Comparing Garden Offices
When buying a garden office, it is a good idea to get quotes from more than one company. An average number of quotes would be three. Some buyers tell us they have had five or more quotes but with so many options on the table, they find it hard to decide which company to work with.
Once you have conducted your initial research. Exploring websites and requesting brochures. It is a good idea to narrow your search and ask companies to give you a rough idea of cost based on the size of office you are after. This can be done on the phone or via email and is a good way of identifying the companies that work within your budget.
Once you have three or four companies on your shortlist, Invite them to conduct a site visit. This is a free and without obligation visit. It is, in our opinion, a vital part of the buying process. Following the site visit, you will be given designs for your office, a detailed specification and quote for the work to be undertaken. You will also be given an idea of timeframes for the project. For example, how long you will have to wait for work to start on-site and how many days the installation process will take.
After these visits, it may be clear to you which company to work with. If not, you'll want to compare different elements of the quote carefully. This should help you identify which quote has the best combination of features, and which option you may be making compromises on.
It is not enough to compare garden offices just on price. Yes, we all like a good deal, but is one quote more expensive because it includes more features off your wishlist?
If we were in your position today, we would be comparing the following features:
Is the size of the office exactly what you wanted? Are you maximising the area of space you have available? You may find that one of the companies you are comparing offers a standard sized building, while another will build you a specific sized structure that maximises every millimetre of space available.
We would also ask how much space has to be left around the building for it to be installed. Some companies will ask for at least 400mm to be left around the building perimeter; others will be able to build much closer to a boundary.
How much input can you have into the layout? Are the doors and windows able to be positioned just where you want them? With standard designs, you have very little flexibility in changing what is offered. Modular designs tend to offer more flexibility when it comes to choosing the position of the doors and windows. With a bespoke design, you will be able to specify the size and exact position of the doors windows.
Garden offices are not built equally. Some designs make use of house quality timber frames and SIP's. Others use pared down versions that have a thinner profile but maximise the floor space within the room. You'll want to be aware of the differences when comparing core structures as a house quality SIP's build is going to cost you more than pared back version.
With SIP's structures, you can compare the thickness of the panel. The thicker the panels, the more insulation on offer. You can also compare the type of insulation the panel is filled with as some are better performing than others.
With traditional timber frame builds, you would want to compare the thickness of the timbers and the inclusion of a sheathing of structural board. This sheathing layer strengthens the frames, but some companies omit it.
Garden offices are not all built equal. You should pay particular attention to the core structure build-up when comparing garden offices. Some garden offices offer house quality core structures while others have a pared down version.
Check that insulation is present in the floor, walls and roof of the structure. You will find that with some log cabin style offices, that only the floor and roof are insulated. Thicker insulation does not necessarily mean better insulated. The way to truly compare how well insulated a garden office is, is to examine the u-values. All the different layers in the construction add together to create the u-value, not just the insulation. Companies should be able to give you the u-values of the floor, walls and roof. The lower the figure, the better when comparing these numbers.
Some claddings are more durable than others. More durable coatings such as Cedar come with a high price tag. You would expect to pay quite a bit more for a Cedar clad garden office than one that is finished with Thermowood, for instance.
You should compare exterior cladding finishes by their aesthetic appeal and by their durability and on-going maintenance requirements.
Door & Window Finishes
We have discussed comparing how the layout of doors and windows works for your needs and site. You'll also want to compare the finish of the doors and windows. For instance, softwood windows will require ongoing maintenance, while Cedar frames will require little ongoing maintenance but are expensive. Low maintenance uPVC are often the standard option and aluminium clad finishes the premium choice.
You should expect double glazing to be used throughout. Some companies upgrade the performance of the glazing with specialist coatings and gases. Be cautious if you see just single glazing on offer.
You would expect for your garden office to come pre-wired with lights and power points as standard. The type of lighting and the number of sockets will vary between suppliers. Some companies will include data cabling for reliable internet connections others will suggest a HomePlug or boosting your wireless network.
Does the design include external lighting? Exterior lighting is not only practical it adds to the aesthetics of the building at night. Higher spec options will allow you to control the interior and exterior lighting from your smartphone.
Not all garden offices are sold with a heater. Even with a well-insulated building, you will need a heater for the coldest days of the year. An electric panel heater is often the standard option. Higher spec options include underfloor heating and air conditioning. You would expect any system to come with a thermostat and timer.
There are several finnishes to compare when choosing the interior finishes for your garden office. Tongue & groove softwood and MDF boards are a basic option. These finishes are often left bare for you to decorate yourself, so you need to factor that job in. White coated wall boards offer a bright, modern interior which is easy to keep looking good.
Plastered and decorated interiors are often specified on the highest spec garden offices. They take time to do right. Often a company will be on site for a couple of days longer than a counterpart who uses a panel system. This makes them a more expensive choice.
Installation is commonly included in the overall price of the building. Some companies will, however, make a delivery charge. The figure is typically determined by the mileage between you and the suppliers HQ. An initial 100 miles is often free with anything over this charged by the mile. Fees of around £6 per mile are typical, so this can add up. So, it is a cost we would compare when buying.
We mentioned earlier that garden offices usually come pre-wired electrically. If you are working with a company who offers a turnkey service, you would expect this cost to be included in the price you have been quoted. If it is not, you would be expected to organise this, and you could be looking at £1,000 to £1,500, so its a significant extra.
How much maintenance are you prepared to commit too? You need to have this in mind when comparing designs. A building with softwood cladding that appears a cost-effective buy today, is going to require repainting every few years. You need to factor in not only the time this will take you, but also the cost of the paint - quality exterior wood paint is not cheap!
Larch, Cedar, rendered and metal clad offices, will cost you more today, but won't require much maintenance over the years. So you need to weigh up costs today compared with work tomorrow.
You should expect your garden office to come with a warranty. The length of this will vary between companies. As will what is covered, so, compare the cover carefully.
If we were buying an office with timber doors, we would be noting if the warranty includes a return visit should the doors need adjusting. Softwood timber doors, particularly, are at risk of swelling and may require, so they close properly.
Some companies offer insurance backed warranties. They cover you if the company who built the office goes out of business. If this happens, the insurance policy will pay for another company to come in and rectify the problem.