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Many homeowners choose to add a conservatory as an additional space within their home either to enable them to enjoy their garden all year round, or as an alternative to the cost of moving.

What can a conservatory be used for?

Conservatories are more popular than ever and as that popularity has expanded so have the number of uses.  Some people want to use the space for a larger kitchen or to open up the living space. This obviously affects how much access you need but is also means that you need to alter some of the properties structure and that planning regulations need to be considered.

Styles of conservatory

Traditional

If you have an older property consider Victorian or Edwardian style conservatories or perhaps a lean-to.  These are popular and fit in with the older aesthetic. You can use dwarf walls with glass tops or full length glass.  An orangerie is another popular choice. These have solid walls with glazed panes, full length doors and a glazed roof.  Originally used, as the name suggests, for growing orange trees, these look great on older style properties.

Modern

For the more contemporary homes the main consideration is keeping that light, modern look.  A lot of the more modern conservatores are made to order and this is reflected in the price.  However, they are pretty adaptable to older properties too. English Heritage properties often have a  modern conservatory so if the work is well done it can fit in with almost any building style.

conservatory

Professional advice

As well as being a large construction project, the conservatory represents a huge financial  investment in the home. Costs depend on materials used, if it is a bespoke build or not and how the building work is carried out.  Although a DIY kit may be cheaper initially you will still need to factor in the labour costs and site preparation issues.

Most people do not oversee the construction work and instead use a specialist company.  This conservatory design and installation company manages everything about the build, and will deal with any planning and building regulation issues that may arise. 

Practical considerations

The high end conservatory construction companies will do everything from design, right through to the complete construction.

Heating

There are a variety of heating choices for your conservatory.  Underfloor heating is a good choice, or perhaps extending your exsiting heating system.  Ducting through decorative grills is an attractive method. However, whatever you choose it is best to keep the heating on it’s own circuit separate from the main house in order to keep a consistent temperature.

Floors

Flooring should be practical,  hardwearing and easy to clean. For this reason most people recommend natural stone or ceramic tiles.

Blinds

Blinds are essential, but can be a costly part of the conservatory.  Not only do they provide privacy, they also help keep the temperature even and protect the furnishings from sun damage.  There are many styles available: pleated blinds, venetian blinds, roller blinds, and wood-look pinoleum blinds to name a few.  Blinds must be professionally fitted to ensure that they are supported safety. An electrical operating system is preferred especially for those located on high windows.

Garden

Expect some damage to the garden because of the building work so include the cost of making good in your budget.  Also some garden lighting will enhance the project considerably.

A Guide To Buying A Conservatory

Other considerations

Glazing and roofing

It is now mandatory for all windows and walls withing 800mm of the floor to be safety glazing that complies to BS6206.  Double glazing is preferred for conservatories, as is the use of a special low-emissivity glass. This allows sunlight to enter but keeps the heat from the radiators inside.  The roof can be glass or, if the structure will not support it, a lighter polycarbonate can be used. Pilkington has recently developed a self-cleaning glass and also Activ Blue, a special glass offering solar control, which are perfect for conservatories.

Conservatory maintenance

Whoever installs the conservatory should give advice on maintenance.  Windows, frames and doors should be washed with hot soapy water every few months to remove heavy grime.  Never use anything solvent-based or abrasive, and ensure that wood surfaces are regularly cleaned to keep surface pollution to a minimum.  

Environmental issues

In  the past conservatory frames have been either uPVC, hardwood or aluminimum.  However there are growing concerns about the environmental impact of these materials and some councils may now insist that only timber frames be used on new builds.  This intends to offset concerns of the impact of energy use when manufacturing frames. Timber uses much less, however the wood should come from a safe, and non-endangered source.   

Planning permission and building regulations

There can often be confusion over what relates to planning and what is a result of building regulations.  The Conservatory Association summed it up in a simpler way to help home owners deal with the implications of installing their conservatory.  In effect planning permission is not concerned with any kind of building or structural integrity. It is only concerned with the size and visual impact.  Building regulations deal with all of the aspects of the actual construction. These regulations change all the time, so it is always worth checking on the Government website for up to date information.

Make sure that your contractor or conservatory designer is fully up to date with the legal requirements for domestic conservatories.  Many smaller structures no longer need planning permission but will need to meet building regulations.

When you will need planning permission:

  • You live in a in a conservation area, within a national park or inside a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • The conservatory is above  ground level.
  • You live in a terraced property.
  • If the conservatory will increase the volume of your home by over 15% or 70 cubic metres.
  • There is a pre-existing extension on your home.

Always check with your local planning office for the most up to date information.

When you (probably) will not need to comply with building regulations:

  • The conservatory is built on to your dwelling but separated by a door meeting the legal requirements for an exterior door.
  • Has a floor area of less than 30 square meters.  
  • Is  single storey.
  • Is not above ground floor level.
  • Complies with all the safety regulations for windows and other glazing according to the Building Regulations (Document N) and Part 4 199 4 of BS6262.
  • It is not constructed within 1m of the boundary.
  • The walls are 50% glazing and the roof is 75% glazing.

Again, always double check with your local authority before starting a project as these rules change all the time.