When planning for a summerhouse, there are several key factors to consider, regardless of design. Planning ahead properly can save delays and expense and ensure you have a legal structure that will need no alteration. Oak summerhouses differ from orangeries and oak framed garden rooms, being freestanding buildings rather than extensions to an existing structure. A summerhouse can provide a peaceful, quiet space to enjoy your garden alone or with family, protected from the elements. It can also serve a more practical purpose, for example as an oak framed home office, workspace or studio away from distractions and noise. Whatever the intended purpose, the following elements should be addressed before buying and building to make the process as simple as possible.
1. Size and Location
There are no hard and fast rules governing the size of a summerhouse, the only real limit is the space available to build it. Consider the purpose and the amount of people that will be using it at a given time. For a one person oak framed garden office, a small oak summerhouse will suffice. If it is to be used as a family dining area, space for entertaining friends or a home gym, a larger footprint will be necessary. As the point of a summerhouse is to enjoy your garden views in comfort, covering most of it with a large outbuilding really defeats the purpose. It is helpful to keep a clear space of at least 18” around the outside to allow easy installation and maintenance access. It is also customary to build a summerhouse in a fairly shaded area to avoid overheating, particularly for glazed designs.
The design and style of your summerhouse is mainly down to personal taste, although how you plan to use it will also play a part. There are a huge variety of oak framed summerhouse kits available, and these can be finished however you wish. Floor to ceiling glazing can be used on one or more walls or large skylights included for optimum lighting. Alternatively, a half-glazed structure with brick or oak cladding on the lower walls incorporates natural colours and textures to complement its surroundings. If you have a more individual design in mind, find a reputable timber merchant that offers a bespoke design service. They will be able to manufacture a unique oak frame incorporating all the features you require for the perfect summerhouse.
Since deep foundations are only necessary in areas of soil with a very low weight bearing capacity they will not be needed. Although oak is a relatively heavy material for a building frame, summerhouses are hardly large structures. If in doubt, consult a local authority building control officer or an independent Approved Inspector. As long as the base is solid flat and level, no problems should be encountered. For more permanent structures, especially larger ones, a solid concrete base is preferable, but this will be more expensive. Paving slabs are a cheaper option and easier to lay for less experienced DIYers and are fine for smaller structures. The base should be larger than the footprint of the building as it will be supporting the walls and preventing contact between the oak frame and the ground. Despite its famous water resistance, oak in permanent contact with ground surfaces will eventually absorb moisture and rot, weakening the structure. The company supplying your summerhouse frame will be able to provide advice on suitable foundations for the size of structure you are erecting.
While you could purchase the individual timbers and construct your summerhouse from scratch, this creates unnecessary work. For those unfamiliar with oak construction techniques the end result could be unstable and dangerous. By purchasing an oak summerhouse kit, whether bespoke or from an existing range, these risks are eliminated. The frame elements will be constructed off site by experienced staff and delivered ready for assembly. This can then be erected with the minimum of fuss, completing the basic frame in as little time as possible, ready for finishing. Care should be taken with any glazed panels installed afterwards and heavy frame components should not be lifted without assistance.
5. Electrical Supply
Connecting your summerhouse to mains electricity is not mandatory, but if it is to be used as a work area or office it is recommended. It is worth considering for lighting at least if you plan to use the summerhouse in the evening as a family room or a space for entertaining others. Although the work is straightforward, it must be carried out by an electrician approved under the Part P Electrical Competent Person Scheme. All electrical work must conform to the IEE wiring regulations and BS 7671 and the local building control department must be notified.
6. Planning Permission
In most cases a summerhouse will not need Planning Permission, but there are exceptions. If the building covers half of the garden, is not for domestic use or is over 3 metres high with a pent roof or 4 metres high with an apex roof it is liable. If a summerhouse is within 2 metres of a boundary and over 2.5 metres high it will also require planning permission. A summerhouse nearer to a public highway (any road or footpath with a public right of way) than the original dwelling is also subject to planning permission. If any of these factors potentially apply, contact your Local Authority Building Authority for clarification. Violating these rules could result in fines, prosecution and enforced demolition.
Hardwoods Group have a wide range of gazebos, summerhouses and garden rooms designed with strength and style in mind. These can be supplied as kits for ease of construction that still allow the addition of extra details for a personalised design. We also offer a bespoke design service for those seeking a truly unique addition to their home. Designed by you and our expert staff, these will meet your exact requirements, whatever they may be. Contact us to discuss your needs, we will be happy to help.
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