If your property search has led you to the perfect new house, but one with a north facing garden, you may be asking should you buy it. Is a house with north facing garden a compromise too far?
So should you buy a house with a north facing garden? You should only buy a house with a north facing garden if you love the house and you’re happy that the back of the house will be in shade and cool. The sun doesn’t rise directly to the east and set exactly to the west and in the summer it will get high enough to clear the roof of your house.
So do north facing gardens (or yard if you in the States or Canada) really get no sun? Let’s take a look at this in more detail.
Side note: This article is written for those living in the northern hemisphere. This includes the UK, North America and Europe. But if you live in the southern Hemisphere, like Australia and New Zealand, substitute south for north. In the southern hemisphere the sun still rises in the east, but tracts around the sky to the north instead of to the south.
What is meant by north facing garden or yard?
A north facing garden means if you stand at your back door and look straight out you’ll be facing the north. Whereas, if you have a south facing garden, the opposite is true.
North facing garden sun diagram
The above north facing garden sun diagram shows the shadow the sun will create in a north facing garden at midday. This is caused by the house blocking the sunlight. If your garden is long enough, you will have a strip of garden that will still receive sunlight. This is marked on the above north facing garden sun diagram as “Bottom of Garden in Sunlight” above.
Northern hemisphere vs southern hemisphere solar noon
In the Northern Hemisphere (which is north of the Tropic of Cancer) the sun is due south as seen by the observer at solar noon. But in the Southern Hemisphere (i.e. south of the Tropic of Capricorn) it is due north. If you didn’t know, countries like the UK, USA, Canada and the whole of Europe are all in the Northern Hemisphere. Whereas, countries including Australia and New Zealand are in the Southern Hemisphere.
From the diagram, you will note that the morning sun, which is to the east of the garden, won’t cause the house to cast a shadow over the garden. This is unless there are other obstructions. Obstructions like fences, trees, hedges or neighbouring houses between your garden and the sun’s rays on the eastern boundary of the your property. This is to the right of the above north facing garden sun diagram.
In the same way, as the sun tracks around the house into the afternoon (or after the solar noon), the garden will again be blessed with sunlight. Once again this is subject to obstructions between the sun’s rays and your north facing garden. This time it’s going to be the shadows caused by what’s on the western boundary of the garden. Which is to the left on the above diagram.
During the afternoon phase of the sun’s track across the sky, it will be lower in the sky. Which means the sunlight you get will be affected even more by obstructions that are shorter.
Finally, and what the above north facing garden sun diagram doesn’t show, is how during the winter the sun is lower in the sky. The impact this has on a north facing garden is on the area marked “Bottom of Garden in Sunlight“. In the winter months, it is this section of the garden that will shrink or become non-existent. The amount left in sunlight is dependent on the length of your garden. For example, short north facing gardens will probably be left devoid of sunlight in the winter months.
What are the benefits of a bungalow with a north facing garden
One of the other factors that will affect how much sunlight is enjoyed by a north facing garden is the height of the property. Which means a bungalow with a garden is north facing garden is a better property to have if you decide to buy a house where the back of the house faces north.
If the property is a bungalow the shadow will be a smaller area. This means the “Bottom of Garden in Sunlight” of a bungalow with a north facing garden will be larger. Or in other words you have more garden getting sunlight.
What are the disadvantages of a north facing garden – how bad are they?
There are a number of drawbacks of a north facing garden to consider. These are as follows:
- The back of the house will be in shade for most of the day.
- The rooms you use the most tend to be at the rear of the house. In a house with a north facing garden these will be dark and devoid of sunlight.
- North facing gardens in the summer won’t be too bad, but in the winter when the sun is low in the sky this is the worst time. The worst will be if the garden is short and you have a two storey house, which will mean your garden won’t get any sunlight in the winter. This will be a problem for the grass.
- You may struggle to grow a decent lawn unless you use a grass mix that likes the shade. Even then you may struggle.
- You’ll have a moss problem on your lawn, as moss loves wet shady conditions to grow.
