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Tips for building a conservatory

A conservatory is a tremendous addition to your home, enhancing your living space while potentially increasing the value of the property too. But it isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a question of buying the cheapest pre-fabricated one you can find.
Take into account all the considerations below to maximise the benefit your new conservatory brings to your home.

Design
The design of your conservatory will depend a lot on what you want to use it for. Will it be an extension to existing living space, like a relaxing (and warm) part of your lounge? Or is it going to be primarily a garden room, full of muddy boots and seedlings? Will it only be used in summer, or are you planning to heat it and use it in winter too?
The internet is full of inspirational design ideas, so tailor your own conservatory to the specific needs of you and your family. It’s important to adjust your conservatory to the architectural style of the house, too – older houses might benefit from a lantern conservatory rather than one with a gable, for example. Some of the more traditional shapes are available here.
Colour
The consensus is that the conservatory should be the same colour as the window frames, but if you’re using a wooden frame (or are having a bespoke conservatory made) then there’s no reason to conform. Pastel colours are popular, as are brighter greens and blues. Micro-porous paint is recommended for conservatories as this allows the wood to breathe.
The roof
Obviously your roof needs to be watertight, but as anybody with a modern conservatory will tell you, a plastic roof can still be impractical in the rain. Why? Noise. The clatter of heavy rain on a polycarbonate sheeting roof can be extremely invasive, so make sure you pick a material that will withstand a good battering from the British climate.
It’s nice to have a transparent roof – it’s important for plants to get the right amount of light, and it turns the conservatory into a much airier space. But a dirty roof looks scruffy and will darken the room. Either clean it regularly, or install a conservatory with a roof that tilts 25 degrees so that it collects less debris.
Ventilation and heating
Ventilation is a particular concern to those interested in growing plants in their conservatory. Keen gardeners will know how even a small fluctuation in temperature can affect germination rates – airflow and cooling will give you much more control over this during summer months. Windows that open automatically at certain temperatures are very effective and don’t require any intervention on your part, and ceiling fans can cause a significant drop in perceived temperature even if they’re working very slowly.
Your conservatory may get quite cold during the rest of the year. If you’re installing a new conservatory you could consider underfloor heating, which can either be an electric system or plumbed into your existing central heating (the latter option may have implications on building regulations). The system will be invisible to guests and, perhaps most importantly, will make walking in the conservatory bare-footed much more pleasant.
Planning permission and building regulations
Generally speaking, you don’t need planning permission for a conservatory. There are a number of criteria your planned work needs to meet in order for this to be the case but the vast majority of conservatories fall within this category. Check out the guidelines on the planning portal.
Conservatories aren’t subject to the same type of building regulations as an ordinary extension, provided they: 
  • Have a floor area of less than 30 square meters;
  • Are independently heated or aren’t heated at all; 
  • Are separated from the rest of the house by ‘proper’ external walls and a door. 
Even if all these criteria are met, the glazing and electrical parts will still have to meet building regulations.
How much will it cost?
Conservatories usually cost thousands of pounds. Smaller ones can be expected to cost around £3k, while much bigger ones can cost over £12k. If you’re having a large, bespoke one made then you could expect to pay much more than that.
It’s not just the cost of building the conservatory. Even a well-designed one will cost money to heat, so make sure you can budget for the increased spending. Maintenance – repainting, replacing panes of glass – should be relatively infrequent but still adds to the overall cost of running your house.
How long will it take?
This depends on whether planning permission is needed for your build. The process of getting planning permission can take months or even years, depending on the plans you submit and the area in which you live.
Aside from planning, the process should take a couple of months in total. Your supplier will give you a predicted completion date before starting the work. It will take around a week to build the dwarf wall and about another fortnight for the floor to be ready. Prepare for delays though - panes of glass may be damaged in transit, and rain may well stop play.
These are some of the central things to consider when planning a conservatory – and as with any other significant changes, don’t forget to tell us if you build a conservatory so that we can update your home insurance policy. They’re popular for a reason, and can bring enormous benefits to a house and the people living there – putting the time and effort into making yours perfect can help transform your home. 
Join us next time as we look at how making home improvements can affect your home insurance (something we know a little about!)
Image of conservatory interior by Laurent SJ on Flickr

1 comment

  1. Aww I loved our conservatory at my mums house, such a nice play space :) x

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