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11 Essential Questions

11 essential questions to ask when choosing your garden room

A garden room is a significant purchase to make but it’s one that can transform your home. Whether you want a garden office to free yourself up from commuting and expensive commercial rents, or a garden room to simply chill out and relax in or to provide much needed space for a hobby, it’s a great investment. And one that adds value to your property too.

garden office 

But there are many different types of garden rooms and offices available on the market. That inevitably means there’s an awful lot of variation in quality and price. So how do you choose the one that’s right for you? It’s important that once you’ve decided you’d like to buy a garden room, you spend time understanding the differences between what’s on offer. You also need to know exactly what you are getting for your money.  So here are eleven essential questions you should ask before you go ahead and make your purchase.

1.   Will my garden room need planning permission and will it be compliant with building regulations?

If you’re the property or land owner you’re ultimately responsible for complying with the relevant planning rules so make sure you know where you stand before you buy. In most cases, outbuildings are generally considered to be permitted development under the Class E guidelines and don’t need planning permission. That is, however, subject to certain limits and conditions.

garden room, cheshire 

The rules to be particularly aware of are:

  • The building must be no higher than 2.5m from the bottom of the building to the top of the roof.
  • You must not take up more than 50% of your garden area with your garden room and any other buildings that are already constructed.
  • Your garden room must not be used as living or sleeping accommodation

Building regulations will not usually apply (other than Part P for electrical installations) unless you intend to use your garden room as sleeping accommodation. In terms of its location, a garden room which is under 15m² in internal floor area can be installed close to any rear boundary but if it’s between 15m² and 30m² it needs to be at least a metre away from any such boundary

Rubicon manufactures its garden rooms to automatically meet the 2.5m height planning restriction. While we are not obliged to, we also work to Parts A, E and P of the building regulations as we believe it enhances structural integrity. If you’d like more information on this subject, please do visit our dedicated planning permission and building regulations page.

2.   Will I be able to use the garden room all year round?

If you are investing in a garden room or garden office it’s wise to find out if it is one you can use all year round. There are all kinds of buildings sold as ‘garden rooms’ which often turn out to be not much more than fancy-looking sheds and certainly not spaces that can be comfortably used all year round! So, in particular, check what level of insulation is on offer.

contemporary garden room, chester 

Some companies offer just 25mm of insulation, but this is not sufficient for all year round usage. To understand the levels of insulation, it’s useful to have a quick overview of what’s known as the ‘U-value’ which is the measurement of how effective a material is at insulating. It’s the amount of heat lost per square metre of a building component like a wall, roof, floor or window. The lower the U-value is, the better the material is at insulation.

Rubicon’s garden rooms are insulated to the same levels required for a modern home, enabling you to be confident that you can use your room or office all year round. Even with such extensive insulation, you will still need to factor in heating for the winter months as you would in your house.  Double check if a dedicated heater is included in the cost of your so you don’t have to factor in more expense further down the line. Our standard wall-mounted electric heaters are included in the price and provide plenty of warmth at a very economic running cost due to the extensive insulation of our garden buildings. We also offer the option to fit an air conditioning unit if required.

3.   How well ventilated is the garden room?

With all this discussion around insulation and keeping the heat in, it’s easy to overlook how important it is to have a well-ventilated building too! It’s less of an issue when you can fling the doors open and let the fresh air in on a sunny spring day. But what about the times when you need to keep them shut? You need to be confident that the air quality is good and your garden room isn’t going to be affected by condensation. It’s important to protect the health of everyone using the room and it’s important to protect the contents of your room too. That’s why you must have a 'breathing' structure to allow any natural internal moisture and condensation to escape easily.

garden room ventilation 

Rubicon ensures the risks from condensation are kept to a minimum due to the construction methods and materials we use in our garden rooms. We use a breather membrane that allows natural moisture to escape out of the room. Its like a Gortex coat which prevents rain and damp from entering but allows the internal areas to ventilate the moist air to the outside. We also incorporate vented cavity construction, a vapour control layer, trickle vents and a cross-ventilated roof for effective air circulation.

