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Sunday, 4 March 2012

Garden Studio and Garden Office Plumbing


 By Richard Grace Garden Structures Ltd www.aarco.co.uk, www.gardenofficeproject.blogspot.com and www.calfpath.co.uk
Plumbing is not always on the priority agenda when looking for a Garden Studio. After all, its not far to the kitchen or bathroom in the house. Some however see it as important.  In the hierarchy of needs it figures quite high.
Once you get installed and perhaps concentrating for long periods on projects you will want to make hot drinks, wash the mugs and stay at work. You may have visitors and feel it would be more convenient to conduct the meetings without the need to take them into your home.

When it becomes essential is - in therapy studios used for “hands on” treatment, artist studios and if guests may use the building for overnight stays.

Over the last ten years I have installed plumbing in more than a hundred Garden Buildings and the techniques developed have been proven to work. Many of these installations have been made on a strict budget but all have proved to work well.

Why do I need plumbing?

"Water for making a brew, a toilet for processing it and a waste exit for obvious reasons"

Plumbing (from the Latin “plumbum” (for lead piping!)) means providing water and getting rid of waste. The toxins in lead are thought by some people to have contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. Strange I should still be alive at sixty and living and writing this in the Roman City of Chester.

Today I am using exclusively plastic plumbing in Garden Buildings, which is a quick, easy and reliable method.  The main things to consider here are:

  1. If water leaks it can cause damage
  2. If water gets colder than zero degrees it freezes and causes disruption
  3. If water is not supplied in a hygienic way it can cause health problems
  4. If waste is not disposed of hygienically it causes a threat to health
Basics of a good Garden Building plumbing system

With the above factors in mind we know that the supply pipe should not be exposed without insulation against freezing. The joints should be reliable and maintenance free, the pipe-work should be robust hygienic and sited in such a way it will not be subject to physical damage. If new pipe-work is used, flushed on installation and connected to a reliable clean source then health problems will be avoided. Waste should leave the environment in appropriate way automatically wherever possible.
  • A sink and worktop
  • Somewhere to wash the dishes, artist brushes or hands of course.
To wash the dishes we all know its better to have some hot water on tap. The installation of an under-sink or over-sink water heater with a 10-15-litre capacity close to the taps is a simple solution to this problem. The cost of running this occurs only when you draw the water off. These devices are cheap and simple to install + space requirement is minimal as they can fit under or over a small sink. Because they do not heat the water on demand but store a small amount in an insulated container the demands on electricity are not high.

Getting rid of the waste from a garden building
  • Conventional Drainage looks like this (notice the digger in the background)
Usually this is thought of as the main cost and the most difficult thing to achieve. It is however - possible to pipe a small amount of uncontaminated waste to a soak-away but a far better solution is to send the waste to the main sewer. This of course opens up the possibility of having a toilet.

It is always best to get the waste out to the main sewer if possible and it usually is. The main concerns of our clients are:

  1. Hygiene
  2. Reliability
  3. Cost
Whilst your main property was no doubt built with exit of waste being at the forefront of the site design this is rarely the case for Garden Studios sometimes situated at some distance from the main property and on many occasions on a different level. Conventional sewers rely on steady flow at a constant fall. Both lack of fall and too much fall represent potential blockage problems and as we all know water will not run uphill.

On many occasions the installation of a conventional drain is simply not an economic prospect.

Sewer Pumping (how to get rid of the waste if conventional drainage is expensive or disruptive)

As far as I am aware we are the only Garden Office and Studio supplier to have developed a low cost solution to this problem. The original idea came from purchasing a sewer pumping system for a rather large Garden Studio near Redhill in Surrey. As the Studio was to be used frequently for overnight stays the facilities needed to include a fully functional bathroom. The main property sewer was some two meters higher and around 75 meters away from the studio site, the options available were:

a)      To build a compliant septic tank system or
b)      To investigate the possibility of sewer pumping

The pumping solution was favoured by the client and on their behalf we purchased a compete (consultant specified) system to fulfil this task and installed it to the suppliers design.

Following this experience I started to think about how "exactly" this system worked and could it be reproduced at less cost and less disruption. Essentially the system involved waste exit to a tank fitted with a macerating pump with float switch and installation of a pipe from tank to waste exit. Shortly afterwards I designed a low cost version of this using macerator, tank, pump and small bore pipe bought over the counter at Screwfix.

