We’re all looking for more space - to entertain, relax, work or transform into an Airbnb money maker. Handmade shepherd’s huts are perennially popular, adding as much as ten percent to the value of your property, but they can come with a hefty price tag. Why not buy second hand?

Richard Lee, founder of master hut makers Plankbridge, shares his insider tips to help you navigate the second hand market and avoid being scammed.

 

1. Choose your style Consider the end use of your hut before starting your second-hand journey. An authentic, Victorian hut may not be big enough if you plan to put in a bathroom or kitchen. A modern, more contemporary hut will be larger in dimensions. If you’re tempted to browse eBay, check the picture source via a google image search. Sadly, in recent years unscrupulous sellers have used images from genuine manufactures to sell non-existent huts.

2. Signs of a poor hut If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. I would advise always going to see a hut before purchase and check the roof and cladding for holes and rust (if iron). Structurally check the chassis and wheels for any signs of wear and tear, and bigger problems like rot and rust. Inside, keep an eye out for the use of MDF and cheap windows and doors, particularly those made from tropical hardwood.

Dorset Society:

3. Inspect the skeleton If you’ve opted for an authentic style of shepherd’s hut, look at the chassis first (the function between the axle and wheels). Some huts would have originally had a wooden axle beam with an iron stub axle set into it, and these often decay. They are easily fixed by slicing in new wood and capping the end with lead work or galvanised metal sheet.

If the chassis and wheels need completely replacing and you can’t find an old set, it is increasingly hard, then it is possible to buy kits. There is a Dorset Foundry that sells a set of four iron wheels and steering plate, and it is straight forward enough to source durable timbers such as oak, lark or Douglas fir for the axles.

4. Authentic Wheels If you’ve opted for an authentic style or want to give a contemporary hut a vintage feel, look for a set of original wheels - they will be larger at the door end and smaller at the steering end. If you need a new set and can find one with a steering plate and bar for towing, then buy it! Always check wheels for damage – they can become cracked after years of trundling but are easily fixed. A skilled welder can weld cast iron to make a good repair. Be careful if you see wheels advertised. Some take farm ‘Cambridge Rollers’ apart and sell the rings as wheels, they’re not! You can spot these as the rim isn’t flat, it’s raised to a peak in the middle, and they’re much smaller and lighter.

5. Movability If you go and see your hut, make sure it is safe to transport down the road. A specialist haulier will want to know that it’s not going to fall apart on the way home. Old huts, and poorly made newer ones, need to have a secure roof; a cargo net pulled over the whole thing is sensible if in doubt.

Dorset Society: Plankbridge founder Richard LeePlankbridge founder Richard Lee

6. Price Old, original shepherd’s huts are antiques. We have restored some amazing huts; one particularly poignant moment was pulling a newspaper from gaps between the wall boards – it was from 1916. Objects such as that have a value, and any owner will soon be able to ask between £15,000-£18,000. For newer second-hand huts, it is difficult to say. I would say it is defined by your budget; set your upper limit and go in search of a second-hand model which is of good proportion, looks right and feels solid and well made. As for the newspaper, we placed it back in the walls of the hut, to last another 100 years.

7. Build Your Own If you’re planning to make your own shepherd’s hut, then good luck – if I had the time, I would lend you a hand! If you can, get your hands on an original blueprint, or David Morris’ book ‘Shepherd’s huts and living vans’. They will help you on your way and show you how to build one. Avoid buying a kit, you will be paying an unnecessary premium for readily sourced materials. Many timber yards will prepare timber size for you.

plankbridge.com