Energy Efficient Conservatories
Often considered the height of social mobility, conservatories have become a lot more popular in recent years. They can offer a cheaper alternative to a full-blown extension and have numerous benefits including providing a space which has a lot of natural light and captures the heat to stay warm in the winter.
A conservatory is a room built onto a house that has a glass roof and walls. There also some large conservatories such as the Syon House Grand Conservatory in Brentford, London and the Eden Project in Cornwall. As with many building projects, if you are want to have a conservatory installed then you need to do your homework and make sure you are getting the design and value for money you require. More than most installations, a conservatory takes a good deal of planning and thought before you actually commit.
History of Conservatories
The first conservatories were used for storing food and did not have windows. It was not until later that they became glazed and were largely used for protecting plants during cold spells – something like a greenhouse attached to a building. Large conservatories were built as far back as the 17th Century but they had little in common with the structures we know today – constructed with architectural style and gravitas including stone pillars and ornate ironwork. These were often the province of the rich and well-to-do scientists who were far removed from the average person of the day.
With the reduction in tax on glass in the 19th century and cheaper cast iron, conservatories became more popular culminating in perhaps the greatest architectural achievement of the age, the Crystal Palace. In the early twentieth century they fell out of favour to a certain extent but with new technologies and developments over the last thirty to forty years they have seen a resurgence particularly for average homeowners who want to add a touch of class to their property.
How a Conservatory Works
Conservatories work to provide a cool environment in the summer and a warm room, heated by the sun, in the winter. They are generally made from glass roof and wall panels and can have doors that can open into a garden space during the summer. Conservatories have progressed quite a lot since the days when they were simply used to grow plants and are now designed for a variety of purposes depending on individual requirements. Many have solar controlled glass nowadays which means, even if you are in direct line of the sun, you don’t get so much of a greenhouse effect and the living conditions are far more comfortable.
The Benefits of a Conservatory
- It’s a relatively inexpensive way to add living space to your home and can be used as a dining room, music room, study, office or practically anything you would like.
- A conservatory is a great place to keep plants during the winter and provide a green space whilst the cold rages outside.
- You get access to a lot of natural light which you can enjoy throughout the year.
- It adds value to your property as an extra living space that can be utilised by everyone.
Types of Conservatory
There are range of different types of conservatory you can opt for and picking one that fits in with the style and build of your home is important. The most popular type of conservatory is a lean-to which looks as though it is ‘leaning’ against the property. This is usually rectangular and a good option for small gardens.
There are many choices available, however. You might want to opt for a P shaped conservatory or go for a building with several facets such as a Victorian design. Another popular choice is the Edwardian/Georgian design which is a box shape but has a pitched roof on either side.
Most conservatories have a frame of either uPVC or wood. The former is easier to maintain but if you want something with an added touch of elegance then wood may be your choice. You can also get ones that are aluminium on the inside and wood on the outside which are less of a maintenance problem.
The cost of Conservatories
The cost of conservatories vary widely depending on the design, size and type of materials you use. If you want a premade conservatory then the cost will between £3,000 and £5,000 which doesn’t include the installation. A bespoke solution to your conservatory where it is specially designed for you could set you back anything up to £20,000.
What to Look for in a Conservatory
Picking the right style of conservatory for your property is just one of the big decision you will have to make. First of all, it’s important to decide what amount of space you want to give up to it. This isn’t a problem if you have a big garden but can be more difficult if you only have a small space. With so many shapes and types available our advice is to make sure that you take your time before committing to a particular design.
Depending on the use of your conservatory you will need to consider the type of flooring you are going to have installed. For example, if you are having it as part of your kitchen, as many people do, then the flooring will have to be spill resistant and fairly hardy. Options to consider are cork, laminate flooring, stone and hardwood.
Type of Glass
There are also different types of glass available and with so much of it in your conservatory you will want to ensure that you have the right sort. There are ones that have different U values, meaning the amount of heat they lose, as well as specially strengthened laminate glass that is a better solution if you are worried about things falling on your conservatory. Then there are more expensive glass options such as curved, leaded and Georgian bars which are more suited to a bespoke design.
Do You Need Planning Permission?
A conservatory is generally considered permitted development so, under normal circumstances, you probably won’t have to apply for planning permission. There are some restrictions including how much of your garden the conservatory takes up and the maximum height allowed, all of which you can find on the government’s planning portal.
- Before you have your conservatory installed it is important to check with your local council about planning restrictions.
- If you live in a protected area or an area of outstanding beauty, the chances are you will need planning permission which will mean that your design will have to meet certain standards for the location.
Manufacturers and Suppliers of Conservatories
As with double glazing, there are plenty of manufacturers and suppliers of conservatories and you need to shop around to find the right one for your needs. You can search for installers on our dedicated data base and find out what kind of service they offer. Cost is largely going to depend on whether you want to opt for a prefabricated design or a more bespoke option that requires the input of architects and designers.
Planning, Designing and Installing your Conservatory
If you’ve decided that a conservatory is for you, then you are going to have to undertake some hard planning before you rush ahead and get out your cheque book.
- Have a good idea what the room is going to be used for – whether it’s a play room, dining room or just somewhere to relax. You need to keep that in focus whilst you begin sorting out your requirements.
- Decide on your budget and search for conservatories that fit around that rather than immediately exposing yourself to escalating the costs because you spot something outside your means.
- Check with the local council about planning permission – you probably won’t need it but each council has their own tweaks to the rules and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Do your research on conservatory designs and pick ones that fit in with the build of your house. That doesn’t mean you have to opt for an old fashioned design for an old house but that it should fit in with the design.
- The shape of your conservatory may well depend on the amount of garden space available and the location – don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
- Get quotes from a number of suppliers and installers. As with double glazing, large national companies are not always the best option. Smaller, local businesses often offer better deals and a more personal service.
- Ask for references that you can contact from people who have had conservatories installed. Don’t be shy: call and ask if you can pop round to have a quick look.
- Check warranties and what these actually cover.
Above all, take your time. You don’t want to be left with a conservatory that looks and feels out of place having spent all that money.
Yes, you can install a conservatory yourself. Big chains such as B&Q and Homebase supply prefab models in a variety of styles for as little as £2,000. It pays to have the installation carried out by a qualified builder though and the extra cost could save on a lot of heartache in the long run as well as make sure you are under full warranty.
There’s no doubt that having a conservatory built on your home can add value to your property as well as providing extra space. It does, however, require a good deal of planning and thought before taking that next step.