How to expand your living space and limit your environmental footprint

Tiny Homes

There’s been some really interesting coverage lately of ‘tiny homes’. They’re frugal, sustainable and use fewer natural resources than their larger equivalents. Nevertheless, most of us at some stage in our lives want more space – an overspill area for children, hobbies, or a home business; a few more square meters of space that can make all the difference to family harmony, career aspirations or general well being.

House extension versus timber garden room

Building a traditional extension is expensive and time-consuming. And if you’re using concrete, cement and other new materials, it’s not particularly eco-friendly.

An alternative that’s easier on your wallet and the environment is a timber garden room. DIY titans may be able to build their own with recycled and salvaged materials. The rest of us, with less time, skills and DIY self-confidence, have a huge choice of flatpack garden rooms and summer houses.

If you can’t use reclaimed materials for your garden room, buy it from a company that uses wood from sustainably managed forests. Online suppliers such as GardenLife Log Cabins have a wide choice of garden buildings using sustainable timber, to suit all budgets and plot sizes.

You should also look out for businesses and products with the FSC certification, as these comply with high environmental standards for growing and harvesting forests and woodlands, ensuring they are not cut faster than they are replaced. FSC certification also requires companies to meet social and economic standards, designed to maintain local communities’ rights of ownership and long-term economic well-being.

As well as choosing a garden room over a bricks and mortar extension, there are othergreen choices you can make when constructing and maintaining a timber garden building:

What about environmentally friendly foundations?

Rather than using a concrete base, consider an eco-friendly gravel grid system. These use recycled plastic grids for the base of the building, with gravel providing extra stability and drainage. They allow excellent ventilation and water drainage, so they’re very low-maintenance as well as green.

Using FSC-certified timber decking for the base of your garden room is also a green solution. However, decking may not be suitable for larger buildings, and, even when pressure-treated, requires regular maintenance and wood treatment.

Are eco-friendly wood treatments available?

Living Large! The Tiny House Advantage: Tiny Home Living (Self Sustained Living)

Living Large! The Tiny House Advantage: Tiny Home Living

All timber buildings need wood preservative treatment to protect against insects, UV rays and water. However, there are concerns about the possible side-effects of conventional solvent and oil-based wood treatments, including harm to bees and other wildlife, and contamination of plants. Whilst there are a number of suggestions for natural wood protection, including linseed oil, salt, soy and alcohol, there is much debate about their efficacy – for example, they may protect against insect attack, but not mildew.

There are however commercial water-based wood treatments, which are friendlier to plants and animals than petroleum- and metals-based preservatives. Hannants and Valhalla Wood Preservatives, for example, both market non-toxic water-based wood treatments online (which are available in ready to mix powder form).

What about heating a garden room?

The traditional British summer house can be damp and draughty in winter time. But that’s the traditional version. Many garden rooms are nowadays intended for all-year-round use. Look for the following features, which will greatly reduce the need to heat the building, and therefore keep down energy usage:

  • timber walls with a log thickness of 44mm (or more) offer excellent insulation against heat loss and draughts.
  • slow-grown Nordic timber offers greater insulation and durability than fast-grown timber because the wood is denser.
  • double-glazed windows greatly reduce heat loss and draughts
  • positioning the cabin to catch the low rays of the winter sun will also make it warmer all year-year-round.

The perfect finishing touch

A timber garden room is a clear winner when it comes to adding space and value to your own, and it's definitely a much greener alternative (not to mention considerably cheaper) that a traditional house extension. For the perfect finish, you should consider a sedum, or living roof. A living green roof can reduce heat loss, take CO2 out of the air, and provide a habitat for insects. It can look amazing too, however, please do check with the supplier whether your chosen garden building would be strong enough to support one.

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