Archive for the ‘Outbuildings’ Category

Firstly apologies for not posting for a while. We lost our lovely dog Elsa to old age and just haven’t felt like doing much to be honest. Didn’t expect it to hit us quite as hard as as it has.

Elsa The Rottweiler

Rest in peace, my dear old friend.

Had a week off work last week which meant we were able to finish our latest building project, converting the original workshop into a home office. Last job was to bring the carpet guys in I have to say its looking great. So pleased we made the decision to create a separate office away from the house.


The build was fairly straight forward and took around 15 days in total to complete. The old structure was fairly solid, but we did need to beef up the walls with extra studs to support the addition of the windows and moving the entrance.


The cost of materials approximately £600 as we had to buy 6mm laminated glass for the new windows and glass panels for the door.

The plasterer was £350 and the carpet came in at £360 including fitting. The total cost of the conversion approximately £1,500. More than we wanted to spend to be honest but we’ve managed to create a nice space that’s comfortable and secure and will make a great office to launch our new business .. more on that next time.


If you’d like to know more about the conversion please feel free to drop us a note and we’ll be happy to share the details.We hope to post some plans as we’ve had so many requests. It’s just finding the time with so much going on.

Phew its soooo hot today … The temperature reached a crazy 29 degrees this afternoon and they say it’s going to head past 30 degrees tomorrow! Mad times indeed.

BTW … Cut our first cucumber today. 🙂  Delicious!

Hope you manage to stay cool in your garden this week wherever you are.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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How to Convert a Shed to a Home Office

Ever longed to work from home and thought you might convert your trusty shed into an office?

If the answer is yes then you’re in very good company as at the last count over 3 million of us had the same idea and are now enjoying the benefits of working from home.

Did you know Roger Waters created the early demo tracks for the album  Dark Side of the Moon in his garden shed outside his Islington home! … and not a lot of people know that. 🙂

Of course working from home is not for everyone but if you are able to maybe spend a day or two working from the comfort and familiarity of the home the benefits to your health are significant.

Well, this year we’ve decided its time to get off the fence and we’re going for it!  I can’t tell you just how excited I am about what we have planned for the new office … so much so I just had to share it with you.

What are the options for a home office?
  • Invest in a ready made structure. (Expensive)
  • Spare room in the house. (Never quite the same as having your own kingdom)
  • Renovate an existing building. (Cheaper option … And you get to do some diy!)
We’ve opted for option 3 as we already have a sizeable timber structure which we built back in 2008 as a general store for our self build. Its large enough and pretty solid. With a little tweaking to the design it will make a great little office.

Rather than simply writing about the whys and wherefores of working from home we thought this project offered a great opportunity to look back at how the construction has stood up to the test of time and if there is anything we would have done differently so anyone building their own shed or outbuilding in the future could benefit from the insight.

Its a solid enough building made from quality pressure treated timber and has stood up well to everything we’ve chucked at it over the last few years.

If you’ve read our original series of posts on the build you’ll be familiar with the construction. Timber frame made almost entirely from pressure treated softwood. We based it on a workshop Tommy Walsh built on TV a few years ago.

The interior walls are clad with OSB board which is ok but I prefer a clean uninterrupted surface so have decided to line with plasterboard and get a plasterer to plaster the walls. Only you know how much insulation you’ve stuffed in the walls or how well the building was constructed … but the finish on the walls will be seen by everyone so it needs to be right hence employing a plasterer.

Plasterboard on OSB

The workshop was clad in OSB … simply screw 12mm plasterboard to the walls to make a perfect surface to plaster.

If there is one thing we’ve learned after many years of DIY is know your limits.

Don’t be afraid to get the professionals in when you know its beyond you.

We’re going to need power and heat if its to function as a warm cosy space.

We already have an approved electricity supply which used to service the workshop. I’ve had it safety checked by Tom (my son the electrician at ENL Electrical Services Ltd) and we have plenty of power for a computer, printer, kettle and few other home comforts.

I’d like to power it with Solar but budget is tight so for now I’m going to have to stick with the grid.

Four inches of insulation in the walls and ceilings should keep it nice and snug!

Insulate your shed

For the cold days heating will come from a modest electric wall heater.

We’ve moved the entrance to south facing to capture the morning sun.

