As the days get longer, admit it, there’s that one DIY garden project you’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s building a pergola, adding a decking, renovating your shed or even building a cold frame to grow your own fruit and veg, summer is the best time of year to complete this. Everyone knows there are huge health benefits to being outside, even more so with increased indoor and office working, so why not take the plunge and build something new and exciting for your garden?
Why Renovate Your Garden?
It is a known fact that spending time in your garden is good for you. It increases the level of Vitamin D that you get into your body which in turn strengthens your immune system. Being outside in your garden is also one of the best ways to improve your mental health as it helps to clear your head and relieve the stress of life. The real winner here is the exercise you get from working in your garden - it’s an enjoyable way to burn any extra calories!
Did you know that gardening improvements can add value to your house? Studies have shown that a nice garden can add between 5-10% to your house value! New research has found that a great-looking garden has the potential to add more to your property value than an extension or internal improvements. If you calculate the cost of a garden improvement compared to the cost of extending your house or putting in a new kitchen you can save yourself £5,000 + and in return have a higher property value.
Even if you have no plans to move in the future, renovating your garden can help to show who you are as a person and is a way to show off your style and taste!
Your garden is like a canvas; it is yours to design and change as you wish. Are you wanting to create an area you can chill and eat outside even if it’s raining (true British style) or simply switch things up a little? In this article, we will go over the top DIY garden projects to complete this year:
- Build a pergola
- Create a homemade planter or raised bed
- Build a cold frame or greenhouse to grow homegrown veg!
- Renovate your shed
- Add a decking area
- Construct a lean-to for outside dining
Build a Pergola
We can all agree that having a pergola in your garden looks classy. It is one of the most popular DIY projects to complete as you can fit one in almost any type of garden, they look good in a range of styles and offer a standout garden feature at low cost.
Using clear polycarbonate sheets to build your pergola roof allows natural light to fill your space and gives you the perfect rain cover. Why use glass on your pergola roof and have the constant worry that your panes will get smashed when you can build a worry-free area by using plastic? Using a solid polycarbonate sheet reduces the risks of smashed glass with its virtually unbreakable qualities meaning you can have a completely safe environment to use with a similar glass look style!
One of the big benefits of building a pergola with a plastic roof is that you can have varying amounts of shade under your structure depending on what tint of polycarbonate roofing you use. The wide option of tints, rather than just clear, allows you to have a greater scope of use for your pergola.
Using Opal sheets will allow you to have a cooler area due to heat reflection and still allow some light through. Another advantage of using Opal sheeting is that it ensures privacy for the occupants. On the other hand, with Bronze tinted polycarbonate sheets, the glare from the sun is reduced creating a shaded area under the pergola. Opal and bronze polycarbonate are suited to a lot of projects such as Garden hut glazing, canopies and shelters.
There are three roofing options you could go with when building your Pergola:
- Polycarbonate glazing bars allow for a more cost-effective roof on your structure and create a clean look with the white bars. The bars are ideal with 10mm, 16mm or 25mm multiwall polycarbonate sheets.
- Or you could create a more quality feel with aluminium glazing bars. The aluminium glazing bars may be more expensive up front but they will last longer and prove most cost-effective long term. You can also have aluminium bars powder-coated to any colour you wish and get them to match your structure or surroundings.
One final pergola roof option to consider is a corrugated clear plastic sheeting. Do not be tempted to use a cheap corrugated pvc sheet as it will have a very limited lifespan. The best clear corrugated sheet option is a corrugated Stormproof sheet which is uv protected and has a 15-20 year lifespan! Below is an example project image.
Do you need planning permission to build a pergola?
In most cases no! However, sometimes you will require planning permission for building a pergola so there are various points you need to consider:
- If you are building beside your boundary, a single pitch pergola can be no greater than 2.5m high (8' 2"). If the structure is further away from the boundary the roof can be up to 3 metres (9' 10").
- If you are building an apex pergola then it can be no greater than 4m (13') at the apex.
- Your pergola mustn’t cover more than half the area of your land.
