Installing Utilities in Your Garden Building

We often talk about how to make your house a home, but how do you make your shed one?

Well, a great start, whether you’ve got a small storage shed or a garden workshop would be to install some utilities. Even something as simple as running water and a sink could make tasks like cleaning tools a lot easier.

Or, maybe you’ve been looking at a range of garden offices and thinking about creating your own home office. And electricity, water, and even toilet options can help transform your shed.

If you don’t already have a shed, it might be that you’re looking to add another section (and some value) to your house. Or if you do, then you might be aiming at converting it into usable space.

Either way, a surefire way to make the most of your outdoor garden building is to install utilities. 

home office interior, wooden summerhouse with light coming through windows on to office chairs and desks

Installing Electricity in Your Shed

There are a few steps you need to follow whether you want to install electricity to run a shower or some heating. (Or just to be able to watch the game away from the house!).

But the first question is, as your garden building is out in the elements year-round:

Is it weather-resistant?

Any electrician worth their salt isn’t going to rig up your summerhouse unless it’s safe to do so.

This is why you should always work with an accredited electrician. But before you even get to that point, you’ll need to think about waterproofing your shed roof for electrics.

Once you’ve done that, you can move on to how you intend to use the space. By telling your electrician how you intend to use the space, they can install the right number of sockets and light fittings. 

It’s no use creating the perfect home office shed if your charger cable won’t reach your desk!

It’s always a good move to prepare yourself before you call a sparky though. Ask yourself – is there a spare circuit on your fuse board that they can use? Do you want to install an isolator? 

This means that any problems with your shed’s utilities won’t affect your main house.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can think about how to run electrical cables to your shed. Any electrical cabling to your shed will need to run underground and have to be steel wire armoured. On top of this, you could always think about running them inside a conduit for a bit of extra protection.

Like water pipes, it’s always best to try and protect these as much as possible from things like sharp stones.

These cables will need to be buried in a trench 600mm deep which will be fairly easy if you’re just working with soil. But if there’s any concrete to get through, it’ll be a lot harder!

Cost-saving tip: Grab a trenching spade and offer to dig the trench yourself. Line it with builders sand to protect your conduit.

Once your garden shed has electricity installed, you can think about other options. These might include whether or not you want to install solar panels. Solar panels can be a step towards self-sufficiency and reducing your carbon footprint.

And, if you’re looking to build a home office in your shed, you’ll need to have it wired up. You know, so you can stay in the loop with all the endless Zoom meetings!

So if you want to learn more about setting up electricity in your garden shed, check out our helpful guide.

Shed interior looking at garden through a window with a table with an open book, pipe, and small vase of flowers

Adding Ventilation to Your Shed

Although it’s not a utility as such, there’s a fair chance that you’ll also want some ventilation in your new shed.

Ventilation in your garden building will:

  • Help keep the air clean
  • Keep your shed smelling better
  • Combat damp

If you’re working on a smaller shed, you can always opt for simple fixes like installing vents on your shed’s gables. Check which direction the prevailing wind is in and make sure to mesh them so that only air gets in, however.

Otherwise, you could install skylights, a whirligig (to draw air out), or an electric fan. Once you’ve got your electricity up and running in your shed, these are all options you can look into.

But for now, let’s have a look at the other big utility you’ll want to install – water.

Running a Water Line to Your Shed

Before installing water in your garden building, you’ll still need to ask a few questions. These might include whether you want a shower or toilet in your shed and whether you need hot water or not.

At a glance, the steps for running a water line to your shed include:

  1. Deciding what type of water supply you want (hot or cold)
  2. Digging a 750mm trench to lay water pipes
  3. Picking the appropriate form of drainage

So now that we’ve got our 3 steps, let’s have a look at the differences between installing hot and cold water in your shed.

Running cold water to a shed

It stands to reason that installing cold water is going to be easier than hot. 

Garden shed with front windows at the end of a garden on a gravel patch

What you’ll need is two sets of pipes running to your shed. One will bring clean water in, and one will take dirty or ‘grey’ water out.

The new pipework will need to be sunk in a trench dug at least 750mm underground, however. Remember earlier when we said you could save money by digging trenches yourself? Well, it’s time for round two!

You’d also do well to line your trench with a bit of builder’s sand like we suggested for your conduits. Trust us, it’s no fun having to dig up pipes after they’ve burst. 

In addition to these two pipes, your plumber will need to find a spot to get rid of all that grey water. This must be done with a soil drain point, not a rainwater drain. But if you already have one, you can always just add a connection and a stub soil stack

There are many different options for water, like installing guttering and a water butt if you don’t need drinking water. Or, you could always look at installing a pump station to get rid of waste water.

On the other hand, you could always think about:

Running hot water to a shed

To turn your shed or summerhouse into a livable space, though, you might want to install hot water. And the good news is, there are a couple of different options.

You could install a small hot-water heater (providing around 7-10 litres of hot water). This would mean you’d steer clear of all the regulations surrounding installing a boiler. On top of that, household appliances like dishwashers generate their own hot water.

Because of this, it might be more cost-effective to install an electric shower. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at potentially installing a boiler to heat your water supply.

Now that you’ve got a water supply to your shed, you might even think about:

Shed interior looking at garden through a window with a table with an open book, pipe, and small vase of flowers

Adding a Toilet to Your Shed

Adding a toilet to your outdoor garden building can be perfect for transforming it into a guesthouse or home office. And, like with running water to your shed, there are a couple of different options.

If you wanted an outside toilet solution for your shed you could always opt for a compostable toilet. A step up from this might be something like a chemical toilet. Both of these are fairly easy to install and low maintenance.

But if you want to make your garden office usable throughout the day, you’ll want to install a flushing toilet inside. To do so, you’ll first need to install a macerator. This reduces waste to a pulp to be then taken away via your soil pipe to the sewer.

Otherwise, you could look at installing a sewage pump. Luckily, if you’re also planning on fitting a sink in your garden shed, you won’t necessarily need a separate grey-water pipe. All your grey water can run into the same soil pipe.

Installing Utilities in Your Shed

Now you might (we hope) be eyeing up your storage shed and thinking about transforming it. Whether you’re looking to install a toilet or electrics – utilities open up a world of options.

Once you get water to your shed you can install a shower, a toilet, or even a dishwasher. What you’ll have to make sure of, though, is whether you want a hot or cold water supply. 

As for electrics, you’ll need to have a clear plan of what you intend to use your garden building for. This way, you can make sure you have the correct number of sockets in the right places.

You can also save yourself some coin by connecting to your mains electricity and water, if possible. But one of the biggest time and money-savers will be simply planning ahead. 

Just like building a base for a shed, lay the groundwork before you start to build up. And, if all this talk of garden buildings and utilities has got your mind whirring – then check out our guide to designing your very own garden office interior.

 

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FAQs

Most outbuildings come under what is called ‘permitted development’, including an outside toilet. However, if you’re planning on turning your outdoor garden building into a fully livable space, you may need to apply for permission. 

 

Read more about the rules and guidelines here.

 

It depends, although the answer is probably yes. For example, you’ll need to connect to the mains water from your house unless you’re simply using guttering or a rainwater tank. You’ll also need a soil drainage point. 

 

However, things like grey water from multiple appliances can utilise the same pipework.

 

The same principles apply for running plumbing from your main house to a shed or a detached garage. You’ll need to dig trenches for new pipework and settle on what water solution you want. 

 

Yes, (technically) but only for short periods of time. You can’t, for example, bury your un-armoured extension cord or leave it running. Otherwise, you run the risk of blowing circuits. Plus, it’s not a long-term plan. You’d be much better off installing electricity in your shed.