Home Office

The side facing the lawn will now have two glass panels which has meant a bit of a restructuring but as the stud walls were fixed using screws so simple enough to sort.

How to Convert a Shed to a Home Office

If you’re one of the 50,000 or so readers that read our series on How to build your own workshop we’ve noticed a couple of things we’d change about the original build.

Keeping The Roof Water Tight
When we took a closer look at the roof we noticed it had been leaking which was as a result of the roofing felt starting to perish. On closer examination I had to replace a couple of sheets of plywood where the damp had penetrated the layers of ply. Definitely worth checking once a year.

But hey it didn’t take a lot of effort to fix. Simply removed the screws swapped the ply for new replaced with new felt.

One of our readers sent in a great tip for anyone thinking of felting a roof.

Paint the roof timbers with bitumen before laying the roofing felt. That way if the roof leaks it won’t damage the wood. Excellent idea!

The floor is a basic slab of concrete which would be fine for the new office but I’m worried about the floor being cold so I’ve decided to lay some standard chip board floor on a layer of thin super efficient insulation. It means I’ll lose 15-20 millimetres of off the floor to ceiling but still leaves minimum 2.2 ceiling height which is recommended.

Doors and windows
John made the doors on the original workshop which were fine for a workshop but will not work for the new shoffice. So we’ve invested in a ready made frame and a hemlock door which will be fitted with all the usual security considerations. As you can see the door has been moved which to be honest has greatly improved the overall aspect of the building. The original window will stay where it is and a couple of extra laminated glass panels have been added to take advantage of the view across the garden and to the fields beyond.

Cladding the exterior
We’re replacing the feather board as it’s not as good as it was and has warped in places. Im pretty sure this is down to the the fixing. I read somewhere at the time you should nail feather board an inch from the thin end of the board. Well that’s crap idea in my opinion. Always nail through the thickest part of the board and ensure at least an inch of overlap over the next board. If you can afford it use cedar boards as they will weather to a beautiful silver colour and they will last a lot longer.

Feather edge cladding

The old feather edge has started to warp … just make sure you fix it through the thickest part of the board.

So to summarise here are the key learnings from the original build:

1. Pay a little extra and use treated (tantalised) timber and the structure will last a lot longer.

2. Ensure feather board is fixed firmly and treat once a year with a good quality wood preservative.

3. Inspect the roofing felt at least once a year.

4. Concrete floors are fine but add a layer of chipboard or something similar to improve insulation.

5. Don’t scrimp on insulation as it really does make a difference on those cold winter days.

We’re planning on finishing the bulk of the construction work this weekend so will post an update next week … so if you’d like a gentle reminder when the next instalment is posted simply register for our newsletter here and we’ll drop you a note.


Best wishes




… still living the dream.

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Summer 2014 in the plant nursery

Summer 2014 .. seems like only yesterday!

Well here we are in 2015 and I can’t believe we are into our 6th year of the ruralgardener blog and so much has happened in that time and as I sit here gazing into my crystal ball it’s looking like another busy year ahead.

But before we look at this year  I’d like to reflect on last year.

2014 was a good year for John and I. We stayed fit and healthy (most of the time) and had plenty of laughs along the way. Tania had a big birthday which we celebrated with a lovely summer garden party which will stay in the memory for some time … not least as the weather was so kind to us.

Looking at last years projects I guess the most ambitious has to be the new workshop and adjoining potting area John built through the summer. I think it took us both by surprise just how long it took to build. We started in March and I think it took just over 4 months of weekends and a chunk of our holiday to complete the project.

Having said that the results were well worth the effort. It looks as if it was always meant to be there!  It’s given us a great base for the plant nursery and gives John a decent workshop to indulge his passion for making things. Lucky boy.

We finally managed to find a weekend to lop the 20ft leylandiis that have been a pain in the backside for so long. Always amazes me just how fast they grow. They were under 8ft when we first moved in 6 years ago and we just didn’t keep on top of them. My advice is to plant a hazel hedge. Much easier to manage, fast growing and make great sweet pea supports.

Anyway we minced all the trimmings and the resulting mulch is now providing a cover for the parking area adjacent to the new workshop. Should last a while and it was all free. We like free we do.

