Comparing garden room Quotes
You have gone through the design consultation stage with a few garden room companies, and the quotes are in. Now you have to determine which company offers the best building for your requirements.
This can be a very tricky task and one that's not as simple as comparing garden rooms based just on price. It's not always enough to say that the most expensive garden room is the best one. Far from it, over the years, we have studied the specifications for garden room designs with high price tags and, on occasion, found them less well-specified than much cheaper ranges. The company had created an expensive-looking brand for themselves and charged accordingly!
We've been reading garden room quotes and specifications for years, and as we do, we compare one structure against the others. You should take the time to do this too. After all, a garden room is a big purchase that will have a big impact on your home and garden.
This turned into a long guide, so if you want to jump to a specific section, use these links in this table of contents:
Elements we look at when comparing garden room quotes & specifications
While we'll get to comparing different elements of the specification in a moment, let's talk about the feelings you have about the designs you have been sent and the companies you have had contact with.
Give each company you are comparing a score, perhaps out of 10, for each element. You can tally them up at the end, offering clarity on which you think is the best choice to proceed with.
What is your gut feeling about each company you have spoken with?
By this stage, you will have had quite a lot of dealings with different companies. Particularly during the design consultation phase. Which company was the easiest to deal with? Which company understood what you hope to achieve and tried incorporating your wishlist of features into the design?
What is your gut feeling? Does one company stand out more than the others?
Which design do you like best?
You may have chosen to have design consultations with companies that offer similar garden room styles. So, the designs you have been sent may look very similar.
Do you like one design more than the another? Does one design have a wow factor feature that the others don't?
Is the foundation included?
When you are looking at two garden rooms that seem very similar, but there is a considerable difference in the price, it could be because the cheaper option does not include the foundation system.
These days, most suppliers do offer the foundation as part of their installation package. Groundscrews and adjustable pile foundations can be installed quickly and provide the flexibility to overcome uneven ground with relative ease.
There are, however, still a number of companies who either offer it as an optional extra or ask their clients to organise this before the assembly team arrives on site.
As the foundation of a garden room makes up a significant part of the overall cost, this could account for one garden room appearing much cheaper than another.
In comparing specifications, we would want to feel that during the site survey, the company had assessed the ground conditions to ascertain the right foundation for the soil conditions rather than just suggesting the system they are familiar with.
Which company offers the best core structure for your needs?
Most garden room specifications clearly state what system is used for the core structure. The common options are traditional timber frames or Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).
It sounds like it should be easy to compare like with like here, but both these building systems come in varying qualities and thicknesses. The thicker the core structure is, the more sturdy the building stands to be.
Some designers specify the same materials, dimensions and building techniques as used in modern house building. Other designers have created their own versions of these, which are more material-efficient and, therefore, quicker to construct.
As an example, it is not uncommon for a traditional timber frame to be constructed with 47mm x 150mm timbers. Another company might use 47mm x 100mm framing with the studs at closer centres. Both of these approaches create a sturdy core structure. But, you could find yourself comparing these frames with another company that is using 47mm x 70mm timbers.
When reading the specification for a timber frame garden room, you would expect to see mention of an exterior sheathing layer, often OSB or ply, which will strengthen the frame and stop it from twisting.
It's the same with SIPs. You will have some companies specifying panels 175mm thick and others using just 75mm thick panels.
Thicker core structures, whether they be SIPs or timber frames, cost more than thinner ones. You have to weigh whether the savings are worth the difference in the sturdiness of your core structure.
Which design is the best insulated?
Insulation is one of the layers that makes a garden room stand out from other types of garden building. You should expect it to be listed in not only the walls but also the floor and roof structures.
A well-insulated garden room will be more comfortable to use, in both winter and summer, and also cheaper to run - which has never been so important!
Like all aspects of a garden room, the materials used and the insulation levels differ from company to company.
On specifications, you will see statements like 'high performance' and 'eco-friendly insulation, and it can be daunting trying to compare which is right for you.
Some people's first thought is to compare the thickness of the insulation, but this doesn't work out as 150mm of fibreglass insulation may not perform as well as 50mm of rigid PIR insulation.
