Going out is over-rated, and many of us want to stay in and enjoy all of the benefits of a bar, without leaving home. A garden bar in a summerhouse is perfect for hosting friends or enjoying a quiet drink on the weekend.
If the last year has shown us one thing, it’s that we now spend more time at home than ever before. But being at home doesn’t mean you need to stay away from the bar. Converting a summerhouse into a garden bar is the perfect solution to enjoy a few drinks without needing to get dressed up and head out.
A bar in the garden is great for having friends and family over on the weekend. There’s no more queuing to get served and you can watch all of the sport you want on the TV. The only downside is that guests may not want to leave. A small bar can be built for as low as several thousand pounds, with possibilities for bigger and higher specification bars if the budget allows.
A common misconception is that a summerhouse can only be used during the warmer months of the year. With adequate insulation, a summerhouse can be used as a bar throughout even the coldest months. Creating a comfortable atmosphere that can be enjoyed during any month involves thinking of the summerhouse as a small house rather than a posh shed. Features such as heating, electricity and internet can be easily installed during the construction stage.
Let’s take a look at the steps involved to build a bar inside a summerhouse.
Start with the base
Before building a bar, it’s important to get the base right as all of the other work carried out after will be relying on a high-quality and stable base. If there’s one piece of advice we could give to new owners of garden buildings, it would be to invest in the base and get it right from the start, as even the lightest garden bar will weigh hundreds of kilograms.
A summerhouse requires a base that is 100% level and stable. While an old patio in your garden may look level, a few centimetres difference between slabs will make it difficult for the summerhouse to fit together correctly. This is due to their factory construction process where the summerhouse will be built using machines to achieve tight tolerances, and an uneven base will put make it difficult to join the panels together.
The best option is to use a concrete base that provides a stable construction & can be completely level. A concrete base is also fairly easy to install and could be completed by yourself over a weekend. Alternatively, local driveway contractors will be able to help with installing the base. As concrete bases cannot be placed on mud, a sub-base is required which is made up of type 1 hardcore that is compacted into the ground.
To build the concrete base, wooden shuttering is used to create an outline where the concrete will be filled. The dimensions should be slightly wider than the summerhouse that is going to be used for the garden bar. The concrete is then poured in-between the shuttering and smoothed over on the top. Concrete bases take several weeks to dry out and so must be completed well in advance of the summerhouse installation to ensure no moisture is trapped in between the base and summerhouse floor.
Where a concrete base is not possible, a number of alternative bases are available. Paving slabs can work well and may already be installed in the garden. Existing patios are usually designed to allow rainwater run-off and will not be 100% level. The slabs may need to be levelled and smoothed out before they can be used as a base.
For areas where there is currently just grass or mud and a concrete base is prohibited, such as a sloping hill, ground screws make a great alternative. A ground screw is a very large screw that goes into the soil to create a stable base for a summerhouse. Ground screws also maintain airflow underneath the building to prevent damp or flooding. Installation is completed at the same time as the summerhouse, so there is no need for them to be installed in advance.
Guide: How to build a summerhouse base
Choose a summerhouse
With the base installed, it’s time to find a suitable summerhouse for a garden bar. Both contemporary and traditional style summerhouses are available depending on the design chosen for your bar. For a garden bar that can comfortably fit several guests, we recommend a size of at least 3×3 metres.
Summerhouses are constructed from timber, and can often be pressure treated as an optional feature. Pressure treatment applies a wood preserver in a high-pressure chamber that forces the treatment deep into the wood. The preservative protects the wood against rot and decay and is great for extending the longevity of the summerhouse.
Many summerhouse manufacturers will also offer a list of customisations when purchasing the building. The roof will often be available in multiple colours and different shingles. Where windows are available with double-glazing, we recommend upgrading. The windows and doors of a summerhouse are where a lot of heat will be lost and using double glazing will reduce the heat loss and therefore running costs during the colder months.
For custom-built summerhouses, the delivery can be several months while the building is manufactured. Once the summerhouse arrives it’s important to treat it with paint as soon as possible to protect the timber. High-quality wood treatment is another area we recommend investing in to enhance the longevity of the summerhouse and protect the wood from the elements. Clear wood treatments should be avoided as they do not provide UV protection, leading to the colour of the summerhouse fading after a few years. A solid paint from brands such as Protek or Osmo makes a great choice.