In 2014 the DIY blog posts proved popular so this year we’ve decided to create a section on the blog dedicated to building projects. We’re planning to convert the original workshop into an office which will enable John to work from home a lot more which is a goal we’ve been chasing for a while. We’re aiming to kick off the project in February and will be posting details.

Another project in the pipeline for this year is a general overhaul of We think its about time it had a bit of a facelift so we’re planning a few new ideas along the way including:

  • Expand our YouTube channel to include regular gardening support videos and a few other gems we have in the pipline!
  • An area where readers can purchase plans for our projects (the single most requested item on the site). We did consider offering the plans for free but to be honest they take a lot of time to produce and so we thought asking for a small contribution would be ok.
  • A few tips for making a little extra money from your garden. It’s not for everyone but given our plant nursery posts are the second most requested on the site we thought we’d share more.
  • Our most ambitious plan is to hold a few open days for anyone that might be interested in learning how to start their own gardening projects. We’re also planning to hook up with some of the local schools and offer details on the site of which have yet to be worked out. If we could inspire a few young people to start gardening that would be absolutely fantastic.

As always we welcome any suggestions for content that you’d like to see on the site so do please keep those emails coming and we’ll make it happen.

We’re really looking forward to this year and guess what … it’s February next week!

A slightly late but very well intentioned happy and prosperous new year to one and all!

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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The New Potting Shed Area

Phew! … At last we finished the new outbuilding, well almost. It was all going so well until Saturday afternoon when things definitely didn’t go to plan!

For those that follow the blog you’ll know way back in March we decided to build new timber frame working space that would double up as a workshop and potting shed for the new nursery business.

The plan was to complete the build in time for the growing season, but I had no idea it was going to take so long. With John working in London 5 days a week we only had weekends which is fine except as amateurs it takes us much longer as we’re learning.

We build all our outdoor structure using a frame of 4″ x 2″ treated softwood (from local builders merchants) which is clad on the inside with OSB sheet and on the outside with 6″ treated feather board. Insulation is glass fibre blanket as we had a couple of rolls left over from the house build (nasty nasty stuff  …the sooner it’s banned altogether the better).

Learn How To Build A Workshop

We bought a fairly cheap standard door made from pine which should last a good few years. It’s actually under the roof space and protected from the rain so providing we look after it it should last for years.


My worst fears realised … 

The very last task on the build was to fit all the glass. So with the weather set fair for the weekend we planned to finish the project.

We were advised to use laminated glass for the larger pieces at the front as the height is pretty much floor to ceiling and it wouldn’t be safe to use regular glass. Everything was going so well, the weather was good, in fact it was like mid summer on Saturday afternoon.

I fitted the first sheet no problem. I used putty and chamfered wooden bead that I’d prepared in the workshop to save some cost. The next 30 seconds will live me forever.

I can’t even remember what I was doing but somehow I managed to catch one of the other two remaining pieces. In what felt like slow motion as one pane fell face down on the solid concrete floor catching the other remaining piece on the way down. CRASH!!!

Both pieces hit the floor with the most painful crashing sound. 😦 My worst nightmare had been realised. Two sheets of laminated glass at a £110 each lay on the floor smashed.

A few choice words later I quickly realised there was nothing I could do. The damage was done, I’d learned a very expensive lesson. I wiped away a tiny tear and got on with clearing up the resulting mess. At least I now know the guy at the glaziers was right … laminated glass does only crack, I can vouch for that!

Learn How To Build A Workshop

At first all I could think about was how costly a mistake this was but later in the day I realised how fortunate I was not to be anywhere near the glass at the time as I feel sure I would have tried to catch it from falling which doesn’t bear thinking about.

If you ever have to fit glass into a building or perhaps you’re fixing a broken pane in your house my advice … store the glass well away from the area you’re working. Had I done so then I’d be celebrating closure on a new project. Instead now I have two pieces of OSB sheeting where there should be 2 panes of beautiful laminated glass.

We plan to post a special feature on constructing your own out buildings which will have all the details of the materials and construction methods used and some great tips we’ve learnt along the way.

In the mean time any questions do let us know and feel free to leave us a comment.

Weekends seem so short don’t they.

Here’s to the next one!

Best wishes,


John And Tania The Rural Gardeners



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outbuilding1We’ve been spending a fair bit of time on the new nursery shop and potting shed last few weeks.

