Outdoor Living
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Add value to your home with an outdoor room

If you have the space and imagination, an outdoor room can be so much more than just a place to store your mower. Plus it'll add value to your property. Here's how to get it right…

Eco-friendly modular garden room (© Garden2Office)

This eco-friendly modular building comes with triple-glazed windows, insulated walls and an attractive wood-clad finish. It can be designed and laid out to suit your needs, and can even be disassembled and taken with you when you move. It costs around £20,000 including installation from Garden2Office.

What could you use an outdoor room for?

It will be most useful if it's designated a specific purpose, such as home office, gym, music room, home cinema or teen den. However, it's worth thinking ahead and designing or furnishing it accordingly. For example, do you have a record collection you'd love to get out of the living room that could be neatly shelved in there? Would a sofa bed be useful for housing extra guests from time to time? If you were to convert the loft in the future, would you need extra storage space outdoors for what's stashed up there now? Will building an outdoor room mean demolishing the shed and, if so, could you find room for bikes and tools?

Informal garden room (© Cuprinol)

Decorate the interior of your outdoor room with paint colours to complement your garden’s scheme. Cuprinol’s Garden Shades has a wide range to choose from – try Country Cream™ for a look like this.

How big should it be and where should it go?

Your building's size and position might be governed by planning rules (see below), but regarding aesthetics, here's what to consider:

  • Will it swallow up your garden? Making it too big for your plot may put off future buyers.
  • Will it block light and steal sunlight from both your and your neighbours' gardens? Try to site it in a shady spot.
  • Will it improve your view from indoors? Consider its spot carefully and plan planting around it to help it blend in.

Which outdoor room to choose?

There are three types of outdoor room: DIY shed-type cabins, modular summerhouses and bespoke timber-framed buildings. Each will benefit from concrete foundations for stability and longevity.

If your budget is low, look at DIY cabins. Like super-sized sheds, these are generally built in soft wood with tongue and groove boards. Assembly can be a DIY job and only takes a couple of days. These buildings need to be regularly painted or varnished - use Cuprinol's Garden Shades or Shed & Fence Protector - and won't be suitable for use in winter unless you insulate them yourself. Prices start at around £1,000.

If you have a little more to spend and want to use your building all year round, consider a modular building. These are generally hardwood-clad and insulated, have lockable doors and double-glazed windows. They can be erected in just a few days, with walls plastered or boarded for decoration, and electrical supply. Generally contemporary in appearance, prices start at around £5,000.

Wooden summerhouse (© Argos)

If you’re just looking for an outdoor dining space or for a seating area that’s sheltered from the wind, choose a budget option with large windows and glazed doors. This Helios summerhouse is just over 3m square and costs £1,099.99 from Argos.

If money is no object and planning not an issue, timber frame outdoor rooms can be built to look like mini houses indoors and out with a slate or even thatched roof and wood-framed windows. More suited to large, traditional gardens, hardwood-framed buildings (such as oak) will be hardier than those built with softwood, but this will add to your bill - expect to pay upwards of £20,000.

Basic must-haves for outdoor rooms

From a phone to heating - here are the basic points to consider:

  • If your building is to be used as a home office, you'll need to be properly connected. Speak to your telecom supplier about phone and internet connection if your home's existing connections don't work out there.
  • If you'll be using the building all year round, heating is a must. For occasional use, an electric heater will do the trick. Otherwise, and assuming the building is properly insulated and glazed, oil-filled radiators with thermostats and timers will be more efficient.
  • If you're running electricity to the room, consider installing a TV connection at the same time. That way if what's a home office now becomes a teen den or guest room in years to come, you're covered.
  • Lighting is vital if you'll be using the room in the evening; table lights are the simplest option.
  • Security is a must, depending on what will be in the room and how easy it is for intruders to reach. Consider everything from security lighting to window and door locks to an alarm.

Home fitness studio (© Green Retreats)

Dreaming of a home gym? You could set up your own home fitness studio in an outdoor room – just ensure it is well ventilated, heated, lit and secured. This building is from a range of four different contemporary buildings in various sizes; prices range from just under £5,000 to just under £24,000, Green Retreats.

Planning permission for outdoor rooms

Before you buy, check with your local council to find out if you need planning permission - both to add the extra floor space to your home and for its position within your garden. Cases when you might need permission include: if you want to use the building for business; if you live in a conservation area and want a building of more than 10 cubic metres; if the building will be more than four metres high with a ridged roof, or if it will be within five metres of your house and is over 10 cubic metres. If you are the property's leaseholder, you will need to seek permission from the freeholder, too. For more information, go to the government's planning portal.

Do I need to comply with building regulations?

Again, check with your local council's building control department. There are various cases when it will have to comply, such as if you want to install a loo. If you are running electricity to the room (which is a must in most cases), ensure the work is carried out and signed off by an approved contractor who will do the work safely and to standard. For more information, go to the government's planning portal.

Glazed garden room (© Henley Offices)

Glazing one side of your garden room makes the most of the view of the garden from inside – ensure the room is double-glazed so that it’s comfortable to be used all year round. This Stanza garden room comes in a range of sizes – the 3m x 2m building costs around £7,500, Henley Offices.

Where to buy

Find an outdoor room to suit your budget and style here:
Argos has a wide range of basic summerhouses for low prices
Border Oak has oak DIY build kits for a low-cost option
B&Q has a large range of affordable summerhouses in log cabin styles
DH Log Cabins has budget cabin-style outhouses
Ecospace Studios has grass-roofed buildings
Garden2Office also offers sedum-roofed buildings
Garden Affairs has sloping, green-roofed and triple-glazed options
Green Retreats stocks insulated, double-glazed units
Henley Offices sells both contemporary and traditional buildings
Homebase sells a large selection of summerhouses at affordable prices
Inside Out has bespoke units that can be fitted with a kitchen and loo
Next sells everything from sheds to mini studios
Studioni can offer bespoke designs to suit your space
Wickes has low-cost cabin-style buildings for smaller gardens

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