4.   How structurally sound is the garden room and will it stand up to the weather?

Take the time to understand the differences in the construction of any garden room you are contemplating buying, because there can be a lot of variation in the methods and materials used and the overall quality of the build - its very often what you can't see that matters..!

garden room, north wales 

A modular construction can lead to a lower manufacturing cost and increased speed of assembly on site but there’s no flexibility in design or construction requirements.  It can also look and feel a bit like a caravan both inside and out.

On the other hand, traditional timber frame construction is a highly popular method due to its design flexibility, suitability for varying climates and high energy efficiency. This construction method has been used for hundreds of years and is well proven for longevity.

As well as the quality of the frame, remember to ask about the other components being used like the under boarding and external sheathing. Ideally, take a look at some examples of the garden offices and garden rooms to get an idea of the quality of them. A good company should be happy to accommodate this, whether it is by visiting their commercial showroom or viewing recently completed projects.

Rubicon are always delighted to welcome people to make an appointment to visit our factory showroom and see the types of garden rooms and garden office we manufacture. They’re constructed from 20yr treated timbers to meet British Standard BS5589:1998, giving an expected life span in excess of 30 years.  Our wall frames are built in factory-controlled conditions, from a minimum of 96mm x 47mm C24 and C16 structural grade regulated timber, while our roof and floor use the superior strength C24 grade of timber where required. This ensures the quality and precision of each component while reducing on-site build time thanks to the ‘kit’ format of assembly.

To prevent structural panels from deforming, and even potentially collapsing under wind-load, the external walls are sheathed in a high-quality exterior-rated, wood composite board or plywood behind the exterior cladding. All garden rooms are boarded underneath with 9mm ply or OSB3 boarding to protect against vermin attack and to prevent vermin gaining access to the insulating foam panels under the base.

5.   How stable will the foundations be?

We know it sounds a pretty dull thing to factor in to your thought process – but have you given any thought to what your new garden room or office will be sitting on? Surface ground levels can move over time as a result of the weather, and that can affect the stability of the building. While there can be considerable variation in how structurally sound the actual garden room is due to the materials used, there can also be a great deal of difference in the methods used to create the foundations for the building.

Some companies use a recycled plastic pad/grid system which is simply placed on the ground and filled with loose stone.  It’s a very quick and cheap way to provide a foundation – but its long term stability is questionable, and really only recommended for the lightweight shed-type structures that are being placed on what needs to be very firm ground.

At the other end of the scale, you could have a concrete base put in. But the downside is that it can be very messy and disruptive to your home environment. It requires considerable ground excavation with mechanical diggers. It’s not the most environmentally friendly option either, as every tonne of processed cement releases a tonne of carbon into the atmosphere. 

garden room base construction 

One effective compromise, and one which Rubicon uses when installing its garden rooms and offices, is to install concrete pile foundations by boring holes around the perimeter of the base to a depth of 500-750mm. These holes are filled with a solid concrete mix to hold the steel bars and base plates which are then bolted to the timber floor. This uses only around 5% of the concrete employed in the slab construction method mentioned previously, but provides an extremely firm footing for your garden room.

6.   How secure is a garden room?

You should rightly expect your garden room or garden office to be every bit as secure as your home. After all, you may well have some high value items in there and you need to rely on the fact that they will be stored safely when you are not using it. Check that the doors and windows to be installed include high quality opening and locking mechanisms.  Make sure units are of the same durable quality you would want for your home. At the same time, check they are of sufficient quality to cope with whatever the weather throws at them, maintaining a comfortable environment with minimum heat loss in winter and low heat gain in summer.

garden room cafe, flintshire 

Rubicon’s garden rooms include windows and doors that fully meet the latest multipoint locking system security requirements as required by insurance companies. The premium quality double glazed units offer the  highest U-values available for such units and are also fitted with Pilkington's 'K' Glass, which is specially coated to reflect heat back into the room, further increasing comfort and reducing heat loss.

