Shed Security: 18 ways to protect your bikes and valuables
A shed's a great place to protect your bike from the weather. But unfortunately, most sheds don't offer a whole load of protection from determined bike thieves.
The good news is: there's a ton of things we can do to boost the security of our bike sheds and thwart those pesky robbers!
Now, it's impossible to make any shed completely impregnable. Just like a bike lock, if a thief has the right tools and enough time they can defeat anything.
So our job is to ensure that this would take so long and involve so many tools, that the thieves don't bother. I break this down into 3 steps:
- Keeping the thief away from the shed altogether
- Stopping the thief breaking into the shed
- Stopping the thief from stealing the bikes if they do get inside
Keep the thief away from your bike shed
1. Choose the best location for the shed
Ideally you want to keep your shed out of sight of potential thieves but clearly visible from your house's windows.
Because if a thief doesn't know you've got a bike shed, they can't break into it! But if you can't see it you won't know if anyone's trying to break in!
So if possible, not in the front garden or anywhere to the front of your home where passing ne'er-do-wells will spot it.
At the back of your house is much better, ideally not visible from any back lanes or alleys. But it should be clearly visible from and not too far from your back windows so you can keep an eye on it and hopefully hear any attempted break in.
Also, if the thieves think that you might see or hear them they are less likely to try and break in in the first place.
2. Secure your garden or yard space
Keep your perimeter walls and fences in good condition. Obviously keep your gate locked! But consider upgrading the security of your gate and perimeters too.
If they have to climb into your garden it will be much more difficult to get the stolen bikes out.
3. Choose your shrubbery carefully!
Trim back shrubs and hedges that obscure your view of the shed or that could provide hiding places for thieves.
But planting dense, thorny bushes around the sides of the shed can also act a significant thief deterrent!
4. Don't advertise your bikes
If you use Strava, keep your profile private, or set up a privacy zone. Or don't start recording until your a good distance from your home.
Avoid posting photos of your bikes on social media or anywhere else thieves may see them and be able to trace them back to where you live.
This may sound like excessive paranoia but there are countless stories of bikes being targeted, tracked down and stolen through their owners online activities!
Stop the thief breaking into your bike shed
If they do find your shed, this step is all about keeping the thieves on the outside! Basically it's about boosting your shed's existing security.
This will depend very much on what type of shed you have. If you've got a metal shed (especially if it's an Asgard), then your shed is already pretty secure and there's probably not too much you need to do.
And if you've got a plastic shed then it's almost certainly not very secure, but because plastic sheds are difficult to customize there's not a whole load you can do about it!
If you do have a plastic shed keep reading though cos you do have a few options!
If you've got a wooden shed, it's probably not very secure either. But because wooden sheds are easy to customize there's loads you can do to make it more secure...
5. Improve the door lock
Wooden Bike Sheds
The locking system that came with your shed is probably rubbish. Most wooden sheds come with either a "hasp and staple" or "a tower bolt" locking mechanism
A hasp and staple consists of a hinged "hasp" that's attached to the door and which folds over onto a looped "staple" that's fitted to the door frame.
Whereas a tower bolt consists of a metal rod that's attached to the door and that slides across to anchor in a cylindrical cradle attached to the door frame.
Both of these will hold the shed door closed, but to secure the door they need to be paired with a padlock (which is rarely included when you buy the shed).
The problem is that the existing mechanism is probably attached to the shed with simple wood screws...
So with the tower bolts it doesn't matter how good your padlock is. Because all a thief has to do is unscrew the wood screws and they're through the door and in the shed!
With hasps and staples, the hasp protects the screw fittings when they're locked. So they can't be unscrewed.
But simple wood screws are just not strong enough so the whole locking mechanism can simply be ripped out of the wood with a crowbar anyway!
The answer is to replace those wood screws with carriage (or coach) bolts which go all the way through the wood and are secured with a nut and a washer on the other side.
