What is a garden room?
So, what is a garden room? You are wrong if you think it is just an insulated shed or summerhouse. They are so much more than a shed could ever dream of being! Garden rooms are constructed using multiple layers of material, utilising the same materials and building techniques as used in modern timber frame house building, the type of systems you see used on an episode of Grand Designs.
A garden room is the most versatile of buildings. They can be used for so many different things. They have always been popular as home offices. And, today, they are being kitted out as gyms, entertainment spaces, sometimes complete with a bar and cinema screen, art studios, and with the correct permissions, an extra bedroom.
There are so many potential uses for an insulated garden room, and the beauty is that a well-designed building can evolve as your needs change or as new owners move into your house. A building you buy today for use as a home office could morph into a home gym or artist's studio when you retire or as priorities change.
Fully insulated for comfortable year-round use, a garden room is fully wired electrically, with heating and the option of data cabling for a reliable internet connection. To extend the room's versatility, many buyers choose to add a toilet or full shower room.
While some garden rooms can be attached to the house to create a modern extension, in the main, they are standalone buildings situated away from the main home. This separation from the distractions of the house and the unique connection that a garden room has with the garden it sits within, that so many buyers love!
A garden room is an easy way to add extra space to your home. Very often, an outdoor room can be built without applying for planning permission. You can have a lot of input into the design, layout and features of your room, and with short lead and build times, you could be enjoying your new space in just a few month's time.
Because the majority of ranges are prefabricated off-site, building a garden room is a quick and clean process without the mess of traditional building systems. Because you are working with one company from design through to handing over the keys to the new building, it is a hassle-free process too. You can sit back and watch your new room take shape.
What is the difference between a garden room, office, studio, pod or den?
As you research your buying options, you will see terms like garden pod, huts, dens, cabins, lodges, studios and offices. We will let you into a secret; they are all garden rooms. While there are design differences between each company that builds them, there is no fundamental difference between a garden studio, pod or den and a garden room.
Companies use the different terms to make them stand out in the crowd and to name different ranges, but be clear you can safely buy a garden den and use it as an art studio, just as successfully as if you had chosen a design that is marketed as a studio.
Buildings described as garden annexes are different. They are built to comply with the Building Regulations for living accommodation. If you are looking for a granny annexe building or a garden bedroom, you will want to look out for companies that use the term annexe or annex, depending on how they spell it.
Make informed decisions, not costly mistakes
A garden room is a big ticket purchase. This site aims to offer those interested in buying a garden room as much background information as possible so that they make informed buying decisions, not expensive mistakes.
We have been sharing our knowledge of the industry since 2009. Prior to that, we had been designing and building insulated garden buildings ourselves, but an accident called for a change in direction. Today, we use our unique place in the industry to signpost buyers towards experienced companies who will take their garden room ideas and transform them into reality.
You can always email us if you have a question about buying a garden room and can't find an answer on this site.
Work with an experienced garden room company
We currently feature the work of 50+ different companies, including many of the leading names in the business. Exploring this site, you will find a mix of modular and bespoke garden room companies. We suggest you start by looking at the buildings offered by these experienced names:
Garden rooms in the UK
Combined, the companies we showcase on this site install garden rooms in every corner of the UK. Many companies offer a nationwide installation service, while others focus their work on a particular area.
We have curated a list of companies working in different UK areas. We have done this to help you focus your search on companies installing in your area rather than wasting your time talking to those who don't.
It is wise to ascertain early in your communications with a supplier if there is a delivery charge on top of the building cost. Some companies include the delivery costs in the overall price they quote. Other companies offer free delivery within 100 miles of their HQ and charge by the mile after that. We have seen prices of £6+ per mile quoted, so this can soon add up to a high extra cost.
Several companies have show buildings on display at their workshops. You should make an appointment for the best experience when you get there. Most garden room suppliers keep their overheads low by not having show sites. Instead, they will organise for you to view one of their past projects near where you live.
Check to see which garden room companies work in your area
Not all of them do!
In many cases, a garden room can be built without Planning Permission
Do you need planning permission to build a garden room?
This is a question you should ask early on in the buying process. In many cases, a garden room can be built without planning permission; some garden room companies have messages on their websites that say "planning permission not required". Really they should say "Permitted Development friendly", as whether you need to apply for Planning Permission depends on where you live, the height of the building and its proximity to the boundaries of your garden.
While you may not need to make a planning application, you will need to follow the rules laid out by Permitted Development.
The Permitted Development rules tell us where a garden room can be positioned, how big it can be in relation to the overall garden and how tall it can be.
Generally, garden rooms are designed to offer maximum flexibility in positioning the building in your garden. 2.5m high garden rooms, for instance, can be sited within 2m of any boundary. Taller mono-pitch and dual-pitch roofed buildings would need to be positioned at least 2m from any boundary.
