Conservatory – A Buyer’s Guide
Choosing the right conservatory for your home may sound like a daunting task. However, it is actually easier than you may think.
To help you plan the perfect conservatory, we have put together this buyer’s guide. This guide will provide you with the information you need to make a well informed decision.
Our guide covers a vast range of topics: from planning permission, to conservatory build and style. Our buyer’s guide provides you with essential conservatory information you’ll need.
The very first stage of buying a conservatory involves finding and engaging with a trusted local conservatory company.
We suggest that you speak with one of our recommended conservatory companies. All of our trusted companies have been fully checked and approved.
We also recommend that you get up to at least 3 quotes before deciding on which company to use. Once you have received your online quote we’ll connect you three trusted local companies within our network.
This enables you to carefully compare products, designs and prices so you can make an informed decision.
There are multiple options to choose from when selecting a conservatory firm. You could buy locally from a conservatory installer within your community, or choose to purchase a package from a national brand like Everest or Anglian.
Your decision will greatly effect how the process of buying and installing your conservatory will play out. One major difference will be in who you deal with throughout this process.
Once you’ve selected a preferred company, one of their sales consultants will demonstrate their product. Using this demonstration, you can assess the quality of your product.
The next step is to compare your conservatory prices. Choose the company you are most happy with and then proceed to inform them of the conservatory you are after.
They will then carefully design a conservatory with you that meets all your needs and requirements.
Before you begin to negotiate the finer details of your conservatory, ensure you are aware of the design features and styles that you wish to include.
A rough guide to these can be found in the next section, Conservatory Design.
This may either be carried out in their showroom or your home. They will carry out the initial site survey and, in most cases, take photographs of the proposed site.
It is important to consider exactly what you are looking for in your new conservatory before deciding upon the appropriate design. There are many different conservatory styles to choose from including:
- Lean To conservatories
- Edwardian conservatories
- Victorian conservatories
- Gable conservatories
- P Shaped conservatories
You can find many design ideas by browsing the Internet or alternatively asking the advice of your friends and family who have also built a conservatory on their properties.
There are several considerations when choosing the best conservatory design. We have listed a few below:
- What is your budget and what would you like to achieve in your new conservatory?
- What type of doors do you require? Patio, French and Bi-Folding doors all have different advantages. Research the pros and cons of each style and be sure of what is best for you in your circumstances.
- How many windows and/or openers do you want?
- What colour UPVC frames would be most appropriate?
- Electricity and lighting – what do you need and what would work best for you?
- Is security important and if so, what locking systems are available?
- Consider the interior space required.
- Consider privacy – how open or closed do you want your conservatory to be? Do you want to show it off as a masterpiece or have it well hidden?
- Which conservatory style would match your property best?
- Don’t neglect the garden – a conservatory which is too large may dwarf the house and garden. The trick here is to design a conservatory which is as large as possible without taking valuable garden space.
- How much light do you want?
- Plan the heating and insulation.
- Is the new conservatory an investment in the property or your lifestyle?
- Follow current building rules and regulations – your chosen conservatory company should be able to advise you on important requirements.
- Plan the furniture inside the new conservatory.
- Do you need or want blinds for the windows and doors? If so, then research the costs involved in this.
Price ranges for a variety of conservatory styles are listed below. It should be noted that these should be read as merely a starting point to give you an impression of the cost of your desired conservatory design.
These price points pertain to a 3×3 conservatory, widely seen as a smaller conservatory by most installers. You should take into account your desired conservatory dimensions when deciding to invest.
Computer Aided Designs
Once you have decided upon the most appropriate style of conservatory, the company will then be able to produce you a computer aided design (CAD Drawing) in order for you to visualise the perfect style which will best complement your home and requirements.
A conservatory is an affordable way to increase your property’s aesthetics, size and value. However, before your conservatory is installed you will need to find out whether planning permission is required.
Conservatories are classed as permitted developments: therefore, if you meet the following conditions, you won’t need planning permission.
- Your conservatory must be no more than half of the size of your existing property. It also must not be wider than the original width of your house.
- Additionally, your conservatory cannot cover more than half the area of land around the ‘original house’ (defined as the property as it was first built or as it stood on 1 July 1948 – if built before this date).
- Must have no fronting highway with any verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
- The conservatory roof must not be higher than your property’s roof or have eaves higher than three metres if within two metres of a boundary.
- If being built on designated land (National Parks, conservation areas etc.), permitted development is not allowed for any rear extensions exceeding one storey.
- The roof pitch of an extension higher than one storey cannot match the height of the existing house.
- A single storey rear extension cannot be taller than 4m.
