Building a garden room is a great way to improve your garden and add more space to your home without paying for a costly extension. And with so many people now working from home, a garden room could be the perfect space for you to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet while you work.
Having a separate living space in your garden will provide work-life balance if you’re sick of working from your bedroom or dining room. Or, if you’re hoping to improve your physical or mental wellbeing, having a gym or entertainment/relaxation space in your garden would be ideal.
Overall, it will be much cheaper and faster to build a small garden room rather than adding an extension to your home. However, to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your money, you need to follow some simple steps to reduce costs as much as possible.
Here’s how you can build your garden room on a budget:
Check if you need planning permission
Before you get started, you need to make sure that your garden room ideas are actually viable. Not having planning permission could be disastrous if you’ve already started building your garden room, as you’ll have to tear it down again. This will be a huge waste of time and money.
Luckily, most people in the UK won’t need planning permission to build a garden room. This is because garden rooms are classed as outbuildings, which have permitted development rights. Therefore, you can build structures like summerhouses, garages, log cabins, garden rooms and sheds without applying for planning permission from your local council.
However, there are a few conditions you need to follow to ensure that your garden room has permitted development rights:
- It’s built in your back garden (these buildings can’t be placed in front of your home).
- You don’t live in a listed building or an area of outstanding natural beauty, as these properties or locations have stricter rules.
- Your garden room is single storey and less than 3 metres high (or 4 metres with a dual-pitched roof).
- It isn’t self-contained living accommodation.
- The total area of extensions and outbuildings (including your garden room) doesn’t exceed more than 50% of the total area of land around your house.
As long as your garden room follows these rules, you shouldn’t have to apply for planning permission. This means you won’t waste money building a structure that’ll need to be taken down again!
Plan the location of your garden room
Next, you can get started on actually planning your project. The first step is to choose the right location in your garden.
Choosing the right location for your garden room can help you save a bit of extra cash. For example, if you choose an area that’s already completely level, you won’t have to waste time, effort and resources levelling out a patch of your garden.
Another thing to pay attention to is any obstacles that might be in your way, such as trees, electrical wiring or underground pipes. Removing or accidentally damaging these items could end up costing you quite a bit of money, so choosing a flat, clear area of your garden is the best way to make construction as simple and budget-friendly as possible. Make sure you keep on top of garden maintenance so you can see plenty of clear spots where you could build your garden room.
Plan the design of your garden room
The design of your garden room can have a huge impact on its cost. Complex designs can be tricky to construct and therefore more expensive, but simple designs are ideal when you’re on a budget.
Therefore, we would recommend sticking to a basic box-style design with one door and a couple of windows. This will give your garden room the same sort of look and feel as a summerhouse or large shed. Plus, having a box-style garden room in one area of your outdoor space can make your garden look bigger by establishing separate zones.
Use cheaper materials
For each stage of construction, make sure you use cheaper materials so you can maximise your savings. Even if you’re not paying attention to the cost of one element, this could add up and end up making a huge difference to the overall cost of your garden room.
Let’s look at the main parts of your garden room and where you can make savings:
Before you construct the rest of the garden room, you need to set down a solid, strong foundation to support the rest of the structure. A good foundation will keep your garden room level, stable and resistant to adverse weather conditions.
The most cost-effective foundation materials include concrete blocks and ground screws. Concrete blocks are extremely strong and will ensure that your structure is completely level. A poured concrete base is also fantastic, but it’s more expensive. Ground screws are a great option if you can’t use concrete (e.g. your garden room is on a slight incline), and an added benefit is that they’ll facilitate airflow under the building and help prevent damp.
Once your foundation is set and ready, you can get started on the rest of the structure. Garden rooms typically have a timber frame with exterior cladding, so make sure you choose budget-friendly materials for both of these elements.
Softwood timber is cheaper than hardwood timber, so this may be a better option if you’re on a budget. For exterior cladding, we would recommend tongue-and-groove and shiplap cladding rather than cedar or larch, which are more expensive.
The cheapest option is to not have any internal walls at all, but if you need to divide your outbuilding into multiple rooms, you should probably go for OSB (oriented strand board) sheets rather than plasterboard. This will help you keep costs down.
Pitched roofs can be more aesthetically pleasing and weather-resistant, but one major issue is that they’re expensive to install. If saving money (and time) is your top priority, you should opt for a flat roof instead. As long as it’s properly installed and features a slight slope to allow rainwater to drain away, it should be robust enough to last many years.
Standard uPVC casement or sash windows are a popular choice for garden rooms. This is because they’re inexpensive, robust and long-lasting. Plus, uPVC windows are very secure due to their strong frames, which means you can keep valuables in your garden room (such as your work computer) without worrying. Custom designs and materials like hardwood will be much more expensive, so it’s best to stick to simple uPVC windows you can buy off the shelf if you want to save money.
Most people prefer glass doors for garden rooms because they provide plenty of natural light and allow you to look straight into your garden. Plus, they’ll also direct a lot of artificial light into your garden, which can help deter unwanted animals like foxes. If you want a glass door, it’s best to opt for standard french doors rather than sliding or bifolding doors, as this is a more budget-friendly option. Again, uPVC is a great material if you’re on a budget.
To save money on flooring, you should choose linoleum or vinyl flooring instead of timber or stone. Lino and vinyl can create the look of wood or stone flooring without the extra cost.
If you’re hoping to use your garden room in the winter, you’ll need to install insulation. Insulation boards can be rather expensive, so a cheaper option could be rolls of wool insulation or fibreglass insulation. If you choose fibreglass, make sure you wear safety gloves, goggles and a mask because this material is very toxic.
Use second-hand materials
Wherever possible, it’s best to use second-hand materials rather than buying new ones. By buying second-hand, you can find some amazing deals and complete your garden room for a fraction of the cost. Ask your friends, family and neighbours if they have any spare materials you could use, or use sites like Facebook Marketplace to look online. You could find all sorts of things second-hand, including doors, windows, building materials, driveway gates and office furniture.
Another great money-saving tip is to do some of the work yourself. This could involve smaller tasks like clearing out the garden, furnishing the garden room and painting the exterior and interior walls, but if you have some DIY skills, you could try installing your own windows and doors.
Doing the tasks yourself wherever possible is a fantastic way to save money, but don’t take on more than you’re comfortable with. If you save money on other things during construction, you’ll feel better about hiring professionals for difficult jobs like pouring a concrete foundation, installing a roof or getting electricity fitted.
Internet and electricity
Unless you’re also an electrician, you should hire a professional to sort out electricity in your garden room. A separate circuit will have to be connected to the mains supply in your house with an underground cable, so you could potentially dig the trench yourself before the electrician installs the cable if you want to save some money.
Connecting to the Internet is usually much simpler. If your garden room is close enough to your house, you could buy a WiFi extender to amplify the wireless connection so that you can connect from your garden room. Otherwise, you’ll need to install an ethernet cable underground alongside your electricity cable to connect to the router inside your home. Therefore, building your garden room close to your house can help you save a bit of time and money.