Are garden sheds the new extension?

Today the humble garden shed has loftier ambitions. It has come up in the world and these days can be quite a grand affair: It has graduated to become an office, private gym, chill out room - the alternative to an extension, adding much needed floor space to the family home.

Today the humble garden shed has loftier ambitions. It has come up in the world and these days can be quite a grand affair: It has graduated to become an office, private gym, chill out room - the alternative to an extension, adding much needed floor space to the family home.

Seen as an extra room it is a definite ‘plus’ when you come to sell your house, so using your shed as a dumping ground for junk may not be the best use of its potential. If you are considering upgrading think carefully about what you want and plan accordingly. Whether you have an existing structure or not, follow these simple guidelines to create the desired effect. 

Here are a few things to think about before you get started.

DO I NEED PLANNING PERMISSION?

A shed or outdoor room is generally seen as a temporary structure by the planning authorities, but this does not mean you can build anything you want. Many garden rooms do not require planning as long as the structure is not higher than 4 metres, is more than 5 metres from existing structures and nearer the house than the public highway. However, it is ALWAYS best to check with your local planning department especially if you are going to install a multitude of services such as toilets, etc. Remember that to run an office from home technically you will require planning permission.

Check if you house is listed as the grounds may be part of that listing. Conservation areas also require planning approval. Again check with planning and likewise remember that some trees have TPOs (Tree preservation orders) and you may not fell them without prior approval if at all).

Substantial brick structures are best in larger gardens, as these can be considered “small houses”. These will most likely require planning permission and are the costliest of the three options. The granting of planning permission will always depend on intended use and a quick call to your local office may save you much time and money.

All garden rooms must comply with Building regulations – you will need to ensure that your outdoor room complies with structural strength requirements such as fire safety, insulation, ventilation, water and energy efficiency to name but a few.

FUNCTION

What will it be used for? Do you need a quiet area away from the kids and hustle and bustle of a busy home? Is the room to be used as a studio or craft making area? A home office? Gym? Once you have decided there are decisions to be made…

‘Ecospace architecture, naturally.’ By Andy Spain

SIZE

The building should not overwhelm the garden. As a rough guide the structure should take up no more than 25% of the available garden area. Even small gardens can benefit from an outdoor room but remember to keep it in scale.

LOCATION

Size is not everything and location is just as important. Tucked away in a corner of the garden and lightly screened from the main house is perfect for a restful retreat. One of our current garden design projects incorporates our client’s L shaped room with large glazed walls allowing views over the garden as well as maximum light for their office and gym.

Placing the outdoor room at the bottom of the garden will create symmetry and allow a good interaction with the rest of the garden. Placing the room to the side of the garden creates more interest and is not so obtrusive.

APPEARANCE

The look of the building is very important. If it clashes with the house then it will stick out like a sore thumb when it comes time to sell. There are many materials to choose from – wood and glass being the most common. Wood need not look like Grandpa’s shed! Traditional wooden structures can be painted or if you like the natural look, make sure you use a good quality wood preserver. Wood can also look extremely modern when mixed with glass walls and steel supports. Ensure the wood comes from sustainable sources, the FSC certification and seal should be “de rigueur”.

Bold colours and simple shapes work best in general but keep the nautical look for seaside properties and the Swiss chalet-type look …for Switzerland! Out of context structures can put people off when it comes to buying your property and although you may feel it makes a bold statement, others may see it as a deal-breaker.

Remember that an all-glass structure is very visible to all, so ensure you have allowed for adequate storage in an office room otherwise the mess will be there for all to see.

Folding or concertina doors are great for multi-function rooms; you can open up or divide the space with minimal fuss and disruption.

