Working from home has become a reality for more of us than ever before. But finding a suitable location in your home can be difficult. If a home office is not possible, turning to the garden shed could create a comfortable working environment for use throughout the warmer months.
During the last year, more people began working from home than ever before. The shift in work styles has led to an increased demand for home office space and this is unlikely to change any time soon. For many young professionals, a dedicated work location at home may not be possible, resulting in the kitchen transforming into an office each morning.
The importance of a work location at home can’t be underestimated. During working hours, it can provide a place to concentrate and focus on any tasks that need your complete attention. During the evenings, stepping away from your work location allows for the separation between work and home life.
If you have a tight budget, or little space to work with, turning the garden shed into an office could be a practical way to work from home. At this point, it’s important to note that turning a shed into a work environment would not be our first choice for a garden office. A more substantial building such as a log cabin or summerhouse is recommended. A shed conversion can be completed on a relatively small budget, depending on the specification and finish required. Let’s take a look at five practical steps to get started.
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Check the exterior and make it watertight
Before beginning a shed conversion, make a full inspection of the building. A suitable size for a garden office in general 8×8 upwards. Remember that office equipment and desks etc can take up a large amount of space once in position. Some sheds have a low ceiling height inside which could make it difficult to use if you are going to be regularly standing up inside. The position of the shed should also be noted. Timber buildings can get hot very quickly and being placed in direct sunlight during a summers day can make the conditions inside unbearable. A location with partial sunlight is best.
A garden office needs to be watertight to prevent rain and frost in the winter. Over time, movement in the wood of the shed can create small areas where moisture can work its way through. Any knots or natural holes in the wood can also create gaps that need to be filled. The easiest solution is to use silicon to fill any minor gaps or holes in the exterior. Pay particular attention to where the wooden panels meet in the corner of the building.
After sealing any gaps it’s important to ensure the wood is well protected and is not going to allow damp and moisture to seep through. To treat the timber we recommend a multiple-step process involving a wood treatment, followed by a coloured paint. Wood treatment products (such as Cuprinol clear wood preserver) are designed to provide a base coat before paint is applied. This Pre-treatment provides protection against rot, mould and insect attack. The finish will be clear and not provide waterproofing on its own.
Once the wood preserver has dried, we recommend using high-quality wood paint or stain. A colour is recommended as clear paints will not offer any UV protection and result in grey timber over time. As well as adding colour to your project, paint provides an important waterproof layer of protection for the wood and several coats should be applied.
As an additional measure, a damp-proof membrane can be installed on the walls and ceiling of the shed. The aim of this type of vapour barrier is to stop moisture from passing into interior spaces. DPM material is similar to a thick plastic sheet and can be purchased for a low cost at most building suppliers.
For the garden office floor, you may choose to install vinyl flooring or carpet. Before both of these, a damp-proof membrane is also recommended to stop damp rising from the often cold and wet surface underneath.
Shed roofs often use thin layers of felt which are nailed into the wood below. As the wood expands and contracts throughout the year, the felt can become stretched and gaps can occur around the nails. Be sure to check this out carefully to ensure no water ingress is occurring through the roof.
Guide: Painting a garden office
An electrical installation is essential if you wish to use computers, lighting or heating inside a garden office. The installation process involves digging a trench down the garden to safely bury the cabling underground. The wiring will then be connected to the main house fusebox.
Armoured cabling can be expensive, with the costs increasing if the shed is further away from the house. All electrical works need to be carried out by a professional electrician. The price can vary by region, installation distance and the number of sockets required, making it difficult to suggest an estimated price.
Lighting is another decision to consider when installing electrics. If the building is only being used during the day in the summer, it may not be needed, but is simple enough to add at the same time as electric sockets. A single light can be installed in the centre of the interior, and if the ceiling is being boarded, the wiring can be hidden away for a clean installation.
If the garden office budget is very tight, not installing electrics may be a sensible option. Working from a laptop can provide battery life for most of the day and with a WiFi connection close to your house, it’s possible to work without electricity. Keep in mind the shed will only be suitable when the weather is warm without any electrical heating inside.
Plan the internet connection
A strong and reliable internet connection is essential to keep productive in a garden office. It’s actually a lot simpler than you may think to get the same speeds as inside the house into a garden building.