Don't worry if you do need to apply for Planning Permission
If your circumstances require you to apply for Planning Permission or you want to have more flexibility when it comes to the overall height and positioning, the process is not daunting as it sounds.
Experience garden room designers will handle the process for you as part of their overall service. Alternatively, there are specialist garden room planning consultants who will be able to handle the process for you.
If you wish, you can handle the application process yourself. Your designer will supply you with the detailed drawings and specifications you will need for the application.
The need for planning approval does extend the project lead time. Applications typically take 8 to 12 weeks. Normally, your chosen supplier will ask for a holding deposit to reserve your place in their installation diary. This means once your planning approval has been granted, work on manufacturing your room can start.
Garden rooms are designed for year-round use
Unlike a shed or summer house, a garden room is designed for year-round use. You can comfortably use the space on a hot day and also on a wintery day.
This is because garden rooms have a multi-layer build-up that includes insulation and specialist membranes that keep the building dry.
It is important that there is insulation in the floor, wall and roof structures. The types of insulation and the thicknesses used differ between companies. The best-insulated garden rooms meet or exceed the targets set out in the Building Regulations for new houses.
Mix this multi-layer build-up with double glazing and a heating source; a garden room can be as comfortable to use as a room in your house.
There are lots of choices when it comes to garden room heating. Traditionally, the basic option is an oil-filled portable radiator. Still, these have widely been replaced with slimline, wall-mounted electric panels which convect heat around the room, as the standard heating option.
You often have the choice to upgrade the heating in your garden room. Underfloor heating is a popular upgrade as it frees up wall space in the room. The underfloor heating systems used allow you to programme the timer, so the heating can be set to come on before you want to use the space. Some systems can be operated remotely via a smartphone app.
Air conditioning is also an option, and more and more buyers are choosing to add it, even though it is a significant expense. Air conditioning allows you to set the perfect temperature all year round, both cooling and heating the room.
Modern air conditioning systems can be operated via a smartphone app. Some designs have movement sensors fitted so if the room is left unoccupied, the aircon unit will power down, saving energy.
With lots of glazing, it can be helpful to have a way to control the light in a garden room - most companies offer the option of blinds at the windows and doors. The sleekest ranges have the blind fitted within the double glazing; a magnetic system opens and closes the blinds.
Features a quality garden room will include
Comparing your options, you may find that several companies offer similar garden room designs. While they may look similar, garden rooms are not all built equally. Several construction systems are used, and while some designers offer house-quality build-ups, others have pared down the structure to create thinner, more cost-effective walls.
Whatever system you choose, there are features that every garden room should include; otherwise, it is just a posh shed or summerhouse.
These must-have features are:
- Suitable foundation for the building size and ground conditions
- Insulated floor, walls and roof
- Breathable membrane to protect the core structure
- Durable cladding material
- Durable roof covering
- Double glazing
- Multi-point locking system on the doors and windows
- Electrics including the consumer unit, lights & power points
- Rainwater guttering system
What is included in the price of a garden room
A garden room is a big purchase, and you will want to be clear on what is included in the price you are being quoted.
Often referred to as turnkey projects, some companies keep it simple and give you a price for the whole project, right down to the final electrical hookup. This is great as you are working with one company throughout the project and know what you are paying from the get-go.
More commonly, companies will price for the building and the installation. They will then make additional charges for delivery, the foundation (if not included in the overall building price) and the electrical hookup.
These extra costs can quickly add up, particularly the electrical hookup, which you typically arrange with a local electrician. This connection involves digging a trench for the armoured cable between the garden room and the main house, so the cost depends on how far the room is from the house. The electrician will also test the electrical circuit and issue a certificate, which you will want to keep in a safe place, as it may be asked for when you sell your house.
Other additional costs you need to consider are the application fee if planning permission is required. Some companies offer deposit protection insurance; they may pass the premium for the cover on to you, the customer. There may also be the option of an insurance-backed warranty for your building. This cover protects you should there be a problem with your room and the company who built it is no longer trading; the insurance company will arrange to rectify the situation.
Exploring the market, we have found that most companies list their prices inclusive of VAT, though several companies list their prices plus VAT, so you need to keep an eye on that when comparing your options!
An installation team will be sent to assemble your building; they will work intensely until your building is complete. With some small designs, the build can be completed in just a day. A garden room build typically takes 7 to 14 days, with the team working Monday to Friday.
A quick way to extend your home
You may well be comparing your garden room options against building a traditional house extension or adding a loft conversion. You will find that building a garden room is the quickest way to extend your house.
