Building and buying

Building a shed or summer house: advantages, planning, types and costs

Torben Schröder

A place of retreat, a tool shed or a cozy living room in the greenery – a shed or summer house in the garden can be used for a wide variety of purposes. It can also serve as an attractive complement to the main building in terms of design. Discover here the advantages, what to consider when planning, and which models you can get for which price.

View of a shed with a gray facade. Flowers can be seen in the foreground.
© Getty Images / Florian Küttler

In this article

A shed or summer house: the advantages at a glance

If you still have a bit of space left in the garden of your house, a shed or summer house could be one way to use it. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Use: the options are extremely versatile. Contrary to the general assumption, it can not only serve as a somewhat more stylish version of a storage room, but even as a living room with an entrance door, furniture and windows.
  • Model diversity: in principle, there is a suitable model for every type, shape and size of garden – even in miniature format.
  • Do it yourself: not only can the finished result become a favorite hobby, but the construction itself can be great fun too. With instructions, assembly is not an insoluble challenge, even for a novice.
  • Eye-catching feature: imagine your blooming, well-kept garden with an equally colorful and visually attractive shed or summer house.

Building a shed or summer house: planning

What do you want to use it for? How big should it be and what is the most suitable location? Do you need a permit? Before you start thinking about the choice of model, you should start planning carefully. Find out the most important factors to consider.

View into a spacious garden. In the background is a shed made of dark wood, in the foreground is a wheelbarrow.

The location is one of the important factors when planning a shed or summer house. Pay attention to surrounding plants and trees and neighboring plots of land.

What is the purpose of the shed or summer house?

Do you plan to spend extended periods of time in it? If so, it makes sense to connect a water and electricity supply. This will allow the building to be used as a workplace, hobby room, wellness oasis or party room. If you furnish it accordingly, it could even become your new second living room with a fireplace for spending cozy hours in the winter.

What is the most suitable location?

The positioning of a shed or summer house can be as varied as the gardens in Switzerland. There are a number of factors to be taken into account:

  • The location and size of your garden, as well as the amount of free space between flower beds or trees, will determine where you install the shed or summer house.
  • If you decide on a homely version with a patio to sit out on, then the orientation is also relevant – you will want to enjoy the sun in the afternoon and evening.
  • Since a concrete foundation is required in most cases, the ground must be suitably firm. A location close to water or roots is unsuitable.

Do I need a building permit?

Depending on the canton, the nature of the land and its size, you may need a building permit. You can find out whether it is possible to build a summer house without a building permit in the relevant cantonal building regulations. Building projects that do not require a building permit are listed as permit-free projects.

In the canton of Aargau, for example, this would apply to a small building with a floor area of up to five square meters and a total height of up to 2.5 meters – such as a bicycle shelter.

Tip: in most cantons it is necessary to consult the relevant building authority for each individual building project.

What type of foundations are needed?

A stable concrete foundation is the basis for most sheds and summer houses. The type needed depends entirely on the size and purpose of the building. If you only want to erect a small metal shed, standard paving slabs are sufficient. If you want to build a wooden summer house and live in it even in the winter, frost-proof foundations are necessary. Plate foundations are a common alternative.

View of foundation work. In the foreground, a pit has been dug and filled with gravel. Concrete slabs can be seen on the right.

A foundation protects against splash water, ground moisture and frost. It also ensures stability.

Which material for which purpose?

Most sheds and summer houses are made of wood because this classic material exudes the greatest visual charm – both inside and out. A wooden construction in the style of a log cabin is a popular alternative. Water-proofing makes it more weather-resistant, but it still requires more care than other materials.

Brick and metal are more robust. Plastic is economical, stable and is often used for tool sheds. Glass, on the other hand, is more suitable for greenhouses and less so for inhabited summer houses.

Gable roof or flat roof?

The roof is another characteristic feature. The most traditional is the gable roof, with two side parts tapering upwards. The simplest is the flat roof, a slightly inclined variant of which is called a single-pitch roof. One advantage of a flat roof is that you can also green it to visually enhance your garden. If you decide on a pentagonal building, a tent roof is the best option.

Do I need electricity and water?

You will definitely need electricity and water connections to ensure the necessary comfort to make the summer house habitable. Light, heating, entertainment devices or kitchen appliances need electricity, and a kitchen or bathroom requires running water. The electricity grid can be used as a power source. Of course you can also get electricity from your own house via underground cable. If these two options are not possible, a generator can also be an option. The high-tech solution is a photovoltaic system on the roof so that the summer house can produce its own electricity.

A water connection for the kitchen, bathroom and toilet is just as important as electricity to make the summer house a comfortable place to be. Plan the pipes and fittings inside the house accordingly even before construction.

View into a garden. There is a summer house at the front on the left, and the main house can be seen at the back right. On the lawn there is a garden table and four garden chairs.

If a summer house is equipped with furniture as well as electricity and water, it even becomes habitable.

How can a shed or summer house be made weatherproof?

Wooden constructions are usually delivered untreated. You are free to make them an attractive part of your garden and to design them to match your main house as closely as possible. However, the first step is very important: impregnate the wood. This protects the outer surface against mold, insects and the weather. The topcoat applied subsequently not only ensures an attractive external appearance, but also protects against moisture. Alternatively, you can opt for a glaze. This does not cover the surface completely, but lets the texture of the wood shine through. The result appears more authentic.

How much will it cost?

You should draw up a cost plan to get an overview of how expensive the project will be. In addition to the actual material, you may have to pay for other expenses depending on the intended use of the building: a floor as well as furniture and shelves for the interior, paints and glazes, material for the foundation, fees for electricians and workmen.

View out of a wooden shed into the open air. A young woman holding a watering can in her hand stands in the open doorway.

A wooden shed is the most traditional – and has many possible uses around the garden.

Finding the right model

If you decide on a kit, it’s worth doing some research online. We present three different models below, including their prices.

The traditional shed

The Gotland F 70 from Tene Schweiz is a classic log construction with a gabled roof, making it the perfect place to spend time. It has external dimensions of 440 x 595 centimeters. The walls, which are 70 millimeters thick, are made of Nordic spruce and offer sufficient protection inside, even in colder temperatures. The price for the basic equipment is 12,860 francs (price on 11 September 2020) without assembly.

A tool shed with a patio to relax on

The Dione model in anthracite-colored aluminum is easy to clean and has a long service life. It has plenty of storage space for garden tools. The whole family can sit on lounge furniture on the adjacent covered patio. At the Chalet und Blockhaus-Center, this practical combination costs 18,899 francs (price on 11 September 2020).

Fixed assembly thanks to a plug-in system

If you don’t feel like spending hours putting a model together, you could opt for the Karibu Qubic with a flat roof made of solid wood. Thanks to an ingenious plug-screw system, it is ready in no time. With a wall thickness of 19 millimeters and a base measuring 272 x 272 centimeters, it is ideally suited as a shed. At My-Wood-Shop it costs 1,775 francs (price on 11 September 2020).

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Conclusion: flexible and versatile – a shed or summer house

From a simple corrugated iron shed for keeping tools in to a luxurious second home made of wood – there are no limits to the imagination when planning and building a shed or summer house. Your new outdoor construction has countless possible uses – we hope you will enjoy spending time in it.

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