Not only is it impossible to unscrew these bolts from the outside, they also make it much more difficult to rip the fittings out of the wood. For a bit of extra security, once the nuts are in place, add a drop of super glue to keep them there!
You could also attach a metal plate to the back of the door to prevent a thief simply cutting out the lock.
Cheap, flimsy hasp and stables (and tower bolts) are a security risk in themselves and can be cropped or sawn through easily. If yours looks flimsy, it probably is. Replace it with something that's heavy duty and ideally certified by Sold Secure.
Annoyingly, even the heavy duty hasp and staples tend to come with simple wood screws, so you'll still need to buy replacements. There are some exceptions though...
Likewise for the padlock. A closed (or shrouded) shackle padlock is ideal because the shackle is difficult to crop. Again look for padlocks with Sold Secure or other security certification.
Make sure the shackle isn't too thick to fit through your staple though!
You could add extra locks at the top and at the bottom of door to prevent the door being pried open and split at either end. Or you could also add a shed bar that goes across the whole door.
Be careful though: the more security measures you add to the outside of the shed, the more you make the thief think there's something expensive in there that's worth a bit of extra effort!
And as we'll see, there are plenty of internal changes you can make that will improve security without attracting unwanted attention.
Plastic Bike Sheds
Plastic sheds tend to come with very basic locks. I've seen several with plastic bolts that can be secured with a padlock. But the bolts are plastic! So it doesn't matter how good the padlock is, they can cut or sawn through in seconds!
Better plastic sheds lock on the inside, leaving a metal staple (loop) on the outside, which you can attach a padlock to.
No doubt the staple is weak but if you protect it with a good padlock, then the thief will most likely have to rip the doors off to get the shed open.
So always choose a heavy duty padlock (not like the one above) that fills the hasp and protects it by preventing it from being attacked with a saw of bolt cutters.
6. Improve the door hinges
Wooden Bike Sheds
Just like the lock system, the door hinges on your wooden are most likely attached to the shed with simple wood screws.
This means all a thief has to do is unscrew them and then they can open the door on the other side! Or if they can't be bothered with the unscrewing they can simply tear the hinges off with a crow bar.
Luckily the solution is the same: replace the screws with carriage bolts that can't be unscrewed from the outside and that by going all the way through the wood are much more difficult to rip out.
On cheaper hinges, the pin that holds to two parts of the hinge together can just be hammered out, allowing the thief to pull the door away from the frame. On better hinges the pin is protected and this won't be possible.
Again, if the hinges look cheap and flimsy, replace them with heavy duty alternatives.
With both hinges and lock fittings, I know some people advise tampering with the wood screw head (either using super glue or a drill) to make unscrewing them impossible.
This neglects the fact that fittings can still easily be ripped out with a crow bar. Do it properly instead: replace the wood screws with carriage bolts.
And of course you need to upgrade both the lock and the hinges, otherwise it's a waste of time!
Plastic Bike Sheds
Most plastic sheds have concealed hinges. This means the fixings are on the inside of the shed.
This won't stop a determined thief from ripping them off with a crow bar though! And there's not too much you can do about that unfortunately.
7. Block the windows
The windows in a shed are a weak point. Firstly they allow a thief to see what's available inside! And secondly, if they like what they see, a thief can smash or punch through the window to gain access to the inside.
So ideally you'd get rid of them! They could easily be boarded up with thick plywood from the inside.
However, maybe you you don't want to get rid of that bit of natural light inside the shed. In which case there are steps you can to take to stop the thieves looking in. And other steps to make the windows more secure.
You could add a sheet of reflective film to the inside, so you can see out but they can't see in. Spray on glass frosting stops everyone seeing in or out but still lets the light in. Likewise, those opaque privacy films.
The advantage of the films that you stick to the windows is that they stop the glass shattering so they provide a slight security boost too.
And of course net curtains or normal curtains would do the job as well!
