Garden buildings are available in a number of different types, suited for many budgets, sizes and usage requirements. Understanding the difference between a garden room, summerhouse and log cabin will allow you to make the best choice for your next project.
Garden buildings are becoming increasingly popular as more of us turn from office worker to garden worker. And it isn’t just garden offices that have seen a surge in demand. Garden rooms for use as a gym, hobby room and even bars have boomed as more of us want access to these facilities without leaving home.
Finding the most suitable building type for your needs can be a big decision. A number of choices are available depending on the usage requirements, budget and space required. Many garden buildings can be custom built to your exact size and specification. Consideration should also be made to how often the room will be used and whether this includes the colder months of the year where adequate heating will be required.
To help make your decision clearer, let’s break down the difference between a garden room, summerhouse and log cabin.
What is a garden room?
A garden room is a separate building from your main property, typically constructed from a timber-framed design. It will usually contain features to withstand weather conditions and for all-year-round use including double-glazing and insulation. High-quality materials will be used to construct the exterior cladding and provide a contemporary design.
Electricity and a wired internet connection can both be installed into a garden room during the construction process. Unlike a summerhouse, the idea with a garden room is to provide the same feeling as inside a home, creating a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
A garden room is usually separated from other types of garden buildings by its big list of standard features including house quality uPVC doors & windows, insulation, electricity and interior wall lining. Most of these are not standard features with a summerhouse or log cabin.
A separate room can be achieved, without the expense and additional planning required with a house extension. Installation can take several weeks and includes first laying a solid base before assembly can begin.
Why use a garden room?
Traditionally, a garden room has been seen as an extra sitting room to relax and enjoy the space in a rear garden. But in recent years, this idea has been flipped on its head as more of us look to add an extra room to our homes.
One of the biggest benefits of a garden room is affordability. With limited space inside your home, moving or extending have previously been the only options. A garden room can bring all of the benefits of extra space, but with reduced costs and paperwork. Being separate from the main property also allows for reduced noise and increased privacy.
With more of us working from home than ever before, a garden office is one of the most popular uses. A freestanding garden building makes the ideal location to completely separate your work and home life, whilst still being able to work from home.
A home gym is another popular choice. If you enjoy working out but not waiting around to use the equipment, your own private gym may be the solution. For use as a gym, a garden room can be fitted with rubber flooring to protect the floor from damage due to dropping weights. Integrating features such as a TV, cardio machines and mirrors can turn a garden room into the ultimate workout location.
The last year has seen a growing trend of garden room pubs & bars, with many owners preferring the comfort of their own private beer garden. With a few modifications including a beer tap and wooden bar, a garden room can create the perfect garden pub.
A freestanding garden room far away from your home can make a great choice as a music room. A separate studio is a perfect place to work on your music, without disturbing anybody else.
Further uses include:
- Hot tub room
- Hobby studio
- Kids playroom
- Games room
Is planning permission required?
Most garden rooms do not require planning permission, but it’s a good idea to double-check with your local planning authority.
Outbuildings, including garden rooms, fall under Permitted Development rights. Permitted Development allows for some types of work to be completed without planning permission. This includes when the outbuilding is used for the enjoyment of the main house and built to make improvements to a property.
Permitted Development rights apply to most locations in England, but some areas may have additional restrictions including conservation areas, listed buildings and areas of outstanding national beauty.
For a garden room to come under Permitted Development there are limits around size, location and usage:
- Maximum height of 2.5m within 2 metres of a boundary -If your garden room is going to be placed near the boundary line with your neighbours it must remain under 2.5m high. The total height also includes any base which may be raised above the rest of the garden. When purchasing a garden room, be sure to inform the manufacture if you plan to position it within 2 metres of a boundary.
- Must not exceed 50% of the garden around the house – A garden room cannot consume more than 50% of the land around the original house. This is the house when it was first built and will not include any extensions, even if they were built before you moved in. If the garden room is going to take up more than 50%, planning permission will be required.
- Cannot be used as living accommodation – While it may sound like a great idea to live in a garden room, unfortunately, it is not possible under Permitted Development. A garden room will not meet the same specification as a residential building and extra requirements will need to be met for use as a dwelling.
- Additional requirements – Some further restrictions apply to Permitted Development. These include not using the front garden and not installing a veranda. For full details see our post on planning permission or visit the planning portal.
How do I get started with a garden room?
Before starting a garden room project, decide on how the building will be used and the dimensions required. Once a garden building is installed, it’s difficult to make any changes.
A base needs to be installed where the garden room is going to be positioned. We recommend a solid concrete base where possible to avoid issues with unevenness or a weak base. The concrete should be poured several weeks in advance to allow time to fully dry out before placing the garden building on top.
Many garden room suppliers are available to choose from. Be sure to check out their portfolio of any similar projects they have completed. Most manufacturers will be able to custom design a building to your exact specifications including shape, dimensions and colour.
The lead time for a new garden room can vary considerably and will depend on whether you choose a custom design or not. Sometimes, standard designs can be in stock and ready for delivery within a few weeks. Custom builds can take several months from design until construction.
How much does a garden room cost?
A garden room is not a small project and the costs can be expensive. Garden rooms use high specification parts including house quality windows and doors which can increase costs.
A small garden room can start from £7,500 and the average price for a medium garden room is £13,000. Additional costs will also include a base, which can cost £1000 for a professional installation. Additional costs include wood treatment and furniture for inside.
A lower-cost option is to choose a log cabin or summerhouse. Both of these are available for less but may not offer the same level of quality as a garden room.
What is a summerhouse?
An increasingly popular garden building type is the summerhouse. Despite what the name suggests, a summerhouse can be used throughout the year with the correct enhancements.
A summerhouse has a considerably lower cost compared with a garden room or log cabin. The walls are usually 12mm thick tongue & groove timber. A huge number of designs are available and a summerhouse is usually purchased as a shell, with the remaining work being completed as a DIY task by the owner. Whereas a garden room comes completed with professional installation.
As a summerhouse does not come with insulation, this is usually the first task for new owners. Rigid insulation boards can be placed in between the wood framing and then boarded over with plywood. Most summerhouses only include thin single glazed windows, but models have optional upgrades for double glazing, which we recommend.
What is a log cabin?
A log cabin is a timber garden building made from interlocking logs. Where a log cabin differs from a garden room or summerhouse, is the use of much thicker logs. A typical log cabin will use 44mm logs and not require additional insulation. Cabins are a practical solution to a good-value garden office.
Most log cabins are rectangular due to being constructed from interlocking logs. The initial cost of a log cabin is less than a garden room but more than a summerhouse. However, as insulation is often not required, the overall costs compared with a summerhouse can be similar.
Whichever garden building type is chosen, a level base is always required. If a log cabin does not have a level base, the logs may not be able to lock together correctly, leaving gaps in the structure.
Garden rooms contain characteristics that make them an ideal replacement for a home extension. Most feature a timber-framed design and use high specification parts which can be found in residential buildings. A long list of uses for garden rooms includes a garden office or gym so you don’t need to leave the house to go to work or keep fit.
Planning permission usually falls under Permitted Development rights, allowing for outbuildings to be constructed. We always recommend checking with your local planning authority first. Alternatives to a garden room include a log cabin or summerhouse, which provide a lower-cost alternative.