Your Money: Garden rooms explore outer space
Simple solutions to let you add on an office, studio or den to your busy home
Finding extra space for a growing family can be challenging and expensive. As tiny toddlers turn into teens and everyone wants to escape into their own space, or someone decides to work from home, moving house may not be an option.
So many families are turning to their garden - instead of looking out at an expanse of grass, they're utilising the space by putting in a garden room. This week we're looking at what's involved and how much it all costs.
A recent ESRI study showed that job stress in Ireland doubled between 2010 and 2015. Technology has made remote working more common and companies are happier to let employees e-work from home. But finding an extra room which doubles as an office isn't easy so a garden office is often the solution says John Sherry of GardenRooms.ie.
"We're seeing lots of demand for home offices, studies or teen rooms for young adults who may not leave home now until well into their 20s or who'll boomerang back for a bit.
"We have clients whose children are done studying, have travelled and are moving back home. Suddenly the house has five adults and the tendency for open-plan living means there's nowhere for them to go, so a garden room is ideal. It's also great for retired couples who want a painting studio, or somewhere to pursue a hobby".
While you don't typically need planning permission to install a garden room, there are strict conditions to abide by, says Barry Kelly of Carew Kelly Architects.
"Class 3 of the 2001 Exempted Development Regulations, allows for 'the construction, erection or placing within the curtilage of a house of any tent, awning, shade or other object, greenhouse, garage, store shed or other similar structure'.
"The limitations are that it must be less than 25 sqm (270 sqf) in size and open space to the rear shall not be reduced to less than 25sqm," he adds.
"But crucially, it cannot be used for human habitation or for any other purpose other than that incidental to the enjoyment of the house."
Essentially, if the structure is used simply to 'enhance family lifestyle' such as a home office, den, storage area or a hangout, then it's fine. If it's a granny flat with bedroom and bathroom, it's not.
And definitely not if you're going to lease it out for money. You simply won't get the permission, says Kelly.
• It takes 2 - 5 weeks to order in doors, windows, structure etc., while the installation itself can take a week to 10 days, depending on the size and configuration. Additional or bespoke services can take longer.
• Units can start from as little as €6,000 but you're getting little more than a posh shed. A spend of at least €15,000 is needed for a fully-fitted unit, and you can shell out as much as €50,000 (see panel) especially if plumbing is required.
• Ask to make stage payments, and most suppliers facilitate this, usually by a deposit, half the cost on the first day of the build and the balance on completion.
• It's always worth at least visiting a showroom to get an idea of what the finished product looks like; they do take up a chunk of space, so it's worth seeing it in real life. If you can, ask to talk to a happy customer and mine them for questions to ask before you start.
• Mark out the area in your garden using blocks, tape or wood, just so you know exactly how much room it's going to sit on.
• Ask about the structure's insulation (double-wall insulation is recommended), glass (should be A-rated) and what type of heating system is being installed.