You probably know by now that not all summerhouses are created equal. When you ask yourself, “How long does a summerhouse last?” you’re aware that this is a complicated question.
Depending on your location, the specification of the building and the aftercare it receives, a summerhouse may last as little as 3-5 years, but may also still be going strong after 30 years.
We’re going to discuss the factors that impact how long a summerhouse lasts, so you have a clear idea of how to set your budget and decide on the right summerhouse for you.
These factors are:
Does my location affect how long a summerhouse will last?
Does it ever! I think this print from Lighthouse Lane tells us everything we need to know:
If you live in Scotland, you know what it’s like here. A friend of mine once came to visit from Canada and was horrified at having to buy a cosy hoodie in August to protect himself from the freezing temperatures and driving rain. The only thing you can reliably predict about Scottish weather is that it’s unpredictable and highly changeable.
Why does this impact your summerhouse? Well, since timber is a natural material, it is affected by changes in temperature and moisture. These changes can cause the wood to change shape and let in water, neither of which add up to a happy, long-lasting summerhouse. Since wet and changeable is Scottish weather in a nutshell, if you want your summerhouse to last in this part of the world, some serious thought needs to go into its design.
As well as the frankly rude amounts of rain and the changes in temperature, we also see a fair amount of driving winds, and if you’re by the coast you’ll be even more susceptible to blowing away on a regular basis.
Simply put, Scottish weather is hard on timber buildings. A cheap mass-produced whitewood summerhouse might do just fine in a French garden, but put one up in a Scottish backies and you’ll find yourself with an expensive pile of firewood in no time at all.
Does the specification affect how long a summerhouse lasts?
And this leads us to specification. The specification affects how much a summerhouse will cost, and it affects how long the building will last. Our Summerhouse Calculator discusses the various different types of specifications in more detail, but here are some of the main points to consider:
What is the summerhouse made from?
Is it whitewood or redwood? This is the first question you need to ask. Whitewood is spruce, and redwood is pine. However, you may need to dig a little deeper.
Sometimes manufacturers claim that their buildings use “No cheap pine.” Cheap pine is absolutely available, and it’s cheap because it’s grown quickly in the UK. Our changeable weather makes for soft, fast-grown porous timber. You can use this to build a summerhouse, but it certainly won’t stay watertight and sturdy for 20-30 years.
The colder and more stable the climate, the more durable the timber. Scandinavian redwood is vastly superior to British redwood, and this will be reflected in the price of the summerhouse.
What roofing material is best for a summerhouse?
If you’re looking for a long-lasting, water-tight building, go for bitumen shingles or steel roofing. Shingles have a lifespan of 15-20 years, and coated steel roofing can last up to 40 years! Felt roofs are cheaper and less reliable, with a lifespan of around 10 years.
Watch out for felt-covered OSB roofs. If the felt fails and water gets through to the OSB, this will swell and retain the water, and it’s extremely hard to dry out again. Soggy summerhouses are NOT what we’re after.
How thick should the timber be on a summerhouse?
Both the framing and the weatherboard of a Scottish summerhouse need to be substantial. 7mm cladding and a 28mm frame are too thin to withstand the water and winds we see around here.
Believe me, I know how hard it can be to find this information online. Many manufacturers and suppliers don’t list it, and their specification pages are full of useless information like “Material: wood.”
But as an informed Sheddie, you need to be asking these questions of your summerhouse supplier if you want to know that their product will last.
If your supplier can’t or won’t answer questions about the type of timber they’re using, or the thickness of the walls, floor, roof or frame, you have to wonder what it is they’re hiding. A reputable supplier will easily be able to give you this information.
How do I look after my summerhouse?
Last but by no means least, a high-spec summerhouse will last a lifetime if it’s looked after and maintained. There is no such thing as a zero-maintenance timber building.
Should I paint my summerhouse?
Yes, Sheddie, YES! Paint protects the timber of your summerhouse from moisture and from UV damage.
Let your building settle for a few weeks after it’s installed before giving it its final coat of paint, and make sure to repaint your building every few years.
We recommend Sadolin for all our timber buildings. Every coat will add a few more years of use to your summerhouse.
Should I air my summerhouse?
That’s another big old yes from us! To prevent condensation causing moisture build-up make sure to air out your summerhouse regularly. This is a key step to preventing mould.
Will a summerhouse need repaired?
Even with the very best specifications sometimes small repairs will be needed to keep your summerhouse in good health. If you’re handy, you can most likely do these repairs yourself. If you buy from a summerhouse company with a guarantee you will be able to ask an expert. Depending on the terms of the guarantee there might be a charge for this maintenance.
You can’t just stick a summerhouse in your garden and expect it to last if you completely ignore it apart from on sunny days. Think of it as a relationship – your building needs a wee bit of love and attention every now and then for that relationship to last.
That’s why our Learning Centre exists. Everything you need to know about Aftercare is detailed in our blog posts to help our Sheddies get the most out of their summerhouses. And by the most, we mean the most years!
What is the lifespan of a summerhouse?
As you can see, this question is difficult to answer with great accuracy. It depends on the location, specification and maintenance of the summerhouse.
If you buy a high-quality building made of sturdy materials designed to withstand the Scottish climate and keep up to date with maintenance, you can expect AT LEAST 20-30 years of good use.
If the materials are cheap, the summerhouse is mass-produced and you don’t go near it from one year to the next, you may find that it lets water in within a year or two, starts to look pretty shabby within 3 years, and becomes a rickety eyesore by about year five.
At G&M, we work to make sure that your timber buildings last a lifetime.
Our specifications and service are geared towards you making a once-in-a-lifetime purchase that will allow you to enjoy your garden for decades to come.
Come and see for yourselves and check out our Show Area. There’s no substitute for seeing our buildings in person. And you can ask anyone there about our specifications. We’re always delighted to answer any questions you may have.
We have plenty more information about summerhouses to help you on your journey: