These days, an office isn’t really an office unless it has a connection to the internet. So, if you’re going to be building a garden office on your property, you’ll want to ensure that a stable, reliable internet connection is factored into your design and build. Keep reading and we’ll tell you about the best ways to do this…
Wired or wireless?
The first, and most important decision from a build perspective, is to decide whether you want a wired Ethernet connection to the main internet router in your home, or if you want to rely on a wireless WiFi connection.
In our experience, a wired Ethernet connection is always the best option. It provides a direct connection to your home’s router and won’t be disrupted by things like atmospheric conditions and loss of signal.
However, we know that not everyone will want an Ethernet cable running beneath their garden to their home. So, we’ve detailed the different options you have to connect your garden office to the internet.
But, before we look at the various ‘wireless’ ways you can connect your garden room to the internet, we’ll take a more in-depth look at our preferred option - a hardwired Ethernet connection.
This involves laying an armoured Ethernet cable directly from your home modem to an RJ45 data socket in your garden room. Because it’s armoured, it can usually be surface mounted and clipped along walls and fencing, or simply laid loose at the back of your flower beds or hedging. Sometimes, where extra protection is required, we would feed it through a protective plastic pipe.
Once it's connected to your garden room data socket you can either plug an ethernet cable from your computer directly into the wall socket, or alternatively, set up a WiFi connection inside your garden room. To do this you’ll need a wireless router, which is a device which will turn your Ethernet connection into a wireless one.
The illustration below shows visually how this setup works.
As an alternative to surface mounting the cable along your garden fencing/hedging, you could bury the cable under your lawn. There is a lot more involved in this, and consequently more cost. But, if you are planning to lay trenching for water pipes, drains or electrical power cabling, why not add an Ethernet cable at the same time?
Tip - there are different categories of Ethernet cable. So, be sure to select one that not only suits your needs here now, but also in the future.
What Ethernet cable should I use with my garden office?
Having mentioned that there are different categories of Ethernet cable, you may be wondering which one will be best for your garden room?
In our experience, we have found that category 5 Ethernet cable is fast approaching obsolescence, whilst Cat 6 is ok so long as you’re not a heavy data user. We’ve provided a little more detail about each one below.
Category 5 Ethernet cable
A category 5 Ethernet cable has a data rate of up to 100Mbps which is slow by modern standards. We would not recommend this cable, particularly now that Fibre is being rolled out across the country by all the major providers
A point to remember is that most Ethernet cables will only be able to transmit data, video, audio and other signals across distances of up to 100 metres (328ft). Beyond this, the speed drops considerably. So, with that in mind, think carefully about how far your garden office is from your home’s router.
Category 6 Ethernet cable and beyond
Category 6 Ethernet cables offer greater bandwidth and transfer speeds compared to Cat 5 cables.
You should expect a category 6 Ethernet cable to offer speeds of over 1Gbps across distances over 100m.
However, at distances of 37m or less, category 6 Ethernet cables are capable of transfer speeds of 10Gbps. This is thanks to their increased bandwidth and shielding.
Cat 6 Ethernet cables also feature a physical separator known as a ‘spline’ which reduces crosstalk. They also feature foil shielding to reduce electromagnetic interference.
So, as a minimum, we’d suggest choosing a Cat 6 Ethernet cable as Cat 5 is really obsolete.
Currently we recommend an armoured Cat 6a data cable to supply your garden room as it is twice as fast as the standard Cat 6 with a 500Mhz speed compared to a 250Mhz on standard Cat 6 and will certainly future proof your installation.
You may also hear of talk of Cat 7 and even Cat 8 now being available but in all honesty, unless you’re running a high volume data control centre with multiple users at any one time, this level would be overkill and will not be necessary
A good quality Ethernet cable starts from around £4 per linear metre, whilst the cost of installation will be around £200 to £400 depending on how much is involved in the routing from A to B.
Powerline adapter kit
You may have heard that you can install power line adapters to transmit a signal using the power circuit in your house.
In theory, the kit works by using two adaptors which plug into power sockets, the first one in your home and the other in the garden room. Data then flows down the power cable which has been attached to your garden room where the other adaptor is located.
The problem is that the power supply cable from your house to the garden room needs to be connected to a separate fused outlet on your house consumer unit to comply with Part P of the Building Regulations (i.e. it cannot be connected to a socket on the ring main of your house).
Consequently, as the cable is on a separate circuit from that of your house mains, these adaptors will not work.
The illustration below shows how a powerline kit is theoretically set up. But the blue line shows the electric supply cable from your house to the room being directly connected between the sockets when in truth they should not be if you want to be legally compliant with Part P.
Powerline WiFi extenders
Another alternative solution is to buy a powerline WiFi extender that will boost your existing signal through your existing home wiring system and transmit a wireless signal to your garden room.
The problem here is that the signal is usually very weak and, as a Rubicon garden room is wrapped in 3 layers of insulating foil, it acts as a Faraday Cage, and the signal is shielded away and won't work very well, if at all.
This approach would therefore work intermittently at best, but would be totally unreliable for business use or for popular streaming services etc.
If you do want to give a WiFi extender a go, then you should be aware that there are three distinct types available:
> Wireless repeaters - a device which rebroadcasts the same quality of WiFi that it receives.
> Wireless range extenders - a device that you place between your WiFi router and your garden office. These devices act in much the same way as a wireless repeater, in that it rebroadcasts the existing WiFi signal.
