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Guide to Buying a Conservatory

Adding a conservatory to your home can increase its value and means that the family can enjoy the garden all the year round.


An easy way to extend your home

Originally intended as a home for rare and tender plants, the conservatory has been a favourite addition to homes in Britain since Victorian times. The modern day conservatory is more likely to be used as a second sitting room, a dining room for those balmy, summer nights, or a playroom rather than a nursery for exotic greenery. Over recent years it has become one of the UK's most popular ways to improve the home. Adding a conservatory to your home is a fairly simple and cost effective way to gain more space but there are a few things to think about first.

How much of the garden will you lose?

Mark out the area the proposed conservatory will occupy with garden canes so that you can see how much of an impact it will have on the garden.

Will the conservatory have an attractive outlook?

A south facing conservatory will get the sun all year round and so will be useful in winter but can overheat in the summer. West facing conservatories get the sunshine in the afternoon and evening. East facing conservatories get the morning sunshine and north facing conservatories will not get much direct sunshine.

Think about how the conservatory will be used. If you want to put a large table in it, go for width rather than projection and position the door at the side. If you plan to raise plants and seedlings, deep window sills are a must. Above all, try to match the style, colour and shape of the conservatory to the rest of the house.

Planning Permission.

It is a popular myth that a conservatory does not need planning permission. In reality, about 60% of the conservatories added to UK homes last year did need permission. The rules are fairly straightforward but it is worth checking with the planning office at your local town hall before work starts. Remember that if you build your conservatory without permission when you need it, you can be made to pull the building down. Under present planning rules, you may not need permission if your structure meets with the following conditions:

Detached and semidetached properties.

You are allowed to develop up to 70m or 115% of the volume of the dwelling- whichever is greater- but existing extensions have to be taken into consideration. For example, if you have a kitchen extension of 40m3 and want a conservatory of 41m3 this would total 81m3 and planning permission would have to be sought.

Terraced properties

Only 50m3 is allowed to be developed.

Flats and Maisonettes

Planning permission is always needed.

Features that affect planning permission.

There are some other considerations that mean that planning permission will be needed:
If you build within two metres of the boundary line and the highest point is 4 metres or more.
If your conservatory covers more than 4 metres or more of the original garden.
If your planning development rights have been removed. Check with the planning department at your local town hall

If you live in a listed building..
If the conservatory is 20 metres or less from a public road or footpath.

Normally the planning office will look at how far the will protrude into the garden. If the proposed conservatory extends more than three metres from the house, the planning officer might ask for a reduction in size. If planning permission is not needed, it is a good idea to get a letter of lawful development from the council which will reassure potential buyers should you wish to sell your home.

Wood, Metal or UPVC.

The type of conservatory you choose really depends on your budget. But as a general rule, go for the very best you can afford.

The frame.

The frame of your conservatory can be made from softwood, hardwood, aluminium or UPVC. The thickness of the frame affects the strength of the finished conservatory and it is important to bear this in mind when comparing prices. Softwood is the lowest priced material but it has a major drawback- it will need regular painting to protect the woodwork from rotting due to exposure to the elements. Hardwood is more expensive and is treated to resist rot but still needs some maintenance. Aluminium is almost maintenance free but is offered by only a small number of suppliers. UPVC is also maintenance free but white frames can yellow with age. If you want an authentic Victorian or Edwardian design, UPVC is not a good choice as frames can appear chunky and heavy.

Windows and doors

Security, ventilation and insulation are important. Safety glass is a must. Double glazing will add extra security and will help to keep your conservatory warm in winter and cool in summer. Window and door locks are essential. Most UPVC kits give the option of internally or externally beaded windows. Internally beaded windows (where the glass is held in from the inside) are considered more secure and burglar resistant.

Your questions answered.

Can we build the conservatory ourselves?
There are of course many specialist conservatory companies in the UK who will handle everything form planning permission to building and furnishing your new conservatory. But this isn't the only option by any means. Building a conservatory yourself from a DIY kit can cut costs dramatically. Kits are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes and in a variety of different materials. They all come with comprehensive instructions and all the suppliers of them are happy to advise. Kits can be bought from as little as 800 The price will depend on size, shape and material but does not include the base, so this should be added on when working out the total cost. Remember that under new regulations recently introduced, electrical work can be carried out only by fully qualified personnel.

Putting in the base sounds like really hard labour. Can we put in a ready made one?
Yes made steel bases have many plus points.

  • Custom made to suit your specification and design
  • Reduce site disruption and mess to an absolute minimum
  • Quick and easy to install
  • No need for site excavation and soil removal
  • No requirement to wheelbarrow tonnes of aggregate onto the site for back filling
  • No large scale cement mixing and building work
  • Ideal for use where access to the site is difficult
  • No need to move manholes and drains, etc.
  • Uneven and sloping sites easily catered for
  • Can be installed all year round overcoming hold ups for bad weather
  • No need to move the patio
  • Delivered direct to site, complete with insulated floor and all fixtures and fittings
  • Insulated floor suitable for tiles, carpets, etc.
  • Ideal for use with under floor heating systems.
  • Conforms to building regulations
  • Designed for BSI standards.

Will it be expensive to extend heating from the house? How will we keep our conservatory warm in the winter?

Heating is essential if you want to use the conservatory all year round. Extending the main central heating system from the house may be possible but a radiator will use up floor space. However, the latest under floor heating system is very simple to install and costs just 27pence per day to run. It can be laid under vinyl, stone or ceramic tiles, laminates and woodstrip flooring.

How do we prevent the conservatory becoming unbearably hot on summer days?

Ventilation is absolutely vital. Just opening the side window will not be enough. You will need a roof vent. Most DIY kits include this. The type that opens automatically is best. Air conditioning is another possibility but can be expensive. You could also buy a central ceiling fan but this won't cut the glare. Blinds are essential for shading the inside from strong summer sun. Specialist conservatory blind suppliers can offer a choice of styles in different materials. Automatic blinds close when the sun is strong but they are expensive to buy and install.

What about lighting the conservatory as a central light isn't possible?

Go for a combination of wall mounted and free standing lights. If you have big, leafy plants, a floor standing uplighter can be positioned to beam up through the leaves. Standard lamps can be positioned to create pools of light around chairs. Candles in large storm lanterns can really add to the atmosphere.

I have heard that self cleaning glass is now available. Can we have this fitted to our conservatory?

The glass is called Pilkington Aktiv. When rain falls on the glass, the water runs off, taking dirt with it. The glass can be fitted if your conservatory supplier stocks it but it is more expensive than standard safety glass.

How should I care for a wood framed conservatory?

Check once per year for rot and flaking paint. Rot can be cut our and a new piece of wood inserted in its place. Flaking paint should be rubbed down before the area is repainted. Modern wooden framed conservatories are made from pretreated timber which is resistant to moisture.

Who sells Conservatories?

All of the major window suppliers (Anglian Home Improvements, Portland, Bac, B&Q, Homebase Do It All) sell conservatories but if you want something special try one of the following:

  • 0800 269044
  • Bartholomew Conservatories 01428 658771
  • Charterhouse Conservatories 023 9250 4006
  • 0207 6076071
  • 0207 3512108
  • 0147 6564433
  • 01865 487151
  • 0800 071 8888
  • 0800220603

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