When buying a garden office, you need to think about how much maintenance you are prepared to do, to keep it looking good. You need to think about this particularly as you choose the external finishes for your office. There are some garden office ranges that are sold as ‘no maintenance’, but most garden office buildings would be classed as low maintenance, meaning that they will require some care to keep them looking good and protected.
Your choice of external cladding will have an impact on the maintenance needed
The key area for maintenance on a garden office is the external cladding. By far the most popular finish for external cladding is timber, as this natural material helps the office blend with the garden it sits within. In the past, softwoods that required the protection of a paint finish were used, today more durable timbers are used, that don’t need the same long-term commitment. Thermowood, a softwood that is treated at high temperatures to make it durable is a popular entry-level option. Siberian Larch has a natural durability and at a mid-range cost. The most desirable option is Western Red Cedar, which like Siberian Larch has a natural durability against rot and fungal attack. As well as its natural durability, Western Red Cedar is popular because of its rich reddish-brown colouring. This durability and aesthetic appeal come with a higher price tag though.
Thermowood, Siberian Larch and Western Red Cedar are normally left natural. Some companies will paint or stain the cladding to change its colour. Depending on the finish used, this design choice will need maintenance every few years to keep it looking good.
The downside of timber claddings
The downside of choosing a timber cladding like Siberian Larch or Western Red Cedar is that, as they age, and are exposed to light and weathering, the timbers will change colour, losing their original richness, taking on a silver grey colour. There is nothing wrong with this colour change and the timbers are still durable. It is just that your office will look quite different to how it does when it is first built, this can be disappointing.
There is a way to preserve the original colour, but it needs to be done as the office is built and before it is exposed to light. If you want to ensure your Cedar or Larch keeps its new look, you need to have a couple of coats of UV-oil applied as the cladding is fitted. This oil is clear and leaves the timber with a soft sheen. We have found with our own cladding that its application enriched the natural colour tones of the Cedar.
By choosing this option you are committing yourself to a maintenance regime. Depending on the exposure of the office, the UV-oil will need to be reapplied every couple of years. This is a relatively easy task that with drying times between coats, you could easily complete in a weekend. The uv-oil costs around £60 for 2.5 litres.
If you want your garden office to stay looking like new
If you want your garden office to stay looking like its new and for it not to change colour as it ages, you’ll want to look beyond timber claddings. If you choose a metal or manmade composite cladding, you will not only be ensuring that your office remains looking like it did when it was built, but also reduce your maintenance commitments.
Booths Garden Studios have developed the QC range of maintenance free garden offices. The QC stands for Quarter Century; this is the length of time Booths estimate their offices will be maintenance free. Booths use a colour coated steel sheet to clad the walls of their buildings. This factory finished product does not need repainting and will maintain its new colour. Booths mix their steel cladding with uPVC doors, windows and trims. At most, these two materials will need a soapy wipedown to keep them looking good.
Companies like Executive Garden Rooms make use of composite cladding products. Executive Garden Rooms use a material called Cedral Weatherboarding, which is a cement based board. Cedral has a wood grain texture and comes pre-coloured and does not require painting.
Composite wood products are becoming more popular for garden offices. Composite wood is a mix of real wood fibres and resins, like Cedral they have a wood grain texture and are pre-coloured so don’t require painting. Some companies like Halls Garden Living completely build their garden offices using composite wood products; others use composite wood cladding as part of a traditional timber frame or SIPS build-up.
Some companies offer maintenance packages
Some garden office companies offer maintenance packages with their buildings. These packages are often an optional extra and will see the installation team return to a site to carry out any repairs. What is included in these maintenance packages varies between companies. Hargreaves Garden Rooms, for instance, will for an annual payment of £350 or £32 per month for 12 months, return to the site, to clear the gutters and reapply the UV-oil.
Wise choices now could save you work in the future
On the whole, a garden office doesn’t need a lot of maintenance and should last you many decades without any significant repair, but, if DIY is not your bag, you might want to consider choosing a no maintenance cladding or add a maintenance plan to your order.