If you’re looking to create some additional space at home, converting a garden shed into a room could be the perfect solution. Home essentials such as insulation and electricity can be fitted during the conversion process.
Many of us value the space in our homes more than ever now. A shift in lifestyles and work styles has led to people spending more time at their houses. This demand is expected to continue, particularly with office workers adapting a hybrid set-up and working from home several days each week.
Demand has been created for larger properties with more space to enjoy for both work and pleasure. The result of this is ever-increasing house prices, combined with increases in other expenses that can make moving to a larger home unaffordable.
If there’s a need for space but moving home or an extension is not an option, converting a garden shed into a room could be the perfect solution. Garden buildings are now more popular than ever, providing an affordable way to add additional space to a property. Whether you want to turn a shed into a bar, a playhouse or a man cave, the process is very similar.
Garden buildings have plenty of benefits too. Being detached from the house creates the feeling of privacy for relaxing or working. Fast installation can also mean going from idea to installation within a few months. While other garden buildings such as log cabins or summerhouses are better suited to a room in the garden, sheds are one of the lowest-cost options available.
Weatherproof the exterior
Before converting the interior of the shed, we need to make sure the exterior is in a suitable condition to keep the contents inside protected. This includes weatherproofing the structure and ensuring there are no visible signs of damage.
The shed should be a suitable size to allow space to be used as a room. We usually recommend a minimum of 2.5m x 2.5m. This will allow room to store furniture and also move around without struggling for space. Some sheds have low ceiling heights, be sure to check the height is suitable for moving around the shed, particularly at the sides.
The location of a shed is just as important for weatherproofing and can impact how comfortable the environment is inside. We would avoid placing the structure fully exposed to direct sunlight but would allow some sunlight onto the building. During the summer, exposure to too much sun can quickly raise the temperature inside the shed, making it overly hot very quickly. However, during the spring & autumn, the sunlight can create a feeling of warmth, requiring less use of an electrical heater.
A shed should always be installed with at least a 0.5m gap around every side. This allows easy access for maintenance in the future such as applying paint to keep the timber protected. The gap also allows for fresh air to flow and prevents mould issues from occurring.
Inspecting the walls
A garden room shed needs to be watertight to prevent rain from getting inside. We can walk around both the interior and the exterior walls looking for any gaps that need to be repaired.
Movement in the shed over time can sometimes create small gaps where water can get through. Pay particular attention to where panels join together and also windows and doors. Natural knotting in the timber can also cause gaps that need to be treated. A wood sealant or filler can be used on the gaps to create a seal that prevents moisture from getting inside and improve airtightness during the winter.
Wood treatment is essential to keep a shed protected from the weather long-term. If the shed is new, a wood treatment product should be applied as soon as possible on a dry day. If the shed has had previous treatment, check to see the condition. When water no longer beads from the surface, a new coating should be applied.
To get the best results, we recommend using a wood preserver such as Cuprinol Wood Preserver (Amazon) as a base coat. This will get deep into the wood and provide protection against fungal growth. Once dry, a coloured paint or wood stain can be applied. Most products will require several coats for the best results. Avoid clear paints as they will not provide any UV protection for the wood, resulting in a greying effect over time.
With the walls completed, be sure to inspect the roof for any gaps. Most sheds contain roofing felt which can move as the temperature changes over time. Inspect where the nails attach the felt to the roof for any small holes that could allow water through. A sealant can be used here to provide weatherproofing.
Guide: How to waterproof a shed
Insulate the walls and roof
Insulating any garden building is essential to get better control over the temperature. One of the biggest challenges with garden rooms is just how much of an effect the exterior temperature can have on them. Insulation works to slow down the amount of heat passing through the walls and ceiling.
A room temperature of 20 degrees is considered comfortable in a house and we want to aim for somewhere close to this inside a garden room. During the winter, an electric heater can be used to quickly heat up the temperature inside. Without insulation the heat would be quickly lost, resulting in the heater being on nearly constantly and expensive energy bills. Insulation can allow for the heater to be turned off after an initial warm-up period. During the winter, insulation has the opposite effect, preventing heat from direct sunlight from getting inside and keeping the interior temperature cool.
It’s common for a shed to feature 8mm tongue and groove walls. While this is not thick enough to keep heat inside, it does provide an opportunity to install insulation. The space in between the wooden framing creates a perfect natural cavity where insulation can be positioned. The thickness of the framing will determine how thick our insulation can be whilst still sitting flush against the wall.
There are several choices of shed insulation available. For buildings with not much interior framing or where a low-cost solution is required, foil-backed bubble wrap insulation makes a good choice. This insulation is thin and can easily be attached to the interior of a shed. The heat-reflective foil will reduce heat loss, maintaining a usable environment during the late spring or early autumn.
