Where to start with building a garden room

Last updated: July 2024 | 3 min read

A garden room, often a standalone structure in the outdoor space, offers homeowners a versatile living space separate from the main house. These structures are designed for a variety of uses, such as home offices, gyms, or hobby areas. Read on to learn all about the construction of a garden room.

With a focus on blending functionality with aesthetics, designing and building a garden room involves considerations of local regulations, materials suitable for the British climate, and personalised touches that enhance both comfort and charm.

This feature will certainly add value to your home and enhance space utility.

The value a garden room adds to your house

While similar to traditional conservatories or outbuildings, garden rooms differ in their robust construction, often featuring insulation and heating, making them usable year-round.

Their design can range from simple, functional spaces to elaborate, bespoke designs that complement the style of the existing property.

Learn more about other exciting home improvement ideas.

Benefits of having your own garden room

Owning a garden room brings numerous advantages. Firstly, it adds extra usable space to a property, ideal for a range of activities from work to relaxation.

Secondly, it increases the value of the property, appealing to buyers looking for versatile living options.

Garden rooms also offer a tranquil retreat away from the hustle of the main house, perfect for those seeking a dedicated workspace or a peaceful area to pursue hobbies.

Environmentally, they present an opportunity to use sustainable building materials, contributing to a greener lifestyle.

Lastly, for those living in areas with stunning views, such as national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty, a garden room can provide a scenic vantage point to enjoy the surroundings.

Choosing the perfect location for your garden room

Assessing your garden's layout

Garden layout assessment is the first step in positioning a garden room. This involves analysing the shape, size, and features of your garden. You need to consider the distance from the original house and boundaries, ensuring compliance with local authority regulations. Also, assess the terrain and soil type as they affect the foundation choice.

Considering sunlight and garden views

Sunlight direction greatly influences a garden room's location. North-facing locations offer consistent light, ideal for art studios or offices.

South-facing spots receive more sunlight, suitable for lounging areas. Prioritise garden views for a serene backdrop, especially if the room serves as a relaxation space. Avoid placing the room where it might block sunlight in your home or garden.

Designing your garden room

Selecting the right size and style

A garden room's size and style depend on its intended use and available space. When you build a garden room, remember it should complement your lifestyle. For a garden office, a compact design suffices.

However, if you're eyeing extra living space for leisure, consider larger dimensions. The style should echo your home's aesthetics, ensuring a harmonious blend. Dual pitched roofs add character, while flat roofs suit modern tastes.

Always measure your garden, ensuring enough room for your project without overwhelming the space.

Popular garden room designs

Garden buildings come in various designs, each with unique appeals. Log cabins offer a rustic charm, ideal for traditional gardens. For a contemporary look, minimalist designs with sleek lines and large glass panels are in vogue.

The outer wall finishing, whether wood, composite, or glass impacts the overall look. Remember, the design chosen should not only be aesthetically pleasing but also practical for year-round use. Opt for insulated walls and roofs to ensure comfort regardless of the weather.

Customising to match your home

Customisation elevates a garden room from a mere structure to an integral part of your home. Matching the exterior walls to your house creates a sense of continuity. Consider using similar materials or colour schemes.

The interior offers a canvas for personal style, whether you prefer a cosy, traditional feel or a sleek, modern vibe.

Custom features like built-in shelves or bespoke furniture can maximise space utility. For garden offices, ensure enough space for desks and storage, keeping productivity in mind.

Incorporating eco-friendly features

Eco-friendly garden rooms are not only cost-effective but also good for the environment. Start by choosing sustainable materials for construction.

A breathable membrane in the walls improves insulation, reducing energy costs. Read in detail about the option of spray foam insulation.

For roofing, consider green options like sedum roofs that enhance biodiversity. Double-glazing windows and LED lighting are energy-efficient choices. Learn how to make your home more energy efficient.

Incorporating rainwater harvesting or solar panels can further reduce your carbon footprint. An eco-friendly garden room not only saves money in the long run but also aligns with responsible environmental stewardship.

Starting your garden building project

Choosing the right foundation type

Garden rooms rely on a sturdy foundation. Homeowners must choose between a concrete base and alternative methods like ground screws. Concrete bases are traditional and robust, ensuring stability for your garden building.

They involve pouring concrete into a prepared area, creating a solid, level surface. Ground screws, on the other hand, are less invasive and quicker to install. These screws are drilled directly into the ground, providing a secure base without extensive excavation.

Your choice depends on your garden's soil type, the garden room's size, personal preferences for environmental impact, and installation time.

Concrete base vs. ground screws

Comparing concrete bases and ground screws offers insights into their suitability for different garden room projects. A concrete base, made of a concrete slab, provides a uniform and solid platform. It's ideal for larger garden buildings or areas with uneven terrain. However, the installation process can be more labour-intensive and time-consuming.

Ground screws, conversely, are less disruptive to the garden environment. They can be installed quickly and are suitable for smaller garden rooms or home offices. The decision hinges on factors like ground conditions, the intended use of the garden room, and your budget.

Damp-proof membrane

Damp can be a problematic issue in garden buildings. Incorporating a damp-proof membrane (DPM) is important for protecting your garden room from moisture.

A DPM is a waterproof barrier placed under the foundation, preventing moisture from seeping up from the ground. This step is essential, regardless of whether you choose a concrete base or ground screws.

Not only does it protect the structure from damp and mould growth, but it also extends the lifespan of your garden room. Ensuring this protective measure in the early stages of construction saves money and hassle in the long run.

Read in detail about how to detect signs of damp in your home.

