How I built my Summerhouse

Hello. The Summerhouse is finished so I thought I would give it a separate page to document the various stages of it's construction. I had the idea to build something in the corner of my garden, a place where I could sit and maybe read or sew, a little hideaway which has the sun for most of the day. It is tucked away behind the garage and has a hedge and trees on the opposite side. 
I like the idea of using recycled materials, rubbish that would normally be thrown out and dumped in a hole in the ground. I am a big fan of pallets, there are a lot lying around which no one wants. I made all my raised beds from pallets, and in my porch I have a shoe rack made from pallet wood. I had the idea to use pallets for the outer frame and fix second hand doors to the inside. At this stage I wasn't sure what I would use for the roof. 
I don't have any fancy tools, just the basics, a hand saw, a hammer and nails, screwdrivers and screws, a hand drill, a tape measure, and a can opener. You may ask what use a can opener is. It has a sharp point on it and I use it to start off a hole in a piece of wood which I want to put a screw into. 
I needed a way to fix the doors to the pallets, and to each other. As well as putting a long screw all the way through the door and the pallet I need some kind of bracket. The plan is not to buy anything, just use what I already have. These pieces of metal are left over from a set of shelving, I cut them into smaller pieces.

They can be bashed flat with the hammer to join two pieces of wood like this.

Or they can be used as an angle into a corner join.

I started off with two very big pallets which I got from a house renovation down the road. I got these a few months before, thinking they might come in useful for something. I put the pallets on their sides and added a heavy post at each corner. I have lots of timber in my garage, gathered over the years. There are no foundations I am building this on some broken slabs which I previously put down for the greenhouse I built here before. As the greenhouse was smaller one of the sides will be on bare earth.

I found a company which fits double glazing, they remove wooden doors to fit plastic and they said I could have any wooden doors stacked up in the yard. The first two were mainly glass with metal bars across and are very heavy, they look like they might have come from a factory. These are the first two I fitted. I have an estate car so I can transport large items with the back seats folded down. The white door I found in a skip, it is like new, the people didn't want it.

So I tried it on either side of the first two, but it wasn't quite right. Also it is an internal door so doesn't have the durability of a heavier external door. I put it to one side in case I was stuck for a door later and would use it if I had to.

Back to the double glazing company to pick up two more doors. There is a gap between the brown one and it's neighbour the white one, so I found a piece of timber which filled it exactly. As you can see the doors vary in height. It would be a difficult job to saw some off the top of the white ones, and I didn't want to remove them now they are screwed tight. I could only take off a couple of inches anyway so it wouldn't make much difference and it would be too much hassle. The only other thing to do to get round the problem is to increase the height of the other doors to match the white ones.

Two more doors waiting to be fitted, they are patio doors, slightly narrower than conventional doors.

Next a brown door next to the red one, and a patio door next to that. Luckily the three together are the exact length of the pallet. So that's six doors fitted on two sides. They are standing up by themselves with no fixings into the ground.

I have a couple more pallets for the third side, but they are not as high, not to worry, they will have to do. The first door on that side, which is the side next to the garage, is fitted. Maybe the other patio door next to it? Maybe not, I'll save it until I get another normal size door, then see if it fits next to that one.

Run out of pallets for the left hand side, maybe some more will be found soon. Also waiting for another door.

I have found a pallet for the fourth side which is looking out over the garden. The ground is very uneven now, and some broken slabs are needed to raise the pallet an inch or two to square it off with the other one, to make a solid  join into the corner. I fixed a post to the edge of it, this is where the opening will be. 
Heidi goes in to have a look at the progress so far. Making a start on the painting, I have some half tins of white emulsion.

Starting to take shape, rain stopped play at this stage. Six doors fixed to the pallets on two sides.

The first and only door fixed to the front overlooking the garden. This one has a cat flap in the bottom but it will be blocked off by the pallet. Nice to see the sun out.

Not a good idea to use emulsion paint, it got rained on. Never mind, I only put it on as an undercoat to see what it might look like, and to see if the glass would take the paint.

Making a start on building up the height of the doors to match the taller ones. Strips of wood nailed to the top. There was a gap between two doors so I found a piece of wood the exact size to fit it.

