We’ve brought a shed and want to transform it into a garden office, what do we do?
This is a question we are often asked!
Whilst we enjoy talking to garden room buyers about different aspects of buying, building and using a garden room, this is a question we’re not so keen on hearing, why because in our reply we have to disappoint the person asking.
In our opinion, based on industry experience since the late 1990’s and having read the specification of hundreds of garden rooms, it is difficult to create a quality garden office from a shed.
We can see why some buyers think you can, they have either inherited a large garden shed when they have moved to a new house, or they have brought a good size shed at a fraction of the cost of a garden office and feel that with a little hard graft, they could (yes, we are going to use the obvious pun here) save a ‘shed load’ of money.
Yes, garden offices are fondly called posh sheds, but the reality is they owe their heritage to traditional house building, rather than being an evolved garden shed.
We can see that a fairly competent DIY’er can see the processes involved in garden room construction, and that if they have the basic structure of a shed all they have to do is add some insulation, an electrical system, a internal lining and decorate, and whilst this is all true, the reality of what you’ll be left with, wont be the same as a dedicated garden room / office that is designed for purpose.
Garden room / office designers have honed the design and specifications over the years, and the materials and techniques used create buildings which are durable, and comfortable to use all year round and will last for decades.
A shed, even a really good quality one has been designed for a very different use, a shelter to store tools, bikes etc and a place to undertake occasional activities like woodworking, and the basic structure is very different to a garden office.
There are some key features that a garden room / office should feature, namely a solid foundation, a breather membrane, high levels of insulation, double glazing and a professionally installed electrical system. It can be difficult to incorporate these features into a shed’s structure.
First up the foundation requirements are very different, a shed is quite a light weight structure so doesn’t need the most substantial of foundations, and you often find that a shed is sitting on paving slabs, this will not be enough if you add all the layers of material that would be needed to turn a shed into a garden room / office, and you would end up with subsidence.
One of the most important layers in a garden room construction is the breather membrane, this is a layer that wraps around the structure and stops moisture entering the building but at the same time lets moisture from within the room escape. It would be quite difficult to fix this layer into a shed construction because it needs to fit behind the exterior cladding, and on a shed the cladding is already fixed in place! You may be thinking well we’ll fit it on the inside then, but to work properly the breather membrane needs to be a continuous layer with lapped and taped joints.
Ideally there would be a space between the cladding and the breather membrane, this is another element which stops the ingress of moisture into the building, but of course with a shed there’s no way of creating the gap, because the cladding is already in place.
Even on a good quality shed, the cladding is not normally the same thickness or quality as that used on a garden room / office, garden rooms normally have very durable claddings such as Western Red Cedar which requires little ongoing maintenance.
Because you have the framework of the shed exposed inside it is perfectly possible to add insulation, but you may find you are limited by the size of the studs as to how much insula- tion you can physically fit. Also it is important that you have insulation in the floor and roof of the building too, if you have a shed with a floor, short of taking up the floor boards how are you going to fit the insulation? Its also not as simple as putting insulation in the roof be- tween the rafters because you need to consider ventilation in the roof space so the roof doesn’t sweat, all more complicated than you need!
Lining a shed out is quite an easy task, you could use plywood or plasterboard, whichever your taste or budget allow, you can easily create the look and feel of a garden room / office by lining it out.
Doors and windows on a shed are designed for shed use, whereas a garden room utilizes house quality doors and windows which feature insurance approved locks and double glazing. Most sheds have single glazing in the windows, in some cases the glazing is only an acrylic sheet, so if you are going to the length of insulating and kitting out the shed you would need to replace the doors and windows to bring them up to standard, after all there’s no point in insulating the building and then letting the heat flow out of the windows.
Finally shed roofs are finished quite differently to a garden room / office, sheds normally have a felt roof which will need replacing every few years, garden rooms use the same materials used in house building and are estimated to last decades with little maintenance.
So, whilst in theory with some hard work you could convert a shed into a garden room / office, but it wouldn’t be the quality of a building designed for use.
If you’re up for building a garden room / office yourself, there are other options than converting a shed, a few garden room suppliers offer kit versions of their buildings, others will install the shell of the building and you finish it off to your own tastes, and finally you could do some research and build one from scratch including all the elements we have discussed above.