Guide: Do I need planning permission for a summerhouse
Install electrics & internet
Installing electricity in a summerhouse is essential to provide lighting and heating. The installation requires a qualified electrician and the cost will vary depending on the distance from the summerhouse to the main house and also how many sockets and lights are required. A trench is usually dug and the electricity cable is laid inside. Armoured cable is used to provide protection from damage as it will be outdoors. The armoured cable can be expensive and the reason the cost will rise for a further distance.
Before installing the electrics, be sure to plan how many socks will be required, it’s always better to have some extra rather than not enough. In a garden bar, features such as speakers, TVs and tap lighting all require electricity. You may also want lights on the exterior of the building if it’s going to be used at night.
As well as electric, it’s just as important to install internet into a garden bar and there are lots of choices available. A solid internet connection should be both fast and stable to avoid dropouts and buffering. The easiest method is to use a Wi-Fi extender. This works by relaying the Wi-Fi signal from the router inside the house. The signal is boosted to increase the range of the wireless network. For best results, Wi-Fi extenders need to be placed halfway between the router and the summerhouse, which means they work best when the summerhouse is not too far away from the house.
For garden bars that are going to be further away from the house, a wired internet (ethernet) connection is recommended. This method uses an ethernet cable connected to the router that runs all of the way to the summerhouse. The cable can be installed in the same trench as the electricity cabling but should be shielded to prevent interference.
Wired internet provides the fastest and most stable connection and the results will be similar to those achieved inside the house and near the router. The ethernet cable can be terminated into a wall socket inside of the summerhouse. An Access Point can then be used to turn the wired connection into a wireless connection. The garden bar will then have its own Wi-Fi network that is separate but just as fast as in the house.
Guide: How to get Wi-Fi in a summerhouse
Most summerhouses do not come with any insulation installed. A summerhouse wall is made up of tongue & groove timber that is usually around 12mm in thickness. While okay during the warm summer months, as we move towards autumn and winter it can begin to get cold inside.
To create a comfortable environment for a garden bar, we want to keep the temperature as close to 20 degrees Celsius as possible. A summerhouse without any insulation can be expensive to heat and using an electric heater for just a few hours a day can add hundreds to an annual electricity bill. Installing insulation improves the summerhouses heat retention during the winter so less heating is required. During the summer, the insulated building will also benefit from not getting as hot when in direct sunlight.
Before insulating a summerhouse, it’s recommended to treat the interior walls, as they won’t be easily accessible again once they are sealed and boarded over. Summerhouses have interior wood framing where insulation can be installed in between. Thicker framing means thicker insulation can be used which will reduce heat loss further.
A number of different insulation options are available. PIR insulation boards provide the best thermal values and ease of installation. We used 50mm thickness of boards in our summerhouse but 25mm boards are also available. The rigid foam insulation boards can be cut to fit tightly in between the wooden framing and taped around the edges to create a seal. The aluminium on the exterior of the boards creates a vapour barrier to prevent moisture build-up inside the walls.
Multilayered foil is another popular choice for insulating a garden building. The foil is stapled to the inside walls and provides very good thermal values. Once the insulation has been installed, it can be boarded over. Plywood works great to cover the interior walls and also provides additional strength for hanging a TV onto the wall.
As well as the walls, the floor and roof can also be insulated. The roof can follow the same process as insulating the walls, insulation board can be installed in between the framing. Insulating the floor is difficult if the summerhouse has already been installed, but an insulating underlay can make a simple solution.
Guide: How to insulate a summerhouse
Furnish the bar & interior
Once our summerhouse is set up with electrics, internet and insulation we can begin to get the bar set up. You could choose between a contemporary or traditional bar and there’s loads of great inspiration available online.
The bar can be constructed using wood and installed inside the summerhouse. Be sure to leave plenty of storage space behind for drinks and glasses. The seating could consist of bar stools or a sofa depending on the size of the summerhouse. Larger garden bars may install a pool table, the possibilities are endless when it’s your own bar.
Other essentials for a summerhouse bar include an electric heater to keep warm during the colder months and a TV for music and watching sports matches. Once your bar is complete it’s time to invite guests over to join you for a drink.
A summerhouse bar is the perfect solution to enjoy a drink with friends without having to leave the house. The initial construction can take several months to complete but once installed, you will soon see the savings from not going out every weekend.
The construction of a bar in a summerhouse begins with a solid and level base. When installing the summerhouse, be sure to treat the wood as soon as possible if it is not already pre-treated. Maintaining the exterior wood will extend the lifetime of a garden bar. Insulation and electrics are essential for using the bar during the colder months. Insulating a summerhouse is easy and can be completed as a DIY job over the weekend. With the summerhouse installed, the exciting part is choosing the bar furniture to go inside.
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