I totally understand that a garden room is a significant investment, and I would hate you to spend more than you are comfortable with. During my 20+ years of industry experience, I have picked up a few tips for maximising a budget. I have a lot to share with you today, so this is a long article, here are the headlines, so you can jump to a section if you want.
You'd be better going a size smaller than compromising on specification
The dominating factor in determining the price of a garden room is its size. Particularly the footprint measurement. The material finishes you choose and the design features you pick will also affect the price.
There are elements of the specification that you shouldn't compromise on. For instance, you want to ensure that you have insulation in the floor, wall and roof; double glazing and the specialist breather membrane which protects against the ingress of moisture.
Well insulated buildings are going to be more comfortable to use, all year round, and cheaper to run in the long term.
You will also want to ensure the external finishes are durable and going to stand the test of time without requiring any significant maintenance.
For these reasons, you would be better served to choose a slightly smaller room with a higher specification, rather than a bigger room with a lower quality spec.
Your exterior cladding choice will have a significant impact on the cost
The exterior cladding is one of the most significant costs in a garden room's build-up. Most garden room companies offer a range of finishes you can choose from.
Western Red Cedar has become the most desirable option, because of its colouring and long maintenance-free lifespan. The downside is that Cedar is one of the most expensive options you can choose. Our research has found that swapping it for Siberian Larch would reduce the price by an average of 12%. Choosing Thermowood instead of Cedar, on average, reduces the cost by 7%. Composite claddings such as Cedral and the better quality composite wood boards work out at the same sort of price as Cedar.
The interior finish is another area you can make some savings
A plastered and decorated finish is the most expensive choice for the interior of a garden room. This is because it is labour intensive and requires the installation team to be on-site for a longer period than other finishes require.
White wallboards are a popular alternative. They create a naturally light room and are easy to wipe clean. They are a good choice if you are looking to reduce the overall cost of the building.
Some of the entry-level garden room options come with unfinished interiors which you can make your mark on. You will find finishes such as MDF or matchboard cladding which take paint well. While this leaves a job for you to complete before you can move your things in, it can save you quite a bit of money.
Door & window configurations that won't blow the budget
You will find that French doors - a pair of doors that open outwards into the garden, are often the standard option on garden room buildings. This is because they are the most cost-effective option.
Smaller sets of sliding doors are similarly priced to French doors. But, once you start moving into wide sets of sliding doors, they can quickly become an expensive choice.
Bi-fold doors where the doors slide to one side, opening up the whole wall are a desirable choice, but the most expensive you can make. If you want to cut costs, consider French doors. With both doors open, you will achieve a similar wide opening onto the garden.
Large expanses of glazing are a popular feature in garden room design. Bi-fold doors are often used to achieve this look. As we have mentioned, bi-folds are the most expensive design choice you can make.
You could create a similar look by mixing French doors or sliding doors with fixed glass windows on either side. This is a much cheaper way to achieve a wall of glazing.
Your choice of door & window frame material will have a significant effect on the cost of your garden room. Powder-coated aluminium framed doors and windows are a stylish option, but if you want to keep to your budget, you might be better served to choose uPVC frames. uPVC frames come in the same on-trend shades of grey, as the aluminium options, and are no less durable. The uPVC doors and windows used by the industry are house quality and come with the same multipoint locking systems as their aluminium counterparts.
A proper garden room is going to cost you more than £6,000
A garden room that is going to be comfortable to use all year round, and designed to stand the test of time with little maintenance, will, we have found, cost you £6,000 upwards.
We know that there are buildings marketed as garden rooms that cost less than this. Shed and summerhouse companies have added ranges of cheap buildings from Eastern Europe to their range. These buildings only have a very thin layer of not well-performing insulation, and the timbers used for the construction are not as durable as those used in more expensive options.
We get it; every penny counts at the moment, and these prices are very appealing. But, they will cost you a lot more in the long run, in maintenance costs, overall longevity, comfort and running costs. They also don't add value to your house when you come to sell as a quality garden room will.
Standard or modular designs cost less than bespoke options
Bespoke garden rooms where you work closely with a designer on each aspect of the design, cost more than their modular counterparts. This is typically because you can choose a non-standard size when going down the made to measure route, and you can easily end up choosing more designer features and finishes!
With modular garden rooms, you have no less choice of features you can incorporate, but because you are choosing from a set palette of options and sizes, you benefit from the economies of scale.
There are also a few standard designs on the market. With these designs, you are limited to fixed sizes and don't have many options to customise the layout or finishes. They tend to be the cheapest of the quality garden room options on the market, and often have the shortest lead time.
Be aware there might be hidden costs
Bespoke garden room projects are normally sold as turnkey services. This means every aspect of the build right down to the interior decoration, and electrical connections is included in the price quoted.
With standard and modular designs, you are typically quoted for the building and installation. Extra charges are commonly made for delivery, the final electrical hook-up, and in some cases, the foundation the building will sit on.
These extras can add up, so you'll want to enquire early on what is included in the price, so you don't get any surprises later in the project!
Not all log cabin ranges are built equal
There are several ranges of log cabin building that are marketed as garden rooms. The thing is, not all log cabin ranges are built equal. With some designs priced at a couple of thousand pounds or so, they can at first glance seem very appealing.
If you spend time researching your options, you will find that log cabin ranges come in varying thicknesses. Some of the cheapest designs only have 22mm thick wall timbers. A high spec range, on the other hand, will have 70mm thick wall timbers.
When you consider that log cabins ranges don't traditionally have insulation in the walls, you want as thicker timbers as possible to keep the heat in during winter, and out during a hot summer. The thicker the timber, the cheaper the building will be to run. In our experience, you want to look at log cabins with at least 44mm thick walls, but if you can stretch to a 70mm thick build-up, you will reap the rewards later.
As standard, with log cabin designs, you have to pay extra for insulation in the floor and roof. And, extra for the electrical pack, and installation service, etc., etc. There are ranges of log cabins that come with insulation, electrics and installation all included in the price.
Self-building could save you quite a bit
A big part of a garden room's price tag is the labour component. If you are a competent DIY'er, and have the time, you could go down the self-build route and save yourself some money.
A few companies offer self-build kits alongside their full installation service. These kits tend to be standard designs, although we do know of a company who provides a tailor-made kit service. Our sister site the Self Build Garden Room guide has a guide to your garden room kit options.
You undoubtedly will save money buying a garden room kit, but the company is still making a significant markup on the raw material costs.
You stand to save more money if you design your own building and source the materials yourself. Our sister site the Self Build Garden Room Guide offers some sample plans which walk you through the different steps of the build and explain the different layers that go into the build-up.
Explore garden rooms by price point
We have put together a couple of free eBooks which showcase garden rooms from several companies. They are interesting as they show the size and style of building that can be purchased at different price points.