For a quick and easy set-up, a WiFi extender is usually the best solution. A WiFi extender works by receiving the signal from your router and then repeating it, similar to a relay. The extender itself must be able to receive a strong signal if it is going to be able to repeat the connection reliably. A common mistake is placing the extender too far away from the router, where it is unable to repeat the signal properly.
WiFi extenders are best suited for garden offices near the house. Wireless signals do not travel far when they need to go through thick exterior walls and often result in a slow connection speed. If your shed is further than 10m away from the house, an alternative option such as ethernet will be best.
A wired internet (ethernet) connection is the best way to get a fast and reliable connection to your garden office. But it does require additional installation time and expense compared with a WiFi extender. A CAT6 cable is wired between the router and garden office, often at the same time as the electrical cabling.
With ethernet, the range is up to 100m before a drop in performance, making it suitable for sheds installed further away from the house. The connection speed is also not affected by walls and other objects in the way. Inside the garden office, a wired device such as a computer can be plugged directly into the internet connection. Alternatively, an access point can be installed to create a separate wireless network for multiple devices.
Guide: Internet in a garden office
Board & insulate the interior
Insulating the interior is key to keeping the atmosphere comfortable inside any garden office. Most sheds will feature a tongue & groove timber exterior which will not be thick enough to hold much heat on its own. The result is cold in the winter and also incredibly hot in the summer. Insulation works throughout all months of the year to provide protection from extreme temperatures.
The most suitable insulation will depend on the type of framing inside the shed. If there is plenty of thick timber framing, PIR insulation boards provide the most effective solution. The insulation boards come in different thicknesses including 25mm & 50mm. Each board can be cut into shape to fit tightly in between the batons of the shed. Once in position, the sides are then taped up using aluminium foil tape to keep and drafts and moisture out. Insulation boards can be expensive and maybe over budget for many shed offices.
A lower-cost solution is to use a multilayered foil insulation. The interior of the foil is made up of many layers to reduce heat transfer and keep the interior warm. The outside of the foil features a reflective coating to further improve its insulating properties. Installation is quick as the insulation can be stapled to the walls and ceiling. If sound is a concern, wool style insulation can work great to provide sound and thermal insulating properties.
With the shed waterproofed and insulated, there is not going to be much ventilation into the building. This can cause a problem, particularly if working from inside for long periods of the day. Inadequate ventilation can lead to mould and damp, as moist air builds up and has nowhere to escape. Ventilation can be as simple as a window that is open for most of the day. A passive ventilation system such as a small air vent can easily be installed on one of the walls to allow air to flow throughout the day.
With insulation installed, it’s time to board up the interior walls. Many choices are available and we favour plywood or OSB depending on budget. Once boarded, the walls can be painted and the interior of our garden office begins to take shape.
Decide on furniture and office accessories
After the shed has been converted into a garden office, it’s time to start thinking about the equipment to go inside. A heater is essential for any garden building and we recommend using an electric heater. Different types of electric heater are available including fan heaters, conduction heaters and electric radiators.
Oil-filled radiators are popular in garden buildings to create a feeling of warmth. Oil is heated up inside the radiator and retains heat once turned off. The slow cooling down provides background heat to comfortably work without the heating being turned on all of the time. Oil-filled radiators have a near-silent operation to avoid any distractions and many include wheels to be moved around.
A swivel chair and desk are next on the list to complete the garden office set-up. Desks can be picked up for under £100 online and you could also recycle an old table if the budget a tight. We like to invest in a good chair with back support for sitting and working for long periods.
A shed security alarm can provide peace of mind that anything left inside overnight is secure. A good selection of alarms is available just for sheds. Most will run off a battery and use a PIR sensor to detect motion. We use a Tiiwee alarm system which is great value and easy to install.
Guide: Heating a garden office
Should I convert a shed to a garden office?
Turning a shed into a garden office is possible and it can make a great work area throughout the warmer months of the year. Where possible, we recommend a more substantial building, but with a low budget, converting your shed is often the best solution.
Ensuring the shed is watertight and weatherproof is key for use long-term. A high-quality wood treatment provides protection and looks great once the building is finished. Many of the tasks to convert a shed into a garden office can be completed by yourself, with a professional only required for the electrical installation.
For an improved solution, we recommend a log cabin or garden room to create a garden office that can be used in any month of the year.