A garden room is a perfect location to relax and unwind or even create your own garden office. Plenty of different options are available depending on the budget and size required.
A room in the garden sounds like the ideal escape for many of us. Households up and down the country are outgrowing their existing properties and looking for options to add additional space. Traditionally, an extension has been one of the only options, with long construction times and a high price tag.
In recent years, more of us are turning to garden buildings to add additional living space. There are plenty of great examples of what you can do with a garden room if you really get creative. Garden offices are extremely popular as more people than ever before work from home. Other common examples include as a garden bar or even your own gym & workout room in the garden.
Unlike an extension, a garden room is a completely separate structure, creating a barrier between work and home life when used as a garden office. The long travel times to work or the gym are transformed into a walk into the garden. You can stay connected to your home, but still get the privacy and space on your own.
The construction time required for a garden room is quick, and most buildings can go from idea to completion within a few months. All the home comforts such as electricity and internet can be installed, and modern construction techniques keep the building warm throughout the winter months.
Once you have decided to build a garden room, there are lots of factors to consider. Everything from a solid base to how the electricity will be connected needs to be planned and accounted for. As well as the price of the building, be sure to factor in the costs of construction and furnishing the interior.
Let’s take a look at some of the steps required to build a garden room on a budget.
Check if planning permission is required
Before constructing any garden building, we need to make sure we are on the correct side of planning requirements. Failing to do so could mean needing to take the building down in the future.
The good news is that most garden rooms do not require planning permission. Garden rooms generally fall under the category of outbuildings, which are governed by the requirements of Permitted Development. Outbuildings include most detached garden structures such as sheds, log cabins, summerhouses and garages.
Permitted Development allows for some types of work to be completed without the need to apply for planning permission. For a garden room to fall within the scope of Permitted Development, it must meet certain requirements for size, use and location of the building.
- A single-story building
- Not exceeding 50% of the land around the original house
- Maximum height of 2.5m within 2 metres of a boundary
- Located in the rear garden
Some further requirements apply and it’s best to contact your Local Planning Authority to get the full details of any specific requirements locally. Permitted Development does not apply in all locations including areas of outstanding national beauty and listed buildings. The Planning Portal provides a wealth of further information.
Garden building manufacturers are often aware of requirements to avoid planning permission and will design the buildings to fall within scope when requested.
If the garden room is going to be used as separate living accommodation, both planning permission and building regulations will apply.
Guide: Planning permission for a garden room
Create a suitable base
The base of a garden building is the foundation that is going to keep the building stable for years into the future. Even on a budget, we recommend investing in a good-quality base that is solid and secure.
Once we have the external dimensions of the garden building, we can begin to choose a suitable location for the base. Maintenance such as painting can be required every few years and the location should allow ample space for access to the exterior walls on each side. Choose an area that lets plenty of light into the building, avoiding overhanging trees or tall fence panels.
The size of the base should be slightly larger than the building dimensions. Too large will allow for water to puddle but too small will not provide the support required on all sides. We also recommend placing the base in a slightly elevated position to avoid standing rainwater during the winter months.
If we could give one piece of advice to all new garden building owners, it would be to make sure the base is both solid and level. Garden rooms weigh hundreds of kilograms and a solid base will not move under the weight once the interior was been furnished. As garden rooms are manufactured to tight tolerances, the base needs to be level to ensure the structure can join together correctly. A garden building on an uneven surface can cause additional strain on the wood and may lead to difficulty opening doors and windows.
When building a garden room on a budget, it’s possible to use an existing area in the garden such as a patio. Flat smooth slabs work great as a base for a garden building, providing a robust and low-cost foundation. When using existing paving slabs, be sure to check they are completely level. When used as a patio, many are fitted at a slightly uneven angle to allow for rainwater runoff.
A new paving slab base can also be constructed at a relatively low cost. The ground is first dug to a depth of around 120mm. A hardcore sub-base is installed and compacted. The paving slabs are positioned on top, with each slab sitting on mortar to keep it securely in place. Be sure to allow several days for the mortar to dry completely before assembling a garden building on top.
Our favourite choice is to use concrete for a garden room base. When on a budget, it may be possible to install the concrete base as a DIY job over a weekend. The benefit of concrete bases is that they are easy to get level when the concrete is poured into position. Once dry, the concrete is extremely solid and suitable for the heavyweight of a garden room.
Just like with paving slabs, a concrete base uses a sub-base constructed from hardcore. Wooden shuttering is then used to create the outline, and concrete is poured in until it reaches the top. A tampering board is used to level and smooth the surface.
It’s a good idea to put a damp-proof membrane inside a concrete base. This will prevent moisture from rising from underneath the base and causing damp in the floor of the garden building. A concrete base can take several weeks to dry out completely, so needs to be installed in advance of the garden room.
Another good option when building a garden room on a budget is to use a ground screw base. The ground screws are essentially very large screws that go directly into the soil. They make a good solution where it’s not possible to use a concrete or paving slab base, such as on an incline. Ground screws also allow airflow under the building, reducing the chances of any damp occurring.
Another benefit of ground screws is that they can be weighted straight away, allowing for installation on the same day as the garden room. The timber frame is attached to the ground screws using brackets to stay firmly in position. Many garden building manufacturers can supply ground screws and make any additional changes required to the frame of the building.