Longer lengths of wood used to overlap two doors to make the structure stronger.

I painted the glass on this white door.

I was given some green gloss paint, and painted the whole door and it's surround.
I asked around for donations of unwanted half tins of paint.

I fancied pink but didn't have any. Easy to make, just mix some red printing ink in a tin of white paint.

The tall white doors are now pink and blue. Painting them as I go along has given me a bit of a spur to get on with it, because I can now see how the finished house might look.

The pallets on the third side facing the garage. They are not as high as those on the other two sides, and I also needed to cut one pallet in half and add that to extend the length.

Another door has been found. My neighbour is having a new upvc front door so he doesn't want this old one. That was lucky, he doesn't have to get rid of it and I don't have to carry it far.

It fits in perfectly next to the white one.

Note the use of a ratchet and strap to keep it in place while I screw it together. Hard to hold something steady with one hand and use a screwdriver with the other, especially if it isn't an electric one and you have to use bodily pressure to force the screw all the way in. It's a two handed job to push hard and turn the screwdriver at the same time.

The view of the back of it from the neighbours garden.

And the side with the three and a half joined up pallets.

Now I need to decide what to do about the opening. I don't want a door, besides I couldn't fit one as the gap is wider at the top than it is at the bottom. The other half piece of pallet fits neatly on the left hand corner, with an upright piece of timber and a cross bar over the top to support the roof. Don't know what the roof will be at this time, need to think about that. 
More wood needs to be added on top of that door.

Looking a bit better with a lick of paint.

That's as high as I'm going to go with that, it doesn't match perfectly with the other side, not to worry a bit of fresh air will be fine.

Wood added to the top of this door, and painted.

Now there are more doors painted, the red door is now yellow, and the brown door is pink, looking good. I needed some cross bars for the roof supports, they have to be 8 feet long, where do I get them from? In the yard of the double glazing company I spotted some old soffit boards, the bit that goes underneath the guttering of a house. They were very long, and stuck several feet out of the back of the car when I transported them home. They were full of nails which I removed, the ends were rotten but luckily I found I could get six 8 feet pieces out of them when I cut the ends off. The boards were painted white on both sides before I fitted them. As a temporary roof I covered it in two pieces of blue tarpaulin. It would do to keep the weather out until I found something more permanent.

Another door painted, I ran out of paint before I reached the bottom, didn't mix enough. Not to worry just add another colour to the bottom. Anything goes in this crazy summerhouse.

I added a slug of white paint to lighten the green I had, to paint this door. It's a lovely shade.

Not much more painting to do on the inside now. Looking good.

Any odd bits of paint are going to get used up in random places on the outside.

YAY, the roof has arrived. I rang a conservatory company and asked if they took down old conservatories, and did they have any roof panels to spare. They said yes, come and have a look, so I did. I found five polycarbonate panels 9 feet by 3 feet, they were filthy and stacked in the corner of the yard. Just the job. I was hoping they might just give them to me, I had explained that it was a recycling project to show what could be built with second hand materials. After a quick discussion they asked if I could make a charitable donation, they were collecting for Motor Neurone Disease. Of course, perfect, I gave them £20 which they were happy with. I scrubbed all the dirt off the panels.

So here are three of the panels on the roof. I had to move some of the support boards because they were in line with where I wanted to tape the panels together. I had to push them up there myself while balancing on a step ladder, nudging them into the right position. Then screwing them onto the boards using washers so the screws didn't sink into the plastic. I reached over and taped them together on the top as far as I could, and taped along the open ends. My friend came with a bigger ladder and longer arms to tape the centre together where I couldn't reach. I'm sure it would have held my weight if I had climbed up there.

It has quite a big overhang which is great for keeping the rain off the sides. All the rain comes to this corner and can be collected in a large plastic tub.

Making the back look a bit better on the neighbours side.

Doesn't look quite so scrappy now.

A bit of green paint left so use it up on this side.

There is a long narrow gap here, it needs a window. I made a frame out of old wood and attached some clear plastic to it.