- You’ll find that nothing except moss and the hardiest plants and shrubs survive nearer the house.
- North facing gardens with clay soil will struggle to dry out after heavy downpours. This is because without the sun and evaporation the ground quickly becomes water logged.
- You cannot grow plants and flowers that like the sunlight, which especially includes fruit and vegetables that need lots of sunshine.
- You get a build up of algae on the south side of the garden and on the house as it’s in the shade.
- In the winter the back of the house will feel very cold.
- The rear patios will go green very quickly with algae and moss.
- Not ideal if you have or want a swimming pool, as this will be in the shade and cooler than it would be in a south facing garden.
- If you love gardening, a north facing garden isn’t perhaps as good as a south facing garden.
- On work days you may have to be content to sit out in the shade in the evening when you get home from work.
What are the advantages of a north facing garden?
- If you are fair skinned you’ll enjoy the shade at the back of a house with a north facing garden.
- The rooms in the front of the house will benefit from plenty of sunlight.
- The rooms at the rear of the house don’t get boiling hot in the summer.
- If you have a conservatory on the rear of the house, it won’t get unbearably hot in the summer.
- If you have children who you don’t want to play out in the sun, they will be able to play in the shade instead.
- The front of the house will be warm, which means in the winter months if your car is on the drive way on a frosty day it will defrost far quicker.
- If your living room is at the front of the house, this will get the sun during the day.
- Your garden furniture and cushions are less likely to get sun-bleached.
- If you like sunlight and shade you have the best of both worlds in the summer months.
Is it better to have a north or south facing garden?
If you love the brightness of the sun in the part of the house where you’ll spend most of your time, which tends to be at the rear of most houses, a south facing garden is better.
But if you are a fair skinned person who doesn’t like bright sunlight, then you may prefer a north facing garden over ones that’s facing south.
Does a north facing house get sun?
A north facing garden will get the sun in the morning, as the sun rises in the east. It will also get the sun in the afternoon from the west as the sun sets.
Also, during the midday sun in the summer months between May and July the sun will be high enough in the sky to light up most of the garden. But the rear of the house and any patios immediately at the rear of the house will be in shade.
Are houses with a north facing garden worth less than houses with south facing gardens?
With all else being equal, the value of a house with a north facing garden will be lower than that for an identical house in the same location with a South-facing garden.
This is because houses with south facing gardens tend to be more popular than houses with north facing gardens.
North facing vs south facing vs west facing vs east facing gardens and which is the best?
It’s arguable that a house with a south facing garden is the best to have. But ultimately this is all down to personal preference.
Whilst some would argue that a north facing garden is the worst type of garden to have. Others will argue that an east facing garden is worse. This is because the afternoon sun will cast a shadow over an east facing garden.
As the sun passes the midday point it reduces its height in the sky. This means that as the sun moves eastward it will more likely be below the roof of your house and cast shadows. These shadows will become increasingly worse as the sun moves westwards. Which is why not everyone likes a north facing garden.
A west facing garden is good for sun light too, as are gardens that face south west.
Is it a good idea to buy a new build house with a north facing garden?
If you are considering a new build house with a north facing garden, make sure the garden isn’t a small pocket sized garden. If it’s a very small garden (length-wise), you may not get much sunlight during the summer months. But probably nothing at all in the winter.
Also, be careful about buying a new build off–plan. You need to be able to see how the garden will be affect by the sun. This is especially if it’s a north facing or east facing garden. This will ideally be before you buy a new build house. You should wait until you see it built and what the garden looks like at midday, before you put down a deposit.
Additionally with new builds they tend to be surrounded by other properties. So you want to make sure you take this into account when making your buying decision.
But also, often times the underneath the shiny new grass, often laid as turf, will be rubble and building materials. This may affect the drainage of the garden. North facing gardens struggle with water logging at the best of times. But if you add in poor drainage due to builder’s rubbish, don’t expect to have a wonderful lawn to mow!
