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The New Arrival

Date Published 01 November 2021

Our family is very excited after months of waiting the latest addition to our home will soon be with us. After much planning and preparing and we will soon be proud owners of a Garden Room!

During lockdown we found two adults & two teens living in close quarters was a little challenging. The living room was claimed as an office by my husband, the kids were fighting over the TV and who got to use the box room to revise and I just needed a little peace away from them all (why on earth did we go for open plan living!). We could not extend the house any further so I started trawling the internet and was surprised to find out how versatile garden rooms or studios (as some people call them) are.

These are not oversize sheds, we are talking proper buildings fit to use all year round, and without the need for planning permission we will soon have a comfortable space, fully insulated, with bi-fold doors, underfloor heating, a wood burning stove all complete with electricity and internet. Best of it will only take about 3 weeks from start to finish and won't be nearly as disruptive as having builders in the house.

The brief for this space was a part time office for husband, a den for the teens and their friends to hang out in and an entertaining space complete with a bar for me and friends to meet for what we like to call ‘Book Club'. The contractor did not think this was extraordinary ask explaining he's dealt with clients wanting all sorts from dance floors with glitter balls, gyms with hot tubs, home cinemas, artist studios and even a home games arcade - he's built them all. I am super excited however, I do wonder will it open a whole new can of worms as we all clamber to use it leaving the house somewhat redundant?

Here's some useful info before considering if this might be for you:

The majority of garden rooms fall within permitted development rights, so you won't need planning permission. You may need planning permission if you want a building higher than 2.5m, or are building in a conservation area or in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Check with your local council and consult the Planning Portal for guidance.

Garden rooms are classed as outbuildings and don't require building regulations approval if the internal footprint is less than 15m2 and contains no sleeping accommodation.

Want something bigger? Typically, you won't need approval if your proposed garden room measures between 15m2 and 30 m2, contains no sleeping accommodation, is at least 1m away from any boundary or built using non-combustible materials.

Planning permission must be gained for any outbuilding that is used for overnight accommodation. Many local authorities are very cautious about the building becoming a stand-alone residence. In all cases, the services must run from the main and conditions are usually imposed that the new building cannot be sold off separately or let to non family members.

Most garden rooms don't need a water supply, but if you want to include a bathroom, there are some extra steps to follow. The groundworks from the house to the garden room need to be fully compliant with building regulations, and should be signed off by building control.

Electrical work must always meet building regulations. Use an electrician who's registered with a government-approved scheme to make sure your wiring is safe and compliant.

If you don't want to spend a long time maintaining your garden room, avoid timber windows and doors as they need frequent applications of paint or varnish. Consider using aluminium windows and doors, they offer a stylish finish, don't deteriorate in colour and don't warp or move once installed. Featuring a large piece of glazing to the front of the garden room such as bi-fold or sliding doors allows light into the building and enables the room to be opened up to the garden in the summer months and the addition of one small opening window on the rear or side walls allows extra ventilation.

Keep your garden room from overheating by using glass that's been treated with a solar-reflective coating or install blinds. Alternatively, consider an overhang or add a veranda to the front of the garden room to get some shade.

Sarah O'Brien