To properly boost the security you should add metal bars or a security grill to the inside of the window frame. If you're really serious, you could build (or buy) some lockable shutters!
If the windows are glass you should consider replacing them with shatter-proof Styrene panes, or laminated glass.
8. Anchor the shed to the ground
Smaller sheds, especially those made from plastic can be lifted up and tipped over. Some sheds don't come with integrated floors. If that's the case, the thief then has immediate access to your stuff!
Even if your shed does have a floor (and most wooden and plastic sheds do!), the exposed floor of tipped up shed is a weak point that could be attacked.
And even if they don't get in, tipping the shed over will cause all sorts of damage to the shed and your bikes.
Some plastic sheds are so light that the thieves could just carry the whole shed off along with everything that's inside it!
It's the Law!
So, it's a good idea to anchor your shed to the ground. In some countries and states it's actually a legal requirement to do this (due to the risk of them blowing away I think).
Metal sheds (which very often come without floors) usually have integrated fixings which allow you to anchor the shed to the concrete base (on which they're intended to sit).
For wooden sheds you can get anchoring kits that are specially designed for sheds and whatever ground type you've got it sitting on.
Plastic sheds are more difficult. I'd recommend adding heavy anchors inside the shed, which you can also be used to secure your bikes (see below)! Although you could use breeze blocks too.
9. Reinforce the roof
The roof is another weak point in most wooden sheds. In fact, this is a common attack point, with thieves simply lifting up a poorly secured roof to gain access to the inside.
But it's pretty easy to improve this. Simply fix builders band or metal brackets to the inside of the shed wherever the fame meets the roof struts.
This is a quick and easy job that will make it much more difficult for thieves to get the roof off your shed!
10. Reinforce the frame
You can reinforce the frame in the same way. Fastening metal struts or builder band across the frame on the inside of the shed with significantly strengthen it against attack.
Pay special attention to the sheds weak points: the door and windows frames and any walls that aren't close to external walls or fences.
You could also line the shed with sheets of ply wood. This would reinforce the frame as well. Plus it gives the thieves another layer to get through before they can access your bikes.
Similarly I've heard of people lining the inside of their sheds with chicken wire! It won't strengthen the shed, but it will create another nasty layer that the thieves will have to go through.
For sure, chicken wire can be snipped through but maybe the thief won't have the right tool, and it takes a while if they do. Plus it will leave a nasty sharp edged hole that will be difficult to pass through.
Strengthening the frame and the roof are great options because they'll make the shed more secure without advertising to the world outside the fact that it's protecting something valuable.
10. Fix any rottenness
If you don't look after a wooden shed, eventually it will start to rot. Rotten wood is obviously a weak point and can easily be kicked in or pried off.
If your shed starts to rot, fix it up! Replace any wooden planks and start looking after it better!
11. Install a security light
Installing a motion triggered security light is another option. It should be fixed somewhere high up, opposite the shed where it can't be tampered with.
You can get mains, battery and solar powered versions at a variety of different price points, so you're sure to find something suitable.
Just make sure it's not positioned so it's going to annoy your neighbors! Bear in mind cats and foxes etc will trigger the light so it may be going on and off quite regularly.
12. Install security camera (real or fake)
You could also install a motion triggered security camera that points at your shed. Again it should be positioned high up where it can't be interfered with.
You can get the footage streamed to your phone when you're not at home. And this could also be used as evidence if the shed is broken into.
Most cameras require mains power but there are solar power versions available too these days.
Security cameras also act as a deterrent. If a some thieves think they are being filmed they'll be scared off. For this reason, you could also just install a fake camera!
It needs to look real though, so make sure you get a convincing one with wires and an active light.
13. Put your tools away!
An obvious one, but don't leave your garden tools in lying around outside the shed. These can be used to break into the shed. Or stolen. Lock them away in the shed instead.
14. Get a dog
Stop the thief stealing your bikes from the shed
If a thief does manage to get inside your shed, we want to make as difficult as possible for them to leave with your bikes.
And there's loads of useful steps you can take here...
15. Install a security anchor
This is one of the most significant security steps you can take. But it's easy to get it wrong. You need to secure you bikes to something that's almost impossible to remove without power tools.
And this can be more or less difficult depending on what your shed is made from.
Ground or Wall Anchors
Metal Bike Sheds
If you've got a metal shed, (even one as secure as an Asgard) you could sink a ground anchor into the concrete or paving stone base that the shed is designed to sit on.
If the shed doesn't have an integrated floor, then you've probably already drilled into the base to secure the shed to the ground. So further drilling to install the ground anchor shouldn't be much extra effort.
If your shed does have an integrated floor you will need to drill through it to secure the ground anchor.
Both options will obviously require a drill capable of going through metal and concrete. But it's actually pretty straightforward and there's plenty of online guidance.
Wooden Bike Sheds
If you've got a wooden shed, it's more difficult. The shed may not be laid on a concrete or paved base. And it may sit some distance above the ground anyway.
What you obviously don't want to do is just fix the ground anchor to the 12 mm wooden planks or ply wood that make up the floor of your shed! It can just be ripped out.
You could attach it to one of the thick pieces of wood on the walls that make up the frame of the shed. If you do this make sure the bolts go all the way through the wood and can't be removed from the other side.
There are anchors that are designed for this. A wall anchor has the advantage of keeping the chain (that you'll use to secure your bike) off the ground, making it more difficult to cut with bolt cutters.
If all this sounds a bit complicated or too much like hard work then don't worry there are plenty of effective alternatives!
The Shed Shackle
My favorite is the "shed shackle" from Pragmasis. This is a series of articulated metal plates that are fixed to the support beams of your shed, with a section that you can thread a chain (or a u-lock) through.
Not only is the shed shackle impossible to defeat without destroying a large section of the shed (which would take some time), it actually supports and strengthens the frame of the shed. So you win twice!
It's modular so it should be easy to fit somewhere on your shed. It will keep your lock off the floor, which makes it more difficult to crop. And it only takes 30 minutes to fit. What more do you want?
Well, it's also been awarded "Police Preferred Specification" status under the ACPO Secured-by-Design scheme. And Pragmasis say that as far as they know, it's never been defeated.
Oh, you can use it on metal sheds too!
Pragmisis also produce ground anchors and very secure chains (see below). Plus they've got a great environmental policy, so they're worth supporting!
But there are alternatives! This Stronghold Locking Kit is designed for sheds, is cheap and looks pretty easy to install.
The loop that you thread your chain through is only 12 mm thick, so in theory it is cropable with the largest bolt cutters. Your average thief won't be carrying bolt croppers like this but some of them do.
Another option, (if your wooden shed sits above a lawn or earth) is a ground anchor that you can simply hammer into the earth. You'd need to cut a hole in the floor of your shed. But then it's just a case of banging the anchor down!
If the shackle remains below the level of the shed floor I think this would be quite secure. But it's probably not that practical.
Similarly, you could dig a hole under the shed and then fill it with concrete and a ground anchor.
DIY options include one that I've used with great effect in communal houses before. Fill a large bucket with wet cement. Then stick an old u-lock or a proper ground anchor in the cement and leave to dry...
You've now got a very heavy, very secure anchor which you lock your bikes to. A couple of those, one on either side of your bikes, and no-one is going to be lifting those bikes out of the shed!
The laziest option I can think of though is a variation on this using kettle bells. A couple of 88 lb (40 kg) kettle bells chained to your bikes are going to make them very difficult to steal!
These concrete bucket and kettle bell options would work particularly well in plastic sheds (and smaller wooden sheds) as they'll act as an anchor to prevent anyone tipping the shed over or even carrying it away!