- You may need planning permission if you are in a conservation area
- You will need planning permission if your house is listed
- If you are wanting to build your pergola at the front of your house you may require planning permission
- If your pergola is on a raised deck/area you may need planning
Finally, another question on your mind might be:
Do I need council approval to build a pergola (UK)?
As many councils have their own sets of regulations depending on the area, materials, building standards etc. it is best to seek approval from your local council. You may have been advised that you don’t require permits however, it is better to be safe than sorry! A planning permit may be required covering boundary regulations and the physical appearance of your structure and/or a building permit which will cover safety and construction.
Follow the links below to the relevant UK planning permission guidelines:
Planning permission guidelines – England
Planning permission guidelines – Scotland
Planning permission guidelines – Wales
Planning permission guidelines – Northern Ireland
Another one of the common questions people ask is:
Can you build a Pergola next to a fence?
In the UK, there are no building standards regarding pergolas being built beside fences, other than the height limitations. When planning where to build your pergola it is best to be mindful of your neighbour - you don’t want to be creating an eyesore or blocking any light or views!
Another aspect you need to consider is whether the project will later be affected by external factors out with your control, such as your neighbour planting a tree near the fence which could damage the structure itself or decrease the light reaching inside.
Also, when building a pergola beside a fence, the aesthetics need to be thought about as the fence may reduce the open feel of the outdoor living space.
Create a homemade planter or raised bed
Homemade planters are an efficient and tidy way to grow your own plants; plus, there are huge benefits to having a raised area for growing plants. Raised beds are like a two-in-one deal, you will have a specific area to plant everything in but you have also added a nice piece of decor to your garden!
You may not realise it but there are even health benefits to having homemade raised planter boxes. Other than being outside and getting your Vitamin D levels topped up, having a raised area to work with when you are planting can seriously help your back and knees, compared to ground-level beds.
Having a raised planter eliminates a common gardening downside of back pain and aches as you are not constantly bending over. Building your own DIY raised planter bed also means that any gardening can be done sitting or standing, giving your knees a break.
Have you ever spent a long time putting together the perfect growing area with all your plants for it only to get ruined by your dog, cat or wild animal? After all that hard work, it's frustrating! Would it not be so much easier if you had that one unreachable area that you could keep out of harm's way? The solution is simple: build your own DIY raised planter bed.
Building a homemade planter area is a brilliant, tidy way to contain your plants all in one area. This means that you don’t constantly have to deal with your plants growing out of their area. Planting in one contained area gives you less weeding to since any weeds have less space to grow. Also, the soil from the raised bed will get warmer faster which will allow you to enjoy a longer season and plant earlier or even into the later months of the year.
When designing your planter box it doesn’t necessarily have to be raised; many construct a ground-level box and deck area. Most people would use wooden boards or decking planks around the planter but it is worth considering using aluminium decking boards. It may be a more expensive option initially, however, the investment is much more worthwhile due to the long-term benefits:
- The boards won’t rot like wood and will give you a 50+ years life expectancy
- No ugly exterior fixings or technical accessories are required
- Fast installation and build
This leads us nicely to the next idea…
Build a Cold Frame
Cold frames are like mini, cheaper greenhouses. Again, they can extend your growing season and add an extra layer of protection for your plants. They are ideal if you don’t want a big greenhouse taking up space in your garden or if you only wish to grow a few plants.
Benefits of Cold Frames:
- You have control over what fertiliser and pesticides your plants come in contact with and as a result, the produce is much fresher than store-bought products
- Save money - It cuts back on family bills as one pack of seeds amounts to the same price as one single item of what you plant.
- Improves mental health and well-being as it requires being outside and effectively combats anxiety and stress.
Twinwall polycarbonate Sheet is well suited for plastic cold frames as they are lightweight and robust. A big benefit of these sheets is that they are UV protected on the outer surface which provides great longevity and eliminates the worry of your cold frame going yellow or brittle. Polycarbonate sheeting, like 10mm polycarbonate, is ideal for a cold frame being a good insulator and low cost.
