Your basic shiplap timber garden room starts at under £1,000 and are available from your local DIY store. You’ll need to assemble them yourself but they’re a great, affordable solution for use during the summer or as extra garden storage.
Insulated timber structures and log cabin self-assembly kits, from around 7m² upwards, are a well-priced, all-year-round option and are available from DIY stores and specialist companies such as Garden Affairs and Dunster House. Many companies provide an installation service, but you’ll still need to prepare the ground beforehand. Paving slabs can be used for a simple summerhouse, but a level concrete base, with waterproof membrane, is recommended for a regularly used room. You can find out how to lay a basic concrete base at diydoctor.org.uk.
If you prefer to call in a specialist company to take care of all aspects of the design and installation, choose from either a company, such as Pod Space, which offers a range of rooms that can be customised to suit your needs from about £9,500 upwards, or opt for a made-to-measure service, such as that provided by Roomworks, with prices starting from about £1,200 per m².
As these garden room companies specialise in this type of construction, the cabins are highly insulated and can be installed complete with interior finishes, utilities and security features. The top-of-the-range rooms include bathrooms and kitchens, solar panels and even rainwater-harvesting systems. Some companies will also be able to deal with a planning application, if one is required. Do check what is included in your buying price, however, as some basic packages may not cover the cost of the groundworks or connection to services.
Traditionally, garden rooms have been constructed using a timber frame. However, more and more are now being built from pre-fabricated panels, often clad in timber such as durable red cedar. These structurally insulated panels (SIPs) are manufactured offsite and put together on site for minimal disruption. Teamed with high-performance glazing and energy-efficient roofing, such as the latest eco-friendly living sedum roofs, these garden rooms meet the standard of any new-build property.
Making your garden room fully functional
An all-year room requires heating, ventilation, insulation and electricity. If you go for a bespoke option, this will be arranged for you, but make sure the price includes connection to mains electricity. This requires a Part P registered electrician to relay power through armoured cabling and will cost between £300-500. You should also receive a certificate stating that the work meets current regulations.
In terms of insulation, self-assembly kits that include ready-insulated sections are worth the added cost. Alternatively, check out DIY products, such as polystyrene insulation board topped with plywood sheeting. Look to casement, rather than fixed windows, to enable good air flow in the summer and ensure there’s warmth in winter with portable or panel heaters or electric underfloor heated matting. Fitting exterior, as well as interior, lighting will make access easier at night and a timer or sensor will improve security. You should also fit locks and include the new room on your buildings and contents insurance.
Changing room or outdoor bathroom
Richard Lee, co-owner and founder of Plankbridge explains; “The Plankbridge Privy is designed to allow people to extend their living and working space into the garden all year round. Within the two metre square footprint there is room for a shower, toilet and washbasin, even a bath / shower combination. This makes it great for sitting alongside an existing shepherd’s hut, which is used as a bolthole, studio or home office. This new Plankbridge design may also serve as swimming pool changing room or gardener’s facility for example.
‘The Privy is usually mounted on iron wheels or for a more permanent structure it can be lowered onto a level base. Either way the Privy can be connected to the services with flushing loo or be ‘standalone’ with 12volt electrics and composting facilities.”
What to consider before buying
Before buying a garden room, there are some things you should consider. Paul Barton, design director at garden office specialist Roomworks, has this advice.
Planning and building regulations
When you’re choosing your preferred spot for a garden room, bear in mind that you must stick to planning and building regulations. Outbuildings are considered as permitted development when subject to a few limits and rules, so if you want to avoid the planning process you need to meet certain conditions, such as the ones below. (You’ll find more details at planning portal.gov.uk.)
You should avoid building in front of your property, as this generally needs planning permission. Most people prefer their room to be in the back garden and, unless your property is listed, this is permitted as long as:
- The roof height of any room less than 2m from a boundary line is no higher than 2.5m; or 3m for a mono pitch roof and 4m for a dualpitch roof when over 2m from a boundary.
- Your room must be no bigger than 30m² and can’t occupy more than 50 per cent of the total space of your garden.
- Planning permission will be needed for rooms used as accommodation – building regulations apply to all rooms over 15m².
Planning issues aside, there are other important points. Light and shade can dramatically affect the way your garden room will perform. Depending on what you’ll use it for, it often makes sense to have the windows on the south and west-facing elevations to capture the natural heat and light from the sun, rather than the cooler north and east-facing elevations.
Ground conditions and access also need to be taken into consideration, especially during the winter months. Consider drainage patterns, access to utilities and the garden room’s distance from your property. Sloping sites will inevitably complicate installation and, while trees can be used to frame or shade a building, they can also cause a build-up of leaves and debris on the structure, while the roots can complicate the groundworks.
You need to decide whether you want the cabin to be a key design feature in your garden, or a discreet addition where privacy is important. Don’t forget too that it should be positioned with a great view of the garden.