4 bed family home: what size garden is to little or too much

What did we do without the web?

From the comfort of my chair I spot a older home for sale that might be something. I arrange a viewing with MyHome and get an appointment at the click of a button. I notice a newly rendered and capped wall in part of the garden. Book a helicopter ride with Google Earth and during the flyover, notice a chunk of garden has been lopped off - hence the new wall.

“Looks like they’ve made themselves a site out of the once long garden”.

Quick trip, I mean click, down to the planning office and sure enough planning granted for house on the site. Not to bad - I can see from the drawings that it’s only a single storey unit and pushed to the far end of the site so it wouldn’t overlook / block light from the target house.

Pour myself a Jameson, check the time: 15 minutes elapsed.

To business:

What’s the 'Pin view on the ideal garden for a family home? Let’s say 1700 sq ft 4 bed with south aspect and not overlooked from the rear. To my mind you can have too little and you can have too much.

  • bear in mind ‘ideal over the lifetime of the family’. My sister loved her long garden for the few years the kids used it. Then it became an unused liability (bar for a patch outside the kitchen door (with I suppose the distance to neighbours provided by the length of the garden) and is now an overgrown, dog-openmined mess

  • no site potential involved in your consideration.

  • no space for future extension required.

  • resale value a consideration. You mightn’t mind a postage stamp but you might have a view on what others are likely to require.


As a Culchie and father of young kids, I’m all for big gardens. It’s been 1 of my critical factors in searching for a house…hence it’s taken me 4+ years!

Honestly, provided there is a garden I think it’s difficult for it to be too small. Kids don’t need all that much space to play. A table and chairs doesn’t take up much space. Unless you’re into gardening, anything bigger then the bare necessity is just a maintenance liability that’ll use up precious free time.

Aspect, privacy and local amenities are a bigger consideration for me. Ill use a small sunny garden far more then a big dark one. Especially if it ties well to the house with big patio doors. Nearby parks and nature make a big personal back garden less necessary too.

Minimum size, roughly the same width and footprint as the house.

40-60sqm is enough. Room for garden table and chairs and shed without feeling too cramped.

You wont set foot in an Irish garden 6 months of the year and there are maybe 20 evenings nice enough to sit out and read a book in.

Kids dont play much in gardens in my experience b

For a given site you can judge whether lopping Xm off the end of the garden would do much harm, but in deciding on a property purchase it’s better to take the site as a whole including setback from the road, neighbouring houses, slope, light, drainage and so on.

Driving the question the other way round, for a given site area what’s the idea aspect ratio and house position?

There’s something a bit odd about long gardens that just peter out.

I think the nicest/most efficient urban site I’ve lived on was a two bed terrace with about 2m at the front, 20m at the back then a double garage opening to a rear laneway. The garage really helped to frame the site and create a sense of enclosure.

Large two storey houses (>250sqm) need large sites or else the light and space don’t work properly, IMO.

I would say personally 15-20m long is good for a typical family home, one with a side garage you can get away with 12-15m but narrower sites need a bit more length. There comes a point where a lawn becomes impractical if you want a bit of a petio/deck, if you don’t have a front garden it’s hardly worth having a mower so I think fake grass works well for smaller gardens if you want a bit of green and are not a gardener. In this country you have to do what you can to make it as usable as possible for the good days we do have

I’ve just checked - where we are renting now has a back garden 18m long and about 8m wide. We’ve young kids and they’ll play in it all day long. Definitely as big as we would ever need.

We have a couple of kids and we dismiss 90% of houses that come up due to crappy garden. Renting a lovely house ATM thats an “A” of what was a nice corner site, despite being a lovely house we would never buy it due to the garden size. A lot of new builds are a no go, gardens are a joke and likely badly overlooked or over shadowed. If I have to save a huge deposit up going to be very picky where it gets spent TBH I hope a side effect of the 20% deposit rule is that people turn their nose up and some the bullshit houses and turning nice gardens into crap ones to squeeze a site for all its worth. I saw one with a shared driveway with room for 2.5 cars between both houses after the A was built the other day. There is a balance between density and quality of living that I think a lot of new builds aren’t striking very well.

Our gaff is on an infill site, close to the city centre. You can walk around the house on all sides, and the space varies from about 12ft at the back to 20ft in front around the house, depending on where you are. There’s decking on the back and the bigger side (this deck area comfortably takes bbq area and table and chairs without squeezing - could also fit a second table if required, and a paved area on the other side. The front area is divided into a small garden on one side (part of the ‘back’ garden due to being enclosed and behind a gate, and parking for 2 cars with turning, or 3 packed in.

To be honest I thought the small garden would be a deal-breaker for me, but it’s actually more about useable space. I like having dual side access and we’ve enough decking to create useable outside space. It’s far better than having a long thin back garden and small patio/deck, and I struggle with maintenance as it is. What helps is that the house is set back from the main road, so my (only) front garden isn’t noisy or overlooked much. The deck areas are not overlooked, get some sun and are very useable as they can be accessed from the living room. The only real issue is natural light at the back of the house as there’s a high boundary wall.

Sure I’d love to buy some garden off a neighbour or something, but I think the actual criteria for me would be:

  1. Is the space useable, can I have at least some grassy area that’s enclosed for a toddler to burn off some steam
  2. Can I comfortably sit and entertain outside in some way
  3. Does the ‘garden’ get some light and offer some privacy
  4. Can I maintain this without outside help

If it’s not right for you it’s not right for you. I wouldn’t have accepted a triangle little patch like I see on some corner sites, but small space can be useable depending on the site.

If you think it suits you now, don’t worry about re-sale there will be people who are similarly not focussed on garden size. As long as the garden isn’t wildly out of proportion for the area resale would be fine.

Not very scientific but after a few years obsession over various houses I came to the conclusion about 55 to 60 feet is about right. Clearly shape of site and whereabouts of surrounding properties all come into play too. Probably depends on what your used to too. However interesting that a few other opinions agree with the approx. 55 ft to 60 ft estimate

Our criteria when we bought our first house were pretty much the same, we sold that house after we had kids as the garden was too small. Slides, swings and trampolines suddenly become equal priority to the BBQ and garden furniture.

Between 2 and 4 times the footprint of the house, unless you don’t need to go to work, in which case it can be bigger, because you’ll have more time to play with it.

Approximately 1:3:1 vegetables:flowerbeds/shrubs:lawn/patio (no decking under any circumstances). The veg area can be reduced or sacrificed if you manage to get an allotment, but these are like gold dust nowadays and have the same waiting times as council homes.

I have no children or dogs and don’t need a 4 bed house, but love gardening. :slight_smile:

Depending on the aspect of the property, you might need a longer garden to find a sunny spot. Also, generally the longer the garden the further away the rear neighbours are too. Basically, a small garden is fine as long as it catches the sun and you aren’t watching your neighbours brushing their teeth in the morning.

It is not a modern ‘taste’ for small gardens, it is simply reflective of the high cost of land and complexity of the planning process. A zoned, serviced site with planning permission is best built on rather than put to use as garden. This was not the case in Crumlin in the 1940s for example, tiny houses, extremely long gardens.

Urban Ireland is not short of properties with large gardens in my view. Pretty much anything suburban from the 40s to the 70s has one. I think what is extreme might be your preference rather than the world :smiley: