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How to choose the right conservatory for your home

10 September 2020

Considering a conservatory to extend your house? We look at what you need to know when it comes to choosing, buying and building a conservatory.

Conservatory dining room
A conservatory can create additional living space in your home, and might even increase the value of your house.

Where do you buy a conservatory?

Major DIY superstores will all have their own deals for conservatory buying, planning and installation.

Local hardware suppliers, builders, garden centres and nationally-advertised companies will also be vying for your business.

Large specialist window companies such as Everest, Anglian and Eden Windows also sell conservatories.

Lesson one, as ever: shop around, both online and out and about, for the best deals to suit your needs.

Who should you choose to build a conservatory?

Word of mouth definitely applies here. It's so often the best way of choosing a reliable tradesman who will build your conservatory to a high standard.

So ask around among friends, family and neighbours for recommendations of both bespoke conservatory companies and individual builders.

Most, if not all, conservatory suppliers will offer a start-to-finish service to complete the project. But get at least three different quotes on the total cost before you give the go-ahead.

Read reviews on websites such as Trust Pilot and Check a Trade to read reviews of both the conservatory supplier and the builders themselves.

What kind of conservatory style should you choose?

Classic conservatory

A classic conservatory is a traditional glass sunroom. They’re easy to install and usually the most affordable option. Great for having a sunny place to enjoy.

Orangery

Orangeries have more privacy and insulation thanks to pillars between the glass. They’re great for giving the feel of an extra room to your house.

Glass extension

A bold and contemporary alternative to a traditional conservatory that’s made of glass and aluminium.

Solid roof conservatory

A conservatory with a solid roof provides extra space and privacy with the advantage of looking like an extension of your house. They make an excellent spare room, dining room or home office. The roof can be tiled or

What benefits do you get from adding a conservatory to your home?

It's always good to have some extra space. But adding a conservatory to your house is a big commitment which will significantly change your home. So it's important to ask yourself a few searching questions:

  • Do you really need the extra space and room?
  • How will a conservatory affect your garden/outside space?
  • How often will you use it?
  • Do you intend to use the conservatory for entertaining?
  • Do you see the conservatory as an extension to your lounge or kitchen, as a dining room or extra dining room, or just as a place to relax?
  • Are you intending to add value to your home by building a conservatory?
  • How will adding a conservatory affect your use of the rest of the house?
  • What will be a conservatory's visual impact on your house?

How much does it cost to build a conservatory?

Depending on its size, materials used, quality of the build, labour and project costs, plus kitting out the conservatory itself with furnishings, costs can vary wildly.

Look from around £4,000 at the bottom end to anything up to £30,000, depending on your budget.

On average, you should budget for around £6,000.

Will a conservatory add value to your home?

It's not an exact science, but some property experts claim that a conservatory can add around seven per cent to the value of your home. For this reason, it's important to choose your conservatory wisely, so it's aesthetically pleasing and blends in well with the rest of your home - and so it doesn't look like it's just been tacked on as an afterthought. You also need to consider whether building it negatively impacts the garden by making it considerably smaller or losing any parking or shed space.

What are the best materials for building a conservatory?

Some conservatories are still made out of hardwood timber - but they are in the minority these days.

Energy-efficient and recyclable PVCu-clad aluminium is nowadays the normal material used for building modern conservatories; it provides top-quality thermal cladding, too.

Aluminium conservatory structures are often designated for conservatory builds in conservation areas.

Conservatory heating regulations

Conservatories must have an independent heating system controlled separately to the rest of the house. Electrical appliances in a conservatory must also comply with building regulations.

Conservatories are, of course, notorious for getting too hot or too cold. A good heating system and sufficient ventilation are not only obligatory but will help you strike a balance, improve energy efficiency and ensure that you use your conservatory more often.

You can use electric heaters, underfloor heating and even central heating, but if using central heating you must meet the regulations. If you have any uncertainties it’s best to speak to your local planning authority.

As well as making your conservatory warmer in winter you might want to consider how to cool it down in summer, such as by adding blinds. Find out how to make your conservatory a year-round room.

What types of doors, walls, windows and roofs should be used in a conservatory?

Conservatory doors adjoining the rest of the house must meet the same requirements of a normal exterior door. You can have a glazed elevated roof, or a standard flat roof. And conservatories must be separated from the rest of the house by walls and windows which must themselves comply with the quality standards needed for the exterior of homes.

What types of flooring should be used in a conservatory?

Among the many types of flooring you can choose, such as cork, wood or laminate, ceramic and stone floors are recommended for south-facing conservatories which attract more sunlight.

Glazed ceramic or granite tiles are a good choice if your conservatory will have a kitchen or dining room function; they are hard wearing and resistant to liquids in the event of spillages.

What type of glass should be used in a conservatory?

Conservatories must be mostly glass or uPVC, and double or triple glazed to meet energy efficiency standards. They must provide sufficient ventilation, while conservatory doors must provide a means of escape in case of fire.

Find out how best to clean your windows.

What are the rules regarding the size of your conservatory?

Conservatories must be single storey and cannot be taller than 4m. Visit the Planning Portal for more information on the size restrictions, as the size of the existing house and garden make the allowed size variable. 

What are the planning rules about adding a conservatory to your home?

As for the rules about building a conservatory, people understandably often get bogged down by planning permission and building regulations, and what is and isn't needed.

In a nutshell, planning permission focuses on the impact a building has on its immediate area, such as the house itself, neighbouring houses and the neighbourhood. Building regulations focus on the detail of how a building is constructed, such as materials used and heat efficiency.

And here's the good news if you're hoping to add a conservatory to your home: current regulations mean you don't need planning permission to add a typical domestic conservatory, so long as your plans meet certain criteria. Key points to remember regarding planning permission and building regulations for conservatories are:

  • Your conservatory covers no more than half the area of land around the original house.
  • An extension cannot be higher than the highest point of your home's roof, and a conservatory must be no higher than 4m.
  • Conservatories must be built at the back of a house. This may seem obvious, but conservatories cannot be built on the front, nor at the side of the house where it adjoins a public highway or road.
  • No balconies, raised standing or seating areas or verandas can be incorporated into your conservatory.
  • The height of conservatories must not obscure adjacent upper windows.

Do you need planning permission for a conservatory?

Planning permission will be required if you seek to build a conservatory in a conservation area, or on what is called 'designated land', such as in a national park or an area of outstanding natural beauty.

You also require planning permission for a conservatory if you live in a terraced house or your home has already been extended.

If you want to find out more, you can search for the Planning Portal online. Plus, the planning sections of many local council websites will provide additional information for your area.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.