Featured image for “Should I buy a summerhouse or a garden room?”

Among the critical questions to ask yourself in the first full working week of 2024, don’t forget, “Should I buy a summerhouse or a garden room?”

What? Garden buildings aren’t even on your radar yet? You’re more concerned about how your work clothes have mysteriously shrunk during the holiday season? You haven’t even been in your garden beyond nipping out to the shed to pick up a cold bottle of something or other?

I get it. Honestly, I do. But the fact remains – the best time of year to buy a garden building isn’t Summer 2024. It’s right now. 

Start the process in January. Place your order in late January or early February. Get your base sorted out and before you know it the building will be up, ready for furniture and the cosy wee touches that will make it a perfect place to spend the lazy summer days. 

Year after year we see the same thing. Sensible Sheddies are already thinking about their perfect garden building at the start of the year. They have a stress-free buying process, with no hiccups or hurdles, and they enjoy their building all summer long. 

Then there’s the summer Sheddies. They get excited by the bonny weather, start spending more time outside, and realise a garden building is just what they need.

But by that point, our lead time is at least a couple of months, and by the time the building is installed and ready for summer, it’s, well, not summer anymore. 

Suddenly that question is starting to feel a wee bit more urgent, right? Should you buy a summerhouse or a garden room?

Do I need a summerhouse or a garden room?

We sell garden rooms, and we don’t sell summerhouses. But, our number one priority is making sure that you find what you need in these blogs. And you may not need a garden room. However, you should know exactly what you’re getting with each building type before you make a decision.

Is a summerhouse the same as a garden room?

Annoyingly, when you Google either summerhouses or garden rooms, both names are used interchangeably, even though these buildings are not the same. Then there’s log cabins, which are also in the mix, and which are different once again.

A summerhouse is (usually) a single-skinned timber building which is intended for seasonal use. As the name suggests, it’s at its best in the summer. It’s designed for use when it’s warm and relatively dry. 

Single-skinned summerhouses are essentially sheds with windows. They are decorative buildings which enhance your garden’s appearance while allowing you to enjoy their shelter and comfort on warm summer days. 

The key feature here is the single skin of timber cladding which forms the walls and roof of the building

This feature is also what makes the building suitable for seasonal use only. Because when it’s -3 on a chilly April morning, no matter how sunny it is, a single-skinned building is going to be freezing cold inside. Even with a heater, the building isn’t insulated well enough to use all year round. 

But if you’re looking for a building that you’re going to use in the summer months only, a summerhouse is a perfect purchase. Be aware, however, that single-skinned timber buildings need year-round maintenance to keep them at their best. 

What kind of maintenance does a summerhouse need?

A man painting a timber panel with pale green paint. He is wearing a white t-shirt with a "Shedonism" logo on the back.

A summerhouse’s best defence against the weather is a good coat of paint. This is true whether you buy a cheap summerhouse with thinner cladding or a more expensive summerhouse with sturdy cladding. Painting the building is like putting a raincoat on it – it will help to keep water out and make it last longer. We recommend Sadolin, which is a high-quality water-based paint that allows your building to breathe.

As well as painting your summerhouse, make sure to keep it well-ventilated, especially in the wetter months. This helps prevent moisture build up which can lead to mould and rot. 

We often hear people telling us that they haven’t been in their summerhouse all winter, and when they’ve tried to open the doors they’ve stuck fast. This happens precisely because the building has been shut up for months without any ventilation or use. Even if you’re not using a summerhouse, make sure to open the doors and windows regularly and get plenty of air into the building, especially when the weather is wet.

Lastly, remember that timber is a natural, porous material. It takes in water when there’s lots of water in the air, and it lets out water when the atmosphere is dry. This moisture can find its way into the building when the weather is particularly wet and can cause swelling and shrinkage of doors and windows.

Here are your summerhouse key takeaways:

  • Single-skinned building
  • Needs regular maintenance
  • Susceptible to moisture, shrinking and swelling.

How can I find a good-quality summerhouse?

The Gillies & Mackay Summerhouse Buyer's Checklist

We’ve got you covered – our Summerhouse Buyer’s Checklist lists all the features to look out for and which to avoid. There’s even a blog that demonstrates exactly how to use it.

If you’re buying online watch out for listings that don’t detail these features. Try to buy from a transparent company that can answer all your questions.

What’s the difference between a summerhouse and a garden room?

The interior of a Gillies & Mackay Blackstone Garden Room Scotland. A couch and coffee table are placed by a window which shows a view of the beach.

Quite simply, a garden room should be suitable for year-round use. It’s a fully insulated structure that’s engineered to stay absolutely watertight. The insulation and construction methods make the building perfect for installing power and a heating source, allowing you to use your building every single day of the year. 

But a whole lot is resting on that “should”. Because just like summerhouses, there are garden rooms and there are garden rooms. 

There are solid, reliable structures that add value to your home and enhance your garden. There are also leaky, unreliable garden rooms out there that can’t be used all year round because they’re freezing and mouldy. 

How are you supposed to tell the difference?

How do I buy a good-quality garden room?

We don’t have a Garden Room Buyer’s Checklist – yet – because there are so many variables to take into account. Should you go for composite cladding? What sort of insulation is best? How are the walls and roof structured? It’s an absolute minefield for the average consumer. 

Evaluating whether or not a Garden Room will be a solid purchase or a summer-only expense needs a great deal of knowledge and expertise. And unfortunately, the industry isn’t always open about exactly how their products will withstand the weather and represent long-lasting value for you. This makes it harder to determine whether or not a garden room is a high-quality product or not.

How much maintenance does a garden room need?

Because garden rooms should be 100% watertight, they need much less maintenance than single-skinned buildings. Depending on the materials used, you may not even have to paint the building, and moisture problems and water ingress shouldn’t be an issue. Of course, this relies on your building being appropriately constructed to withstand the Scottish weather.

So, your garden room key takeaways are:

  • Garden rooms are fully insulated, multi-layered buildings suitable for year-round use.
  • Garden rooms vary in quality – do your research and make sure you choose a reputable supplier.
  • Garden rooms need much less maintenance than single-skinned summerhouses.

Can I afford a Garden Room?

Let’s be absolutely clear; most summerhouses cost less than most garden rooms. 

This reflects their limitations. The larger investment in a garden room allows year-round use. But if budget is your first concern, you may think that a garden room is out of the question.

Because once upon a time, most people knew one really important thing about Gillies & Mackay Blackstone Garden Rooms – they were probably out of their budget. 

But that was before our super-cool Under 12m2 Garden Rooms were born. The starting price of our Garden Rooms is no longer out of this world, but the quality of the buildings is. The high standards, craftsmanship and reliability associated with our products are now accessible in these smaller buildings. 

Watch out for Garden Rooms that are too cheap – the savings come from using poor-quality materials, resulting in a building that may not stay watertight and warm, and which won’t stand the test of time. Like I said – a Garden Room should be suitable for year-round use, but this isn’t guaranteed, especially if you go for a cheap, mass-produced building.

As with a summerhouse, make sure that you buy from a company that is happy to answer your questions. 

Should I buy a summerhouse or a garden room?

As always, what you need will depend on you and your circumstances. If you’re looking for a seasonal building and you’re happy to put in the work maintaining it, a summerhouse will suit you perfectly. 
If you want a low-maintenance building that you can use all year round, check out garden room options. And remember, our Learning Centre is a great place to start your research.

Join the Shedlife Clan!