Which garden office is best? That’s a subjective question because design, size, construction method, material quality, wall thickness, price and long term maintenance are all factors which make the perfect office.
The variety of designs and the differences in build quality in the market make a straight comparison difficult. It is important that you try comparing like with like, for instance it is difficult to compare the log cabin style of building which is often sold as a garden office with the fully insulated models we showcase on this website. Log cabin style garden offices appear to be better value for money than the garden offices featured on this site and in this guide and you can pick up a large unit for £3k or £4k but this is a short sighted saving, although a larger initial outlay the garden offices featured in this guide are a better long term investment in terms of usability, lifespan, the value they add to your house and what they cost to run.
Log cabin style garden offices may be listed as being fully insulated but there’s fully insulated and fully insulated to modern house standards! Cheaper insulation is often used in log cabin style garden offices compared with that used in more expensive models and you need to be careful when reading garden office specifications particularly on models where the wall structure forms the internal / exterior as you will normally only find insulation in the floor and roof of this type of office – just think how much heat will escape through the walls! We will look at garden office insulation options in the Garden Office Guide: Insulation.
Cheaper garden offices often tend to have hidden extras or make optional upgrades of all the essentials, whilst what appear to be more expensive garden offices offer an all inclusive price. Watch out for extra costs on cheaper garden offices when it comes to foundations, delivery, installation, electrics and double glazing you may find that what looks to be a good buy actually costs more than an apparently more expensive model which includes all these elements in the price – as standard!
When comparing garden offices look at those that offer a site visit (some may charge for this), a site visit can overcome any potential problems early on in the project such as unlevel sites and access. Some companies don’t offer site visits and say they reflect the cost saving in the price of their garden offices, they rely on the customer to tell them about the site, access etc but we have heard of incidents where extra costs can be incurred by the customer where the supplier says the site is not as described to them!
Compare too the long term maintenance of the garden office, if you don’t want to do any maintenance consider cedar, metal or upvc clad models rather than a softwood painted model which will need repainting every few years.
Another more difficult thing to compare is the experience of the garden office supplier, some companies we feature on this site have been in business 25 years or so and have extensive experience, they have probably seen and overcome every potential problem that can arise in installing a garden office, other companies are new to the market and have only built one or two garden offices to date. We are not saying that you should go with a long standing supplier over a new one, far from it some of the newest companies are coming to the market from other building sectors and bringing the latest building techniques to the market, just be aware that experience levels differ from company to company. The obvious thing is to question a supplier about their experience, but another tell tale sign is their photo gallery lots of different photos equals a lot of builds, lots of photos of the same building or computer renderings maybe suggest not so much experience.
Finally compare what aftercare the suppliers offer, most suppliers offer a guarantee on certain materials for example ’15 year guarantee on the doors’ but do they offer a guarantee on the actual workmanship of the garden office? For added peace of mind consider suppliers that offer an insurance backed guarantee, these are normally provided by the Consumer Protection Association and they offer you assurance that if your supplier goes out of business any repair will still be covered, in your comparison its worth noting that some suppliers make a charge for this insurance backed guarantee.
So, is a more expensive garden office always better than a cheaper one? Well no, but in general the more you pay the better the design, the higher the specification of materials will be, but there’s no reason why a cheaper garden office will be any less solid than an expensive one.
In the chapters that follow we will look at the different options on construction and materials you can choose for your garden office, these should also be part of your garden office comparison process.