Over the years we have installed this system in some 34 sites. The reasons were always the same – this system was less cost and disruption. The systems have now a performance track record of over three hundred operational years without any significant problem and all are still in action to the satisfaction of their owners.

The distances vary from 5 metres to 220 metres and the rise and fall from Studio to drain varies up and down to eight metres with gradients up to 30 degrees.

In one case working efficiently the rise is eight metres and the distance from Studio to drain is 47 metres the exit pipe flows down one metre and then up eight along its run. I have discussed this system with many plumbers and on one occasion and at some length with a drainage consultant.
Whilst everyone says “Richard you should patent this” I really don’t think it is possible because it is so simple.

If you want to see more you can see an explanation on you tube here:

Very latest video! - on Richards sewer pumping system Mk2 added Feb 2014 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZK4Nvw70kE&feature=c4-overview&list=UULWU1uZvHaGB7COZvabsXYw

"The cost of components is dramatically lower than any conventional solution and I have all the data proving it works", "Furthermore there is no issue with Building Control as my system complies"

About toilets

For a low maintenance,efficient and private toilet facility a few things are needed:

  1. An enclosed area of 1.5 square metres at least 800mm wide
  2. A small sink with hot and cold water
  3. A flushing toilet
These items with the addition of the water heater described above are normally referred to as Cloakroom Suites and can be purchased at B&Q including taps etc. for as little as £190 complete ready to connect.

Can I have a shower installed?

Answer – Yes of course. You will need to allocate at least 1.5 square metres of space for this and provide the following:

  1. Enough electricity supply as showers is hungry on power when used. The total cost of the power is very small but the wires need to be thicker to provide the enormous power safely.
  2. A shower cubicle with waterproof enclosure
  3. Waste exit and water input
You can see more about electricity for Garden Studios and Garden Offices on this blog

Installing a kitchen facility


Let’s call this a kitchenette, as it would not be normal for a Garden Office or Garden Studio to be providing much in the way of kitchen facilities. A worktop, sink, drainer and space for a fridge and microwave would normally suffice. For a more complete and purpose made space saving solution we recommend Elfin kitchens. This company are specialist in providing configurable high quality space saving kitchen nets. Straight out of the box they provide all the facilities necessary for preparing family meals. 

Standard precautions I always take on plumbing installations:

  1. Ensure the pipes won’t freeze
  2. Provide service valves (stop taps) in the system at appropriate points
  3. Test the system under full pressure before setting the pressure for normal use
  4. Ensure all components can be accessed for servicing
What’s the cost?

On quotation we specify to a budget. A full system including shower installed and working can be less than £2000. If you want these taps (the same ones our son has in his kitchen) then the cost will be a lot higher! (I took this photo through a posh kitchen suppliers window this morning)


If you want a sink arrangement like his: it will be a lot higher still:

If you want an elfin kitchen then allow £2000 for a good set-up.visit their website at http://www.elfinkitchens.co.uk/
Next month my blog will feature Garden Office and Garden Studio roofing systems

For more info see www.aarco.co.uk  email Richard@aarco.co.uk or call Noella on 01244 679502

Update on 16/12/2013

From Richard - I just completed a job with new design of plumbing system which will pump sewage 9 metres high and up to 100 metres. You can view this on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZK4Nvw70kE

Update on 11/12/2015

From Richard - I have been called in to design and install a kitchenette and toilet extension to a log cabin supplied by Dunster House. The cabin is to become a place of work for 5 people. All the system will be the same as others. I need to cut a hole in the back attach an extension with two small rooms install the plumbing and now familiar macerator, tank and pump system. I did survey via client photos and must all work b4 Xmas. I am pretty confident - we will see. It seems no-one local knew how to do it!

4 comments:

  1. Preparing this was so boring and it was cold in my workshop today. Plumbing is pretty basic but I am asked a lot about it.

    Congo gave a definate no vote to the Euro Hotel in Wembley on out last job it was real cheap so I avoided letting this hotel down on laterooms. Stay there if you want to save money - the people were ok.

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  2. I like this web site because so much useful material on here.

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  3. I will take note of the standard precaution and try what you are saying. The garden office looks modern.

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  4. I think I'll adapt your standard precaution on my next plumbing project:-)

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