Waltons' ultimate guide to buying a summer house
Here’s everything you need to know about summer houses to help you choose the best size and model to meet your needs. Armed with our expert advice, you can be sure to buy a summer house that works for you now, and long into the future.
- What is a summer house?
- Why buy a summer house
- How to plan and position your summer house
- Summer house styles
- Cladding styles
- Roof designs
- Roof coverings
- Doors and glazing
What is a summer house?
Paint your summer house to make it blend in or stand out
Image: Waltons 6 x 8 Premium Sussex Summerhouse
A summer house is your garden’s centrepiece, a statement building from which you can enjoy looking out onto your garden paths, borders, ponds and plantings. Usually constructed from wood, and comprising a sturdy timber frame supporting shiplap timber or tongue and groove cladding, a summer house features large windows and glazed doors to let in plenty of sunlight.
A summer house transforms your garden, creating a sheltered space where you can work, enjoy some well-earned rest and relaxation, or indulge your creative hobbies. Really big summer houses are often called garden rooms. But for the purposes of this guide, we’re focusing on the 7ft x 7ft to 12ft x 8ft range, or thereabouts.
Why buy a summer house?This summer house has been set up as a relaxing, peaceful retreat
Image: 12 x 8 Contemporary Summer House with Side Shed from Waltons
When you think of your ideal summer house, what do you see? Chances are you’ll picture yourself and your family using the building in a particular way – for work, rest or play.
But investing in a summer house also opens up other ways to use your garden which you may not have thought of, and which deserve consideration before you come to a final decision about which model to buy.Work
A well insulated summer house can serve as a home workplace giving you a peaceful space to work away from the hustle and bustle of family life, but without the cost and inconvenience of a commute.
You might use your summer house as an office, or as your workshop. These buildings are often popular with artists, writers, potters, sewing enthusiasts and other creative professionals, the garden serving as an inspiring place to create new work.
You’ll need plenty of windows for natural light, a WiFi connection, solar power or mains power supply, and possibly other utilities like water and sewerage.Rest
Thinking more of a retreat at the end of the garden? A place to retire to with a good book and a glass of wine, or cup of cocoa? A summer house makes a wonderfully restful addition to your garden, offering the warmth and shelter of the indoors, right in the middle of the outdoors.
Consider opting for a summer house with plenty of windows, and perhaps bi-fold or double doors which you can open to better enjoy summer weather. Add insulation if you intend to use your summer house right through the year.Entertaining
Your summer house makes a wonderful place to entertain friends and relatives. Whether you’d like to set a table and chairs for a soiree of fine dining, or you just want some extra shelter for your barbecue guests, a summer house makes an alfresco evening complete – and weather proof.
If you’re intending to use your summer house for entertaining, prioritise large double doors you can fasten back, and consider options which feature covered outdoor space and a veranda.Play
Crafters will love the light airy workspace that a summer house creates. Use your summer house as a studio for sewing, quilting, knitting, crochet, painting – the list is endless. Larger summer houses may also be suitable for use as a small garden workshop for carpentry or wood turning for example.
Options allow for plenty of light to see what you’re doing. Consider safety glass or shatterproof styrene, and if you’re to store expensive tools, materials and equipment in your summer house, you’ll need to think carefully about security.
How to plan and position your summer houseThis corner summer house has been positioned for easy access and afternoon sun
Image: 12 x 8 Premium Corner Summerhouse With Side Shed
Before you decide which summer house to buy, spend some time thinking about where in your garden you’re going to put it.Marking out
South-facing gardens get the most light, north-facing the least. East-facing plots get the sun in the morning, west-facing ones benefit from the afternoon sun.
Mark out your proposed plot in advance to check that it gets enough sun, and that the location works well with the rest of the garden. Remember to leave at least three feet of space all around your summer house to give room to work during construction, and to allow for air circulation, and for ease of maintenance later on. Marking-out your plot also gives you a better idea about how much of your garden you’re giving up.Size
Think about how you might use your summer house now and into the future. If your budget allows it, buy a slightly bigger building than the one you think you need. This allows for those extra uses you’re sure to think of once your summer house is up and running.
As you’d expect from a sturdy garden building made to last, the floor of your new office, summerhouse or hobby room is made from tongue and groove matchboard fitted on top of a tough frame.Planning rules
Most commercially available summer houses are designed to fall within mandatory planning restrictions, but do check with your local planning office, particularly if your summer house is intended for your front garden, you live in a terraced house, or you occupy a listed building.
