When you could buy a good sized summerhouse for around £1,200, why would you spend at least ten times as much on a similar sized garden room? Isn’t the term ‘garden room’ just describing a posh summerhouse, that sits at the end of the garden? Well, there are at least 10 differences between summerhouses and garden rooms.
- Doors and Windows
- Value they add
1 | Construction
The key difference between a summerhouse and a garden room is its construction. With a summerhouse, the building is constructed in panels made up from a timber frame and a layer of cladding which forms both the interior and exterior surface. The framework will be on show inside the room. The timbers used for this framework are typically 2″ x 1″. The softwood tongue and groove boards which are fitted to this frame are typically 12mm/half inch thick.
There are a few different construction systems used in garden room designs. The one thing they all have in common is that they are significantly more substantial than the framework of a summerhouse. If we were to take a traditional timber frame construction system as an example. You would expect to find a framework of at least 3″ x 2″ being used, 2″ x 4″ is commonly used, and some companies use 6″ x 2″ timbers for the frame.
Each of the different construction systems used in garden room design are the same in that they are made up of a series of layers. Where a summerhouse is just the combination of the frame and the tongue & groove boards. The framework of a garden room is buried beneath layers on both the exterior and interior sides. These layers include structural boards to strengthen the framework and membranes to prevent the ingress of moisture into the structure. Over this, battens and then the exterior cladding boards are fixed. Between the framework, insulation is fitted to create a room that can be used all year round and interior surface finishes like you would find used in a house.
2 | Materials
The materials used in the different layers are the same high specification finishes you will find being used in modern house building. Externally, with a summerhouse, you will find a softwood cladding is used. This will need protection from stain or paint to preserve and protect it in the long run. Typically, with a garden room, more durable timbers such as Cedar are used as the exterior cladding. Cedar is a popular option, because not only does it naturally look attractive, but it also has natural durability meaning it will last for 20+ years without needing annual maintenance.
Moving inside, as standard, a summerhouse will have the softwood cladding exposed, you will be able to see the grain in the wood. You can, of course, paint this, and create a Shaker style room. The thing you have to remember is that because this one layer of cladding is acting as both the external and internal finish. There is little barrier to moisture penetrating into the room.
With a garden room, the internal finish is its own separate layer. Several different materials can be used for the walls and ceiling, often dependent on how much you are spending. There are some easy to maintain wall panel systems to choose from, with their white finish bouncing light around the room. The highest spec option is the fully plastered and decorated finish, with gives the feel of a room in a new build house.
When it comes to flooring, your standard option is softwood floorboards. These could be painted or stained to make them more durable. With a garden room, however, the most common finish is laminate flooring. Some companies offer the option to use engineered wood flooring, tiles or specialist rubber finishes.
3 | Insulation
A big difference between a summerhouse and a garden room is that a garden room is, as standard, fully insulated. The various garden room construction systems all have one thing in common. They all feature insulation in the floor, walls and roof structures.
The insulation coupled with the layers of materials that make up the overall build-up, create a room that can be used all year round. Yes, you will need a form of heating in a garden room for the coldest days of the year, but at least you can be sure that the insulation is helping to keep that warmth within the room. If you added a heater to a summerhouse, you would quickly lose heat and your money through the 12mm thick walls!
Insulation is not only important in winter; insulated garden buildings come into their own in summer too. The insulation works in reverse to how it does in winter, and keeps the room much cooler. Combine this with opening the doors and windows, and you can comfortably spend time in on the hottest days of the year.
4 | Glazing
Effective glazing solutions work hand in hand with insulation to make an outdoor room useable all year round. With a summerhouse, the standard glazing will just be a single pane of glass. A single pane like this will, unfortunately, leak any heat you build up in the room.
As standard, the doors and windows in a garden room are double glazed, using the same systems used in a new build house. Some companies upgrade the standard double glazed units by using glazing that combines specialist gasses and coatings to make the glazing perform even better. A few garden room companies offer triple glazing and self-cleaning glass options.
5 | Doors and Windows
The doors and windows are another key difference between summerhouses and garden rooms. Typically, timber doors and windows are used in a summerhouse. The doors are fitted with a mortise lock. The most common style of door used in a summerhouse is the French door. French doors are a pair of outward opening doors. You have the option to open one or both doors.
Garden rooms, on the other hand, make use of the same doors and windows that are used in house construction. Wooden doors and windows have largely gone out of fashion, designers preferring the stability and low maintenance, that finishes such as uPVC and Aluminum-clad joinery offers.