- You should check for whether a previous owner to the property has built any extension, as this may affect your planning permission application.
Planning Permission Wales
If you live in Wales, then you need to adhere to the following requirements:
- Your conservatory must be no bigger than 10% of your original property if you live in a terraced house, a National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Conservation Area or World Heritage Site.
- Your conservatory must not be higher than the existing roof.
- Your conservatory must not be within 20 metres of the boundary of your property.
If your development does not meet the above conditions and you build your conservatory without planning permission, then ignoring these regulations can result in a £5000 fine. Your conservatory may have to be altered or demolished.
Requiring planning permission isn’t as difficult as you think. In order to get planning permission, you will need to submit a planning application to your local building authority. This can cost up to £150 and usually takes 8 weeks to process.
In most cases your trusted local installer will be registered with an industry regulator such as FENSA and will organise this on your behalf. Your conservatory will also have to adhere to the latest UK Building Regulations.
Technical Survey for Building Plans
Once the price has been agreed and contracts have been exchanged, your Technical Surveyor will carry out a full technical survey.]
The surveyor should account for the following technical requirements:
- Risk assessments – before doing anything else, a risk assessment should be carried out and agreed upon by all involved with the conservatory build. This ensures that safety processes are clearly established, and that all scenarios are accounted for in case of any accidents.
- Measurements – the surveyor will perform a measurement survey, creating detailed line drawings of your conservatory’s proposed layout. They will also take the measurements of all windows and doors directly affected.
- Access and Storage – the surveyor will check the access width of the property and evaluate whether this could restrict access for delivery vehicles. They will take into account the type of property, the parking areas, and storage spaces for construction materials to be stored without obstructing workers or yourself.
Your surveyor will draw plans of the base as well as detailed technical drawings. Your surveyor will take precise notes of the UPVC frames and roof for the order at the factory.
The next stage is a visit from the building manager who plans the following:
- The groundwork,
- The waste removal
- Construction of the base including drainage
- Schedules the tradesmen to the site
- Orders materials having calculated the correct quantities
Deviation from a Green Field Level Site
In most cases, your conservatory will be located on a green field level site, however there are occasions where this is not the case. In situations other than a level site it will be necessary to calculate height to be built up in case of slope away, or determine additional excavation/earth removal in order to obtain a green field level site below d.p.c. (damp proof course).
This will of course require much more labour and can produce many more skip loads of waste for removal. Subsequently, in the case of ‘building up’ more materials will be used in the construction, and a suspended floor may be required.
When carrying out the initial site survey, particular care and consideration is taken to ensure that the existing drainage systems are allowed for, moved, or altered as necessary. If it is not possible to connect from the conservatory into the main property down-pipe system then it may be necessary to create a link into the existing drainage or create a soak-away which can be specified.
The Technical Surveyor will calculate the exact drainage requirements for each individual roof but as an example a 1 cubic metre soak-away will collect approximately 200 gallons of water.
If the conservatory is being built over existing drainage systems, then the regulations stipulated by the Water Authority must be followed. Failure to do so can result in the building’s removal.
For example, a conservatory cannot be built over an existing manhole cover. This is because access to the sewer system cannot be obstructed.
Some exemptions to this rule include private sewage systems. These can be built over as long as the system is not connected in any way to the public sewage system, and is independently maintained.
It is important to consider any hazards located on the site you are planning to build a conservatory on, since they may incur extra costs. Unfortunately there are occasions where it is not possible to know if hazards are there since they are not visible or known prior to excavation.
These can add time to the schedule and/or require additional work to be carried out so that the main project can continue. However, reputable conservatory companies are well equipped to deal with these situations as and when they occur.
Common examples of unknown hazards include:
- Tree stumps / roots
- Gas or Water Pipes
- Power cables
- Old foundations
Dismantle and Disposal of an Existing Conservatory Structure
If you have an existing conservatory which you are not refurbishing (in other words you are starting from scratch), the conservatory company will carefully dismantle the old structure before commencing the build of the new conservatory.
They will dismantle the old structure into manageable sizes so that it is easier to remove and recycle off site. If it is a particularly old conservatory, it wouldn’t be advisable to use any of the existing structure or base. Old bases that don’t have modern damp-proofing could therefore cause rising damp for the conservatory in the future. Single skin walls will also cause similar problems.
Alternatively, you could choose to sell your old conservatory on the second-hand market if it remains in a reasonable condition. Creating an advert in a newspaper or classified ads website costs only a few pounds.
Additionally, if you want to remove the stress of dismantling your old conservatory yourself, you can always ask the buyer to do this themselves.
You should always insist on receiving the full payment for your conservatory at the point of collection.