Wondering how to fix the sheets down to the timber frames of your structure? The easiest way is to use an End stop bar to seal the top and bottom of the sheet and then fixing buttons screwed onto the frame. For a more robust cold frame build use an aluminium glazing bars system which will look classy on your cold frame and are super-fast and easy to install!
Renovate Your Shed
Renovating your shed may sound like a simple DIY project but it is becoming increasingly popular amongst DIYers as the smallest adjustments can make a big difference.
Reroofing your shed with materials that will give it a longer life span and proper waterproofing can make a big difference to how usable your shed is. Even with a small budget, bitumen roof sheets are affordable and with all the fixings and flashings you can finish your roof to a professional, quality standard without splashing out.
The Corrugated Bitumen Sheeting range comes in four colours including red, brown, green and black so you can match them to your existing shed colour. Alternatively, you could sand down and repaint your shed to change the colour scheme and give it a completely fresh look.
The cost to reroof a shed can be low when using bitumen corrugated sheets, with a small garden shed costing less than £100 to reroof.
Does your shed need some more light in it? Adding a shed window is an easy way to brighten up your shed. Polycarbonate sheeting is popular for shed windows as it is a virtually unbreakable plastic sheet that looks like glass but can be easily cut to size and installed.
Add a Decking Area
Not only does having a decking area solve problems with covering rough ground, but there are also many classy, quirky ideas that you could incorporate into your decking design. It doesn’t have to be the same standard square decking area that you see in most gardens. With a few small shape and design tweaks and you can make the whole area look completely unique to your garden.
But firstly, let’s talk about how choosing aluminium decking over composite is a much better investment for you. With aluminium decking, you can expect a 50+ year life expectancy plus you will never have an issue with the boards warping or rotting over time. With a full seal decking system, you will never have any issues with water ingress into the substructure as the integral gutter channels water away.
It doesn’t take much to change the whole look of your garden and/or house with the use of decking. Below are some ideas that will enhance your decking area:
- A Pergola over Decking - Why not mix two projects into one project? Build in a decking area and cover it with a pergola! Not only does this make your outdoor living space all-weather but creates a lot more usable space. A pergola on top of your decking will make the area look bigger and will increase the value of your property! Imagine it: quality decking, covered with a pergola, add a touch of greenery to the structure such as hanging plants and you have your perfect outside area ready to go! Remember to build the pergola up from the ground or foundations rather than just on top of your decking.
- Mix materials to create zoning - Not everyone has space in their garden to put up structures, this is why decking is the best alternative for creating different areas in the garden. Zoning is a clever way to add some depth to your garden as it takes a simple look and creates something more and it can be done however you like. Whether you use all decking and split this down into zones with different colours or whether you use decking and another material altogether, such as stone, paving slabs or even just the existing grass or stones. It’s simple but effective and transforms a bland garden into a masterpiece!
- Add varying levels - Decking is ideal for levelling out uneven ground in your garden but it can also be used to give depth to the garden by having a raised area or steps. This can in turn be made into a cooking area or seating area. Practically, with aluminium decking, cleaning any cooking spills or splatters is much easier than it would be on concrete. Having a raised area gives you a better outlook across your garden and surrounding area.
- A splash of greenery - adding greenery in the forms of plants, flowers or creepers is a great way to add a natural element to your decking. Climbing plants like, creepers or ivy, can be easily installed on a trellis or running along the decking balustrades. Or a hanging planter with some summer flowers can brighten up the space.
Construct a lean-to for outside dining
You want an outside eating area but you don’t want to have to walk far into your garden, a lean-to structure is the answer to this problem. It means you can have your outside area right at your doorstep, literally! They are easy to build with rafters and rafter glazing bars and you can even get them matching your house with powder-coated bars (link).
Read our blog about How to Cover an Outdoor Eating Area for more pergola ideas!
Best Time of the Year to Start a Garden Project?
The best time to think about planning and starting a garden renovation is Winter and early Spring. This means by the time the good weather is back you are all set to go. Sunny weather is always best for working outdoors!
If planting, it is best to plant during dormant seasons and then the seeds have time to grow. A good time to start planting is early spring but this is dependent on the type of plants as warm-season flowers and vegetable plants are better done later in April/May.
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