With a garden room, you have the option of choosing French doors, sliding doors or bi-fold doors to incorporate into the design. There are also several window styles to choose from. From traditional casement windows to floor to ceiling high windows. You can even fit a window in the roof, so you can watch the clouds pass by as you relax.
uPVC and Aluminum-clad doors and windows come with multi-point locking systems, which offer a much better level of security than the mortise locks typically used in a summerhouse.
6 | Electrics
As standard, a summerhouse is not fitted with electrics. It is possible to add them, but at a significant cost. We have seen electrical package options listed at around £500 on top of the price of the building. This is not where the cost ends through, as you need to factor in the cost of connecting to the mains supply. This can easily add several hundred pounds to the bill.
This connection is not something you can undertake yourself. If must be carried out by a registered electrician, to meet current Building Regulation code.
Because of the nature of a summerhouse construction, with no voids in the build-up. You will be limited to using surface mounted electrics. So, you will have conduit housing the cables visible on the walls.
Garden rooms, on the other hand, come electrically wired up as standard. The cables are incorporated within the wall structure, and flush fittings are used.
The electrical spec in a garden room can be quite sophisticated. As well as light and power points, data cabling for reliable internet connection, alarm systems and air conditioning can be incorporated. Some companies offer the option for you to control the electrics within your garden room via your smartphone.
Depending on the package you choose, you may still have the cost of connecting the electrics to the mains supply.
7 | Usability
The combination of the multi-layer construction system used in garden room design, the insulation, durable glazing and electrics. Means that a garden room can be comfortably used all year round.
A garden room can be furnished like a room in your house, without fear that soft furnishings will become damp and musty. Add in the security that the multi-point locking systems that the doors and windows feature, and you can safely leave computers and paperwork inside the building.
As the name suggests, a summerhouse is designed for use in the summer months. Yes, you can add on a few weeks in late spring and early autumn into the mix. But, they are not buildings you can comfortably use during the colder weeks of the year. You could add a heater, but the heat and in turn your money will be flowing out through the walls!
Because a summerhouse is not designed for year-round use, it is difficult to keep soft furnishings, pictures and paperwork in good condition. They can easily become damp.
8 | Lifespan
Garden rooms are designed to last for many decades with little annual maintenance. The external finishes used are chosen because of their long lifespan, roof coverings and claddings used, are estimated to last 25+ years.
Summerhouses, on the other hand, need regular maintenance to preserve them. You are likely to have to change the roof covering in 5 years or so. You will have to stain or paint the exterior every couple of years. You will probably have to adjust the timber doors over the years, as they will be at liberty to swell and need planning down to close properly. It will take work to keep a summerhouse looking good for ten years or so.
9 | Value they add
When it comes to selling your home, as summerhouse will be classed as a nice extra on the details. It is, however, unlikely to add significant value to your property.
Estate agents widely agree that a quality garden room that can be used all year round does add value to a house when it comes time to sell. We have seen it quoted several times, where the addition of a garden room has added 5% to the value of a house. This means you could easily recoup your initial investment!
Some garden room designs have a second-hand value too. Over the years we have featured several second-hand garden room buildings. Often the company who originally built the room will get involved to dismantle it, transport it and reassemble in its new home. Depending on the age and specification of the building, you are likely to be able to recoup at least 50% of the original outlay.
10 | Price
There is a significant price difference when it comes to buying a summerhouse compared with a garden room. We hope we have highlighted the differences in the buildings, which add together justifying the difference.
Another significant element which affects the cost is that a garden room price includes the installation process. With a summerhouse you will either have to install it yourself or pay for your supplier to do so, bumping up the price.
As an example, a 3.6m x 2.4m summerhouse might cost you £1,200. You also need to factor in the cost of the base, delivery and installation. If you want to incorporate electrics, the fittings and the connection to the mains would be on top of these costs.
A 3.6m x 2.4m garden room will cost you upwards of £13,000 depending on the specification level you choose. The base and installation of the room would be included in this price. You will likely have to add the cost of connecting the electrics to the mains supply on top of this. So, a garden room is significantly more expensive, but you get a lot of building for your buck!
You can see that the differences between a summerhouse and a garden room are marked. Yes, a fully insulated garden room is a significant outlay, but if you are looking for a room you can use all year round, for decades to come, they are worth the investment.