Materials are Delivered
Once the technical survey has been carried out, the necessary materials and quantities are then ordered and delivered to the site from the supplier. Of course, these quantities differ depending on the size and style of the conservatory as well as the specific requirements of the site itself.
For the purposes of this example, we will assume the amounts quoted are for a Victorian style conservatory at 16m2 (4×4). Subsequently the following materials would be delivered:
- 5 bags of ballast (1 tonne each)
- 2 bags of sand (1 tonne each)
- 40 bags of cement
- 1300 bricks
- All manhandled by wheelbarrow as required
A trench is marked out and dug to a standard 500mm wide and 500mm deep. The surveyor may change these specifications depending on the characteristics of the site.
In this example, a 4 metre by 4 metre conservatory, 4.5 tons of spoils are removed from the site. This equates to 2 full skips. The cost of the skips should also cover the local authority plus waste disposal licence. Plastic sheeting is laid where necessary to protect your garden.
Disposal of Spoils
All spoils are wheelbarrowed to the skip. Planks are used for the wheelbarrow run to protect your property. The skip is also placed on boards to protect your driveway. Removal of spoils and delivery materials can take longer if access is restricted or the skip is situated some distance away.
Footings are a crucial component of any long-lasting conservatory. They make up the strong foundations that will ensure your conservatory stands the test of time.
Weak footings, if not built properly, could cause the conservatory to subside and even sink over several years.
Concrete is mixed on site and wheelbarrowed over to be poured into the trench.
The Wall to Floor Level
The cavity wall is now built up to floor level (d.p.c. level) to British standard and the outer wall continued to cill height (i.e. 600mm.)
The area is then prepared for the base slab (levelling, blinding off and d.c.m.).Vertical d.p.c. (damp proof course) is cut into the brickwork.
The best possible match of brick is used in order to complement the look of the existing main property which the conservatory is being adjoined to.
The cavity wall contains approximately 1,300 bricks in the example shown. Cavity ties are used to ‘tie’ the twin walls together and fishtail ties are used to secure the new walls to the existing house wall.
The plastic damp proof course is at the appropriate height which has been specified by the Technical Surveyor, normally in order to match that of the main house.
The ground is then skimmed and hardcore laid to a minimum depth of 100mm. It is important that the floor is level. A layer of sand is laid on top of the hardcore to protect the damp proof membrane (d.p.m.).
The next stage is to fit the damp proof membrane. This should meet the specification that a building inspector would approve for a full sized house and provides protection against damp rising up through the floor of the conservatory.
If an insulated floor has been specified, the polystyrene sheets (50mm thick) are now laid. If air-bricks are required, the ducting for this is now put in place, connecting new and existing air-bricks in order to maintain ventilation to the fabric of the house. Concrete 100mm thick is then laid to bring the slab up to floor level.
The Inside Wall
The inner cavity wall is now built up to full height (i.e. 600mm) and the specified number of electric boxes positioned. However, inner cavity walls can be susceptible to dampness.
This is because the bricks used for the ‘outer leaf’ wall that protects this area can be worn down over time by wind and rain. Otherwise, bad weather saturates the brickwork and causes moisture to find its way through into the cavity.
Considering this, it could be advisable to have a cavity tray installed within the inner cavity wall. The cavity tray is a plastic sloping structure which fits in-between the inner leaf blockwork and the outer lead brickwork.
A good cavity tray will intercept any rain that finds its way into the inside wall.
The tray then deflects this water back out through the outer wall and onto the roof of the conservatory, allowing the water to run down into the drainage system.
Window and Door Frames
The UPVC frames, windows, doors and window cills are now fitted. These are secured to the cavity walls by frame anchor bolts.
The frames are secured to property walls over a vertical d.p.c. to prevent damp travelling along the existing house wall into the new conservatory.
Once the conservatory is weather-proof, the electric cables can be installed and connected. The inside window boards can now be fitted to close off the cavity.
Conservatory Roof | Roof and Lead Flashing
Lead flashing is cut into the brickwork for weatherproofing between the conservatory roof and the main house. The roof is now installed on top of the UPVC frames. We believe that reputable conservatory suppliers use genuine lead since it is a more permanent solution rather than the stick-on ‘flashband’ used by less reputable suppliers.
The Final Stage
At the final stage, all UPVC frames are glazed, and all glass and frames are cleaned and inspected. You can now choose to lay your own choice of floor, order new furniture and enjoy your brand new conservatory.
Decorating Your Conservatory
Your Conservatory Style
One of the most exciting things about a new extension is the prospect of decorating it. This is your chance to get creative and to choose accessories which will bring your conservatory to life.
Many homeowners however are faced with the dilemma of where to start. How do you decorate your conservatory?
