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Choosing and Building a Summerhouse

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 18 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
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If a garden room brings the outdoors inside, then a summerhouse brings the indoors outside. Imagine being able to enjoy the beauty of an outdoor garden without being affected by inclement weather. One landscaping expert has described the summerhouse as being closely related to the garden shed, but with less junk and more glass. A well-designed summerhouse can become a haven in which you can unwind after work and enjoy the evening sun in cozy comfort. So what's the best way to go about choosing and building a summerhouse?

Choosing a Summerhouse: Primary Considerations

One early decision you will need to make is size. How big or small should your summerhouse be? The answer to this question will be determined by the space available in your garden and by how many people you expect to join you inside. Generally, you probably won't go wrong by getting the largest summerhouse you can afford, as extra space rarely goes unused. The most popular size is 6 feet by 8 feet.

Construction and assembly of your summerhouse will be easier if you can provide at least eighteen inches of clearance on all sides. You'll be thankful for easier access as you maintain the summerhouse in years to come. However, the reality is that most gardens don't have this kind of space, so one or two sides might not need this much clearance.

Don't forget that choosing and building a summerhouse also requires preparing the site on which it will be located. The best solution for providing a firm foundation is solid concrete. It will be more expensive, but is almost a necessity for large summerhouses. Paving slabs can be used for small summerhouses to save money or in areas with limited access. A good base must be square, flat and level, and be a few inches larger than the summerhouse's floor size.

Building a Summerhouse: Choosing Materials

Construction materials vary. The most traditional material is Western Red Cedar, which provides excellent longevity and resistance to insects. However, treated softwood is a suitable alternative and can be painted in shades to match your tastes. Manufacturers have also created summerhouses constructed of PVC. These are usually available in a white or woodgrain finish and have very low maintenance needs.

If you're a DIY enthusiast, you'll be excited to learn that most summerhouses are an excellent DIY project. Most summerhouse kits can be easily assembled with basic tools and a stepladder. It's theoretically possible to build a summerhouse on your own, but the task will be much easier with a partner. One caveat - if you plan to have electricity in your summerhouse, you need to consult a qualified electrician to ensure that wiring is completed according to codes and standards.

Summerhouses and Planning Permission

Speaking of regulations, you may wonder if the process of choosing and building a summerhouse will require planning permission. Most summerhouse additions do not, but you should be aware of the general guidelines. If your summerhouse covers more than half the garden or if you plan to use the space as an office, you will need permission. Any flat-roofed structure over three metres high requires permission (the maximum for apex roofs in four metres). If the location of your summerhouse puts it closer to a public highway than your dwelling, you will need planning permission. You should consider that the term "highway" can include a footpath with public right of way. Of course, your best course of action is to contact planning authorities and determine whether or not your summerhouse needs permission. A better option would be to make one phone call than having to dismantle your summerhouse later.

A summerhouse can contribute a great deal of usefulness and enjoyment to your garden. Whether it becomes a place of quiet reflection and retreat or an upscale storage building for your essential outdoor tools, it will make your garden more livable. By taking a little extra care when choosing and building a summerhouse, you can maximize enjoyment and utility for years to come.

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