We all sometimes crave our own space even when we’re at home. Perhaps you’re after a retreat where you can pursue the dream of writing that first novel (Philip Pullman penned part of the His Dark Materials trilogy in his shed), a quiet place to play your drums loud, or maybe you’d like to lounge in your own private spa, complete with hot tub. The solution to all these could lie at the end of your garden.
Choosing an outbuilding
The kind of structure you need very much depends on how you’re going to use it and whether you want a basic summer house or a year-round room. For general storage of garden equipment, a children’s summer playroom, or hobbies that don’t require much natural light, such as stargazing through a telescope or setting up your beloved model railway set, an old-fashioned shed should do you just fine.
If you want something that you can sit in comfortably in winter too, it’ll need added insulation, total weatherproofing, rain and wind-resistant walls and a strong damp-proof floor. A log cabin could be the answer. Although pricier than a normal shed, it’s more cost-effective than adding an extension to your home and a lot less hassle.
You could even create an entertainment centre in your log cabin, such as a home cinema complete with a wall-to-wall plasma TV and popcorn maker – it’s also the perfect place to house a sauna. With wireless broadband, it is easier than ever to work in your garden room.
However, remember that things become a little more complicated for outside buildings requiring a hot and cold water supply and electricity. For instance, you will need to run a feed from the consumer unit in the main house to have electricity in your outbuilding. Ask a qualified electrician and plumber to visit your home and advise you on the feasibility of your project before you buy the cabin or outbuilding.
Do I need planning permission?
Planning permission isn’t normally required for garden buildings, which is what makes them so popular, but there are exceptions. You will need planning permission for:
- A building for permanent accommodation – full building regulations could well apply too.
- If you live in a listed building or conservation area, regardless of how you will be using the building or shed.
- Structures that are more than four metres high or one metre or less from boundary limit
- The structure is more than 10% of the floor area of your house.
Check your insurance cover
While your buildings insurance will normally cover any outbuildings, it’s worth contacting your insurer to check whether the sum insured covers the cost of rebuilding the structure. You will also need to update your contents insurance to take into account furniture and any other items in the outbuilding – bicycles may need separate cover, so check this with your insurer. You should advise your insurer if expensive items are kept in sheds/outbuildings e.g. home cinemas, telescopes etc, as they may not always be covered otherwise. If you intend using the building as a home office, find out if you are allowed to do so under your insurance policy and whether your equipment is fully covered.
A few basic security measures such as fitting heavy duty padlocks on sheds, locks to doors and maybe even windows could well be needed to validate your contents insurance too, and you could think about improving the general security of your garden by installing security lighting or prickly bushes at boundaries to deter intruders. After all, you don’t want anyone to disturb you while you’re tucked away in your own private slice of heaven.