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Planning Access and Services for Your Outdoor Building

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 20 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Paths Concrete Pavers Bark Chippings

Although thinking about paths and power supplies may seem a little dull after the excitement of choosing your new building and deciding where you plan to site it, they have a very large influence on the overall success of the whole project. Planning for these key factors is essential from the outset and needs to be considered very carefully.

Adding Access

Wherever you have chosen to site your new building, you are going to need good access to it. Paths leading up to your new greenhouse, shed or summerhouse can be made out of any suitable material, the most important requirement being that they should be safe and provide an easy approach.

The choice of concrete, pavers, bark chippings or gravel is largely a matter of personal taste – and budget – though obvious clashes with the rest of the garden design seldom look right, so it is best to build things in keeping, harmonising with any existing paths. Gravel and bark chipping paths are always a popular choice, largely because they are relatively cheap to make, fairly simple to build and accommodate curves and informal designs more easily than concrete or laid slabs.

Whichever material you decide to use, the foundation needs to be firm – a layer of well compacted hardcore at the very least – to ensure that the path keeps its shape and can bear the weight of laden wheel barrows over the coming years. You will need to make sure that the surface of the path is firm and safe, especially in wet or frosty weather and particular attention needs to be paid to getting the surface even, especially if you do opt for pavers or slabs. Tripping and falling on poorly laid paths in the dark has little to recommend it!

Adding lights to the path can be a feature worth considering for added safety and convenience. The range of garden lighting available is enormous, ranging from low-key, environmentally-friendly solar versions, to mains powered, full-grown lamp-posts and just about everything in between, so there is sure to be something which is right for both the design and the pocket.

Providing Services

Many garden buildings can have their usefulness increased dramatically with the provision of water and electricity. Convenience is a major factor in how simple this is to achieve and should be an essential aspect to consider when deciding where the whole thing is to be sited in the first place; picking somewhere fairly close to the supply makes the job considerably easier and cheaper.

Running a hose pipe from the house down to the greenhouse may well work for a while, but it is really only a very makeshift way to get water into the building. For fairly straightforward and simple arrangements, if you already have an outdoor tap it may be possible to simply add a suitable spur from this and route a pipe to where the new supply is wanted. The pipe will need to be buried at least 12 inches deep (30cm) to avoid frost, with any above-ground sections lagged heavily for the same reason. If you do this yourself, make sure that you comply with current legislation regarding the use of anti-siphoning devices to prevent water contamination.

Adding electricity to garden buildings really is a job for the professionals and using a qualified electrician gives you the peace of mind of knowing that the job has been done properly and that all the fittings are the right kind. The combination of bad amateur electrics and the British weather are a recipe for disaster, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Generally speaking, the cabling is run inside a protector pipe, sunk into a trench for safety although sometimes, if the building is very close to a suitable supply point, it may be possible to run it overhead. There is scope for some DIY involvement – and the chance to save a little money – by digging the trench and filling it in afterwards.

It may also be possible to add a gas supply to heat the building – which can be an economical way to maintain the temperature of a warm greenhouse in particular. Whether you are thinking about bottled gas or mains – which is much less commonly done – you will again need to consult the experts.

Adding even the smallest shed takes a bit of effort while putting up some of the larger kinds of outdoor buildings can be a major undertaking – especially if you’re planning on doing it yourself. Good access and services make an enormous difference to how much use you get out of your new construction, so it is definitely worthwhile planning them carefully to make sure you get to enjoy the full benefits of all the hard work.

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