Now, what to use to cover the opening in and out. I have some of this heavy duty grey plastic, I got it out of a skip quite a few years ago, I think it's used for roofing. Measure up the gap and cut a piece slightly bigger.

Next fold over the ends and stick down with tape. Then get two wooden broom handles and stitch a channel into it with thin string to take the poles.

There you are, a giant blind. Perfect.

Two coat hooks at the top to hang it on.

And two further down to stretch an elastic across to stop it blowing around.

There was a gap above the blind which needed filling. A small piece of polycarbonate did the job.

I searched the garden and gathered all the paving slabs together. Not quite enough really, but I had asked around and no one had any to spare. Not to worry, I will fix these together somehow. There are some gaps which I have filled with wood, and pieces of wood were needed underneath in some places to level them off. 

Two wooden blocks nailed together with battens underneath, for the step into it.

Let's have a look around, a few more bits of paint needed here and there.

The last finishing touches are done, now it's home from home. A lace curtain at the window. Pot plants around the outside. The spare white door is fixed to the outside to give some screening from the neighbours garden. 

The bunting is up. A work table and chair. Some artworks around the walls. Old carpet tiles which have been stored under the stairs ever since I came here 18 years ago, with pieces of new carpet offcuts on top.

A corner unit which was given to me, I painted it.

An easy chair with cushions. A curtain at the window to hide the pallet outside. A plant stand given to me and painted. A free vase from someone else.

All artworks, heart decorations, cushion covers, bunting, made by myself. The artworks will not stay out here, they are stored safely indoors.

And outside we have a beach view, ha ha, painted on the back of the garage.

We have had several heavy storms just recently and the summerhouse stands up to the rain very well. There are no leaks, the rain hasn't come in, despite having gaps where the doors don't fit perfectly together. I didn't draw up any plans for this, nothing was measured, it was just a case of sourcing free materials and seeing where the pieces might fit together. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would encourage anyone to have a go, you don't know if it will work until you try. I expect this to stand for at least five years, probably longer, even ten years is possible with a bit of TLC and more licks of paint. The wind won't blow it down, it's as solid as a rock.

My bespoke summer house is finished, and I'm proud of it.


  1. Fabulous! You are a great inspiration to me - I may have to try to make something similar myself!

  2. Ilona I'm even more impressed now that I realise you achieved this without the aid of power tools! I am in awe!

  3. Well done Ilona, a fabulous achievement.
    Pam in TX.xx

  4. Definitely worth it's own page. Amazing! I love it! Debbie

  5. A patient of mine has just seen your blog and as he has just spent a lot of money buying doors etc, he is very envious and wishes he had seen this earlier. he says you should definitively enter the shed of the years competition.

  6. That is fantastic work! Great job!

  7. That is stunning! I have to admit I couldn't see where you were going with it to start with, but is is fabulous. I am off to show this to Mr Shoestring!!


  8. I read about you this morning on The Sun's webpage, and I've read loads of your blog now. I just want to say, I think you're GREAT. You have a fantastic attitude towards life, a buoyant, positive soul. You're the best type of character (IMO): wacky and fun-loving on the outside, but shrewd and sensible on the inside, about the important stuff. You have inspired me to pinch my pennies, and build my own summerhouse!

    1. Thank you, that's very kind of you to say so. You pinch those pennies till they scream. Best wishes.

  9. That is just amazing. I had enough trouble putting up my kit greenhouse ! I think the most ambitious use I've made of a pallet was to turn a big one into a piece of removable decking over a manhole cover. And compost bins of course. I love all the different colours and the shabby chic look of your summerhouse, you should send a picture to Country Living and get them to do an article from a recycling point of view.

