While it may sound like a great idea during the summer months, it’s usually not possible to live in a garden building such as a summerhouse. Even if you plan to sleep in the building for one night, be sure to understand the regulations that apply.
These days space is at a premium and we are all looking for ways to get the most out of our homes. While an extension is the traditional way, it can come with large costs and a long planning process.
A detected garden building is a great idea for adding additional indoor space to a property. There are plenty of great examples including for use as a garden office or even your own gym in the garden. One of the benefits of garden rooms is that they are quick and easy to install, with the assembly process usually completed within two days.
Garden buildings are designed for incidental enjoyment of those living in the main house at a property, such as spending time inside throughout the day. Summerhouses and sheds create the perfect relaxation room or workshop during the warmer months.
Living or sleeping inside a garden building is very different to using the room throughout the day. Plenty of extra considerations must be taken into account, including the quality of the structure and whether permission has been granted for an additional living space.
Can I live or sleep in a summerhouse?
In short, it’s not possible to live in a summerhouse without building regulations and planning permission approval. The summerhouses available from local garden building suppliers are not built to the same standard as a residential building. Key areas for living accommodation, such as heating, fire safety and energy efficiency won’t be taken into account when the summerhouse is constructed.
Instead, the summerhouse can be used for additional space at a property to enjoy throughout the day. Creating a garden room or home office inside a summerhouse is fine if you are not planning on sleeping inside overnight. Be sure to establish the difference in how the building will be used, as even if you only sleep inside the summerhouse for one night, additional building regulations will apply.
Can I live or sleep in a shed?
Sleeping inside a shed is never a good idea and it’s not what the building is designed for. The same regulations apply to both summerhouses and sheds as they both fall under the category of a detached outbuilding.
It’s not possible to live in a shed, but it can always be used to maximise the space at a property. Using the shed for additional storage or as an occasional workshop is a smart idea to create more available space inside a house.
How to live or sleep in a garden building
Garden rooms have a huge range of benefits that make them extremely popular for use during the day. Many of the same benefits could be realised by using a garden building as living accommodation.
Compared with an extension, the construction of a garden room is often a lot quicker and easier to live with. The bulk of a garden room is constructed at a factory and arrives on site ready to be assembled, which can be completed within a few days. Compared with weeks of construction work for an extension, assembling a garden room is far less painful.
A detached outbuilding also creates plenty of privacy. For those who appreciate their own space, a garden room separated from the house can provide their own personal space to relax and unwind.
Adding a garden room to a property is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase space. While there are still significant costs involved, they will be far less than building an extension. As well as the cost of the garden building, there is also the base and electrics to consider.
Start with planning permission
Planning permission is the approval required before construction can begin on a building project. It will be given in advance of the project starting and may take several months for the approval to be received.
Garden buildings don’t usually need planning permission when they are not being used to sleep inside. Detached outbuildings such as summerhouses fall under the remit of Permitted Development when it comes to planning permission.
Permitted Development allows for outbuildings to be constructed without the need for a lengthy planning application. This is designed to cover small structures such as sheds that are installed for the incidental enjoyment of the main property.
Unfortunately, living in a garden building does not fall within the scope of Permitted Development. There are also requirements around height, and any outbuilding within two metres of a boundary cannot exceed 2.5m in height. Under Permitted Development, the total space used by outbuildings cannot form 50% of the land around the original house. For those with small gardens, this limits the total size of any outbuildings that can be installed.
Applying for planning permission
As living in a garden building does not fall under Permitted Development, planning permission will need to be applied for. The process begins by submitting a planning application to the Local Planning Authority for advice. This is often a local council and any decision will be decided in line with their local development plan.
After contacting the local authority for advice, an application can be submitted online, along with any supporting documents and fees that need to be paid. With the application submitted, the waiting period begins and this can take some time. The application will be considered by a planning officer to decide whether it’s appropriate.
When planning permission has been received, construction can begin on a garden building that’s going to be used as living accommodation. The approval may stipulate specific requirements that must be met during construction or changes to the original application.
Guide: Planning permission for a summerhouse
Understand building regulations
It’s not often that building regulations come up when we are discussing garden buildings, simply for the reason that they usually do not apply. Building regulations are different from planning permission as they consider whether the building is safe to use. Planning permission on the other hand is focused on where the building is positioned.
Building regulations are a set of controls and standards during construction to ensure the building is up to a high standard. These ensure the space is safe and healthy for those living inside. Most structures in the UK require building regulations approval and the requirements include fire safety, waterproofing and efficiency.
Detailed documents are available online with all of the requirements that need to be met. The latest iteration is the Building Regulations 2010.
Guide: Summerhouse building regulations
Building regulations for a garden building
Most garden buildings are exempt from building regulations due to their size and use. But this does not include larger buildings and those that may be slept inside.
Building regulations do not apply if:
- Contains NO sleeping accommodation
- The floor area is less than 15 square metres
If both of these apply, the structure is considered a small detached outbuilding, which does not need to meet building regulations. Even if you only plan to sleep in the outbuilding occasionally, building regulations still need to be met.
When the floor area is between 15 and 30 square metres additional requirements apply. The building must be kept one metre from the boundary or constructed from non-combustible materials. It must also not contain sleeping accommodation.
If the garden building does not meet any of the above exceptions, building regulations apply. When purchasing a garden building, be sure to let the manufacturer know how it will be used so they can make adjustments to ensure the requirements are met. As garden buildings don’t typically need to meet building regulations, the design may not take them into account.
Garden building electricity
Any garden room that you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time inside will require electricity. The lighting and heat source will require an electricity feed from the main property. Alternative options such as solar power are not suitable for the amount of electricity required.
As garden rooms don’t come with an electrical supply pre-installed, installation will be required. Any electrical work should always be carried out by a qualified electrician. Installation involves running an armoured cable from the house to the garden building. Using an armoured cable prevents it from damage to due insect attack or accidentally hitting the cable when gardening. Armoured cable is expensive and outbuildings further away from the main property will cost significantly more to get electricity connected.
Part P of the building regulations was introduced in 2005 with electrical safety rules. Any work carried out must be designed to protect against electric shocks and homeowners must be able to prove the work meets Part P. When the installation is carried out by a qualified electrician, they can provide a certificate. This may be needed if you come to sell the property in the future.
Overall, sleeping inside a garden building such as a summerhouse sounds great during the warmer months. Garden buildings are an easy way to add additional living space to a property without the extra costs of alternative solutions.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to live or sleep in a summerhouse as it would not meet approval for building regulations or planning permission. These buildings are designed for enjoyment during the day and are not built to the same construction standards as a residential property.
When an outbuilding is being constructed for use as living accommodation there are extra requirements that apply. Planning permission is needed and building regulations apply to ensure the structure is a safe living environment.
Note: This information is provided as a guide, If in any doubt you should contact your local planning authority.
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