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How to Choose Between A Garden Office Or Extension

As families grow, and the age at which children fly the nest rises, the issue of living space becomes more and more prominent. Luckily for you, we’re here with two awesome ways to address it. The only question…a standalone garden office? Or an extension?

If your home is noisy, crowded, or overrun with distractions, a detached insulated garden office may be the best choice. If you simply want to expand the size of specific rooms in your home, then an extension would be ideal. 

The main consideration when choosing between a garden office or an extension is your specific needs. 

Do you want to type your novel in your quiet back garden as the summer finches chirp outside your French doors? Or are you simply keen on stepping up your home’s square footage? We know you’ve been thinking about finally adding your dream en-suite!

Decisions, decisions.

Differences Between Garden Offices And Extensions

While both of these may be ways of creating physical space for you and your loved ones, garden offices and extensions are completely different approaches. If done correctly though, investment in either will yield incredible savings on certain costs.

Garden Office

Let’s start with the garden office. This is, believe it or not, an office… in your garden. There are countless iterations and adaptations out there, as more and more people spruce up their properties with these tidy little workspaces. Check out this particular example on Pinterest

The great part about the garden office is that its design, structure, and functionality is entirely up to you.

Paint it any color or hang up décor that would be too edgy for a traditional office environment. Creating a workspace that reflects your taste and personality is highly conducive to creative success. 

However, for many, the best advantage that comes with working from a garden office is that you can save a ton of money by not commuting to work every day. If you work by the hour, for instance, you could clock in significantly more hours than you would if you had to commute to an office.

If you have your own business, you know the cost of renting office space is often a constant source of stress.

With a garden office, you can finally leave the worries behind by working from home. If you design the structure nicely enough, it may even become one of the best ways for you to impress clients.

As far as planning permission goes, you do not need any for your garden office…usually.

In the United Kingdom, structures such as this are under the blanket of the Permitted Development (PD) scheme.

PD is essentially pre-existing authorization for property outbuildings, which means you will not need to apply for planning permission. However, there are a few stipulations you need to stick to for your garden office to be covered by PD:

  • The structure must not exceed a height of 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) without a roof. If the structure has a dual-pitched roof, the overall height cannot exceed 13 feet (4 meters). If the garden structure features any other type of roof, then the maximum overall height permitted is 9.8 feet (3 meters).
  • The structure must not be meant for accommodation or sleeping.
  • The garden structure must not take up more than 50% of your total garden/yard space.
  • If the structure is to be located within a 6.5 feet (2-meter) distance of the main house, it mustn’t exceed an overall height of 8.2 feet (2.5 meters), regardless of what kind of roof it has.
  • The structure must not feature balconies or terraces that protrude more than 11.8 inches (0.3 meters) from the structure.
  • If the structure is to be built on designated land (such as heritage sites, national parks, or “areas of outstanding natural beauty”), while being more than 65.5 feet (20 meters) away from the main house building, then it must not take up an area larger than 107.5 square feet (10 square meters).
  • There must be no overriding regulations or other planning commission conditions that hinder standard PD schemes in your area.
  • Your property must be a HOUSE. Flats, repurposed buildings, maisonettes, and other structures do not qualify for PD. People in such circumstances will have to seek planning permission.

If you are in-line with these regulations, then you are good to go. 

If you want to run a business out of your garden office, planning permission may or may not be required depending on several factors. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Whether your business will cause a significant upturn in foot traffic in and out of your property.
  • Whether you intend on activities that may be deemed “unusual” for a residential zone.
  • Whether your activities will cause disturbances like noise or smells.
  • Whether your business will be operating at unreasonable hours.

Some of these factors may leave a bit of room for interpretation so you should consult planning officers or experts within your local community for clarification.

Also, have a sit-down with your neighbors, or neighborhood representatives, to let them know of your plans and how they might affect the neighborhood. The last thing you want is to start being hit with violations, and neighbor-led complaints, as soon as you are about to open your business’ doors.


If you simply want more space or want to add another room or feature to your home, then an extension is precisely what you need. Unlike garden offices, extensions are not detached from the main house building.

Common extensions include en suite bathroom additions and kitchen extensions. If you have a great appetite for challenges, you could even add another floor to your house to make it multistorey. 

Extensions are most common for growing families.

As Mom and Dad have more kids, for example, sharing one bathroom may become a massive time suck, especially on hectic mornings when everyone is in a rush.

In such a scenario, adding a separate bathroom for the parents may be a good idea. Another common scenario is when a family wants a bigger dining room to accommodate a larger table.

While they have a host of spatial, aesthetic, and economic benefits, extensions can be pretty costly. A nightmare scenario is discovering certain structural problems to the pre-existing house while you are right in the middle of an extension project. 

Like with garden offices, planning permission is a consideration you must make before extending your home.

PD rears its head here too and, if you satisfy all of the requirements, you will be able to carry on with the extension without formally applying for planning permission.

  • Please note that for extensions, requirements for PD are slightly different than those for garden outbuildings. 

Here are a few PD requirements for house extensions in the central London area:

  • Rear extensions may fall under PD’s pre-approval, provided they do not stretch beyond 3 meters (9.8 feet) past the original rear wall. In the event of a stepped rear wall, the bottom step can be counted as the rear wall for measurement purposes.
  • Sidewall extensions that will protrude past the point of the rear wall must also not extend beyond 3 meters (9.8 feet) past the rear wall.
  • Extensions that are within 2 meters of a property boundary must have a maximum eaves height (height from the base of the external wall to the point where the wall meets the roof) of 3 meters (9.8 feet). If the extension is further than 2 meters away from a boundary, then the maximum eaves height permitted is 4 meters (13 feet).
  • Two-story extensions must be at least 7 meters away (23 feet) from any property boundaries.

If your plans fail to satisfy the above criteria, then you will need to acquire a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development (CLOPUD) from your city council before you begin the works. In cases where your home is located on protected land or a conservative area, PD will not apply and you will need to submit a formal planning permission application. 

Another thing that prospective extenders might find annoying is the “contemporary extension rule”. In a nutshell, this dictates that if the extension and the original building are made from different materials, you will have to submit a planning permission application.

How To Choose Between A Garden Office And An Extension

If you desire to work in your favorite garden spot, then the detachability of a garden office would be the best choice for you. 

Working from home is a great way to spend more time with your family while saving on daily commute costs. However, the nature of home life can be pretty distracting (especially if you have young children running around).

A garden office offers a mini-escape and the ideal conditions for you to focus and maintain acceptable levels of productivity. It can also be seen as a man cave, or she-shed, for your recreational hobbies and relaxation.

Extensions are more suited to people who wish to add to the main house building. While a garden office and an extension both offer opportunities to increase indoor space on your property, the latter is the only way to increase the size of existing rooms in your house.

If you want a bigger living room or bedrooms, then an extension is what you need.

In cases where you are pondering a choice between a garden office or an extension intended for the same purpose (e.g. an office), then your choice may be determined by the planning and building regulation-shaped hoops you will have to jump through.

Most people will often choose the path of least resistance and go with the option that presents more attainable stipulations.

Money matters will undoubtedly feature among your considerations too. Your spending power may impact your choice, especially if the options have the same intended purpose.