The addition of a conservatory is usually a more cost-effective solution than moving. Also, conservatories enable us to make the most of the garden whether it's raining or not, so it's easy to understand their popularity.
What can a conservatory be used for?
- Nowadays, a growing trend for larger kitchens with a dining table or informal living area has had an impact on the way conservatories and orangeries are linked to the home.
- If the conservatory is to accommodate a new kitchen or open-plan living area, then access provided by a single door will be inadequate.
- Opening up the back of the house into the conservatory requires substantial structural alterations, which, although perfectly feasible, will mean planning regulations apply.
Styles of conservatory
Conservatories in Victorian or Edwardian styles, and lean-to versions, remain popular and obviously suit older properties. Variations include structures with either full-height glass walls or dwarf walls with glass. You could also consider an orangery; these were originally developed for the cultivation of orange trees and have solid walls inset with glazed panels or full-length doors and a glazed roof. Jeremy Uglow explains, "An orangery has heavier joinery than the usual conservatory, and a roof lantern surrounded by a plaster ceiling in order to make a more substantial structure."
Adding a light, modern space to your home is an increasingly popular option. Contemporary conservatories are generally bespoke, so prices tend to range from the mid to top end of the scale, but there is a wide variety of materials and styles available. Alan West at Trombé points out that, as English Heritage frequently use modern conservatories alongside period buildings, it's fair to say that sympathetically designed structures will work if well planned and executed.
A conservatory is a major financial investment and the cost will vary depending on the construction materials, whether it is from a standard range or bespoke, and the extent that the building work is managed. Kit or DIY conservatories are initially less expensive but the labour costs of preparing the site and carrying out the installation work should be factored into the equation.
Unless you are prepared to oversee the building work, use a specialist conservatory company that will manage all aspects of the project, including dealing with any planning or building regulations.
At the top end, companies that offer a bespoke service will design the conservatory to suit individual requirements and oversee the building work through to completion.
A conservatory can be heated by water or electrical underfloor heating. Alternatively, the central heating can be extended with radiators fitted against low walls or by ducting the heat through decorative grilles installed around the edge of the floor. It is advisable to operate the conservatory's heating on a separate circuit and thermostat to the main boiler.
Laying practical, durable floors is advisable; for best results choose ceramic-tile or natural stone flooring.
Use blinds to protect furnishings, help maintain an even temperature throughout the year and provide privacy. There is a wide choice: retractable pleated blinds, fabric roller blinds and Pinoleum blinds, which are made from strips of wood. The blinds need to be made and fitted by an expert to ensure that they are properly supported and it is also advisable to fit an operating system for high windows.
Allow a budget for making-good areas of the garden damaged by building work and plan and install effective garden lighting.
Glazing and roofing
Double glazing is advisable, as is low-emissivity glass. This has a metal coating that allows sunlight (short wave radiation) through but reflects heat from radiators (long wave radiation) back into the conservatory. Safety glazing is mandatory for windows and walls within 800 mm of the floor and must comply to BS6206. Roofing can be either glass or polycarbonate, which is a lighter but durable material and may be required in some structures which will not support the weight of glass. In addition to Activ self-cleaning glass, Pilkington has recently introduced Activ Blue, which offers solar control.
The installer should advise you on maintenance; as a guide, wash heavy grime on windows, aluminium and uPVC frames with a solution of soap and water every few months. Solvent-based or abrasive cleaners should not be used and timber surfaces should also be regularly washed down to remove surface pollution.
Choosing the right material for the conservatory frame is also important. Traditionally, hardwood, aluminium or uPVC are used. However, Charles Turner of Richmond Oak says, "There is an increase in concern about the building materials used for conservatories. Some councils now insist that only timber conservatories are used on new-build properties." This relates to the energy used to manufacture the materials, and timber requires substantially less. But the timber must come from a safe, non-endangered source. Consult the Friends of the Earth website which classifies timbers so you can make an environmentally friendly choice.
The Conservatory Association is a division of the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF), an independent organisation which promotes high standards within the industry. To find a GGF-approved conservatory company visit www.ggf.org.uk or call 0870 042 4255.
Planning permission and building regulations
According to The Conservatory Association, planning permission and building regulations are often confused. "Planning permission is concerned with the visual impact and size of the structure and not the technical integrity." Building regulations, on the other hand, cover all aspects of building construction and are constantly reviewed - see www.gov.uk for further details. It is important to check that your contractor or designer is aware of the new regulations. According to The Conservatory Association, planning permission is not usually required for small domestic conservatories, provided they comply with the building regulations listed below. Consult your local planning department as rules may vary.
