A Cumbrian Summerhouse under construction

A Cumbrian Summerhouse under construction

A Cumbrian Summerhouse under construction

An oak framed summerhouse: essentially a very large den…

Building a den at the bottom of the garden is every kid’s dream, isn’t it? Having somewhere to escape to that you’ve made yourself, that’s tucked away from the rest of the family – what could be better? So when the shed at the bottom of our garden finally fell apart, we jumped at the chance to replace it with this little oak cabin.

The 1970s painted softwood shed had done pretty well for its age, but the Cumbrian weather had taken its toll on the pine, and it had been slightly neglected in its later years.

A level base

The first stage was already complete: a level earth base. The large garden shed that had sat here previously, had been laid on concrete blocks. So we saved these and reused them for the base of the new structure.

As we were replacing an existing structure of the same size, we didn’t need to worry about planning. We also had a nice level surface to work from, which saved a lot of work!

Light touch foundations

As we were building a lightweight timber structure with a tin roof, there was no need for ‘proper’ foundations. We wanted the structure to be as light touch as possible, so it just rests on flat concrete blocks, to lift it slightly off the ground and ensure it doesn’t sit on the wet earth.

Raising the base off the ground is important, this stops the timber being in contact with the wet ground and rotting.

The skeletal oak structure

The six oak posts went up pretty quickly, as timber frames tend to do! To keep costs down, we decided just to have a feature truss at the front, and to do the rest of the structure at the back in ordinary stud-work. A little bit of oak goes a long way and often you don’t need to build your entire structure out of it to give the feel and aesthetic of an oak frame.

The oak came from Whitney Sawmills in Herefordshire. We always use oak from the UK as we know it will be able to cope with the British climate! The key to long lasting materials is choosing natural products that are grown in a similar climate to that in which they will be used.

Natural larch cladding

Once the structure was up and the roof was on we got going with the cladding. The summerhouse is clad in larch, which doesn’t need any treatment or preservatives as it silvers down to a lovely natural silver.

A good overhang

Depending on your location and aspect, having an overhanging roof can be really handy. The summerhouse is in Cumbria and faces south, across open fields, so gets a lot of weather! This overhanging roof provides just a little bit more shelter, and also gives the cabin a nice traditional proportioned look.

Fully glazed

The final step is the glazing, which is mounted on the outside of the oak framed summerhouse, and then ‘sandwiched’ behind oak face plates. This makes the structure completely water tight, and also allows you to have the glazed oak aesthetic uninterrupted by window frames.

Natural colour change

You can see the difference here between the brand new oak face plates and larch cladding, and the oak door which has been out in the weather for a while! Soon the whole thing will fade down to the same lovely natural silver grey as the door, and this will help it sit quietly against the background of trees beyond.

More cabin-spiration

For more cabin-related reading, see our post on Betts Cabin – a magical house in the woods.

You might also like to browse our landscape structures page, for more bothies, follies and garden structures.

If you have a project in mind we’d love to talk it through with you. Jonny is on 07985 410 476.

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