Also bear in mind that your summer house must occupy less than half the available outside space. Check out our guide to planning permission for sheds for more information.Utilities
Before you decide where to site your summer house, bear in mind the proximity of any necessary utilities. It might be easier to build the summer house nearer to the electrical, water or sewerage supply, rather than to install new infrastructure.Make a drawing
Once you know what you’re likely to use your summer house for, experiment with different sizes, shapes and styles of building, drawing out potential floor plans and adding in things like sofas, tables and chairs, and storage units – graph paper is really useful for this. A very useful exercise, this is a big help when it comes to choosing the right size, shape and style of summer house for you.
It’s fine to build a patio around your garden room, or to install decking, but verandas, balconies, and other raised platforms higher than 300mm are likely to need planning permission.
Summer house stylesThe 10 x 8 Contemporary Summer House with an integrated side shed is a popular model
Image: The Ana Mum Diary
Summer houses come in a range of shapes and styles with different door and glazing options. Different roof designs also strongly influence the overall look and feel. Here are some of the main options:
TraditionalThe apex roof and veranda give the Wessex Summer House a traditional feel
Image: 10 x 8 Wessex Summer House from Waltons
Featuring an apex roof, and with a centrally located glazed door and windows at the front, a traditional summer house makes a very sympathetic addition to any garden. Often clad with shiplap timber and benefiting from a veranda, a traditional summer house is a great choice if you like to sit outside. And because the roof often features a decent overhang, this variant offers some protection from the sun or rain, too.
ContemporaryThe clean lines of this pent roof give the Maine Summer house a modern profile
Image: 10 x 6 Maine Summer House from Waltons
If you’d like to make more of a statement with your summer house, there are plenty of contemporary designs to choose from. These typically feature clean lines and a single pent roof. Contemporary summer houses offer plenty of glazing at the front, and around to the sides to let in all that lovely sunlight, and double or bifold doors make them a great option for dining alfresco.
Some contemporary summer houses feature a side shed or covered veranda, while others are designed to fit into a corner of your garden.
CornerMaking excellent use of space, a corner summer house is a neat solution for a small garden
Image: 9 x 9 Premier Corner Summer House from Waltons
If you have a smaller garden, prefer to maximise the available growing space, or simply like the idea of a summer house that’s neatly tucked away, a corner summer house makes an excellent investment. Designed to fit into either corner, you can position the building to make the most of the morning or evening light.
Log cabinThe Mahonia Log Cabin has interlocking corners for added strength
Image: The Mahonia 4m x 3m Log Cabin from Waltons
As the name suggests, a log cabin features tough interlocking tongue and groove planks to create a sturdy structure that’s perfect for those seeking a combination of space, all year round utility, and longevity. Usually bigger than a standard summer house, log cabins can be as traditional or as contemporary as you like, and offer great accommodation for a wide range of uses including home office, workshop, guest room, family room and more.
Larger insulated garden roomLarge, luxury, insulation garden rooms offer premium, all year round accommodation
Image: The Harlow 5m x 3m Insulated Garden Room from Waltons
Looking for a bigger space to use as an office, for entertaining, or to really spread out and enjoy the outdoor living experience? A premium insulated garden room offers all the advantages of a regular summer house but on a larger scale. From around 3m x 3m and up, and fully insulated, they’re big enough use as an extra family room, and, with the right permissions, can even serve as occasional guest accommodation.
- Tongue & Groove (T&G) – Each plank features a “tongue” on one edge, and a “groove” in the other, the timbers being tightly slotted together to form a tough, smooth, weatherproof exterior. This cladding style adds to the modern feel of contemporary summer houses, and offers greater strength than overlap constructions.
- Shiplap (T&G) – Shiplap T&G cladding is milled to create a curved top face. This combines a tight, weatherproof tongue and groove seal with better water runoff. The shallow channel beneath each join also gives your summer house attractive shadow lines.
- Shiplap+ (T&G) – Thick 16mm timber, with a “Z” profile, Shiplap+ makes for even more efficient water runoff. The thicker timber also contributes to a sturdier building with better insulation properties, making it ideal for summer houses intended for higher altitudes and windy or exposed locations.
- Interlocking – Used for building log cabins, this construction method combines the weather resistance of thick tongue and groove planking with interlocking corners for structural rigidity and draught-proofing that’s hard to beat.
Roof designsThe Helios Summer House has a curved, modern roof
Image: 8 x 8 Helios Summerhouse from Waltons
Summer houses feature a full range of roof types from traditional apex, to pent and curved roofs. Choose the roof style which matches the look you’re trying to create and the space at your disposal.
- Apex – An ‘A’ frame roof shape, this design offers the advantage of good height in the centre of the building, and lends itself to a range of summer houses, from funky beach hut options to Swiss chalet styles. An apex roof maximises water runoff.
- Pent – A single, shallow slope, this roof offers a less obtrusive profile – an important detail when constructing near a fence, or in the gardens of terraced and semi detached houses. The highest point of a pent roof is above the door to allow water to run off at the back of the building. This kind of roof allows you to go for a bigger summer house without the increase in height you’d need with an apex roof.
