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Buyers guide to garden buildings

Ten tips that will help you choose the best garden building

Buyers guide to garden buildingsFrom garden office to summer house to games room, an extra space in the garden can transform your family or working life. But to get the most pleasure and utility out of a garden building, you need to consider various practical details. Read the ten tips below to ensure you make the right choice.

1. Size

A cabin should be big enough to evolve with your needs - for example, to go from children's playhouse to entertaining space. But it shouldn't be out of proportion to the rest of the garden, create too much shade, or be more space than you can furnish. To help visualise how a building will sit within your garden use tent pegs or canes to mark out its dimensions (you'll find a building plan, complete with measurements, on every product page). If you need some inspiration relating to garden design, check out some of our different garden plans for summer houses and garden buildings.

2. Log thickness

Log thicknessWe have a detailed timber wall thickness guide to help you choose the best log thickness for your garden, but if you plan to only use a building on summer days, then timber up to 28mm thick should be fine. For summer evenings or spring days, 34mm timber should be sufficient, but for all-year-round use, look for 44mm or preferably 70mm logs. Each product page on this website features a series of helpful icons - the log thickness is always shown in millimetres (mm).

3. Windows

Glazing typeAgain, choose windows according to how you plan to use a building. Plexiglass windows keep costs down, but offer less insulation than glass. Single glazing is warm enough for summer and spring, but double glazing provides more warmth for all-year-round cabins. As with log thickness, each of our products has an icon that shows the window type (plexi glass, single glazed, double glazed or double glazed+). GardenLife also offer different styles of window (such as large single panel, divided panels and tilt and turn opening mechanisms) so feel free to check the options when you place your order over the phone.

4. Longevity

The type of timber used for a garden building affects how long it will last. Slow-grown timbers are denser than fast-growing trees, so are more durable. Other details also boost longevity: for example, using laminated wood for doorframes, and pressure-treating foundation joists. Also ensure you check the size of the roof purlins; if you want to invest in a garden building that can be enjoyed for decades to come, ensure you pick a building that has thicker roof purlins running from apex to apex (it's a straightforward mark of quality and durability). GardenLife always use slow grown Nordic spruce to ensure quality and longevity, and each of our product descriptions list other product specific advantages.

5. Doors

Door dimensionsThese make a big difference to how practical a cabin is. With storage spaces, it's essential to get bikes or garden equipment in and out easily, so look at door width, and the option of double doors. With a garage, would front-opening doors or up-and-over doors suit you better? As with windows, each product page features an icon that specifies the door dimensions, and we also offer a range of different door types (such as solid wood or large glazed panel); just tell us your preference when ordering.

6. Roof angle and flooring

Roof gradient and areaIf the gradient of the roof is very different to other nearby buildings, then your cabin may not blend in well. Try to get a rough match in terms of roof gradients. For your convenience the icons displayed at the foot of every product page show the total roof height, the height to the overhang (if applicable) and also the exact gradient and size in square meters. As with log thickness, thicker ceiling and floor manterial is best for all year use, whereas thinner material is fine just for summer.

7. Sustainability

FSC CertifiedIf you want to buy timber with a clear conscience, knowing you're not damaging forests and the wildlife that live in them, look for garden buildings with the FSC-certified icon. The timber for these products will come from sustainable and well-managed sources.

8. Planning permission

As mentioned in our detailed planning guide, this varies across the whole of the UK, but if you plan to have a garden building within 2m of your boundary, and it is over 2.5m high, you will need to seek planning permission before you erect it (however, we have a range of buildings that are all 2.5m (or less) in height). If you plan to connect your garden building to mains electricity or live in a log cabin sited in a wood (even if you own the wood) you will need to seek planning permission.

9. Construction

Not all of us are DIY enthusiasts with time on our hands. So check out how easy it will be to construct the garden building that you buy. Is it designed to be built by someone with DIY skills? Does it need specialist equipment, or is professional installation recommended? GardenLife products always clearly state if they can be built with DIY tools or if professional installation is required. If you're looking for more straightforward construction, much of our modern garden building range feature pre-assembled wall and roof elements; ideal for a hassle free build. As a rule, most of our garden buildings can be erected by two people with a decent level of DIY experience and a basic tool kit, and it's only the large chalet style buildings and log cabin homes that require professional installation. If you'd like GardenLife to build your cabin just get in touch for a quote.

10. Budget

Obviously, we have cabins and garden buildings to suit all budgets, but check out exactly what you will get for your money - there can be lots of variation. GardenLife products always come with free delivery within mainland UK and come complete with a 5 year warranty and all fixtures and fittings, so you don't need to worry about that. However, to make some of our products more affordable some items don't include floors (ideal for positioning on existing concrete or paved surfaces) and to keep costs down some don't come with roofing material (allowing you to finish the building your own way). Also, many of the more expensive models (made from 70mm timber with double glazed windows) are also available in a similar design but with thinner (and cheaper) timber and single glazing. If you'd like to buy a great quality garden building and your budget is limited it's always worth checking out our special offers!

There are lots of pointers to consider here, and we'd be delighted to discuss any of them with you if you're not sure which garden building is best for you.