The way to compare insulation is to compare the u-value. This is the rate at that warm air passes through the structure. The figure is not based solely on the insulation – the cladding, membranes and interior finish also add to the final figure.
With u-values, you are looking for a low figure, so when comparing u-values, the lowest figure is the best performing. Many suppliers state their u-values in their specifications. If not, ask them for them.
Who offers the best cladding option for you?
When comparing the exterior cladding listed in the quotes, you will want to think about it from two angles. Which company is offering the most aesthetically pleasing option, and which is the best long-term choice in respect of lifespan and maintenance?
We suggest asking yourself questions like:
- If Redwood cladding is specified, has it been treated to extend its lifespan?
- If you have chosen a painted design, what is the interval between repainting?
- Were you given the option to mix cladding finishes to maximise your budget?
Which design has the best door and window configuration?
Doors and windows play a big part in the feel of a garden room. Which of the quotes you are looking at has the best combination?
Floor-to-ceiling glazing is a very popular design feature. But you will still want an opening window or two to be able to ventilate the space easily. While some companies mix doors with fixed pane tall windows to create this look, others up the glazing specification to utilise tilt-open long windows rather than fixed panes.
Does one quote specify Aluminium frame doors and windows, while the others specify uPVC? Aluminium frames are considered the higher spec choice.
Does the roof covering have a long lifespan?
The majority of the garden room ranges we feature have roof coverings with maintenance-free lifespans of many decades. EPDM is commonly specified, as are steel-insulated panels. We have seen recently that some companies are specifying roofing felt as standard, with EPDM offered as an upgrade.
A roofing felt-covered roof is going to need replacing long before an EPDM would. It also has joints in it, whereas an EPDM membrane is fitted in one piece.
Is rainwater guttering included in the specification?
Rainwater gutter might seem a small item to compare on specifications, but not all companies include it.
You'll be surprised how much water runs off the roof of a garden room. and you'll want to direct it away from the building. If you don't have guttering, the rain will run down the wall, and this could stain your cladding and cause more serious issues if it gets into the core structure.
Some companies will just add guttering and a downpipe with a spout on it. Others will include a water butt to collect the rain, which you can then use on your garden. A few companies will run their rainwater guttering system into a soakaway.
Which design has the interior finishes you like best?
These days, there are ranges of garden rooms that are left bare for you to decorate and finish yourself, are you prepared to undertake this before you move in?
Some ranges offer wall panelling internally. These are white or neutral-coloured boards that are easy to maintain. They don't require painting and create a light modern interior. There are usually narrow strips covering the joins in the panels, which some people don't like the look of, do you?
Plastered and decorated interiors create a room like in your house, is this the look you are hoping for? If so, be prepared for a quote including this finish to be more expensive than the other interior options. You would also expect the installation phase to be a little longer.
Does the electrical specification include everything you need?
Does the quoted electrical specification include everything you want? Are there enough power sockets?
Have you asked for extras like an exterior socket or data cabling for a reliable internet connection? Have they included them in the quote?
Is a heater included in the price?
Is a heating source included in the price of the building? Not all suppliers offer them; they argue that the building is so well insulated that you don't require a heater.
Our years of experience tell us that we have been grateful for our heater on the year's coldest days. Be aware that underfloor heating systems and air conditioning will cost more than electric panel heaters or oil-filled radiators.
Is the final electrical hook-up included in the price?
When comparing garden room quotes, you'll want to see if the final electrical connection is included in the price. Some companies include it, while others offer it as an optional extra or ask you to arrange it with a local electrician.
The final electrical hook-up is a significant cost, so if one quote seems more expensive than the others, it could be that that quote includes the last electrical connection, while the others don't.
Does the building come with a warranty?
Is a warranty offered on the garden room? If so, for how long, and what does it offer? It's good to have peace of mind if something is not right with your garden room in the future.
Clarify what is included in the warranty. Some companies' warranties only cover the materials used and not the workmanship of installing them. You'll also want to ask how long you should expect to wait for them to come to rectify an issue. It's good to know what to expect!
Some firms offer insurance-backed warranties, and they seem the safest option as you are covered even if your original supplier is no longer trading.