Garden summerhouses and log cabins come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and it’s sometimes hard to know where to start when choosing a new one. Here are some handy tips on everything you need to know about buying a new summerhouse or log cabin:
Locating your summerhouse or log cabin
When positioning your summerhouse you need to consider a number of different factors.
Location of the sun: Most people want to locate a summerhouse/log cabin in a sunny spot in the garden, so always check which way your garden faces. Find a spot that is south facing, that way you will get the maximum amount of sun flooding in through the windows. Alternatively, you may want your summerhouse/log cabin to be in the shade to avoid overheating in the height of summer, however, you also need to remember the risks of falling branches and rotting leaf mulch may have on your summerhouse/log cabin over the years.
Consider whether you want to run electrics or a telephone line into the summerhouse/log cabin as this may impact on where you locate it. Always remember that you must employ a qualified electrician to do any work of this nature. It’s a good time to do this when the base is being laid.
Never locate your summerhouse/log cabin in an area that could flood with heavy rainfall. Standing water will accelerate the rotting process which may affect the stability of your summerhouse/log cabin in the long run.
It is a good idea to ensure that you have a gap of at least 600mm (2’) around your summerhouse/log cabin as this will be invaluable when you come to treat and protect it every year.
Do not build your summerhouse/log cabin too close to yours or your neighbour’s house, as this may contravene planning regulations.
Planning permission is not normally required for domestic outbuildings which are used for a domestic purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the house. However, you may require planning permission if any of the following apply (the list is not exhaustive):
- Where you propose to erect within 5 metres of any part of your house.
- If the total area of the ground covered by any buildings or other structures in the garden area (excluding the original, main house) is greater than 50% of the total garden area.
- Where the height of the building is over 2.5m at the highest roof point.
- If there is a condition on the original planning consent for your property which states that garden sheds/outhouses etc. cannot be erected with or without the consent of the local planning authority.
- If your property is a listed building or within a conservation area or area of outstanding natural beauty, you will need to contact your local planning authority as development will be restricted.
- Where you intend to run a business or store goods in connection with a business.
- If part of the garden building will be nearer to the public highway than the existing house or any point 20 metres from that highway, whichever is nearer to the highway.
If your property is a listed building or in a conservation area, it is likely you will need the appropriate listed building/conservation area consent. In some cases, properties can be subject to “restrictive covenants” preventing building in your back garden. You should check whether there are any restrictions on the property register at HM Land Registry against this type of development. In which case, the consent of the person with the benefit of the restrictive covenant should be sought. The current planning permission at the property may contain a condition which omits permitted development rights or this might apply “en masse” to your local area. You should ask your local planning authority.
If you are in any doubt as to whether you can erect your garden building without planning permission, you should telephone your local planning authority who in most cases will be able to give you an answer straight away.
Shiplap timber is a common material used in the construction of summerhouses. It is a shaped and formed piece of timber, made out of kiln dried timber for stability. Each piece connects to the next with an interlocking tongue and groove joint. The finished panels are nailed into place creating a superior cladded finish to the outside of the summerhouse.
Log cabins are constructed using interlocking logs, which lock together as they are being built. This is generally the most solid form of summerhouse construction. The logs are made from kiln dried timber for material stability, although some material movement is still likely to occur in extreme weather conditions. The log thicknesses vary from 28, 34 to 33mm thick. The thicker logs tend to offer greater heat retention and are often coupled with double glazing which should be a consideration if you are planning to use the building all year round.
The timber used in the shiplap construction is usually finished with a factory applied surface treatment which provides some initial protection against fungal decay. This is often referred to as a dip treatment. A summerhouse with this type of finish will need to be re-treated every year to protect the timber from rotting.
There are now, however, summerhouses being offered with a pressure treated finish. Treatment has been forced into the timber at high pressure in a vacuum chamber. As the treatment penetrates the wood, this creates a more permanent barrier against insect attack and rot which means you don’t need to re-treat it every year.
Regardless of the anti-rot treatment that has been applied during manufacture, your summerhouse will still change colour over time, so if you want to maintain the factory finished look you will need to re-apply a colour based timber treatment regularly.
Remember that timber is a natural material which will shrink and expand. This movement is due to the moisture content within the wood which is down to the changing weather conditions. Any extreme changes will usually revert back over time.
The best time to treat your summerhouse is usually in spring or autumn when you have a dry day. This means that the timber will not be too wet or dry ensuring you get the optimum absorption of treatment in the timber. Do not treat your timber when it’s raining as the treatment will simply be washed away.
Log cabins are usually supplied untreated and as such the timber needs to be treated with a preservative and stain as soon as they are built.
Roofs & Floors
Many summerhouses use shiplap or boarded roofs and floors which will make for a more structurally sound construction. Roofs are generally finished off with either shingles or mineral felt providing a water tight finish.
All garden buildings should be installed onto pressure treated bearers which will encourage air circulation under the summerhouse/log cabin floor and prevent the floor battens from coming into direct contact with the foundation. Without them, the damp would penetrate the floor and rise through the timbers causing the wood to rot.
All that is required before you start to build your Summerhouse is to ensure that you have a firm and level base on which to build it. This would usually be a concrete or paving slab base. If you try to build any garden building on an uneven surface you will have problems aligning and closing the doors and windows.
Thefts from garden’s are on the increase, so check that your garden building comes with locks and keys. There are various security kits on the market today which range from basic padlock sets, to more elaborate alarms and security lights.
If you are going to store anything valuable in your garden building check that it’s covered with your home insurance.