Well, what a busy few months it’s been for TLHC! If you are new to TLHC let me introduce myself – I’m Kirsty, the Founder of the business which I run myself. Everything you see from social media content to the website, products stocked to packing your beautiful orders, admin, marketing… let’s just say I keep myself on my toes!
After running the business from the spare bedroom for the past 12 months, I did ponder quite early on as to where the copious amount of boxes would be stored. I don’t think anyone who starts a business from home, envisions just how quickly you run out of space! So once the spare bedroom was full, stock overflowed to the landing, our bedroom, in the wardrobes, the kitchen... I even took over little man’s bedroom on the weekends’ he wasn’t with us! So we needed to do something. Work/life balance you say? Non-existent.
The thought process; am I in a position to rent a warehouse or small office? No. Can we convert the garage into an office? Yes, but then we would lose that space, so another structure would be needed for storage. So we did look into the costs of the garage conversion to compare against getting a company in to build a garden office. We were looking at approx. 4k for the garage conversion vs around 25-30k for a garden office (for the spec/size we were after).
Both of these options just weren’t feasible for us – it was only 8 months’ ago I was made redundant and my partner was on reduced hours’ due to furlough. So we put pen to paper, to work out costs to build our own office on a budget. Luckily, my partner is a qualified carpenter (not working as one right now, although he certainly should do in my opinion!) he built our pergola from scratch which is very impressive if I do say so!
So here we were, about to embark on a mammoth task of building TLHC HQ… Let’s go back 3 months to March 2021 where we began the build.
Stage 1 – Prep & The Base
The first task, we moved our cherry blossom trees and replanted in pots for now, they’ll go back in the ground once the office is finished (plan for one each side once the decking goes down). We laid down the concrete blocks on the hardcore, making sure they were all level from the highest point of the garden (as we have a slight slope). The measurements for the office were 6 x 3.5 metres, leaving a 1m gap either side of the office and the back.
For the base frame, we used 2 x 6000mm and 15 x 3406mm timber planks. In total we cut out 39 x 400mm noggins from the timber to support the frame (I found love using the Mitre Saw!). We used 70mm wood screws to create the frame.
Next step was to apply a layer of DPC (Damp Proof Course) on all parts of the frame that would be touching/near the blocks and grass – we covered all of the wood underneath. We then applied DMP (Damp Proof Membrane) which goes under the timber frame and DPC between the blocks and the frame. We stapled this all the way around to prevent water getting into the insulation and wood.
Next we added Fiberglass insulation between all joists. Once that was done, we used Egger Chipboard Flooring on top of the frame and insulation – glued all tongue & grove joints then screwed every 200mm where a joist/noggin was available. We finished off the base with Rhinovent Ultra Breathable Membrane across the chipboard flooring, overlapping the frame by 200mm. We then stapled underneath for added protection against the elements.
Stage 2 – The Structure/Build
Before we started to cut the timber, we needed to work out the height of the wall but to do this we needed to work out the height of the garden office.
Our local planning guidelines state, that if the structure is no higher than 2.5m at its highest point then you shouldn’t need planning permission. It is better to check than have to complete the office and have to take it down! Imagine that.
Knowing that we needed a 5-degree slope from front to back to help the water drain off the roof, we calculated the external height and worked backwards.
Once calculated we knew that at the highest point of the office front wall could be a maximum of 2.2m, allowing for enough of a slope for the roof the back wall would be around 2m internal height.
Starting with the back wall, we built the frame on the base using the two 6 meter lengths, cut the studs to a length of 1906mm and positioned the studs at 600mm gaps to the centre of the stud (this means from the middle of the first stud to the next stud along will be 600mm leaving a gap of 553. We do this because most sheet materials inducing plasterboard and OSB sheets come in lengths of 1200, allowing for secure fixings across all edges of the board), double up on the studs on each end (screwing two together, this will help with fixing sheet materials later) we added noggins in every gap half way up each wall to help with twisting and supporting the wall.
Once this wall was done, it was time to stand the wall up and ghost fix it in place. We used supporting braces to keep it up. When the wall was supported, we ensured the base and wall were still straight, level and square. This is an important part as all the sheet materials we would be using were already square and 1mm out can mean 10mm out by the time we got 6 metres across or 2.5m up!
Once checked the wall was square and level, we screwed this to the base. Ensuring a solid fix, we used a pattern of back and front screws to stop the timber twisting or lifting as we built the other walls.
We followed the same process for the front wall, allowing the gaps for the doors and windows. We fixed the door frame into the wall frame before lifting the wall into place. This allowed us to square the door to ensure a proper fit.
For the sidewalls, we built them in place, starting with the base and top timber, meaning we measured and cut each length- to ensure the angles of the wall was parallel with the drop of the roof. Allowing us to make sure the windows spaces were in the correct position for the layout of the office.
Once all walls were complete and screwed in place to the base, we screwed the OSB boarding to the entire structure, only leaving the door. Allowing us to ensure a tight fit and cut the spaces for the windows once everything was secured. Adding the same membrane to the outside of the building to help with airflow and waterproofing. Internally we used the same fiberglass insulation for the walls and ceilings (using adhesive spray allowed us to stick the fiberglass insulation to the roof and stop it falling down)
We wanted a 300mm overhang on the back and sides and a 1000 overhang on the front to create shelter from the rain. We used 11 x 47mm x 100mm at 4.8m for the roof. Starting from one end, we centred the joists at 600 spaces (same as walls), screwed directly into the top of the walls (you can use brackets to have a belt and braces approach). Noggins secured at 1200 spaces (for the plasterboard and OSB roofing sheets). For the ladders (overhang on the sides), we built this separately and screwed it after the main roof joists were in place. It is really handy to add a small batten between each joist at the front and back wall, as this will provide a fixing spot for the plasterboard.
