Garden outbuildings: tips for an upgrade

Ideas for updating a run down shed, garage or workshop.

By Becca Green | 1 December 2020

Tips for upgrading garden outbuildings from architect Richard John Andrews.

A home office in the garden with build-in storage and desk

Invest in built-in storage to maximise the floor area in a small space. Image: TE-Architects

Tackle the exterior

Check with your local planning department that any change to the exterior, such as upgrading the cladding, is permitted. Then do your research. There are so many amazing materials out there, from bitumen roofing paper stuck over plywood to MD cork facade board, to traditional Japanese timber-cladding methods like Shou Sugi Ban. Zinc and metal cladding systems such as interlocking panels or bespoke diamond-format tiles can be used on the roof or walls.

Tips for upgrading garden outbuildings from architect Richard John Andrews.

A home office in the garden with build-in storage and desk

Invest in built-in storage to maximise the floor area in a small space. Image: TE-Architects

Tackle the exterior

Check with your local planning department that any change to the exterior, such as upgrading the cladding, is permitted. Then do your research. There are so many amazing materials out there, from bitumen roofing paper stuck over plywood to MD cork facade board, to traditional Japanese timber-cladding methods like Shou Sugi Ban. Zinc and metal cladding systems such as interlocking panels or bespoke diamond-format tiles can be used on the roof or walls.

Reconfigure windows

Add or enlarge the windows. The more natural light you can let into garden outbuildings the better. North-facing indirect light is the best, as rooflights and glazed walls that get direct sun can heat up in summer. Try eBay for salvaged double-glazed units, or ask for old units from someone demolishing an extension, then install them using a simple timber window frame.

Correct insulation

Sustainable insulation is achievable for a retrofit shed or garden workshop. You could strip an shed, cover it in plywood and then glue cork to it using a waterproof adhesive. A more solid structure such as single-skin blockwork can be clad in cork or wood-fibre structural cladding boards then rendered over.

Dark timber boards clad a rectangular garden outbuilding

Scorched timber boards clad a revamped garden office. Image: Will Pryce

The necessities

Plan ahead when working on the main house and run an armoured electrical cable and water supply to your outbuilding to be used at a later date. Otherwise, speak to an electrician about adding or extending existing exterior electric and power points.

For more project inspiration, read Grand Designs magazine digitally for free now by registering your details. 
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