Other factors that will affect your north facing garden’s sunlight
The other factors to affect how much sunlight your garden gets during the course of the day include the following:
- The height of your house. Double of triple storey houses will have a greater impact than a single storey bungalow. The higher the house, the bigger the shadow that’s cast.
- Size of the garden, especially its length. If the house has a short garden it’s less likely to get the sun, especially in the winter months. However, if the house a longer garden, then the bottom of the garden is more likely to have sunshine during the day. But either way, the garden and rear of the house in both cases will be in the shade and cool in the summer and cold in the winter. You probably want a garden longer that 25-30 feet (7.62-9.1 metres) long. A garden of 100 feet (30.48 metres) long will get sun on most of the garden in the summer and on some of it in the winter.
- Other houses around your property. For example, if you buy a south facing garden with houses to the rear, these houses have north facing gardens. These houses may cast shadows over the bottom of your garden. Also, if these houses have tall trees in their gardens, these will be what casts a shadow over your garden.
- Trees around your property. Trees around any property will obscure the sun when it’s directly behind the trees. The other factor about trees is they are constantly growing. So bear this in mind when you buy a house that’s surrounded by trees.
- Time of year. In the winter the sun is lower in the sky, which will impact the amount of sunlight a garden receives. If you have a two storey house and a small garden you may find in the winter your garden won’t get much sun at all. This is especially true if you have houses on either side to the West and East of the property.
A north facing garden means cooler and darker rooms to the rear of the property
If you have a north facing garden, this means all the rooms at the rear of the property will also face north. The common problem with north facing rooms is they are normally dark. This means that if your kitchen is at the back of your house, this room will be dark and devoid of sunlight.
If your living room is at the rear of your property, this room will also be dark too. However, you can overcome this problem by getting some good LED lighting in the rooms. Plus if you use light colours when you decorate these rooms, this will help to lift the darkness.
If you are a person who likes the light, then you may not like living in a house where the rear of it points north. However, if you welcome the shade and coolness of a shaded room, this will be a welcome benefit to have in the summer months.
The bedrooms at the rear of a house with a north facing garden will be nice and cool in the summer months. Whereas the bedrooms at the front of the house will be hot and stuffy.
Quick tip to check which way the garden is facing
If you’re not sure which way the garden is facing on a house viewing, make sure you have a compass app on your phone. Download the app before you get to the viewing and check which way the rear of the house is facing.
Try to get a west facing garden if you can’t get south facing
If you like the sun and you can’t afford the more expensive south facing properties, you should consider a west facing garden instead. But don’t go for an east facing garden if sunlight is important to you.
Will you regret buying a house with a north facing garden?
You won’t necessarily regret buying a house with a north facing garden if the garden is long enough, as you’ll get sunlight across most of the garden for most of the day in the summer months.
You may regret your purchase if you love bright sunlight. Your rooms at the rear will be dark and gloomy. So you won’t like this and you may live to regret your purchase. And remember you can change virtually anything about a house except it’s position. Unless of course you knock it down and start again that is!
I always recommend you visit a property at least twice before making an offer. Make sure to visit the property at different times of the day too, especially if you’re worried about light entering the rooms.
You should also take a read of this article about whether you should view again before exchange. In this article you can read about why it’s a good idea to do this.
To conclude on should you buy a house with a north facing garden
If you are keen on the house you’ve found, but not sure about the fact it has a north facing garden, you should arrange further viewings to see the house at different times in the day. You should visit at around midday and early afternoon to see where the sun hits the garden.
But also, view the rooms at the rear of the house at this time of day to see how you will cope with the darkness of the rooms on this side of the house.
Buying a house is a massive commitment. You don’t want to regret your decision after you moved in. Take your time to decide, as you may live in the house for a very long time. You want to be happy. And remember “act in haste” and you’ll “repent at leisure.”
If you are a sun-lover, you probably won’t suit a north facing garden. If you are a lover of the perfect lawn you may struggle with a north facing garden to be happy.
So whilst you normally have to compromise on certain aspects of a buying new home, but if you love sunlight, this is the thing you should not compromise on.
You might also want to compare this article with buying a house with a north east facing garden too.
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