Before you start browsing through home improvement magazines for suites of furniture, you need to ask yourself this: what will you use your conservatory space for?
Having an idea in mind will allow you to choose accessories which compliment your conservatory.
There are a great number of popular design themes for conservatories, ranging from traditional Victorian and Elizabethan styles to more modern approaches that benefit a conservatory with a larger emphasis on glass, such as an Edwardian design.
Some homeowners prefer to use their conservatory as a place to relax; others turn it into a dining room or play area for their children. Hopefully you will have an idea in mind before a conservatory build goes ahead, but if you don’t then this is an excellent place to start.
Your conservatory design must also be considered. A traditional style conservatory for example, will be greatly complimented by white furniture and chandelier lighting. Vintage ornaments and classic pieces of furniture will enhance your traditional build.
If you have a smaller conservatory then rattan table and chairs will offer a warm and cosy welcoming. Decorate your small conservatory with small pieces of furniture and light and airy colours. You don’t want to overcrowd your conservatory with heavy furniture or a splattering of random colours. Be precise and selective when decorating a small conservatory such as the Lean-To.
Your chosen type of conservatory also has a great impact on the design theme you may choose to incorporate within the space. For example, a wooden conservatory or one made from uPVC that utilises a wood effect would be complimented by wooden furniture and accessories.
Conservatory furniture must be chosen with your theme in mind. If you envision yourself removing furniture from your conservatory and out into your garden during hot summer months, then furniture which is light and easily accessible is ideal. Colourful accessories in the form of cushions and chair covers will make the perfect accompaniment.
It is a good idea to measure your conservatory before ordering any furniture. You will need to consider floor space and your doorways.
You don’t want to order a suite for your conservatory only to discover that it won’t fit. You may find it helpful to draw a map of your conservatory so you can experiment with different outlays.
You will also want to consider the material of your conservatory furniture. A fade resistant material is essential if you wish to protect your furniture from sun exposure. A durable material will be very cost effective in the long run.
Rattan conservatory furniture is chosen for its durable properties. Synthetic rattan is resistant making it highly suited to a conservatory.
Alternatively, wicker furniture can be used for a similar effect. Its natural aesthetic creating a greater flow between the conservatory and the outdoor space.
Conservatories will successfully capture natural light, bringing warmth into your home during the summer and winter seasons.
However, conservatories have a tendency to overheat, making them an uncomfortable place to spend time in. This is why home owners choose conservatory blinds.
Conservatory blinds will allow you to control the amount of light which floods into your conservatory, as well as heat.
Good conservatory blinds will also greatly increase your conservatory’s energy efficiency. As well as this, they will reduce the amount of harmful UV rays entering the space and causing the interior furniture and carpets to fade.
A practical and attractive means of shutting out unwanted sunlight, conservatory blinds are an inexpensive solution.
Choosing The Right Conservatory Blinds
There are a wide variety of conservatory blinds to choose from, with each type displaying their own benefits and features. Before you purchase blinds for your conservatory, it is important to consider the following things:
- Where Does Your Conservatory Face? Heat is less of an issue with North facing conservatories but they may feel cooler in the winter months.
- How Much Privacy Do You Require? If your conservatory is overlooked by neighbours then you may wish to increase your privacy.
- How Will You Use Your Conservatory? You will want to choose blinds which will compliment your conservatory’s aesthetics, but most importantly blinds which will be practical for everyday use.
Roman Blinds For Conservatories
Roman blinds use a manual control system which features a head rail and fabric section. These blinds are available in virtually any colour and come in a variety of styles.
Choose from light-filtering shades to linings which provides complete blackout. Folding neatly at specific points, stiffening rods are incorporated to ensure a wonderfully drawn action. These blinds are great choice for conservatory doors.
Roller Blinds For Conservatories
Highly popular, roller blinds are ideal for conservatories. These blinds can roll up fully, allowing you to benefit from lots of light during the day whilst providing you with privacy in the evening. These blinds are also available in an extensive range of styles. Your blind manufacturer will offer a measuring service to ensure your blinds are a perfect fit.
Conservatory Roof Blinds
Conservatory roof blinds can be useful if you wish to keep your conservatory at a comfortable temperature. These blinds can very effective but they can be very costly. Air conditioning can also be used to control the humidity within the building but this can also be expensive.
If you are after a more affordable solution then Solar Inserts are a fantastic alternative. They work by filtering out the suns UV rays, preventing your conservatory from over-heating. Solar inserts will allow you to benefit from a sun filled room without the harmful glare which often accompanies it.
Solar inserts will require no maintenance after installation and can be installed by either yourself or a technician.