Make room outside

David Coleman of Oak Timber Structures explains why the inclusion of an oak gazebo in the garden can add huge value to a property for the long term, and discusses the considerations to bear in mind

With fewer people moving house for a variety of reasons at the moment, homeowners are looking to improve their existing properties, with gardens offering a large potential in terms of usable space. More and more people are looking to fill their space with something both visually appealing and useable. This is why solid oak garden structures are rapidly growing in popularity, with traditional style oak gazebos emerging as a clear winner.

Solid oak gazebos are extremely decorative, durable structures that will give you a peaceful covered area in your garden, while being capable of standing up to the harshest weather Britain can throw at them.

Once exclusively the preserve of kings, queens and wealthy landowners, oak gazebos are now much more affordable, and have been finding their way into residential properties. As a result they are providing a touch of luxury to gardens up and down the country.

The earliest gazebos on record were found in Egypt, dating back 5,000 years. They were used as places to escape and relax, and vines would be encouraged to grow up the posts. Later, the Persians built and used them as places to conduct business. The current style of oak gazebos became popular throughout Europe during the 18th century and their designs have not changed much in all this time.

Design details

With square, rectangular, round and hexagonal shapes available, and popular sizes being three or four metres square and over three metres tall, an oak gazebo in your garden will be a major talking point. Some firms will also make your gazebo to any bespoke size or shape to fit any space you may have. The top-end oak gazebos are hand crafted, using the highest quality oak. The main frames and primary rafters are held together with oak pegs hammered through expertly crafted mortise and tenon joints. The common rafters are held in place with stainless steel screws.

When it comes to roofing, cedar shingles are the most popular covering, complementing the natural colour of the structure with a material that will also weather to the classic silver-grey over time. Oak gazebos are also strong enough to take even the heaviest slates you can find, so if you’d like to match tiling to nearby buildings, it is unlikely to be a problem for your supplier.

It is common to use pressure treated softwood or oak battens across the rafters, with the shingles or tiles fixed straight onto them, so you can see the roofing material from underneath. If you prefer a more modern look, you could opt for tongue and groove boarding over your rafters, giving a more orderly view from underneath.

As with all external oak, gazebos can be treated with a UV protection oil to delay the onset of the silver-grey bleaching from the sun’s rays, or left to weather naturally over the years. You’ll need to re-treat every 12 to 18 months with a UV protector if you want to keep the golden oak colour for as long as possible. Various oils and stains are available to bring out the grain or enhance the colour of the oak.

Getting it built

With regards to erection, oak gazebos are normally supplied in a kit form with all the woodwork already complete, so they can be put up by a general builder rather than requiring a joiner. When your gazebo arrives, all of the joining parts will have corresponding markings, so once all the pieces are laid out, the whole kit just fits together. Builders will normally hire a ‘genie lift’ to hold the heavy beams up in the air while fixing the main frame together. If you opt for cedar shingles as the roof, you’ll find that many general builders are capable of fitting these.

When it comes to groundworks, you should always check with a builder for your exact scenario, but concrete pads under each post will usually suffice. Gazebos are most commonly rested onto ‘staddle stones.’ These reconstituted sandstone blocks have small locating pins protruding from the top, which the oak posts rest on. Because of the weight of a completed oak gazebo, they don’t need to be anchored to the floor, with many owners resting them onto steel pins drilled into their foundations.

Some owners go on to purchase removable canvas sidings to windproof some elevations of their gazebo, or you can opt for permanent cladding if you require extra privacy, with overlapping feather-edged oak being a popular choice.

To summarise, if you’re looking for an impressive structure to relax under, with a rich history tied to luxury and available to fit any sized space you may have available, consider a solid oak gazebo.

David Coleman is a company director at Oak Timber Structures