There are so many different garden room designs on the market. Different shapes, sizes and specifications. How do you compare one design against another?
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 for you.
We’ve been reading garden office specifications for years, and as we do, we mentally compare one structure against others. Here are our garden office comparison techniques:
How we would compare garden rooms
Your garden or intended use will dictate the size of the garden room you are looking at. Reduce the noise in your comparison by just comparing garden rooms of roughly similar size.
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. Most suppliers do offer the foundation as part of their service, but there are a number of suppliers who ask the client 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.
Most suppliers clearly state what the core structure of their buildings is. 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. Some suppliers use exactly the same materials and building techniques as used in modern house building. Other suppliers have created their own versions of these systems. It’s not for us to say which is best for you; both systems have been extensively researched by the designers. But, it is important that you are aware of the differences as they will have an effect on the structure, build time and the price of the room.
All the garden rooms we feature on this guide are insulated for year round use. Like all aspects of a garden room, the materials used and the levels of insulation differ from supplier to supplier. 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 peoples’ first thought is to compare the thickness of the insulation, but this doesn’t work out as 150mm of a fibreglass insulation may not perform as well as 50mm of a rigid insulation. The way to compare insulation is to compare the u-value. This is the rate 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 specification. If not, ask them for them.
The external cladding is an expensive part of a garden room. You will probably find that painted garden rooms are slightly cheaper to buy than Cedar clad ones. If a coloured garden room is what you are looking for this is a bonus. If you are looking for a finish that will age with little ongoing maintenance, you will have to pay for this, initially reducing your ongoing maintenance costs and responsibilities. Thermowood cladding is an entry level cladding while Cedar and Larch will cost you more. Some suppliers offer sealing of cladding like Cedar to preserve its colour. You will probably pay more for this option, but if you want to preserve the initial colour of the building, it’s worth it.
The doors you choose for your garden room will play a major part in its appearance. Your choice of door will also play a significant part in the final price of the room. Therefore you should compare garden rooms with the same door systems. French door sets are an entry level option on many designs. Large sets of sliding doors are a middle of the road option, and bi-fold doors are the top spec option currently available. As well as the style of door you will also want to compare the finish. Wooden doors are not often offered today because of the maintenance requirements, but you will regularly see UPVC and Aluminium finishes listed on specifications. UPVC is normally the entry level option, and Aluminium would be considered the higher spec option.
Ideally, you don’t want to do any repair on the roof of your garden room for decades. To ensure this, you want to end up with the most durable roof covering on offer. A big factor in your decision will be the aesthetic appeal, and the range of choices will depend on the style of the roof, i.e. a flat roof or pitched roof. Flat roof systems like EPDM have a long maintenance free life span compared with more traditional bitumen finishes. On pitched roofs, finishes such as cedar shingles or metal tiles will offer greater durability than asphalt shingles (but it should be said these will last a decade or more). Most garden room specifications will estimate the lifespan of the roof covering offered.
How do you want your new room to look internally? Do you want it to be like any room in your house? Garden rooms tend to be finished internally in one of five ways; 1) A decorative wall panel normally finished in a white or soft cream colour which is easy to maintain; 2) MDF sheets which are then painted; 3) A trendy option is to line the interior with high-grade plywood which is then oiled; 4) Other suppliers offer a plasterboarded finish, and they fill the joints between boards and then paint the boards; and 5) The final option is to create a finish like in a house – plasterboard then skim the walls with plaster for a smooth finish.
All the garden rooms we feature on The Garden Room Guide come pre-wired electrically. But the number of sockets and the type of lighting can vary. Specifications normally quote the number of sockets etc. and we would use these details to compare suppliers. It’s also worth looking to see if data cabling is offered. As our lives become more technology dependent, having this cabling is a good way of future proofing your room. The big element to look out for with the electrics is if the supplier handles the connection of the garden rooms electrics to the mains supply – the majority of suppliers don’t as standard. They will either quote for this element of the build separate to the main building or ask you to engage a local electrician. Suppliers who quote ‘turnkey projects’ will normally handle this element for you.
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 of our heater on the coldest days of the year. Be aware that underfloor heating systems and air conditioning are going to cost more than options such as electric convector heaters or oil filled radiators.
How long are the installation team going to be on site? Some suppliers have honed their systems so much that their designs can be built in as little as a day, whereas others may be on site a week or two. Some suppliers build garden rooms from scratch on site meaning they could be on site for six weeks or so. Ask the suppliers about their onsite times and compare which works best for you.
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 should something not be right with your garden room down the line. If you find out where you stand in the beginning, you won’t have any nasty surprises. Insurance backed warranties seem the safest option as you are covered even if your original supplier is no longer trading. Be clear with your supplier who is paying the premium on the policy – some pass this cost on to you.
If we were comparing suppliers, as well as comparing specifications, we would also compare their level of experience. While every new firm needs its first clients, it’s reassuring to see examples of similar work before choosing a supplier. Ask your supplier how many garden rooms they’ve built, ask to see
images of similar size and style buildings. Many suppliers will put you in touch with a previous customer to ask about their experiences.