Constructing wall frames and roof

Building the wall frames and roof is the next step after laying the foundation. This stage shapes your garden room, giving it structure and form. Constructing wall frames involves measuring, cutting, and assembling timber or metal frames.

Accuracy here is key to ensure a snug fit of all components. The roof, whether a flat roof or a dual pitched roof, not only adds to the aesthetic appeal but also plays a big role in weatherproofing your garden room.

Select durable materials and ensure proper installation to create a garden building that offers comfort and functionality year-round.

Planning permissions and building regulations approval

Don't confuse the two

Don't confuse building regulations with planning permissions; they are separate entities. A structure that's exempt from building regulations may still require planning permission, especially in areas like conservation zones or world heritage sites. Double-check with your local authority to confirm all requirements.

When is planning permission required?

Planning permission becomes a necessity for your garden room under specific circumstances. In the UK, this primarily depends on the size and intended use of the new building. A garden room exceeding a certain height, or intended for residential use, often requires permission.

Likewise, if your property is in a conservation area, national park, or world heritage site, stricter rules may apply. Verify these details to ensure compliance with local laws.

Planning permission exemptions

Permitted development rights often allow homeowners to build garden rooms without seeking planning permission, subject to certain conditions. These conditions include limits on maximum eaves height, total area occupied, and distance from the property boundary.

Understanding these rights helps in creating a high-quality garden room that complies with regulations, avoiding the need for retrospective approval or modifications.

Engaging with your local planning department early on is a proactive step. This consultation can provide clarity on whether your proposed garden building falls under permitted development rights or requires formal permission.

They can also advise on any unique considerations for your property, such as being within a listed building's curtilage or close to underground pipes. This early dialogue helps in tailoring your plans to meet legal requirements, ensuring a smoother project progression.

Do you need building regulations approval?

Building regulations in the UK serve to ensure that new construction, including garden rooms, meets specific safety and design standards.

For your garden room, these regulations become relevant if the structure exceeds 15 square metres in internal floor space and is positioned less than one metre from any boundary.

Additionally, if you plan to sleep in it, building regulations are a must, regardless of size.

Consideration of these rules is not a mere formality. They cover aspects like structural integrity, fire safety, insulation, and damp proofing. Neglecting them can lead to costly rectifications later. For peace of mind, consulting a planning consultant or local building control office early in your planning process is advisable.

Exemptions from building regulations

Certain garden rooms are exempt from building regulations, offering a smoother path for homeowners. If your garden room is smaller than 15 square metres and doesn't contain any sleeping accommodation, you're in the clear.

For structures between 15 and 30 square metres, you also evade these regulations, provided they are at least one metre from any boundary or are constructed of substantially non-combustible materials.

Cost considerations for building a garden room

Estimating your budget

Budgeting for a garden room begins with a clear understanding of your financial limits. Setting a realistic budget early helps you make informed decisions about materials, size, and design. The cost varies widely depending on factors like size, materials, and features.

Standard garden rooms may start from a few thousand pounds, while luxurious, customised options can reach tens of thousands. Remember, the overall cost includes not just the structure, but also foundations, insulation, electrical wiring, and interior finishing.

We have a detailed article about financing for home improvements.

Cost-saving tips for garden room construction

To save money without compromising quality, consider several strategies. First, compare quotes from multiple suppliers and contractors.

Opt for a simpler design and standard sizes, as bespoke dimensions often increase costs.

Reusing or repurposing materials, where feasible, can also cut expenses. If you have the necessary skills, undertaking some work yourself, like painting or basic assembly, can reduce labour costs.

However, remember that professional help is essential for tasks like electrical installation and foundation laying for safety and regulatory compliance. Read about how to find good tradesmen.

DIY vs professional garden room companies

Pros and cons of DIY garden rooms

Building your garden room can be rewarding, offering cost savings and a sense of accomplishment. For those with the necessary skills, DIY construction allows for complete design control and savings on labour costs.

However, it's a significant time investment and requires a level of expertise in construction, particularly for aspects like foundations and electrical wiring. Mistakes can lead to costly repairs, and there's the risk of non-compliance with building regulations.

Finding and choosing a garden room company

When opting for a professional company, research is key. Look for companies with a strong portfolio of completed garden rooms and positive customer reviews. Ensure they understand local planning and building regulations.

When comparing companies, consider not just price, but also the quality of materials, design flexibility, and after-sales service. It's worth visiting showrooms or viewing previous installations to gauge quality.

Lastly, a good company will offer a clear contract and warranty, providing peace of mind for your investment.

Practicalities of building a garden room

Timeline for construction

The construction of a garden room, an exciting addition to your home, unfolds in stages. After finalising the design, the building process commences.

The foundation usually takes a week, depending on your chosen type. Following this, erecting the frame and roof might span over two weeks. Insulating, plastering, and installing windows and doors come next, each phase meticulously completed over several days.

Electrical and plumbing installations, if required, are next, often overlapping with other tasks. The final steps, including painting and finishing touches, might extend over a week or two.

Weather, supplier schedules, and customisation can influence this timeline. It's a journey of transformation, culminating in the creation of your haven.

Managing construction disruptions

The construction of a garden room comes with inevitable disruptions, but with smart planning, these can be reduced.

Firstly, designate a clear path for the construction team to minimise garden disruption.

Next, arrange a designated area for material storage, keeping the site organised and safe. Regularly liaising with the builders ensures you're informed about major activities, enabling you to plan your day accordingly.

If noisy work is scheduled, consider informing your neighbours as a courteous gesture.

Additionally, safeguard your home from dust and debris by sealing off the construction area if it's adjacent to your living space.

By pre-emptively addressing these aspects, the construction process becomes a less intrusive experience, paving the way for a smooth and efficient build.

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