  10. I just wanted to say how impressed I am - not only with the summerhouse but with all your superscrimping endeavours. Like you, I trawl charity shops etc and recycle what I can but you have spurred me on even more to save not spend. Thank you for changing my mindset, Ilona. Very grateful. xx

  11. Ilona, I tried to email you on but was rejected. I wrote a long "e" with pics of my "mean queen" type life too which I would love to resend to you. Have you got an "e" address? Where to find it?!!! Grrrr
    Love Karen

    1. Hi Karen. I don't know why it didn't work, I get emails all the time to that address. Try this one.


  12. hi Ilona. Thanks for the alternative "e" (the "diane" one) I sent my letter there. Hope it got to you. I'm lovin' reading your older blob posts, and your general positive take on life. Long live good health and optimism.
    Love from Karen in France

  13. I'm what you might call a clone of you: I'm retired and currently renovating a house in dire shape. The difference is that, unlike a normal build, this is my own personal attempt to create an 'eco' home. It will be equipped with miscellaneous devices to minimise energy use, and recycle/reuse water and human waste. ALSO, it is to be re-built using, as far as possible, materials which I beg, borrow and ( preferably ) steal, although I call it creative reuse. Don't panic, I don't nick stuff people actually want!
    I hope to get to chat to you ( by email ) about our respective lifestyles, which are uncannily similar, with the exception that I do splash out on professional tools. A build like mine really needs proper equipment. IMO.


    1. Hello Bruce, nice to hear from you. I agree, power tools would make some jobs a lot easier. I have been tempted to get an electric hedge trimmer, but can't bring myself to do it. I soldier on with manual shears.

      I use mainly recycled materials in my arts and crafts projects, no point in spending when so much is free.

      Good luck in your housebuild, I would not know where to start with a project of that size.


  14. I've only just come to read this, and it came out wonderful.

    I am often amazed, reading your blog, at your skills and knowledge. I suspect many were developed "as needed", and I find it hopeful for a klutz like myself, that "maybe there is hope", grin.

  15. Absolutely love this shed Ilona well done. Think I'm gonna have to get my hammer out and see where it takes me. Hope to see you back in Scope soon x

  16. Bloody hell, hats off to you! It looks incredible.

  17. Just found your blog and love the summerhouse. If you can build this with no power tools, imagine what you could do with them.

  18. It looks great, what fun you had. I admire your resourcefulness. My husband built a playhouse for me from pallets and found materials. I posted photos on my Pinterest board. Here's the link if you want to look.
    Be sure to start at the bottom of the page, at photo #1.

  19. forgot to mention... If you click on each pic in the playhouse built from pallets, I described what was going on in the photo.

  20. Hi Ilona,

    Great summerhouse, love the colours. Bit like the tiny houses they have in America. All the best, Christy.

  21. Love your summerhouse!!

    I also like your idea of making raised beds from pallets - I will be having a garden for the first time soon and would like to know how to make these - have you any instructions for those?


    1. Hi. I used ordinary size wooden pallets. Cut them in half across the width, taking out the centre block by sawing through the slats on each side of them. I stood them on their sides, four to make a box, with the slats on the inside, and the corner blocks on the top. I nailed small pieces of wood across the corners to hold them together. I put three in a row, the middle one only needed the two sides. Flat sheets of wood, or old carpet, or old lino, anything you have, put inside against the sides to stop the compost or soil falling through the gaps. I bought a few bags of compost to get going. I looked out for well rotted horse manure to add to it, and I made my own compost with vegetable scraps, and added my lawn mowings. They lasted about six years, with some repairs as they started rotting. I replaced them with 600 free bricks I managed to find from someone who was knocking an outhouse down. Good luck.

  22. I just found your blog, and I have so enjoyed reading about your summerhouse! It is absolutely perfect!

  23. Hello! I just started reading your blog and am just so impressed with your summerhouse. In reading your list of things that are frugal I felt like you had been observing my life for the past several years! I was a corporate type for many years - too much money and not enough time. Now I live with my SO in a house on what she inherited from the family farm. No mortgage! We just bought a fifth wheel as they are called here in the US. We are "glamping" it using found, recycled, upcycled, saved, thrifted and gifted. SO's become an amazing "paint" mixer using up odds and ends of paint. I can't wait to read more! Mary

  24. What a remarkable accomplishment!

  25. Your summerhouse is pure joy!

  26. I am just now reading about your summerhouse. I am amazed - first at the tenacity to keep adding on and all the work you did and second, how adorable it turned out! What an inspiration! I also read all of your money saving tips and there are some great suggestions in there. I'm enjoying your blog and your special pages too. Have a great weekend!


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