Instances when planning permission will be required include:
• The house is in a conservation area, national park or designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
• The conservatory is not at ground level.
• It is a terraced house.
• The volume of the house will be increased by more than 15 per cent or 70 cubic metres, whichever is the greater.
• The house has already been extended.
A conservatory is usually exempt from building regulations provided it is:
• Built on to a domestic dwelling and divided from the rest of the house by a door that complies with the requirements for an exterior door.
• Under 30 m sq in floor area.
• A single storey.
• Built at ground floor level.
• Glazed in compliance with safety glazing requirements of approved Document N of the Building Regulations and BS6262 Part 4 1994.
• Not within 1 m of the boundary.
• Fitted with a roof that is 75 per cent glazed and with walls that are 50 per cent glazed.
Conservatory contacts directory
Alitex Victorian-style bespoke greenhouses and plant conservatories.
Amdega Founded in 1874, Amdega produces bespoke conservatories, orangeries and summer houses in timber.
Anglian Conservatories Established supplier of purpose-built conservatories primarily in uPVC.
Apropos Precision-engineered garden rooms, conservatories and skylights in aluminium and glass.
Ascot Timber Buildings Pool and Jacuzzi buildings, outbuildings and summer houses in five styles, all in hardwood. From £4,000.
B&Q B&Q offers help with the design, site survey, preparation and installation. Self-build conservatories start from £1,499.
Bartholomew Conservatories Bespoke hardwood conservatories in classic or contemporary styles. From £15,000.
Brightwood A specialist conservatory division of Input Joinery making individually designed hardwood conservatories.
Broadleaf Timber Oak framing and joinery for traditional timber structures.
Cantifix Specialist in architectural and frameless glazing as a bespoke service. From £12,000 to £36,000.
David Salisbury Bespoke orangeries and conservatories.
Fawsley Red cedar and aluminium-framed garden rooms, conservatories and orangeries. From £15,000.
Gabriel Ash Elegant greenhouses and garden rooms in western red cedar. Summer houses from £6,000.
Glass Houses by Jeremy Uglow Bespoke conservatories, orangeries and glazed extensions, specialists in designs for listed and period buildings.
Hampton Conservatories Bespoke mahogany conservatories from a company with 20 years' experience. From £30,000.
Hartley Botanic Specialist in greenhouses with a standard range from £1,500 and bespoke service starting from £8,000 to £9,000.
Hillary's Blinds Made-to-measure blinds for conservatories.
The Home Office from Temple Co. Modular, timber-framed and insulated garden rooms and offices, installed and ready to use in under three days. From £10,500.
Jeremy Uglow Bespoke orangeries and conservatories. From £20,000.
Litespace by Ultraframe. Litespace is an innovative glass extension designed to create a light and bright space. Available with the option of a glass or polycarbonate roof. From £1,999.
Machin A unique system with an ogee-shaped profile for conservatories, glasshouses and swimming pool houses. From £20,000.
Malbrook Conservatories Individually designed conservatories and orangeries in hardwood. From £15,000.
National Trust Conservatories Unique collection of modular conservatories, designed by Vale Garden Houses. From £20,000.
Norwegian Log Buildings Made to order log buildings for use as home offices, games rooms, garden studios and pool enclosures. From £13,000.
Oak Leaf Bespoke hardwood conservatories, garden rooms and orangeries.
Prime Oak Oak framed garages, conservatories and garden rooms. From £10,000 to £100,000.
Priory Conservatories Made-to-order conservatories and orangeries, constructed from hardwood.
Richmond Oak Individually designed conservatories and orangeries in naturally seasoned oak.
Sanctuary Garden Offices and Summer Houses Made-to-order, self-contained garden offices and summer houses. From £7,000.
Scotts of Thrapston Designs and manufactures traditional gazebos and summer houses. From £2,400.
Trombe Conservatories Contemporary and traditional timber conservatories. Continued below.
Vale Garden Houses Individually designed timber-framed orangeries, conservatories and pavilions. From £30,000 including installation.
Westbury Garden Rooms Bespoke conservatories and garden rooms, plus accessories and furnishings. From £23,000.
Westleigh Garden Room Fully insulated garden rooms with flexible sizes and specifications.
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