16. Lock your bikes properly
So now you've got a ground anchor or a shed shackle or a couple of buckets of concrete or kettle balls installed in your shed. Something that's immovable and genuinely secure to lock your bikes to.
First of all, you need to remember to lock your bike to this thing every time you put it in the shed.
I've heard so many stories of people leaving bikes unlocked in a shed just because they can't be bothered with the effort of securing them...
This is how your bike gets stolen!
You've probably got a lock (normally a u-lock) that you use in the street? I recommend you use it to lock one of the wheels to the frame of your bike, to immobilize it.
However decent 14 mm and 15 mm chains from Kryptonite and OnGuard will also do the job well.
While these are theoretically cropable, a thief would need huge, high quality bolt croppers and the right technique (and enough weight!) to achieve this.
I recommend that you choose a hardened chain that's at least 12 mm, but preferably 13 - 16 mm from a reputable brand. The cheap, cut to length chains from your local hardware store are not suitable!
Anything less and there's a good chance a thief can crop it. Anything more and the chains starts to get so heavy it could damage your bike!
Thread the chain through the anchor and all the bikes in the shed, trying to keep it as far from the floor as possible (to make cropping it harder). If you've got enough chain length you could thread it through other heavy items too (lawnmowers etc).
The idea is to make one mass of locked objects that's difficult for the thief to separate to work on. Or move.
If possible, try to thread the chain through the main triangle of the frame and through the rear triangle (where the rear wheel goes) or each bike. And also through the rear wheel if the chain will fit!
This makes it more difficult for the thief to simply cut the frame in one place to steal the bike.
How long should the chain be? That will depend on your setup. Take a piece of string and use it as you plan to use the chain. Then measure the string!
17. Install a shed alarm
Many thieves will be scared off if they're greeted by a piercing alarm when they enter your shed!
There loads of options here. Alarms that are triggered when the door's opened. Alarms that are triggered by movement in the shed. Mains powered. Battery powered. Wired and Wireless!
However, you need to think carefully about the strengths and weaknesses of each option and choose according to your circumstances.
If the alarm is wired to the door, what happens if the thief come through the roof? If the alarm is triggered by movement, could rodents or birds set it off? You need to choose one that works for your set up.
So, I've written a shed alarm guide to help you out here!
18. Check your insurance
Clearly this isn't a way to make your shed more secure! But it's important. So I thought I'd throw it in at the end...
Your household insurance might cover your shed too. But you need to check. If it does, check the small print to make sure the stipulations are reasonable and you're able to meet them.
For example I've heard of some policies that will cover the bikes in the shed but only if they're stolen in the daytime!
If you find your current insurance isn't up to the job, then specialist bike insurance will be much more comprehensive. And it's certainly worth considering for more expensive bikes.
Just as no bike lock is undefeatable, no bike shed will ever be impregnable! However, there's loads of things we can do to improve the hopeless levels of security that come with most sheds.
Some of the tips on this page may not be practical or even possible for you. If you already have a shed it's difficult to move it. If you have a plastic shed, it's hard to customize it.
But some of them will be. And it's better to do them now, before you've been robbed, than wait until you've already lost your favorite bikes.
Everyone with a wooden shed can upgrade the door lock and hinges and install some kind of secure anchor to use with a heavy duty padlock and chain.
So to reiterate, these are the three vital steps:
- Upgrade door hinges and lock
- Install a properly secure anchor
- Lock your bikes to the anchor with a decent chain and lock (> 12 mm)
If you do that, then you've probably already thwarted the casual thieves that make up 90% of the threat.
But it's all about adding layers of inconvenience for the thieves. The more layers you're able to add, the less likely you are to be robbed.
If you think it's all too much effort and you decide your bikes would be better off inside, check out my bike storage ideas. You might find something that works for you that you'd never considered before!
But have I missed any bike shed security tactics out? Let me know your shed security tips in the comments below!