Guide: Building a garden room base
Choose a type of garden building
When it comes to creating a room in the garden, the type of garden building can have the biggest impact on the budget. Several different options are available depending on how the room will be used and at which time of the year. For buildings used throughout the winter months, they must be able to retain heat.
To create a garden room on a budget, a summerhouse makes a great value and an increasingly popular solution. Compared to structures such as a log cabin, a summerhouse has a lower cost due to using 12mm timber. The building is constructed in panels that are assembled once on site. Another benefit of a summerhouse is the huge amount of designs available, with everything from traditional to contemporary buildings.
Despite what the name suggests, a summerhouse can be used during the winter months, provided some adjustments are made. Insulation and a separate interior wall can be installed to reduce heat loss and keep the interior warm during the winter. When purchasing a summerhouse, be sure to add the costs of insulating the walls and roof into the budget.
A log cabin is also made from timber but differs from a summerhouse as it uses interlocking logs, instead of the panels attaching together. The logs have increased thickness and are available in several options including 28mm and 44mm. We recommend choosing a 44mm building as it should not require insulation in the walls, making a good-value and sturdy garden room.
Plenty of log cabin designs are available, and most use a rectangular shape due to how the building is assembled. Interlocking logs are placed on top of each other, building up in layers until the roof is reached. A level base is particularly important for a log cabin to make sure the logs lock together tightly without any gaps in between.
A garden room is a step up from any other garden building in terms of both quality and cost. While it may offer the most features, it is not the best option for those on a budget. A garden room typically uses a timber-framed design, with cladding on the exterior. Insulation is always used and the inside is lined with plasterboard or wood.
A garden room is the most versatile option for use throughout all months of the year. Many will use house quality uPVC windows and doors with double-glazing. Many garden rooms are also built to a bespoke design, allowing for customisation to the shape and style of the building. A garden room can often achieve the feeling of being in another room inside the house.
Install insulation if required
Most garden buildings require insulation for use throughout the colder months of the year. Depending on the type of building chosen, you may need to install insulation once the building is assembled. A custom garden room will often include insulated walls as standard, whereas a summerhouse or log cabin will not. A cabin will thick walls will only need insulation in the roof, whereas a summerhouse will use insulation in both the walls and roof.
The walls of a summerhouse are usually built with 12mm timber, which won’t have much effect on heat loss during the winter. Garden buildings can be heated using an electric heater, but these can be expensive to use for long periods. Without insulation, the heat is quickly lost through the walls and roof.
Before installing insulation, be sure to check the structure is waterproof and drought-free. The interior walls can also be treated using a wood preserver before insulation is installed. The interior wooden framing on a summerhouse creates the perfect cavity for insulation to fit between.
We recommend using rigid foam insulation boards wherever possible for the best results. Different thickness options are available and 50mm boards are the best choice between price and ease of installation.
The boards are cut to fit tightly in between the framing. With the insulation in position, we can use aluminium foil tape at the edges where the insulation board touches the wood. A separate vapour barrier is not required when using foil-backed insulation boards.
Once the insulation is fitted, the interior walls can be lined and boarded. Plenty of choices are available depending on the finish required. We find plywood to be a hardwearing finish that is suited to most summerhouses. Alternative options include OSB and tongue & groove.
Guide: Insulating a summerhouse
Get electricity & internet fitted
Electricity and a reliable internet connection are essential if you plan on spending long periods of time inside the garden room. While any electrical work requires a qualified electrician, the internet connection can be installed by yourself.
Garden building electricity often uses a separate circuit connected to the mains supply in the house. A trench is dug in the garden and the cable is buried underground. When on a budget, you can dig the trench yourself. Armoured cable is used that will protect against insect attack and accidental damage. As armoured cable can be expensive, garden rooms further away from the house can cost significantly more for an electrical installation.
A fast and reliable internet connection is best achieved using an ethernet cable. The cable is connected to the router in the house and terminates inside the garden building. If a trench is being dug for electricity, the internet cable can also be placed inside if it is shielded. When the garden room is close to the house, a Wi-Fi extender can be used to amplify the wireless connection from the router inside.
Guide: How to install wired internet in a garden room
Finish the interior
With the construction of a room in the garden complete, we can begin to furnish the interior. The walls can be painted and if they have been insulated and lined, we can use standard household paint. We recommend using a colour that creates a feeling of warmth to create a relaxing atmosphere during all months of the year.
For the garden room to be used as an office, we need a desk and chair. To stop any echoing, be sure to use soft furniture such as a small sofa. Blinds are a good idea inside a garden room, as the sunlight during the daytime can often make it difficult to see the screen when working from a computer.
Overall, it’s possible to build a garden room on a budget. Your own separate space in the garden is the perfect location to relax or convert into a home office. A garden room can be completed quickly and with a much smaller budget compared with an extension.
There are lots of additional costs that need to be added to the budget when purchasing a garden building. Be sure to factor in everything from the base to the internet connection. Using an existing paving slab base can save requiring a new base to be installed. A summerhouse can also provide great value, and still be suitable for use during the winter with insulation.
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