Summer House Buying Guide
July 09, 2024

A summer house can be one of the best investments for your garden. They’re versatile and can be used as an idyllic garden room to enjoy with friends and family,  or they can provide the perfect foundations for a home office. When building a summer house there are several key factors to consider, from planning permission to finding the right size for your garden space. But fear not, as in this comprehensive guide, you’ll find all the essential information you need to create your dream summer house, including our choices of the best summer houses for this season.

What is a Summer House?

The primary purpose of a summer house is to provide a dedicated place to relax, entertain or work. They’re often made from wood with windows and glass doors to allow pools of light in - making them the place to be in the summer months! And with an insulated summer house, they can be used all year round.

Why Buy a Summer House?

Summer houses can make a world of difference when it comes to enjoying your garden. As they’re an extension of your home, they can be used as a craft space, home gym or dedicated workspace, when hooked up to electricity. They also make ideal dining areas for summer evenings after using your BBQ - larger summer houses can even provide a sheltered space for guests when hosting a garden party. Ultimately, a summer building is a fantastic place to escape to all year round and can help you make the most of your outdoor space!

Do you Need Planning Permission for a Summer House?

Generally, summer houses and garden rooms do not require planning permission as they’re considered a permitted development and are single-storey garden buildings. However, there are exceptions to consider with this rule…

You Will Need Planning Permission for A Summer House If…

  • It will be within five metres of your home as this could then be classed as an extension
  • The area covered is more than 30m2 
  • Your house is a listed building
  • The summer house would be in areas of interest like a conservation area 
  • Your new summer house building will cover more than 50% of the area around your house
  • The summer house will be used as separate accommodation

We’d recommend checking the government’s advice on planning permission before you invest, or ask for advice from your local council.

Does a Summer House Need Building Regulations?

As summer houses tend to be classed as temporary structures, building regulations aren’t usually necessary to apply for. However, if installing electricity or plumbing, we recommend contacting your local authority’s Building Control department for more information on summer house building regulations in this case.

Choosing the Shape & Position of Your Summer House

When considering the position and shape of your summer house, there are several factors to consider. 

Generally, placing your summer house in a south-facing position will maximise its sun exposure, and the foundation where your summer building will sit should be a firm and level base – not in an area where water pools. It’s also important to ensure the space around it isn’t restricted – this may mean cutting back overhanging shrubs or trees. As a general rule, we’d recommend leaving 30cm between your summer house and fence or trees. This will allow you to care for your garden building if required. 

Summer houses are available in a range of shapes and sizes, from octagonal to square and rectangular which are great for corners. If there’s a key feature of your garden you want to be able to see, bear this in mind when you buy – you may want a rectangular-shaped building instead of an octagonal, for example. But you could also choose a garden building with side windows to keep your prized garden feature in view or let in evening light from the west – the options are endless!

Corner summer houses are perfect for utilising awkward garden spaces and are ideal for small to medium gardens. Look for a summer house with a side shed like the Mercia 12 x 6ft Maine Pent Summerhouse With Side Shed if you require more outdoor storage space. 

If you’re considering using your summer garden room as an office and require electrical outlets, we’d recommend positioning it within reach of your main electricals. Discuss this with a qualified electrician to help you decide where to place your new summer house.

Key Design Features to Consider

The aesthetic appeal of your new summer house isn’t the only factor to consider. While they’re designed to stand the test of time, considering the FSC certification and guarantee against rot for a wooden summer house can provide you with peace of mind when caring for garden furniture. All Robert Dyas summer houses are FSC-certified, allowing you to enjoy your new space without worry.

Styrene-Glazed Windows

For busy family gardens, the use of styrene-glazed windows on our summer houses removes the stress of dangerous glass shattering. Styrene glazed windows are developed with plastic materials, which are twice as strong as glass. With footballs being kicked around and outdoor games being the favoured activity in the summer months, accidents can increase, but these window types can make them less dangerous. 

