​What do I need to know before building a garden room?

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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Extra garden space is always a nice-to-have, but not all of us plan to fill up that legroom with prize-winning daffodils or a water feature. Some people are most interested in how to build a garden room, which is a most versatile option as it can be used for just about anything from a tool shed and a guest bedroom to an art studio or a home gym. 

Garden buildings (also called ‘garden rooms’) are usually fully insulated and double glazed, making them a comfortable and practical option to be used all year round. What’s more, when it comes to building your own garden room, a multitude of different styles and sizes are available, meaning you are bound to find the perfect little structure for your garden size. 

But before you start dreaming up what type of wine you’ll be enjoying in your new DIY garden room, scroll ahead to read up on some steps to take first. 

1. Decide on your style

The two main styles of garden rooms are contemporary and traditional.

Contemporary styles are characterised by crisp lines and large glass panes. These structures are either flat-roofed or have single pitch roofs often covered with modern finishes such as a living roof (a green roof covered with vegetation) or EPDM rubber coverings. In a lot of cases, contemporary garden rooms are finished with western red cedar cladding which can be styled vertically or horizontally. 

Traditional styles have either gable roofs or hipped roofs with coverings like cedar shingles or clay tiles. Conventional casement windows and doors are also part and parcel of this style, usually going hand in hand with verandas and balustrades. Several different profiles of cladding can be opted for, such as shiplap, tongue and groove or tapered weatherboard. And traditional garden rooms are also often painted.

2. Get to grips with the legal side of things

Decided which style is right for your house? But before you pick out a location, you have to be mindful of the legal requirements relating to garden buildings. When it comes to building a garden room, planning permission is often not required, but it is important that you still check before you buy. 

Even if you place that garden room at the bottom of your yard, it is crucial that you check with your local planning office as to whether you need to apply for planning permission. Don’t just rely on your garden room supplier – at the end of the day it is your responsibility as homeowner to tick all the legal boxes. 

Worst case scenario? The planning office can make you take down a building that is breeching planning rules, making all of your DIY garden room plans come to a screeching halt. 

Which of our professionals (including Interior Designers and Decorators) will you use for your dream project? 

3. When is planning permission required?

Cheer up! Planning permission is generally not as intimidating as it might sound. But you will need permission if: 

• You live in the curtilage of a listed building. 

• The building is to be located on land in front of the principle elevation of the main house i.e. the building is to be situated between the front elevation and the highway. 

• The building is to be more than single-storey with an eaves height of more than 2.5 m. 

• The building has a single pitched roof exceeding 3 m. 

• The building has a double pitched roof e.g. a gable roof higher than 4 m. 

• The building has a raised platform, such as a balcony, veranda or platform. 

• More than half the land around the original house* is covered in outbuildings. 

• The building is higher than 2.5 m and situated within 2 m of the boundary. 

• It has a volume over 10 cubic metres.

Planning permission is also required if you live in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Broads, National Parks or World Heritage Site. In these cases, the maximum area that can be covered by buildings, containers, enclosures or pools more than 20 m from the house is limited to 10 m².

* Original house means the house as it was originally built before any extensions were added or as it stood before 1 July 1948.

4. When is planning permission NOT required?

No planning permission is needed if: 

• You don’t live in the curtilage of a listed building. 

• You don’t live in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Broads, National Parks or World Heritage Site. 

• The building is not located on land in front of the principle elevation of the main house i.e. the building isn’t situated between the front elevation of the house and the highway. 

• The building is only single-storey with a maximum eaves height of 2.5 m. 

• The building has a single pitched roof lower than 3 m. 

• The building has a double pitched roof e.g. a gable roof lower than 4 m. 

• If the building doesn’t have a raised platform, such as a balcony, veranda or platform. 

• Less than half the land around the main house is covered in outbuildings. 

• The building is less than 2.5 m high if situated within 2 m of the boundary. 

• It has a volume less than 10 cubic metres.

5. Remember the Building Regulations

Well, what about Building Regulations? You don’t need to apply for Building Regulations if the building floor area is less than 15 m².

If the building is between 15 and 30 m², you don’t need Building Regulations provided that the building is at least 1 m from the boundary or is constructed from non-combustible materials. In both cases, Building Regulations only apply if the building contains sleeping accommodation.

6. Location, location, location

Now that the legal mumbo jumbo is out of the way, it’s time to decide where to place your new garden room. Key questions you need to ask yourself include:  

• Do you want your garden room attached to your house like a traditional extension or situated away from the house in the garden? 

• Do you have a particular view you want to frame with the windows? 

• What direction will your garden room face and which elevations will the windows be on? It makes sense to have windows on the south and west elevations to welcome in natural light from the sun rather than on the north and east elevations which will be colder.

• If you are locating your garden building at the bottom of your garden, is there a suitable footpath leading toward it? You don’t want to trail mud into your smart garden room, do you? 

• Will the windows overlook your neighbours and, if so, how will this affect both parties’ privacy?  

• Are there any trees adjacent to the proposed location of your building? Remember that roots might interfere with the building’s foundations, not to mention the additional factors of shade and falling leaves on the roof.

7. Key points when buying your garden room

If building that garden room exceeds your DIY skills, you can always set out and buy a finished one. If that sounds more like your cup of tea, take a look at these FAQs. 

What aftercare arrangements can I expect? You should expect to get at least a 5-year guarantee, which should cover key points like the roof and doors. Most firms will offer a guarantee because they are confident with their workmanship.

Does the electrical system come with a NICEIC certificate? If the electrical system has been installed by a qualified electrician, it should be tested to NICEIC standards. When an electrician connects the building to the house’s mains supply, another test will be done.

What are the payment terms? In general, companies will ask for a 50% deposit to confirm the order, followed by a further payment of up to 45% just before delivery. A final balancing payment will follow on completion of work.

What timescales are involved? This can differ severely depending on companies’ policies and schedules, which is why you should ask this early on in negotiations to save disappointment. However, 12 weeks would be the maximum you would have to wait from order to completion.

How long will the contractors be onsite installing the garden room? Again, this differs from company to company – some might have a team of contractors who complete the project in a few days, whilst others could only send out one or two workers which means it could take weeks to install.

How is the building delivered? Some firms deliver their garden room in panels and assemble it onsite, whilst other firms bring the completed garden room on a lorry and crane it into position.

What choices do you have in the finish of the garden room? If you are buying a garden room that’s built to order you should definitely have some choices. However, make sure that you mention it early in the design process.

What to avoid with your DIY garden room: Looks and pine

Not all outdoor structures can make the perfect garden room.

• Whether you want to build your own garden room or buy a new one, you need to consider its visual appeal. Buying an outbuilding meant for garden storage and then trying to retrofit it to become a home office (or guest bedroom, or art studio… ) means setting yourself up for more work (and the results are rarely as good). 

• Stay away from inexpensive pine and painted particle board construction, particularly for your garden room’s exterior walls. Although pine’s up-front costs are low, you’ll be spending lots more on maintenance throughout the years. 

What to avoid with your DIY garden room: Steel

• Dreaming about building a garden room made of steel? It might be very resilient against pests, but will never surpass wood in terms of visual attractiveness and costs.  

• A garden room with insulated steel can also be an issue, and if you live close to the seashore you can bet that you’re going to be having problem with corrosion.

We have these 17 flooring ideas for your home's entrance and hallways to check out. 


What DIY garden room plans do you have in mind?

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