't need much stuff in there) - but as for the outside, I think a visual deterrent is good - even if it's just a sticker in the window saying alarmed or even a flashing led somewhere! In your case, I would go for an outside box; you sound like you're going to have a lot of kit in there. And of course, I don't know your location. But yes, visual deterrent (ie pls rob somewhere else), physical deterrent (locks/alarms) are what you need.

    After all that, if someone REALLY wants to get into your shed, they will - just as they will your house.

  3. Loads of useful info, Nick. Also, don't forget to lock away garden tools as these are often used to prise open doors/windows and don't leave your home office keys lying around or, worse still, on a key rack with a 'Garden Office' tag attached.