Where space and budget allow, PIR insulation boards provide the best solution for reducing heat loss. The insulation boards come in various thickness levels depending on the space available between the shed framing. 25mm or 50mm are often both suitable for sheds to provide a good level of insulation.
Installation involves cutting the insulation board to fit tightly in between the interior framing. A snug fit allows the insulation to hold itself in position and also prevents heat loss at the sides of each board. Aluminium foil tape is then used at the sides to improve airtightness and avoid any gaps where the insulation touches the wood.
A vapour barrier is often used when installing insulation into a garden building. The foil in foil-based insulation products can act as a vapour barrier, removing the need for separate insulation. By using aluminium foil tape at the sides of the insulation board, we prevent any gaps where moisture can pass through.
It can also be a good idea to add ventilation to the shed through a small air vent placed high on one of the walls. With improved airtightness from insulation, there’s nowhere for moist air to escape. A vent allows the air to leave the shed, preventing issues such as condensation from occurring.
Once the insulation has been installed the interior walls can be boarded and lined. Plywood makes a great choice for interior walls and is strong enough to install a small shelf. OSB is another option that is lower cost. With the walls boarded they can then be painted with good-quality wood paint.
Install electricity and internet
Any good room in the garden needs an electrical installation for lighting, heating and access to home comforts. The supply is usually connected to the main fuse box in the house and a consumer unit will often be installed inside the garden building. Any electrical work should always be carried out by a qualified electrician.
A trench is dug in the garden to hide cabling and prevent damage from garden tools or animals. By speaking to the electrician, it may be possible to dig the trench yourself, ready for them to install the cable. Armoured cable is used, meaning the price can become expensive if the shed is far away from the house.
When planning electricity, be sure to consider how much will be required both now and in the future to ensure the supply is capable. Heating can consume a lot of electricity, and then there’s lighting and entertainment to consider.
Access to the internet is essential for most rooms in the garden if the plan is to spend a long time inside. Whether browsing on a mobile or streaming from a TV, a fast and reliable connection is needed. If the building is very close to the house, the wi-fi inside the house may already supply a good enough connection.
For the best internet connection in a garden building, we recommend installing a wired ethernet cable. This will run from the router inside the house and terminate into the shed. Wired internet allows for a super-fast connection that can be run up to 100m without degradation in performance. The cable can also be buried underground to keep it hidden and provide a clean install.
Wi-fi extenders are another option that can be suitable if the shed is not too far away from the house. A wi-fi extender acts as a relay, amplifying the signal from the router to boost the range over an extended distance. The solution is easy to set up and avoids the need to run an additional cable.
To work well, the wi-fi extender needs to receive a good signal itself. The best position is usually halfway in between the house router and the garden building. An extender placed too far from the router will struggle to pick up a signal to boost, resulting in an unreliable connection.
Add furniture into the room
Once the shed has been fitted with insulation, electricity and an internet connection the transformation into a garden room is nearly complete. Next, we need to choose the furniture to go inside. Be sure to keep in mind that anything in the garden room can be exposed to a wide range of temperatures throughout the year.
We would start with an electric heater. This is essential to bring the temperature up inside during the colder months of the year. Fan heaters are great as they provide a fast warm-up time, even on the coldest of days. During the summer months, a cooling fan may be necessary to keep fresh air circulating around inside the shed.
Additional furniture will depend on the planned use for the shed. If the plan is to convert it into a bar, a bar-top and stalls could be installed, along with a beer tap. To create a chill-out area, plenty of chairs and a television could be installed. If the shed is going to be used as a garden office, a desk and computer accessories may be required.
Shed security is something to keep in mind and we recommend installing an alarm to keep the content inside protected. Plenty of choices are available for shed alarms and our favourite is the Tiiwee system which is battery-operated and easy to install. A good-quality lock for the windows and doors should also be used to make entry difficult for any uninvited guests.
Guide: Best shed security alarms
Turning a shed into a room (bar, man cave, playhouse etc)
In summary, converting a shed into a room can create extra space at a property where an extension may not be possible. The process needs a good quality shed to start and alternative buildings such as a summerhouse or log cabin will work even better.
Installing features such as insulation and electrics is becoming increasingly common in garden buildings and lots of local professionals will already have the experience required. Many tasks such as insulation and internet connectivity can be completed with little previous experience by following guides available online.
Whether you’re wondering how to turn a shed into a bar, a man cave, an office or a playhouse, the process is very similar. The customisation and furniture at the end is usually the only part that changes.