Depending on the time of year, an outdoor room can be installed and ready to use within 2 to 3 months of confirming your order. Once on-site, build times can be as little as one day for some designs, with 7 to 14 days a typical build time for medium-sized buildings. Larger, more complex structures can take 14 to 28 days to complete fully.
Depending on the package you choose, your garden room will either be ready to use as the installation team leaves the site, or you will just need to organise a local electrician to come in and connect the electrical system in your new room up to the mains supply in your house. This will usually take an electrician a day to complete.
This is a lot quicker than building a traditional house extension or loft conversion. You will also experience less disruption in installing an outdoor room than adding a brick house extension, as there are no wet trades, and the installation of your new room takes place away from the main house.
Futureproof a garden room by adding a toilet
There is no denying that a garden room is a significant investment, so you will want to ensure your choices today will enhance the useability of the room for you and your family for many years. When you come to sell your house, you'll want buyers to see its potential value.
One of the key ways to futureproof a garden room is to add a toilet or a full shower room, making the building self-contained from the main house.
Adding a toilet does add to the initial cost of the building, but it will repay you in the long run. Many companies offer turnkey services whereby they include the groundworks and connections to the mains supplies in the service they offer. There are also off-grid options, such as eco-toilets which can be a more cost-effective solution.
With the right permissions, you can sleep in a garden room
With the correct permissions, you can sleep in a garden room. Garden bedrooms are growing in popularity for guests, older children and, in some cases, Airbnb units. You can create just the bedroom or add an ensuite shower room to save guests from having to pop back to the main house.
It must comply with Building Regulations if you plan to use your new space to sleep in, even occasionally. As standard, not many garden rooms do comply with this ruling. Still, if you tell your designer that you will want to use the space for sleeping accommodation now or in the future, they will be able to tweak their specification and arrange for the work to be signed off by the Building Control department. You may want to look at the work of companies that offer garden annexes, as their specifications are designed for sleeping accommodation.
Upgrading a garden room specification so it is Building Regulation compliant for sleeping in will cost you more than buying a similar size standard specification garden room. You will also have the costs of the inspections by the Building Control Inspector to factor in. The extra upfront cost will repay you when you sell your house as a Building Regulation compliant garden room will add more value, as it opens up more use options for future owners.
Create a home in a garden annexe
Lots of families are turning to the space in their garden to create a granny annexe so that they can bring older family members to live with them while maintaining their independence. Not that garden living annexes are just for more senior family members. They are equally popular for use by families with children wanting to live at home while saving to get on the property ladder. A garden annexe can also be designed around the unique needs of a disabled person looking to live independently.
Several companies offer self-contained garden annexes. The ones we feature on this site offer a turkey service whereby they handle the whole project on your behalf from the initial design through the planning permission process right through to the connections of the water, sewerage and electrics to the mains supplies.
Be aware when comparing your options that not all companies selling living annexes handle the planning application, groundworks and final connections as part of their service; they just install the building. At first glance, this can make their annexes appear significantly cheaper than those sold on a turnkey basis. You are then left to organise the groundworks and connections with other companies - it is less hassle and more cost-effective to work with a company that does offer a fully inclusive service!
While applying for planning permission for a permanent building offers you the most flexibility when it comes to annexe size. There is also the option of building a granny annexe building under the Mobile Homes Act. We feature a few companies that design self-contained annexes under this ruling.
Prefabricated garden rooms
Building a garden room is one of the quickest ways to extend your home, if not the quickest. There are ranges that can be installed in just a day, while larger buildings can be up and ready to use in 7 to 14 days. Complex designs that involve extensive groundworks are often completed within a month on-site.
The speed of installation is because most garden rooms are prefabricated before they ever arrive on-site. A handful of companies will fully build the room in their workshops, deliver it to you on the back of a lorry with a crane, and lift it into place.
More commonly, the core structure of the building is constructed in a factory and then delivered to you in modules that go together quickly, with the final finishes added by the installation team while on-site.
There are a few companies that build the room from scratch on-site. They have the timbers delivered and build the framework in your garden. You would expect a complete on-site build to take longer to build than a comparable prefabricated garden room would.
You can choose the size of garden room that works for you
We are often asked about garden room sizes: what size they come in and what is the smallest size you can buy, and what is the biggest.
While there are companies that only offer standard sizes such as 3m x 3m or 5m x 4m, the truth is a garden room can be the size that works for your needs and garden. Modular garden room designers work in either 500mm or 600mm (20inch or 24inch) increments, which offers greater flexibility than whole meter standard sizes.
If you need a more precise size garden room to maximise the available space, a bespoke designer can help. They can manufacture their buildings to the millimetre; for instance, they could create a structure 4.71m x 2.93m.