Timber outbuildings ideas & planning

by Build It magazine
23rd March 2019

A new standalone timber structure built on the grounds of your property can serve all manner of functions and enhance the way you use your home.


Whether you plan to use it for storing your car, bikes, tools or Christmas tree, having a garage is a useful addition to keep vehicles safe and other items out of your main abode.

A garage can add real value to your project – and could even double-up as temporary accommodation during a build.

Lots of styles are available, from traditional oak structures through to contemporary timber designs.

Timber outbuilding garage

Designed by The Classic Barn Company, this three-bay garage amd car port has living space above, accessed via an external staircase

Consider what it will be used for and if you might want to convert any part of the addition into living space at a future date – if this is the case, then think about insulating all the walls to a suitable standard (rather than retrofitting later).

Some designs are multi-purpose, such as those with habitable areas bolted on, either in a loft room or as part of the ground floor plan.

Read more: Choosing a garage

Garden offices

With working from home becoming the norm for an increasing number of people, keeping office hours separate from the domestic zone by adding a work space to your garden can be a good way to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

You’ll need to think carefully about the ideal position of both the structure and its glazing so that you have ample daylight without a direct glare on your computer screen.

home office in Timber outbuilding

Designed by architects Surman Weston, this home workspace is lined with birch plywood inside, while outside an innovative cork cladding creates a thermally and acoustically efficient external barrier [Credit: Wai Ming Ng]

Insulation is important, too, as well as a heat emitter and electricity, so that you can use the space throughout the year.

Again, many modular timber solutions exist – or you could go for a one-off bespoke design.

Read more: How to create a home office in your garden

Summer houses & pool rooms

Putting up this kind of structure in your garden could provide extra living room for leisure activities, such as a teenage den, games room, pool-side structure or even somewhere for an inside pool if you’ve got the space and budget.

swimming pool in Timber outbuilding

If your budget allows, a private indoor swimming pool could be the ideal luxury addition to your home. This design is by English Heritage Buildings

If you’re planning to have an indoor swimming pool it’s best to work alongside an expert in the field to make sure you get heating and ventilation right.

Read more: Beginners guide to swimming pools

Extra accommodation

If you don’t have a spare bedroom, then a garden room where you can put up guests is a good option. You’ll want to ensure the building is thermally efficient and airtight, with an electricity connection and water supply if it’s got a bathroom.

Many specialist companies offer this kind of arrangement in the form of modular timber structures.


Accommodation in timber outbuilding

Shepherd Huts are popular additions to offer guests a rustic stay. This design by Blackdown Shepherd Huts features horizontal timber cladding and pale green fenestration [Credit: Ben Carpenter]

If your project falls under the permitted development size limits and you don’t intend to use it as an independent dwelling, then you may not need full planning permission.

In general, if members of your household or guests are staying infrequently, there shouldn’t be an issue. It’s wise to establish this with your local authority first, however – and you may want to secure a lawful development certificate.

Kit outbuildings & garden sheds

If you’re after a smaller room, then a kit option might be suitable for you. Small self-assembly shiplap summerhouses from DIY stores like B&Q start from around £430, or you could upgrade by going to a specialist for a bespoke log cabin or oak structure that comes with a design and assembly service.

Mind the budget


Garden shed

This outbuilding can be used as storage space, a hobby room or as a compact living zone for
summer relaxation. It’s made from 35mm thick interlocking walls.

The double doors at the front give this space a light and airy feel. Prices for Johnsons Garden Buildings‘ Avondale start from £2,563 for a 2.5m x 2.5m design.

Garden shed


A set of double doors provides easy access to this garden shed, while waterproof styrene windows allow daylight to filter through.

Available in a range of sizes from Waltons, this unit is made of 12mm tongue and groove timber and comes with a 15-year anti-rot guarantee. Pressure-treated timber shed, from £665 for a 3m x 2.5m design.

Outbuildings planning permission

  • Outbuildings tend to come under permitted development (PD) rights, but if these don’t apply to you (for instance, if your plans exceed the size limits, your house is positioned in a conservation area, or you own a listed building) then you’ll need specific planning consent.
  • The intended use of the building is crucial when it comes to permission to build, so make sure you define how you intend to use the zone properly.
  • You can’t cover more than 50% of the property’s original garden with buildings; the structure must be single storey, have a maximum eaves height of 2.5m and overall height of 3m. Verandas, balconies and raised platforms don’t fall under PD.
  • Always check whether permitted development applies, or whether you need full planning, before going ahead with an outbuilding project.

permitted development basics

Top image: This contemporary design by Green Studios features birch ply interior cladding with a cedar finish externally. It’s used as a home office and storage area

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