HEATING

An outdoor room might need insulation if you intend to use it in all types of weather. A cold office is not conducive to work and likewise if it is for children to play in you need to ensure it is comfortable and safe. Wooden sheds are far better at minimising moisture and condensation than concrete buildings, but either way, dampness and mould will ruin your furnishings and contents faster than anything else. You may want to consider at the very least running a dehumidifier overnight on a low setting. For general heating an electric heater for a small room is often sufficient, or you can push the boat out and install electric under floor heating. Conversely too much glass or poor ventilation can make the room unbearably hot in summer, so think blinds for glass windows and doors. Portable air conditioning systems are relatively cheap and a godsend for both days of summer…

LIGHTING

Path and wall lighting in the garden is an important element that can add the finishing touch to your project. Not only does it allow you to see where you are going but it can also make your new building feel part of the garden. Used to good effect, well chosen garden lighting will allow the garden and your outside room to be enjoyed long after the sun has fallen, maximizing the return on your investment. Outdoor room by The Qube right.

SECURITY

OK, so you’ve created your ideal gym, office, chill out room - and stuffed it full of all those expensive electronic gadgets so essential to modern life. Don’t forget to install locks on all windows and doors and movement detectors connected to lights either inside or outside the building. In general sheds are an easier target than most homes and, being at the end of the garden, thieves are less likely to be disturbed and have an easier getaway.

ACCESS

You don’t want to be walking across slippery, muddy, wet grass to get to your new room. A nice new path is highly recommended, or the existence of an existing pathway is also a major ‘plus’ when deciding where to put your new building.

A paved area is perfect for sitting out and enjoying the views but also serves an important function by ensuring you don’t bring the garden detritus inside the room! If you intend to have visitors for your business you may want to consider a separate, direct access from the road.

SERVICES

Lastly you need to think about services to the outside room – do you need electricity, plumbing, telephone services and even a toilet? Dashing back to the loo is not always great when you are working in your garden office.

BESPOKE OR OFF THE PEG?

You can have your dream garden room designed by an architect according to your taste, requirements and budget. It should be designed to integrate seamlessly with the style of your house and link visually with the main structure. Bespoke structure left by

Off the peg is a cheaper option and there are many companies out there who manufacture a wide variety of designs for all budgets. Some companies offer a turn-key service, from providing the structure, to applying for planning and getting the services installed for you. Whoever you chose make sure you ask for references of previous installations, and even check them with the local trading standards office before parting with your cash.

FOUNDATIONS

The smallest wooden structures will not require traditional dug foundations, but will need a concrete base or bearers of bricks and blocks. Larger structures will require foundations. The company you are buying from will advise what type of foundation or base is required.

Most structures come as prefabricated panels and so smaller room can be up and decorated within a week or so. If you need them insulated, plastered and plumbed with services (electricity and phone) it can take upwards of 3 weeks depending on size. Running power cables for electricity and internet and phone lines should be included in the quote. Plumbing for toilet and sink usually is not but can be negotiated with the supplier and need not be complicated. Macerator toilets such as the Saniflo system (saniflo.co.uk) are great and use narrow gauge pipes which means even less hassle to install. Running plumbing and electricity into the outdoor office will increase your options and is definitely something you need to think about with care – think long term use and re-sale.

COST

Concrete bases can cost anything from £800 upwards, dependent on size. Make sure you leave enough time for the concrete slab to dry, a mistake many people make. Ask your builder who is installing this for advice.

Usually structures will include such items as guttering, windows (can be double glazed), door(s), locks, window furniture, roof finish (tiles, asphalt etc.). Flooring such as carpets or nice wooden flooring is not usually included. As a general rule of thumb expect to pay anything from £1000 per square metre (including delivery and installation) upwards, depending on spec., location and type of construction.

Of course the usual shed from any DIY store can cost much less than that, but remember that you will need to install a base, erect it and insulate, decorate and lay all services yourself.

A GOOD DEAL?

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a garden room is a good investment. Apparently even small sheds can add up to 5% to a property’s value. In this current market a quick and easy way to add value is definitely food for thought.

Working smart means working effectively. Next time we look at how to convert a room into a home office.

 

Main photo courtesy of The Qube.