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How to Run Mains Power to a Shed in the UK

Published: 02/07/2021

Many people in the UK find that running power to a shed isn’t necessary. Let's face it - the need for extra storage space is the biggest reason most people buy garden sheds. However, people are spending more and more time in their sheds. As the Guardian reports, home working has driven the need for what the newspaper calls “shoffice space” – a contraction of shed office space [1]. And if you want to build a garden office shed, you're likely to need a shed with electricity. Likewise, if you’re building a garden gym, or you want to create a live-in shed, you’ll also want to run mains power to your garden building. Note: If you're looking for information on solar power, check out our post on solar panels for sheds. But for the basics on adding mains power to your building, keep reading...

Wiring a shed in the UK – we’re here to help

You may also be wondering about the UK regulations that govern running a power supply to a shed. Or perhaps you’d like to know whether running electricity to a shed above ground is safe and/or legal. You may even want to know whether it’s better to hire an electrician to run mains power to your shed, or whether you can just do it yourself. In this post, we aim to give you all the information you need to supply your shed with electricity – the right way. Here are 6 steps you need to take to run power to a shed in the UK:

1. Find an electrician

Electrician at a fuse box

Running electricity to a shed is not a DIY job – and you shouldn’t even think about doing the work yourself. While it isn’t strictly illegal to wire the shed yourself, the government deems such work to be notifiable under Part P of the UK building regulations [2]. In other words, you’ll need to tell your local authority about the work. They will then send a competent person to check the work has been done to the required standards. You are also likely to need to pay a building control fee.

Why you should hire an electrician

With the above in mind, you are more likely to get the work done to the standards required by law if you find a professional electrician to do the work. Doing so may cost more initially, but you may be paying more in the long-term if you don’t complete the work to the required standards. Why? Because if the works do not meet the required standards, your local authority can order you to remove or alter the work. Hiring an electrician will ensure your shed’s electrical supply conforms with BS 7671 – the UK wiring standard [3]. This, in turn, should help you and your loved ones stay safe while using electricity in your shed. Using a professional electrician can also help keep your electrical goods in good condition – a badly wired supply can blow or short what would otherwise be a perfectly good TV, for example.

How to find a good electrician

In the UK, any reputable electrician will be a Registered Competent Person under an industry scheme that ensures they follow Part P of UK building regulations. To find a certified electrician, go to the Competent Person Register website. You may even want to hire an electrician to take care of planning and preparing for the installation of the shed electrics (such as digging the trench for underground cables). We recommend this because, by definition, a professional sparky knows what he or she is doing. That said, it is possible to perform much of the work in this guide yourself (with the exception of step 6).

2. Think about WHY you need to power your shed

Snug in shed with electricity

The reason you want to run power to your shed will affect the work ahead – including how many inside and outside sockets you need, how much power you need and more. For example, if you’re using the building as a garden office, you’ll need sockets to power your laptop, printer, and work-related electrical items, in addition to lighting. You may even want to consider adding power for an alarm system or shed security lighting. But it’ll be different if you just need a place to plug in power tools or lawnmower and some modest lighting. This will also determine whether you need the sockets to go on the inside or outside. If all you need is power for your lawnmower, fitting an outside socket may be the answer - it will be easier to reach than one that goes inside. With this in mind, draw up a plan of your garden building and work out where you want the sockets, lights, and other sources of power to go.

3. Work out where the cable will run

The electrical supply to your shed needs to run from your main property. You may be able to connect it your existing fuse box. But if this fuse box is old, then you may need a new fuse box to accommodate the new power draw. Obviously, this will cost more, so you may need to work it into your budget. There are also several points of your property that you can connect an electrical supply. This is clearly a complex job – which is one of the many reasons we recommend hiring a professional to do the work for you.

Can you run electricity to your shed above ground?

Running electricity to your shed above ground is possible. One way of doing this is to run armoured cable from an adaptable junction box at the side of your house to your shed. However,  maintenance work could disturb the cable in future. Overground cables can look unsightly too. For these reasons, we don’t recommend this approach. Instead, you should run the electrical supply below ground. This is safer and more efficient option – and it also looks better. Now we’ve (hopefully) convinced to run your cable below ground, you need to get to work on step 4…

4. Prepare the cable trench

Having created a plan for your shed electrics, you must prepare the ground to receive the cable that will feed the power to your shed from your main property. This is a job you can ask your electrician to do. But, as long as you feel confident doing so, there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself – it could save you some cash, after all. If you decide to dig the trench yourself, choose a day and time when it isn’t raining – heavy rain can destroy the site (and your hard work), which could be frustrating. Preferably, dig the trench just before the electrician arrives. That’ll help you avoid any weather-related issues. Assuming you’ve talked with your electrician and agreed the area you need dig, use string or grass-friendly spray to mark out the area and get to work.

5. Check you’re happy with the plan

You may be itching for your garden retreat, garden office or shed gym to get a full supply of power so you can get to work, or just enjoy the space. Even so, it’s worth going over your plan several times before the electrician comes around. That way, you’ll be sure you have all the lighting, inside sockets, outside sockets and any other sources of power you need beforehand.

6. Let the electrician do their work

Having planned out everything and (possibly) laid much of the groundwork yourself, you can let the electrician get to work. Once they've finished, they'll provide you with a Electrical Installation Certificate or Minor Work Certificate (depending on the scale of the work involved). And you can now enjoy your newly powered shed.

References

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/may/30/home-working-drives-demand-shoffice-space-uk-gardens-shed-office [2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/electrical-safety-approved-document-p [3] https://electrical.theiet.org/bs-7671/

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