High moving costs have encouraged many people to expand their existing property rather than buy a larger home. But what if you’ve build up, build onto and even built down? Maybe a garden office or studio is the solution?

In terms of cost, it must be the cheapest option. A good-quality, 20’ by 15’ garden office can be purchased for less than £10,000, including installation (smaller garden rooms can be bought for as little as £1,000). 

Compare that to the £100,000 plus price tag for a basement conversion.

 

It’s easier too

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Garden offices can be installed in less than a week—so no endless dust, annoyed neighbours, pneumatic drills or disappearing builders. In addition, the planning laws are now far more relaxed.

You should, of course, always contact your local authority to be sure—some are more pernickety than others. But, roughly speaking, here’s what you need to know:

  • Most garden offices fall under permitted development. In other words, you don’t need planning permission
  • Provided your structure is less than 2.5 metres high, it can occupy up to 50 per cent of your garden. You can include your front and side gardens in this calculation
  • Your garden office must be located in your back garden unless you obtain planning permission to do otherwise
  • Broadly speaking, the same rules apply in conservation areas. However, if you own a listed building, you will need full planning permission to install a garden office

Read more: The evolution of office spaces

 

What’s the catch?

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These are daytime structures only. As they are not subject to building regulations, they are not fitted with appropriate fire safety devices. Remember, these are timber-built structures and are more likely to catch fire.

Whilst we would not condone sleeping in such a structure, it’s bound to happen from time to time—when the house is full or when the kids are nagging you. So, be sensible, fit mains-powered smoke detectors with battery backup and install a fire extinguisher.

Read more: How to create a home office

 

Do garden offices add value?

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The answer is yes and no. If they’re well maintained, they could hugely improve your quality of life. For some, starting a business without one would have been almost impossible. For others, it can provide a much-needed sanctuary—Roald Dahl famously wrote in his books in his garden shed. And, to some prospective buyers, garden offices will be a selling point.

On the downside, they are definitely depreciating assets, similar to caravans—over time they will deteriorate, no matter how well they are looked after.

Read more: Surprising ways sheds are changing retired men’s lives

 

How do I get started?

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This is when the fun begins. There are numerous companies vying for your business and hundreds of different designs. So do some window-shopping, online initially. 

Once you have a shortlist, make a handful of appointments. Treat it like you would any big decision: go with the company that most impresses you. And, ideally, don’t pay the full balance until it’s fully installed and functioning.

A final tip: if you’re thinking of using your garden office all year around, choose one that’s super insulated. It will be money well spent.

 

Read more from Ned Browne

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