> Wireless network extenders - a device which is very similar to a range extender, but has a few additional features.
For the purposes of connecting your garden office to the internet, a wireless range extender will be sufficient.
Like powerline kits, WiFi extenders do, unfortunately, have their limitations.
First and foremost, the majority of WiFi extenders only have a range of about 30m. So, if your garden office is at the bottom of the garden, an extender is unlikely to work.
Secondly, because our garden offices are so well insulated with ‘foiled foam’, you’ll find that WiFi extenders fail to penetrate the 3 layers of foil.
However, if you’re determined to go down the wireless path for your garden office’s internet connection, WiFi extenders are relatively cheap (they start from around £20). So, it can be worth experimenting with one.
WiFi extenders start from £20.
Another option for connecting your garden office to the internet is to set up a ‘mesh network’.
A mesh network is somewhat similar to a WiFi extender, however it tends to be more powerful, reliable and effective.
This is because a mesh network consists of a series of devices that connect together wirelessly to create a single WiFi network that stretches over a defined area (hence the word mesh).
Plus, what really makes them stand apart from WiFi extenders is that instead of boosting the signal from a single router, mesh devices act as additional sources of WiFi in their own right.
They then communicate with each other wirelessly to ensure that internet coverage remains consistent within the boundary of the ‘mesh’ that they have created.
Depending on which internet provider you use, you may already have the option to create a mesh network. For example, if you’re a BT customer, its ‘Whole Home’ service comes with mesh devices.
If your current broadband provider doesn’t have a mesh option, then you can buy a triple pack of mesh devices for around £200 (Google’s WiFi Mesh Whole Home System costs just under £190 for a triple pack).
These independent mesh networks can be used with any provider, which is great if you intend to change your provider (or you do so on a regular basis).
Mesh networks are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason; they work well when they’re properly set up.
But, there’s the caveat.
Mesh networks can be complicated to set up. Especially when you want to include your garden office in the network.
It can take a bit of technical know-how to really get them to work consistently.
Mesh networks can also have a range issue - there’s only so far you can separate each ‘node’ before they’ll start to struggle to communicate with each other.
So, if your garden office is going to be situated some way away from your home, a mesh network may not be the best way of connecting to the internet, and don't forget our previous comments about the foil shielding our buildings!
As we mentioned above, a triple pack of mesh network devices starts from just under £200.
WiFi PTP kit
WiFi PTP (short for WiFi Point-to-Point) is like a more advanced WiFi extender.
A typical WiFi PTP kit will consist of two units; one is installed on an exterior wall of your home, the other is installed on the exterior wall of your garden office. These units are kind of like mini radars, which are able to transmit a strong WiFi signal to each other.
Both units need to be plugged in, as they draw power.
Once installed, the two units need to be configured so that they can ‘talk’ to each other. This requires a little bit of IT knowledge, but is not generally beyond the capabilities of moderately competent computer users.
When the configuration is complete, the unit that is installed on your home will connect to your home internet connection. It will then transmit the internet signal to the unit on the wall of your garden office.
The unit that is in your garden office will then generate a WiFi signal, so that you can wireless connect your laptop/PC to it.
One of the main benefits of using a WiFi PTP kit is that it provides a far stronger signal than a WiFi extender and can also work across greater distances.
So, if your garden office is too far from your home for an Ethernet cable connection, a WiFi PTP kit can be a good alternative option.
Like all of the systems listed here, WiFi PTP does have its limitations.
The main limitation in our experience, is that to work properly, WiFi PTP kits require a ‘clear line of sight’.
In other words, the two units need to be able to ‘see’ each other. If you have things like trees and shrubbery in between the two units, you may find that they don’t work, or that performance is poor.
WiFi PTP kits generally start from around £150, but it can be worth paying more for a kit that can provide a really strong, reliable signal.
If all else fails, then use 5G!
With more and more mobile phone plans including unlimited data, it can be easier and more convenient to simply tether your phone to your laptop whilst you’re working in your garden office.
Should you not want to use your phone (we know how quickly the battery runs out when you’re tethering!), then you can choose to use a 5G router.
The benefit of using 5G routers is that they normally include an external antenna, which means you can often get a more reliable connection than you would from your mobile phone alone.
The very latest 5G routers are also blindingly fast, with average speeds of 110Mbps (putting them up there with fibre broadband).
So, if you don’t want the hassle of setting up a wired connection to your garden office, a 5G connection offers a brilliant alternative.
If you decide to go for a 5G router, then unfortunately you’ll almost certainly find yourself having to pay a monthly fee for it.
Whilst the monthly prices of 5G routers are coming down, it’s still something you’ll want to think about. After all, you’re probably already paying for the internet in your home. Do you really want to pay for an additional connection for your garden office?
The cost of 5G routers is certainly becoming more competitive. For example, at the time of writing (May 2022), EE is offering an unlimited data plan with an upfront cost of £100 and a monthly cost of £55.
If you value quick, speedy, reliable internet, then this could be a great option for connecting your garden office to the internet.
Speak to the experts
We hope you’ve found our guide to connecting garden offices to the internet helpful.
If you’d like to create the ultimate garden office on your property, then speak to the experts - Rubicon Garden Rooms!
Since 2006 we’ve been designing and building garden offices that are regarded as the best in the UK.
All of our garden offices are built to last, fully insulated and require zero maintenance.
Explore our range of garden offices now
For more garden room information, advice and inspiration, read the Rubicon blog…