When buying a garden office, it is good practice to meet with three or four suppliers. This meeting will normally take the form of a free site visit, where a representative from the company will visit your home to discuss your options regarding building a garden office.
A site visit is one of the most important steps in the buying process. It is your key opportunity to ask questions and to get a feel of what it will be like to work with the supplier.
You will have lots of opportunities to discuss your design options during the site visit, and the supplier will bring with them examples of their work and material samples to choose from.
In addition to the questions you will have about the design and layout of your office, we suggest you ask the suppliers the following questions:
How much experience do they have building garden offices?
It’s a good idea to ask how many offices like the one you are planning to build they have built and how long they have been trading. This will give you an idea of their level of experience. If you find that you are talking to one of the newer suppliers, ask them what their experience was prior to entering the market.
Do I need to apply for Planning Permission to build a garden office?
At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to check whether you need to make a Planning Application or whether you can build under the Permitted Development rules, but you should ask your supplier during the site visit. They will advise you on your options based on where you live.
Will they handle the Planning Application for you?
If you find that you will need to apply for Planning Permission to build your garden office, ask your supplier if they will handle this on your behalf. Some firms will handle the whole process for you, with you just paying the Local Authority application fee. Other firms will only supply you with drawings and specification details for you to make the application yourself.
What’s included in the price?
You need to be clear on what is included in the price quoted. This will make comparing suppliers easier and will avoid surprises if you are clear on what is and isn’t included from day one. Pay particular attention as to whether the foundation is included, if there are any delivery charges and if you have to organise and pay for the electrical hook-up to the mains – this final point is the most common extra that garden office buyers have to budget for.
Ask about the core structure build-up
While there are similarities in the way, all garden offices are built. The actual build-up will vary between suppliers. Some will build using house quality frames and insulation levels, while others have developed lighter weight build-ups that have narrower timbers and less insulation. It is important that you have a clear understanding of the core construction so that you can compare your options and highlight the elements of the core structure that have an effect on the overall cost.
How long will the on-site build take?
Building a garden office is one of the quickest ways to extend your home. Because the majority of work takes place in factory conditions, on-site building times are typically 1 to 14 days, depending on the building size and complexity of the design. It is a good idea to ask this question, though, as there are some firms who build their offices from scratch on site, this system can bump the on-site build time up to a month or so, so there is a significant difference, and you’ll want to know what to expect.
How much maintenance will your office need?
Garden offices are designed to last for decades. To keep it in good shape it will need some maintenance here and there. Ask what form this maintenance might take and how often you will need to do any work. Also, ask about the material choices you can make today to minimise any maintenance commitments in the long term.
What aftercare arrangements and warranties does the office come with?
Garden offices are well designed and built. They make use of the same materials as used in the house and commercial building industries. Still, it would be wrong of us to say that we haven’t heard stories over the years of there being problems – door locks jamming, cracks appearing in the plaster or something leaking – these stories are thankfully very rare! But it is important you ask about the aftercare the firm offers, what is covered and over what period. Some firms will offer insurance backed warranties, a policy that covers you should your original supplier not be around to rectify the problem, you would be covered for someone else to step in. Be sure to ask whether this type of policy is available and if so at what cost.
Who is liable for unexpected site problems?
If a site visit has been undertaken, your supplier should have assessed the site conditions and access, so there should be no unexpected problems once they arrive on-site to start the build. It is a good idea though to ask early on in the buying process who will be liable for any time delays and unexpected costs that might arise during the on-site build. This will no doubt be stated in the small print of the contract you sign, but you will want to be clear on this element earlier on in the decision process in our opinion.
If you choose to include a toilet into your office building, does price include the connections to the mains supplies?
Incorporating toilets and shower rooms into a garden office building has become very popular. Some examples we have seen, the supplier will handle the whole process for you – fitting out the cloakroom and organising the connections to the mains sewerage and water, so everything is ready to use as they leave the site. Over firms will fit out the cloakroom and leave you to organise the connection to the mains services – this is a significant additional cost – so be clear that you know which package you are ordering.
You will, of course, have many more questions of your own to ask, and it is a good idea to jot these down before meeting with a supplier, so you don’t forget anything. Don’t be afraid that you are asking too many questions when buying a garden office; a good supplier will be more than happy to answer them, as they will know that an informed buyer is a happy buyer.