- Curved – A contemporary option which combines the single slope of a pent roof with an attractive and stylish curved aspect.
- Standard bitumen-based roofing felt offers adequate waterproofing for your new summer house, but it does degrade over time and though it’s simple to repair, and relatively inexpensive to replace, it needs regular checks and maintenance. Lasts 3 - 5 years.
- Heavy duty roofing felt is a good upgrade to go for, giving you extra peace of mind that your shed roof is well protected from the elements. It’s 50% thicker than standard felt, is made from a bitumen and fibreglass mix and lasts up to 10 years.
- Adhesive shingles provide an attractive “tiled” look, and, because they’re designed to be stuck on top of your roofing felt, they offer an excellent extra layer of roof protection. Shingles add up to 8 years to the lifespan of your roofing material.
- EPDM – this rubberised roofing lasts up to 50 years and requires no maintenance. Slightly more expensive than heavy-duty roofing felt, it comes as a single piece, offering by far the best roof protection.
Doors and glazingThis 12x8 Contemporary Summer House has bifold doors as well as fixed glazed panels
Customer image: Leigh
The sort of summer house doors and windows you go for have a big impact on the overall look of your building. Do make sure that whichever doors and windows you choose come supplied with suitable locks to protect your valuables. Also consider fitting blinds, curtains or shutters to protect the contents of your summer house when not in use, or when you’re away.
- Single door – A single door gives you the most amount of internal wall space. It’s usually flanked by windows either side to allow for more light.
- Double doors – You really gain an extra dimension to your summer house by opting for double doors. They come into their own on hot sunny days when you can fasten them back to enjoy the best of the warmth, and sunshine, from the shade and comfort of your garden room.
- Bifold doors – For even more flexibility, bifold doors afford you greater control over the amount of fresh air you let into your summer house. They also look fabulous, giving your summer house a genuinely contemporary edge that’s guaranteed to make your neighbours go green with envy.
When it comes to glazing, summer houses are usually fitted with safety glass or shatterproof styrene. Both are excellent options, depending on how you want to use the space.
- Safety glass – Laminated so that it won’t shatter, safety glass offers good security and is a great option to go for when you share your garden with active children or grandchildren.
- Double-glazing – Offers the strength of safety glass with the added benefit of extra insulation.
- Styrene – Shatterproof styrene is twice as strong as glass, offering great protection against breaking, and is perfect for family use.
Foundations for your summer house
A foundation keeps your summer house clear of the ground, providing good air circulation, and preventing subsidence, which can damage the fabric of the building. For more information, check out Waltons guide to building a shed base.
- Foundation kit – For small sheds and summer houses, a purpose-made foundation kit is a sensible choice. Made from rust-proof galvanised steel, it provides a solid base for use on level ground.
- Wooden foundation – Alternatively, buy or build a wooden platform for your summer house to sit on. This is suitable for small summer houses, but for substantial buildings, you need a more permanent, solid foundation.
- Patio slab – A good option for summer houses, building a patio slab foundation is within the capabilities of anyone who is reasonably fit and has good DIY skills.
- Concrete – The most secure foundation, a concrete slab is a permanent platform which, if appropriately constructed, will support any summer house, garden room or log cabin.
- StopDigging – An eco-friendly solution, ground screws provide piles on which to put a wooden base, keeping your summer house clear of the ground, preventing rot and water ingress.
Constructing a summer house
If you’re a confident DIYer, you may wish to consider constructing your summer house yourself.
For those who would rather rely on a professional, Waltons offers a painted and installed service, or a simple installation service as an optional upgrade. Alternatively – especially if you’re also installing utilities – look for a local tradesman to complete the work.
Summer house securityA lock and key keeps the contents of your summer house secure from theft
Appropriate door and window locks, and shutters and blinds are basic security measures you should always employ. Extra security features you can install include:
- Lights – Because thieves love to work under the cover of darkness, something as simple as a set of battery or solar operated motion sensor lights offers a basic security measure that will radically reduce the chances of your new summer house being broken into.
- An alarm system – You can wire your summer house into your home alarm system, but if this isn’t possible, there are other ways of alarming your summer house. Battery operated stand alone systems can be very effective, featuring cameras, motion sensors, a loud siren and lights. Some systems are even Wifi enabled, connecting to your smartphone so you can check what’s happening at home from the office, or even when you’re on holiday.
Now you have all the information you need to buy the perfect summer house for you and your family to enjoy. For more help, call our expert sales team on 0800 029 1000.
Browse our full range of wooden summer houses, sheds, log cabins and garden rooms by visiting waltons.co.uk.