If a styrene-glazed window were to shatter, it would break into plastic pieces, making it safer for children and pets. However, we would still recommend thoroughly cleaning the area with the right cleaning equipment.

Cladding

The cladding on a summer house affects the durability and overall design and is essentially how the wooden boards are constructed to form the walls of your summer house. There are three main types of cladding: shiplap, overlap and tongue and groove. Find out the difference between each in our shed buying guide. The thickness of the cladding is another key factor to consider. Standard summer houses are usually 12mm thick, making them ideal for the changing of seasons as the thicker the cladding board, the greater insulation it provides.

The Roof Type

There are three main types of a summer house roof: apex, pent and reverse apex. Each offers a timeless or modern design to your garden space - an apex roof offers increased headspace compared to a pent roof with its sloping design. Before purchasing a summer house, consider the height restrictions of where your summer house will sit, as overarching trees can cause an issue.

How to Build a Summer House

Our summer house kits make building a summer house an ideal activity for avid DIYers, but when building any garden building, we recommend having two to three people on hand for the insulation work. Each of our summer houses is equipped with step-by-step instructions, but if you’d prefer a team of professional installers, all of our Mercia summer houses have this service available. 

When building a summer house, we’d first recommend laying the foundations and next building the structure of your garden building as advised in the manual. This will allow for the next steps: installing the walls, doors, windows and roof. Once all is secured, your new summer house will be ready to enjoy for seasons to come.

Painting & Treating a Summer House Building

Whilst painting a summer house isn’t compulsory, applying a fresh lick of exterior paint will make it a focal feature in your garden space. We recommend applying a yearly treatment for wooden summer houses to avoid them being damaged by the elements. A clear varnish will allow its natural features to shine through, whilst painting it with an on-trend colour will make it an aesthetic masterpiece. For more expert advice, read our guide on treating and painting a garden shed.

If you’re searching for summer house painting ideas, then we have you covered – for a timeless approach, we’d recommend a chalky white, sage green or a cooling grey. To create a colourful focal feature, why not opt for bold blues, or vibrant yellows to complement the natural colours of your garden? To complete your bold summer house, discover more ways to brighten up your garden with colourful garden furniture.

The Best Summer Houses

Once the essential factors are considered in buying a summer house, it’s time to find the ideal garden building for your space. To help you decide, our experts have pulled out the choice of the best summer houses for this season, for big to small gardens.

Mercia 8 x 6 Maine Summerhouse

Relax or entertain in style with the Merica Maine Summerhouse. Its large windows and doors allow natural light to flood through whilst the spacious design makes it an ideal garden retreat! Fill your garden room with indoor plants and a compact sofa to enjoy a beautiful view of your garden.

The Best Summer House with Bifold Doors

The Mercia Helios Summerhouse is an ideal addition for medium to large garden spaces. The double doors make it the perfect hosting space for hosting a football viewing party or catching up with friends. The wide open space also allows you to add a summer house bar, filled with your favourite beverages and snacks.

Summer Houses with a Patio & Hot Tub Area

Looking to add a focal feature to your garden? The Maine Pent Summerhouse With Patio Area is the perfect addition. With a dedicated patio area ideal for a hot tub, your garden space will be the place to be in summer and as the sun sets, the inside of the summer house can provide a relaxing space to unwind.

Large Corner Summer Houses

The full-height windows on the Shire Barclay Summer House will provide plenty of natural light so you can enjoy it from dawn to dusk. To make it a cosy haven in the evening, why not add solar lights to make it into a relaxing sanctuary? And if there’s space around your new garden building, add a BBQ to create an outdoor kitchen zone for the warmer seasons. For expert tips and guidance in creating garden zones, read our handy guide.

With our summer house ideas, tips and guidance, you’ll be sure to find the perfect one for your garden space. Discover garden essentials and more in our outdoor living range, online and in-store.