7.   How much external maintenance will I need to do to keep my garden room looking good?

That depends a lot on your choice of cladding. Most suppliers offer a timber cladding for the exterior, usually in either cedar or redwood. It can look great initially, and depending on the type of timber used, can offer a long lifespan (30+ years) but it will need looking after as it can fade over time if left untreated and looks very 'shed' like. So you will need to do regular staining to keep the timber colours fresh.

A highly popular alternative is wood fibre composite which needs virtually no maintenance at all (apart from an occasional power wash to remove bird droppings perhaps along with a brush down to get rid of any cobwebs!). It is not uPVC and does not look false or plastic in any way. It has the feel and appearance of traditional wood combined with the long lifespan of a modern high-tech material. Its unique formula provides lightweight yet durable cladding that will not splinter, warp or rot and it is an excellent insulator.  

A further option is a rendered exterior, often specified to match an existing finish on the customers' house. This material never needs painting as it is 'through coloured' rather than just a surface finish. Its available in a wide range of colours and is virtually maintenance free apart from an annual fungal wash.

 garden room for GB triathlete

Rubicon offers all of the above cladding options. The choice really depends on your preferences and environment where the garden room or garden office will be based.

8.   What will the garden room look like inside?

Obviously this will be dictated to some extent by what you want to use your garden room or home office for. But be careful – don’t get lulled into a false sense of security by looking at all of the fabulously finished interiors some brochures might feature and assume they’re automatically included in the price.

Unfortunately some suppliers will use what are, in our opinion, sub-standard finishes. They might be quick to install and comparatively cheap but will give a poor quality appearance and that will affect the whole feel of your garden office or room. These often comprise of coloured 'caravan' style wall panel systems which have ugly 'joint' strips along the walls and ceilings which are very unsightly.

Sometimes, those suppliers might offer a more professional plastered finish (as seen in their brochures) but that could come at a considerable premium on top of the original price so make sure you are clear about what you are getting to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

garden office interior 

All our garden rooms and garden offices are dry-lined and plaster skimmed and effectively finished to the same high quality standard you would expect in a new build house.

They come with a comprehensive package of electrical equipment as standard too. That includes ceiling spotlights, plenty of double sockets, all in chrome; twin exterior lights, a 2.4Kw electric heater with timer and thermostat, an exterior waterproof socket for your lawnmower and a mains RCD consumer unit. There are then other options available on top of that. Skirtings and architraves are also included, and if you wish, you have a whole host of other features to choose from including interior dividing walls, doors and even shower-rooms and toilets.

9.   How well protected am I by the guarantees on offer?

When you invest in a garden room or garden office, you want to be confident that it will be built to the highest possible standards. But what happens if there is an issue with any aspect of it? It’s important that you have the reassurance of knowing your garden room is extensively guaranteed; it’s a significant purchase and it’s vital you check out what level of guarantee comes as standard. Every company will offer something but the quality and comprehensiveness of the reassurance they offer is an important part of the decision-making process. 

We think it’s fair to assume the more confidence a company has in its workmanship and quality of product, the longer the terms will be. That’s why Rubicon offers its customers extensive structural guarantees. Our garden rooms and garden offices are built to last. We’re extremely confident in the build quality and high grade specifications we offer which is why we’re able to provide such extensive guarantees that include:

  • A 10 year structural guarantee (the NHBC new house guarantee is only 10 years!)
  • A 20 year roof membrane guarantee against leakage
  • A 20 year cladding guarantee against rot of any exterior composite cladding
  • Plus a 12 month guarantee on fixtures and fittings like heaters, lights and handles.

rubicon business awards 

We are members of the Trading Standards 'Buy With Confidence' scheme which gives you the reassurance that our guarantees have been audited and are financially sustainable.

