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Our New Garden Rooms
(Under 12m2) Specification

This article is about our former summerhouse specification, which has since been replaced by our brand-new Garden Rooms (under 12m2). It's worthwhile reading, but to jump straight to learning more about the new spec, click on!

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By Amy Hanlon on 04 Jun 2023

Summerhouse, Conservatory or Garden Room: what is the difference?


Summerhouse! Conservatory! Garden Room! So many ways to add value to your home, so little time!

Whatever it is you need more space for, you have tons of options to choose from. But which one do you need?

Which one is within your budget?

Let’s take a look at summerhouses, conservatories and garden rooms to see what suits you best. 

Summerhouse, Conservatory or Garden Room: what can you use them for?

So, first of all, let’s think about what you can use these different types of buildings for…

What can you use a summerhouse for?

Summerhouses are charming buildings that allow you to make the most of your garden. While you can use a summerhouse for a home office or to house a hobby, many people use them as sitooteries – a comfortable space to sit in, relax, and enjoy the lovely surroundings. 

Timber summerhouses are generally single-skinned buildings made using one layer of timber cladding attached to a frame. They can be lined and insulated to make them more comfortable and to extend their use into the colder months. 

Summerhouse Advantages

A summerhouse:

  • adds aesthetic and financial value to your home.
  • is the least expensive of the three building types discussed here.
  • can be installed in almost any garden.
  • can be used in the warmer months.
  • can be used for a range of different purposes, within reason.
  • allows you to enjoy your garden in the warm weather.

Summerhouse Disadvantages

A summerhouse:

  • has to be maintained to protect the timber and to prevent mould and condensation.
  • is the least sturdy of these three building types.
  • provides the least protection from the elements. 
  • may give fewer options for customisation.
  • isn’t designed for year-round use.

What can you use a conservatory for?

A conservatory is a structure that attaches as an extension to your existing home, it’s made mainly of glass to let in plenty of sunlight. Just like in a greenhouse, all that sunlight heats up the conservatory, making it an ideal place to bask during the warm summer months. 

As well as being a cosy space to enjoy the warm weather, a conservatory is an extension of the existing living space, adding an extra room to your home. You can furnish and enjoy a conservatory in any way you choose.

A lean-to conservatory from EYG Windows

Conservatory Advantages

A conservatory:

  • adds aesthetic and financial value to your house.
  • integrates into your home.
  • creates more living space.
  • Is completely water- and wind-proof,
  • allows you to enjoy warm weather
  • can be used all year round.
  • has a life expectancy of around 25 years (dependent on quality.)

Conservatory Disadvantages

A conservatory:

  • is a significant investment.
  • can be chilly in winter and too warm in summer, as glass is a poor insulator.
  • needs regular cleaning and maintenance to extend its life.
  • can have problems with condensation.

What can you use a garden room for?

A garden room is a separate detached building in your garden, like a summerhouse. 

However, unlike a summerhouse, a garden room is fully compliant with building control regulations and is essentially like an extension – independent of your home.

With tiered walls that have several layers, it’s just as solid, watertight and habitable as your home. It can have all the comforts and amenities you’d expect in a house: electrics, heating, flooring – the lot!

Think of it as an extra wee (or not-so-wee) house in your garden.

You can use a garden room as a spare bedroom, a workshop or a garden office. It’s the most versatile of these three building types by far. You can install a home gym, create an art studio, or run a business there – the possibilities are endless. 

A small apex garden room painted pale blue. It has double patio doors and three floor to ceiling casement windows. There is a hanging basket and decorative lantern outside.
A Blackstone Garden Room in our Show Area

Garden Room Advantages

A garden room:

  • adds aesthetic and financial value to your home.
  • can add power, lighting, heating, and furnishings.
  • is completely water- and wind-proof.
  • is fully lined and insulated, allowing for temperature control.
  • can be used for a wide variety of purposes.
  • is completely separate from the rest of your home.
  • has a life expectancy of at least 25 years (dependent on quality).

Garden Room Disadvantages

A garden room:

  • is a significant investment.
  • needs re-painted or treated every few years.
  • is completely separate from the rest of your home.
  • can be low-quality, which impacts its lifespan.

Summerhouse, Conservatory or Garden Room: How much do they cost

No! Cost is not the most important thing, but it is still important, and let’s face it, it’s going to impact which building you choose.

How much does a summerhouse cost?

You can buy a low-quality summerhouse for around £700. Luxury summerhouses can cost around £25,000, but there are plenty of options in between these two budgets.

Our Summerhouse Calculator gives an overview of how much you can expect to spend on a summerhouse, and what you’ll get for your money at each price point.

How much does a conservatory cost?

Because it’s a home extension, a conservatory costs a whole lot more than a summerhouse. Prices range from around £10,000 to £40,000 or more. As with all of these building types, the size, shape and individual requirements of each make it difficult to say how much your project will cost without talking to the company that will build them.

How much does a garden room cost?

You can buy a low-quality composite garden room for around £3000, but the longevity of these buildings is questionable, to say the least. If you want a solid, watertight structure that will last, this will cost between £10,000 and £60,000.

Cost isn’t always an indicator of quality, so make sure that any buildings you consider have layered walls, a cavity gap and a decent layer of insulation.

At the higher end of the price range, garden rooms can be completely bespoke and made to fit your needs, and this is reflected in the price tag.

Summerhouse, Conservatory or Garden Room: Do you need planning permission?

Ah, the old planning chestnut. The bane of your life – but it doesn’t have to be.

Does a summerhouse need planning permission?

Summerhouses fall under permitted development, so it’s unlikely that you’ll need planning permission. 

People are often overwhelmed by the thought of planning permission and regulations. However, in the vast majority of cases installing a summerhouse doesn’t involve any of this paperwork. 

If it does, your summerhouse company can advise you and may even offer a service where they deal with the application process. 

Does a conservatory need planning permission?

In most cases, a conservatory won’t need planning permission, as it also falls under permitted development. If the floor area is smaller than 8m2 it won’t need a building warrant either. 

However, you should always check with your conservatory company as each project is different. A responsible firm will provide advice and again, may even offer a planning permission application service. 

Does a garden room need planning permission?

Yep, you’ve guessed it – permitted development. Exceptions to these rules are explained here in our handy guide to planning permission. 

There are other considerations depending on what you’re going to use your garden room for. For example, if you want a mains water supply in your garden room you’ll need a building warrant. 

Again, your garden room company will be able to advise you on what applies to your individual project.

Watch: What’s the difference between planning permission and building control?

Should I choose a summerhouse, a conservatory or a garden room?

For most people, the deciding factors are likely to be budget, and whether or not they want their additional living space to be attached to their home or separate. 

If you want some extra space to enjoy your garden without the upheaval of building onto your home or the cost of a garden room, a summerhouse is ideal.

Need extra space to be attached to your home, then a conservatory is a more affordable option than a built extension and is perfect for enjoying the sun. 

If you want all the comforts of your home in a dedicated, separate space, you don’t want to deal with condensation, and budget isn’t a problem, a garden room is perfect for you.

All of these buildings add value to your home, as well as being exciting additions to your life. What are you going to do in your new extra space?

Further reading:

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