How to buy the best garden room
Garden buildings of all types became the latest luxury home addition thanks to the lockdowns of 2020. They can give you extra living space fast, provide a tranquil space for relaxation out of the house or be a distraction-free working space.
They’re also pricey,. so if you’re seriously considering one, finding the best type and considering whether it's right for the way you plan to use it are essential.
Buying a garden room or summer house
When planning a new building in your garden, you’ll need to think about how much you’re willing to spend, where you plan to put it, how you intend to use it and which features are important to you.
Your budget is a good place to start. Cheaper options include traditional-looking wooden summer houses. You may be able to construct it yourself to keep costs down. If it's uninsulated, it will only be usable in warmer weather.
Spend more and you’ll get a sturdier structure, with double glazing, insulation and heating so you can use your room year-round. You might also want to include furnishings, electricity and a broadband connection.
Think about how much space you’d like inside the room, and where in your garden would be best to locate it. Sturdy structures with concrete foundations will be part of your garden for many years to come, so it’s worth spending the time getting its position right. Find out whether you need .
What will you use your new space for, and how might that change in future? You can read more about popular uses below.
Don’t forget the ongoing costs of heating, lighting, other electric equipment and maintenance.
Garden room and summer house ideas
Extra living space in your garden can be called a garden room, summer house, garden office or log cabin (among other things) depending on who you’re speaking to or where you’re shopping. These cover a range of styles and uses. Keep in mind how you want it to look and how you plan to use it, to decide what will work best for you.
The most popular uses for garden rooms, according to Which? members who already have one*, are:
- Multi-purpose space, 31%
- Entertaining and socialising, 19%
- Hobbies, including arts, crafts and music, 13%
- Office, 6%
- , 3%
Garden rooms can last a long time, so think about how you might adapt it in future. Members in our survey advised: ‘think about how you might want to adapt its use over time’ and ‘keep your future needs in mind as well as current ones’.
If you plan to work regularly in the space, you’re likely to need electricity for lighting and to run your equipment, as well as decent broadband.
Depending on how far from your main home the garden office will be, you may not be able to rely on the reach of your wi-fi. One member advised:
'Don’t rely on getting wi-fi from the house. Run a network cable instead.'
Plumbing can also be handy, so you don’t have to pop back to the main house to use the bathroom or get a cup of tea. It’s more complex than having electricity and broadband and may require planning permission – head to our to find out more.
How much does a garden room cost?
A simple, uninsulated log cabin can cost £2,000-£3,000. That’s presuming you build it yourself.
A more sturdy structure with insulation will cost you upwards of £6,000. You might still be able to build it yourself – many firms sell their garden rooms flat-packed.
Budget around £20,000 for a luxury space with double glazing, patio-style doors and heating. This price includes installation.
Factor in extra costs for decoration and furnishings, plus installing utilities if they’re not included in professional installation.
These prices are based on a garden room with a usable floorspaceof 4x3 metres, double doors, two windows, and timber at least 40mm thick. Where these weren’t available, we used the closest equivalent.
Before you buy, look at garden rooms from various sellers to get a good idea of the price for the structure you want. If you’re planning to hire a builder to create it from scratch, we recommend you get at least three quotes so you know the going rate for the job in your area.
Take care with any quotes that are substantially cheaper than others. Ask for them to be itemised so you can check exactly what the price includes.
Cheap garden rooms vs bespoke garden rooms
Garden rooms vary in price by thousands of pounds - from a simple wooden cabin to a luxurious space that’s uniquely designed.
The following elements all add to the cost of a garden room. Think about what’s important for your space, or cut them out to keep your spend down. Keep in mind their impact on how you plan to use your room:
- Insulation and double glazing
- Wall thickness
- Professional installation
- Foundation type
- Furnishings and decoration
- Connecting utilities
- Heating and air conditioning
Who sells garden rooms?
DIY retailers, such as Homebase and Wickes, home-furnishing shops, garden centres and dedicated firms and websites sell a wide range of garden rooms between them. To make sure you’re buying a garden room that’s well built and safe, shop with trusted sellers online or in-store.
Ideally you’ll be able to look at a fully constructed garden room, like the one you're planning, so you can get a feel for it. It that’s not possible, make sure you have detailed plans or find out as much as you can before you buy.
Where to put a garden room or summer house
The size of your garden and any trees and features, such as ponds, will affect where you can put your garden room.
We spoke to Which? members who have garden rooms* and garden room retailers for their tips on placing a summer house.
Think from the inside out, advises Sue Phillips, sales and marketing director at SMART, which makes purpose-built garden offices and rooms. ‘People design their room from the outside, when in fact you should always design from the inside. To start, think where is the best place in the garden to place it and where you want to sit to get the best views. From there you can work out the best places for the doors and windows.’
Which? members suggest:
'Mark out the space you’re planning for it to occupy with bamboo canes in your garden so you can see what it would look like. Stand inside as well as outside to visualise what it will look like and what your view will be.'
'Look at where the sun is in your garden both in summer, winter, morning and afternoon to decide where you want to put it.'
'Putting it as far away from the house as possible ensures it feels like a separate space.'
Glass garden rooms vs wooden garden rooms
Solid wood was the most popular material for garden rooms, when we asked owners – 79% said theirs was built out of this. Choosing a natural material may help it blend in more with its surroundings in your garden, as well as giving it a different feel to your house.
Cedar and redwood are popular choices. Wood needs treating and staining to preserve its colour and keep it in good condition.
Wood composite is also an option. It doesn’t need regular painting or staining, so is lower maintenance.
Brick-built rooms are the most sturdy and will feel more similar to your main home than other materials. It will be built from scratch – whereas you can buy ready-made wood and wood composite rooms – so may take longer to construct.
Contemporary garden rooms
For a modern feel, consider the shape, design and use of materials.
Many garden buildings are square or rectangular, but spherical and corner designs are also available. Opting for a flat or pitched roof will also change the character of your room.
Large windows, sliding or bi-fold doors or a glass wall will let in lots of light and help integrate it with your garden.
When you’re choosing materials, look at whether they’re sustainably sourced or recycled.
Insulated garden rooms and heating
Keeping your space warm enough in winter and cool enough in summer is crucial in determining how much you’ll use it.
The location – including whether it’s in full sun or in a shaded spot – plays a part in how warm it gets in summer. It’s possible to install air conditioning to keep the space cool, if you wish.
To use your room year-round, look for insulation, double glazing and some form of heating. Higher-spec rooms often come with oil radiators.
How much value does a summer house add to your home?
Garden rooms, loft conversions, side and rear extensions and complete redecoration are the projects most likely to add most value to your home, according to Savills estate agents in October 2020.
Adding extra living space in your garden is a pricey investment, so think carefully if you plan to sell your home soon. Estate agents generally expect house prices to be flat in UK regions in 2021 after the end of the stamp duty holiday in March.
You won’t know your buyers’ taste, so if you’re considering adding a garden room with a view to selling, consult an estate agent to get their opinion on whether it’s worth it.
Our garden room research
*In September 2020 we surveyed 11,539 Which? members about garden rooms, including 1,264 people who own one.