10.   How reliable is this company – and what kind of service can I expect?

The last thing you need is to be buying a garden room from a company that is not going to offer excellent customer service. You need a company that not only sells a great product that will last but one that turns up when it says it will and who you are comfortable having working for you.

 garden room, flintshire

It’s advisable to find out how long companies have been in business for and take the time to read case studies and testimonials to give you an idea of what they are like. Look out for membership of third party accreditation schemes too, where companies are independently vetted – as previously mentioned, Rubicon is approved by Trading Standards under their ‘Buy With Confidence’ scheme. 

We also recognise that while the internet can be a great help for our customers it could run the risk of leaving them feeling isolated if they were unable to contact us easily. So we make a point of ensuring we are really easy to get hold of with both a landline number and email. We’re very friendly and easy to deal with too! For added reassurance, all our staff are Disclosure and Barring Service checked.

11.  How long will my garden room or office take to construct?

Don’t forget to ask about build time but remember, quickest is not necessarily an indicator of the best quality structure. Some garden room providers may state they will only take a day or two but that could simply be because they are effectively erecting a better quality shed or 'Caravan' type structure, rather than a substantial structure that is built to last.

garden room, chester 

Rubicon garden rooms usually take around 8 to 10 days to build. If this seems a long time, remember that once it’s up we’d expect it to last in excess of 30 years! Effectively, we’re building you a mini house and we believe it’s really important to take the time to do an exceptional job of it.

Get in touch with us

Remember that many companies will offer what seems to be a very good price for a garden room. But it is so important that you understand what you are getting for your money. Compare quality of products and do some research to unearth all the hidden extra costs before you commit to buy. Don’t feel awkward about asking lots of questions. Any good garden room supplier will be very happy to answer them all and give you as much helpful information as they can.

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If you have any questions about our garden rooms or offices, please do call us on 01244 552813. Even better – come and see us at our factory showroom near Chester (by prior appointment)! Give us a call on 01244 552813 to make an appointment.


What our Customers Say

"Please convey my thanks to everyone and we were very touched at your kindness. You were all an absolute pleasure to have around and it felt very quiet without you!! We are absolutely thrilled with the Garden Room and have now painted the walls and ceiling and the laminate wood flooring and skirting boards are being fitted tomorrow. Once the skirting boards are painted we can move in the furniture and will be like pigs in muck!!! Many, many thanks once again, we are absolutely delighted with our Garden Room. After you left Heather sat on the decking with a glass of wine, this is the life! Take care and you all have a safe journey tomorrow. Thank you once again."

Andrew and Heather - Ruthin, N.Wales

“We did an awful lot of research and found Rubicon online. We drove across to Deeside to have a look at their showroom, and all the different examples on display. We liked managing director John Lyon a lot and his approach gave us confidence to start the process. All in all, it took a couple of months from deciding that we would have a Garden Office until the team arrived on site as they were very busy and we needed to book a delivery slot well in advance. Then they were here for about three weeks for the installation which included drainage and water supplies for a toilet and mini kitchen. The team were lovely guys – no nonsense and very diligent, polite, hard-working people. Dave likes to cook a bit – mainly cakes and pastries – so he baked things for them, which always helps to keep the team happy..! We now have a beautiful extra Garden Office room, which Dave uses when he’s working at home. He has a 30 second walk to work in the morning, and it means we are no longer in the way of each other. I believe that the building is also a thing of great beauty and I would absolutely recommend Rubicon to anyone considering something similar.”

David and Rachel - Manchester

"We trawled through the internet and Rubicon sounded like the best bet for what we were after. We made an appointment and went down to the showroom on Deeside. There we met Managing Director John, spent time looking at the different examples on show and examining the products, and then had a good chat about what we needed. We never felt rushed or pressurised, and had time to think about what we wanted - his whole manner makes him such a good person to deal with. We felt that we were getting a good product. What Rubicon offered was perfect for what we wanted and, once we started the process with them, the work was done in just two to three weeks. The team turned up every day at the time John said they would, and were polite and very easy to get along with. Having them here working in the garden was no trouble at all and I would recommend Rubicon without a doubt - in fact some of the neighbours have already been round to see it and ask where we got it. I can say hand on heart that John and his the team from Rubicon were the nicest people we have ever had work for us."