The roof is on and not looking too bad. We decided to go for a felt roof in the end as we just don’t have the budget for clay tiles as we’d hoped to. Also started cladding the outside with 6 inch feather board.

Like to have finished the cladding completely but the builders merchant didn’t have sufficient stock as apparently there is a national shortage of feather board would you believe!  At least that what he told us anyway.

Finished off the the roof construction with the rest of the 4″ x 2″ pressure treated and covered it with 11mm OSB board.

Take your time laying the OSB making sure it’s straight and true. If you’ve built the rafters with the correct spacing your OSB should sit just fine. If not then you may need to add additional rafters to support the point at which two boards meet. The point at which the two roofs meet was a bit tricky but after much bad language it finally came together.


Before the board went on we added a couple of skylights on the back of the roof. We looked at Velux but went for a lesser known brand as they were cheaper and seem to be just as good All they need is an extra coat of sealer and they’ll be as good as the Velux. (We’re not going to openly recommend a brand on the blog so if you’d like details then drop us an email and we’ll be happy to provide)

We then covered the OSB with heavy duty roofing felt.  Don’t go for the cheaper version unless you really have to or you’ll be re-roofing within 5 years.

I mention heavy duty as there are several grades of roofing felt. The best product for the price is traditional green mineral felt … certainly worth paying the extra for something that will last.

Roofing felt comes in large rolls which are heavy so make sure you have some help around when it’s delivered.

If you plan to store it for a while then keep it out of the sun and also stand the rolls on end. They usually have a wrapper with installation instructions with directions on which end to stand it up. Although it’s a tough material treat it with care or you could damage it, or worse puncture it.

You’ll see from the photos that the felt extends beyond the edge of the board by about 4 inches on all sides.

This serves two purpose:

  1. To run any rain water into the guttering.
  2. To allow for tucking the felt under the end facia boards on the gable ends.


If you planning to put roofing felt onto any building my advice is don’t lay it on a hot day. On the day we laid ours it was baking and as we started handling the felt it began to soften which wasn’t a problem at first ….  until we (rather John) came to stand on it!  Foot prints started to appear in the felt which wasn’t exactly the look we were after. 😦

So best wait for a cloudy day before fitting roofing felt.

Oh and another tip … don’t lay your felt out on your lawn in the sun when you’re cutting it too length, or it will scorch the grass. Best wait for a day when the sun isn’t so strong.

We’re quite pleased with the results although we still hanker for clay tiles, but hey maybe in the future eh.

Last job for this session was to cut and fix the facias on the front and back of the building. I usually use at least 6 inch boards but as the eaves are fairly low we had to change to 4 inch instead.

We used 6 inch boards on the gable ends but it meant trimming the lower edge back slightly so it finished neatly with the facias. Turned out ok in the end.



Next phase is to finish off the cladding (when it arrives) and put up the guttering ready to collect all that lovely rain water!

My son Tom  is starting the first fix this weekend which should see the cabling go in after which we can look at insulation and closing off the inside of the main building also with OSB board.


Seems to be taking an age … but should be well worth it in the end. Can’t wait to welcome visitors to our little venture.

We’ll post more as the build progresses, but do drop us a note if you’d like any more information about the methods used.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners


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We’ve kick started this years big build project last week which our regular readers will know is a new timber frame outbuilding which will be our sales area and potting shed for the new back garden nursery. We thought we’d share how we build the outbuildings and landscape the surrounding area.

John managed to get last week of work which meant we could make a start on the running in the services and preparing the base.

Step 1 – Marking out.
First task is to mark out the perimeter of the building using marker paint, or alternatively you can drive in timber stakes at 2-3 ft intervals.

It’s important to remember to keep the building in scale with the rest of your garden. Easiest way to achieve this is to grab a bunch of bamboo canes and stick them in roughly around the perimeter of the building. It helps provided a sense of what the space is eventually going to look like.

Of course you could always head down to your local DIY store and buy a standard wooden shed and stand it on an area of hard ground, but I’ve been through a few of those sheds over the years and I much prefer to construct my own timber frame as I can beef up the materials, knowing the building will last.

Step 2 – Shuttering

Before building the base you first need to build a frame large enough to contain the base materials.

We’re using 6″ x 1″ board on our build which will give us enough depth for a layer of hardcore, sand and leave a minimum of three inches for the concrete slab. First we removed a couple of inches of soil to give us additional depth for the concrete.