Once all joists and ladders were complete, we used OSB boards (2440mm x1220mm x 11mm) to cover the roof and added the same waterproof membrane.
We will be adding cladding to the underneath of the overhangs and installing a gutter that will lead to water butts so we can use this to water the plants.
Now the building is almost watertight, we installed the windows. We acquired them from a family friend who was going to take them to the tip, as they didn’t like the tint of the glass and bought new windowpanes. They are from bi-fold doors and a fixed side window.
As they didn’t come with a frame, we retrofitted them using 20 x 45 battens, 5mm packers and clear waterproof sealant. First fixing the internal battens, ensuring they were square and straight. Using 5mm packers around the window frame, we fitted the windows into place. Using sealant around the windows before adding the external battens and sealing those as well.
For the cladding we are using black featheredge timber – 32mm x 175mm @ 4.8m.
We plaster boarded inside, this was the only thing we outsourced during this project as we picked up our puppy that week!
Stage 3 – Interior
When it comes to the interior, it probably couldn’t be more simple than what I was hoping to achieve. I’ve followed a few projects from people I’ve seen on Instagram for inspiration, one in particular was @malmoandmoss which is where I found the perfect colour for the walls. Looking at the paint Becca had used, it was out of our budget so instead I took that colour to B&Q and got it made up as a Valspar Mix, saving pennies which was needed!
The colour was inspired by Neptune’s ‘Shell’ which is a beautiful, neutral colour, a creamy/off-white but it has the perfect tint of beige to give a warmer feel. I’m completely obsessed with it. I went all out and painted the ceiling the same as the walls. We first applied 2 layers of standard white emulsion and the Valspar paint took just 1 coat.
Wood flooring was top of my wish list! Dreaming of herringbone and parquet styles, I may have got a little carried away looking at real wood/engineered wood floors on Pinterest! But soon realised this option was not viable on the budget we had available. I came across Factory Direct Flooring who I feel very humbled to have worked with for the office flooring.
I was quickly informed that the business owner Paul Hambidge was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the business he had built, and this really showed when discussing the best option for the garden office. The team at FDF recommended to avoid engineered wood flooring – the office will be high traffic especially on delivery days and if water did get in on rainy days, it could tarnish the boards, so instead they suggested an alternative which would better suit the criteria with their Aqua Plank line, which is a type of Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT). It’s waterproof, durable, scratch resistant and pet friendly; whilst being eco-friendly, low maintenance and doesn’t require any adhesive – it’s just click and go. Plus, they had a herringbone range – so I was sold!
I ordered my samples (I picked 2) for the choice of colours – these were free and arrived within a couple of days. Once they arrived, it was a clear choice for the colour as I was after a lighter shade to compliment the off-white walls.
I opted for the Aqua Plank Herringbone in Traditional Oak https://www.factory-direct-flooring.co.uk/aqua-plank-traditional-oak-herringbone-click-vinyl
The installation was easy once we got going, I say we as I roped my dad into helping out, so it turned into a dad/daughter project which was amusing... just call us Laurel and Hardy! The planks were already split into A & B which was useful. I started at one end of the room, alternating A & B planks to start the pattern, which we then duplicated to form 3 rows in total. We then had to think about the gaps either side of the planks – as we couldn’t fit a whole plank each side to complete the row. We decided to push the planks over to one edge of the room and cut a straight line vertically to have one straight edge running down the back wall. This meant we had less product waste overall.
The Vinyl has a simple click system – you just click the B plank onto the head of the A plank. If it’s done right you will hear the click – but some of them did need a little help, so a rubber mallet is handy. Tip: make sure the floor is completely clear of lumps/bumps/dirt as you go along – as this can get in the grooves and you’ll just force it and waste a tile (only 2 tiles met their fate this way! But we repurposed them on the cut edge side).
Remember to leave a 5mm (at least) gap for expansion all around the edge, as the tiles will expand/contract depending on the weather so they need room to adjust. We will be covering the gap with skirting board as part of the final tasks to the office.
Once the 3 rows were complete, we then cut a straight line horizontally across the tiles – this meant we could push the tiles up against the wall (leaving min. of 5mm gap) and those cut out will be added at the other end of the room to complete it. From here, it’s a giant puzzle to complete! Just work your way down one line at a time. We got this done within 6 hours between the two of us including multiple coffee breaks.
FDF kindly provided the vinyl as a PR product (Otherwise total cost including 10% wastage and delivery would have been approx. £600). FDF currently have half price delivery and discounts off some of their products (including discount off the tiles I chose) – correct at time of writing blog post. Making their products really affordable and the quality is incredible.
What does the office look like now? I can’t say we are at the finish line just yet… internally I need some shelves, artwork, a new desk, finish the packing station and get skirting boards on. Externally we will be adding some decking round the edges of the office and putting a path in down the side of the garden.
Budget? Total spent to date (not including flooring, windows, doors and insulation) £4,338 plus, we still have our garage space! So it was a similar cost to the garage conversion.
I would love to know what you think! Let me know below and if you have any questions pop them on here and I'll answer them.
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