Dennis and Val - Stockport

"Dear John, Thank you very much, all very professional from your company throughout the construction and installation. I cannot find anything, but if there is somewhere where I can place a review or recommendation on your web site I will be pleased to do so. Please just send me a link. As and when the garden, now under snow is complete, I will forward some photos, probably June the way the weather is. I have received a letter from Flintshire County Council asking for me to comment on your services. Just to let you know that I am returning it, highly recommending your company. All the very best to you and your company in the future. We are really pleased with our Garden Room and I would not hesitate in recommending you to any future customers. Just ask them to call me."

Mick and Barbara - Burnley

“I love my new garden room. Got to say this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of dealing with a company ive had for a long time. Finish is fab inside and out, its made such a difference, we use it all the time. Jake our son, won’t come out of there. Can’t thank John and his team enough of a great product at a great price….Thank you, etc etc.!”

Gill and Ben Henderson, Warrington

"We wanted to get a Garden Room that David could use as a separate office that was peaceful and quiet when he’s working from home. We liked what we saw at Rubicon’s showroom in Deeside straight away, and got on very well with the MD John Lyon – he immediately gave us the confidence that he would deliver what he promised, and he did. We took one of their standard Garden Offices and adapted it so that it would work for us, and nothing we suggested was a problem for Rubicon – they were really good to work with. They kept me posted all the time about what was going on, what stage they were at and who would be coming and what they would be doing the next day. They tidied up after themselves too, and really minimised any inconvenience. What was very important to me as well was that we had my elderly father staying with us at the time, he was 85, and they were so very respectful to him. Everyone from the young apprentice to the seasoned builders treated him brilliantly and talked to him about what they were doing every day while I was out at work. The Garden Office is lovely and warm as it’s fully heated, and so can be used all year round. I would most definitely recommend Rubicon Garden Rooms to anyone."

David and Kate - Frodsham

“Rubicon’s extension been fantastic, and it has really changed Ray’s life. It’s very warm and fully insulated, light and comfortable - it is easy to look after. We can get Ray in and out of bed and into his wheelchair much more easily, and it means that he has somewhere to go that’s his, for some quiet time. He loves sitting by the big window watching the birds and wildlife, or enjoying the views of the garden. The extension is very well made and went up quickly, and has changed our life. It means Ray has somewhere to sit, and we haven’t lost our lounge. When our three grandchildren come round, they love to go into his room and see him. I can’t thank Rubicon enough for the help their team have given us, they have been brilliant."

Ray and Josie - Mancot

“We had been looking for something to fill a big space at the bottom of our garden for some time and then Pat heard about a local Garden Room company through our friends at the golf club who had had one built for them. We went to have a look and were very impressed so contacted Rubicon for more details. I must admit that when we saw the showroom model we were so impressed that all logic went out of the window - we didn’t even consider the alternatives until after we had paid our deposit - not our normal way of doing things. But we needn’t have worried. I researched the internet and the price we had been quoted for what we had fitted represented excellent value for money. We could not be happier with our choice now and would like to thank Bill and Alan for doing such a great job - always smiling and nothing was too much trouble. We would highly recommend Rubicon Garden Rooms and are are actively passing on the message amongst family and friends. Good luck for the future”

Cliff and Pat Lovell, Llandudno

"Hi John, Just got back from a couple of days in London. I can confirm that invoice has arrived and has been paid. Many thanks for ALL your work. At our little garden party last Sunday all commented on the new Garden Studio - and one chap has examined it thoroughly (!!) and will contact you to arrange one for himself. All like the grey!! Hope you have a lovely Christmas, and hope we can keep in touch. Best wishes. PS Jan will send you photos with some plants in front!"