Why a concrete slab?  … It makes for a hard waring surface and it needs to support th roof which will be covered in tiles and potentially soil for a natural living roof.

Step 3 – Bringing in the services.
John hired a digger which made short work of digging the service trenches and levelling the plot.  You could always dig them by hand, but that is mighty tough work and beyond little old me these days I’m afraid.

We’ve laid cable and a mains water pipe from the house to the bottom of the plot. We have details of the size of cable and water pipe if you need them, just drop us an email with some details and we’ll get right back to you.


After the shuttering we back filled with a four inch layer of hardcore, broken bricks, stones, anything we had around the place that would create a solid base.

Landscaping and Outbuildings

Then we laid a two inch layer of sharp sand to fill any gaps in the hardcore and to create a nice flat surface for the damp proof membrane.

Finally a layer of concrete was poured and leveled with the top of the shuttering.

We had the concrete poured straight from the lorry as it would have been agonisingly hard work for us to mix that much concrete by hand, as anyone will know whose mixed concrete before. It’s back breaking work!


Although it wasn’t cheap I worked out the cost of materials and my time and it actually didn’t work out much more costly to be honest.

The slab was dry to touch by Sunday morning but will take around 28 days to fully cure.

Next time …
We’ll be starting the timber frame construction which should be fun and slightly less physical than the ground works. So don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and we’ll keep you right up to date as we progress.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

PS: A brief note on planning permission

I’ve had a couple of emails from people asking if you need planning permission to build such a structure in your garden.

We are building under what’s called ‘PART E’ permitted development which essentially means we can build a temporary structure that is no designed to be lived in.

I’m afraid I don’t have a definitive answer as different regions of the country apply slightly different rules.  However the guidelines are pretty clear on what you can and can’t do so I’d urge you to research your local planning laws and if possible speak to your local duty planning officer. They are usually very helpful and can be contacted via your local council offices.

Believe me when I say it can be a costly business if you discover you haven’t followed the rules.



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We’re continuing with our series on how to build your own workshop and I’m pleased to report despite the freezing cold weather we’ve made steady progress. If you haven’t read the part 1 then it might be worth having a read as we take you through building the foundations and the timber frame construction.

Although it may be seen as simply a shed it’s still important to make sure there is plenty of insulation to keep the heat in and the cold out!  Also helps to insulate some of the noise from the power tools! 🙂


On this occasion we used glass fibre insulation but I have to say I hate the stuff and will look for an alternative in future. Having stuffed it full of insulation as much as possible we added a layer of heavy duty plastic sheet (spare damp course membrane I had hanging around) to the outside of the building to which helps limit the wind leaving the insulation to trap any warm air inside the structure and keep any moisture out. We got the idea from our house build.


Cladding the outside
Having completed the insulation and general construction we added feather edge fencing board to the outside. I like the rustic finish it gives to the building. If you have a close look at the photo you can see the ice on the boards as we were putting them up. It was absolutely freezing the day we started the job. Huge thanks to my son James for staying with it even through the coldest of weekends.

A tip for you if you plan to use feather board for a shed or even if you’re building a fence is to make a template spacer to the size of gap you want between boards. Use any old piece of scraps 2″ timber cut to length. It will save you hours of measuring … but do remember to check the levels every 2 or 3 boards. If you don’t there is a chance you’ll get to the end of a run and it won’t be level. Oh and one last tip, don’t drive the nails right in until you’ve finished the job just in case you need to take them off for some reason. Try getting feather edge off without splitting it when it’s fixed … nightmare!


I made the doors for the front and side and the small window at the front out of prepared soft wood and then gave the whole building two coats of water based preservative. Finally giving the softwood doors an extra coat by way of belt and braces.

Since we built the workshop we’ve built a new wood store which you you can read about how that came together using the links below:

Part 1 – How To Build A Wood Store (Foundations and basic structure)

Part 2 – How to Build A Wood Store (Cutting the roof)

Part 3 – How to Build a Wood Store (Finishing off)

Best wishes,

John and Tania.

PS: If you found this useful please click the Like button and feel free to pass on to anyone you think might be interested. The more the merrier!

LATEST NEWS (May 2015) – If you’d like to know how the building has stood the test of time then click the link below for an update.

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