Stephen and Jan - Hawarden, Nr Chester

“This company may not be the biggest but they are surely the best. I drove my wife mad in my research for a building to run our business from after out-growing the spare bedroom I wanted something which could provide a distinct break between home live and work. To be frank there were not many companies within our locality, most of those i found were based down south and I wanted someone more local that I could put a face to ( and shout at if i needed!). A friend of mine had had some building work done recently and recommended I talk to them to see what they could do as he thought they also made garden offices. Best decision I ever made was to contact Rubicon the whole team are so professional and the product is fantastic. No complaints whatsoever apart from it did take a bit longer than I thought it would as they were very busy at the time. But the end result has been a triumph, exactly what I wanted at a competitive price and when i look at what i have saved by not renting an office it’s a no brainer…”

Phil Grayson, Northwich

"I saw Rubicon Garden Rooms online and wanted to find something that was nearby so that I could go and see what they were doing and talk to people face-to-face about it. I went along to the showroom in Deeside and I was very impressed with what I saw, and with the Managing Director John Lyon. I nearly ordered a conservatory but changed my mind at the last minute when I realised that one of these Garden Rooms would be nicer and much more use to me all year round. It was quite an investment so I took some time to think about it but eventually I decided to go for it and treat myself, as I was still working but also had my pension coming in. I went back for another chat and told them what I wanted and they just came and did it. They knocked down the old lean-to and started again and created this lovely room, leading on from my main living area. Rubicon Garden Rooms were just lovely to work with and did everything I asked. From the very beginning they gave me good advice and guidance and made it a really easy process throughout – I’d definitely recommend them to anybody else looking to extend their home simply and quickly."

Beryl - Talacre, N.Wales

"One of our disabled tenants required access to ground floor facilities, including a bedroom and bathroom. This need was urgent, so instead of a traditional build, which would be highly disruptive to the tenant, we approached Rubicon Garden Rooms who provided a high quality Garden Room attached to the property, which has the potential to be reused elsewhere in the future. We were delighted that Rubicon were able to quickly provide this essential modification to the property that met the council's rigorous standards for such work."

Cllr Helen Brown - Flintshire County Council

“We did quite a bit of research into companies that make them and chose Rubicon Garden Room as we thought a synthetic material would last better and we liked their range. Here in the Garden Room I can switch the laptop on and keep up with conference calls at any time, which is important as we have manufacturers in America and the Far East. Having this Rubicon room just gives us a bit extra space and lets me get away from the house when I need to. Their team were great, they cleared up after themselves every day and I couldn’t fault them at all. We’re very happy with what we’ve got, it’s a perfect, self-contained space with everything we need. and it makes a huge difference to my work-life balance.”

Nick and Paula - Halifax

"We had an office on a local business park, but being able to move into our own premises here has been a wise business move. We've got the perfect, self-contained space with everything we need. We can now open our French doors and have lunch on the patio in a lovely established garden, which is something most people would love. We did a lot of research and found that the prices were all very similar,” said Julian. “But what we liked about Rubicon was the fact that we could go and see their factory in Deeside and the examples they had on show. We also visited a few completed buildings and talked to the owners and we heard nothing but positive feedback so we decided to go with them. Most of the structure is prefabricated at Rubicon’s base and then they come and slot it together on site. They were great to work with – they were all very competent and everything I asked of John and his team, they delivered."

Julian and Kerry - Wirral

"Hi John, Hope you have enjoyed your weekend! Building is brilliant, we are extremely pleased with it, plaster is drying out nicely. I have sent over the last payment to your bank this evening.....On behalf of Clare & myself, I would like to thank You and the build team (Buster,Lee,Martin, Liam, Kurt & Dad), and not forgetting the window guys... for all your hard work and excellent eye to detail on our lovely pool room! Will let you know when everything is completed and you are welcome to visit with your Marketing PR person if you need any further photo’s. Look forward to meeting up for a cuppa soon :)"

Colin and Clare - Leicester


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