Conservatory Buying Guide

A conservatory can make a great addition to your home, but the wide choice of options available can make the buying process overwhelming. With our handy guide to buying a conservatory, you’ve got all the information you need at your fingertips.

Conservatory requirements

Conservatories come in all shapes and sizes, from intimate garden rooms to large-scale orangeries fit for hosting banquets. Some extensions have glass roofs, whilst others are tiled. With so many options, you will need to decide what is right for you. As well as size, consider the cost. Conservatories come with price tags that range anywhere from £10,000 to £100,000, so decide how much you can afford to spend.

You will want your conservatory to look amazing, but it is important that it is well built, too. Quality components and rock-solid foundations are vital, maximising the life expectancy of your beautiful conservatory. Additionally, make sure to find out whether you need permission to have a conservatory built on your land.

As experts with over 25 years experience in conservatories, here at Lifestyle we believe that the following are the most important requirements for any new conservatory:

  • Ideal for use at any time of year
  • Fits in with the existing style of your home
  • Meets your space and purpose requirements
  • Inviting and relaxing
  • Designed to suit your home
  • Lengthy guarantees that cover the entire conservatory
  • Gives you the required amount of light
  • Easy to look after

Important things to consider

As an expert, family-run Nottingham business, we understand how confusing it can be getting to grips with all of the different aspects related to conservatories. Here are the main things to consider.

Types of structure

There are various types of structures to choose from when deciding what kind of extension you would like to have built.

Classic style

A classic style of conservatory is your typical type of extension, built with mainly glass as opposed to brick. Ideal for those who want to appreciate the outside views, this type of conservatory is also the perfect extension to your living space, whether for relaxing or entertaining.

Orangery

Generally composed of more brick than a classic conservatory, orangeries are suited to those looking for an extension geared towards private relaxation. Opulence and elegance tend to define the typical orangery, with a light, bright and airy feel that makes it a stylish addition to any home.

Glass extension

Ideal for those who want to maximise light in their home, glass extensions are both stylish and contemporary. With glass being the main component, this type of structure works well for any type of space, making it an attractive feature of any home. A veranda roof is a top choice for glass extensions, enabling you to feel closer to your outside space.

Tiled-roof extension

Designed to blend in with the rest of your home, a tiled-roof extension is sturdy, stylish and affords you the space and privacy that you may crave.

Use of space

Decide how you plan to use the space in your new conservatory and what requirements you will need for furniture and seating. However you plan to use it, comfort should be your top priority. Once you have made these important decisions, it is easier to work out what type of extension will suit your needs whilst minimising any problem issues that may crop up along the way.

Materials

Your conservatory needs to be built to withstand the elements, no matter what time of year you want to use it. Key requirements to ensure the efficiency of your extension include appropriate insulation and ventilation, whilst consideration should also be given to glass and material types.

uPVC

Easy to maintain, affordable and stylish, uPVC is a popular choice for many homes. With a smooth white appearance, the advantage of uPVC is that it never rots, rusts or flakes. Since uPVC is generally white, make sure to obtain generous guarantees against discolouration when purchasing your uPVC conservatory.

Aluminium

For those seeking a low-maintenance material that does not suffer from rusting, flaking or rotting, aluminium is a favourite choice and also comes in a range of contemporary shades.

Timber

Stunningly elegant, timber adds charm and style to any extension and is available in a selection of attractive stained or painted finishes.

Design

At Lifestyle, we understand how important it is to get the design aspect of your extension spot on, with a number of individual factors, such as soil type, landscape and climate, taken into consideration. The unique requirements of each home and the needs of the individual are our priority, letting you weigh up the various options that best suit your individual space. A bespoke design can be tailored to your requirements, with many styles to choose from, including sub-design options. Popular choices include Edwardian, York, Cheltenham and Victorian, for example.

Energy-efficiency

A conservatory should be comfortable and warm, no matter how you intend to use this space. Energy-efficiency is an important consideration if you own a conservatory, so make sure it has adequate insulation in the foundations and brickwork. Check whether the conservatory features specialist glazing, as this can influence its energy-efficiency. Bear in mind also that the type of glass you choose may impact on whether you can use the conservatory all year round and how comfortable it will be.

Types of glass

There are different types of conservatory glass available:

Heatlock

Energy-efficient to lock heat in, this high-performing, low-emission, double-glazed glass is the perfect choice for anyone looking to slash their energy consumption and lower their bills. Units filled with argon gas offer even greater heat-retention benefits.

Security

Incredibly strong and sturdy, this sealed unit comes with laminated glass for extra toughness.

Solar

With this glass, glare is reduced for maximum comfort. Solar energy is also reflected for optimum efficiency.

Anti-sun

The sun’s glare is minimised with this tinted style of glass.

Self-cleaning

This fuss-free option is just the job for those seeking easy-to-maintain glass. An exterior coating breaks dirt down when it comes into contact with sunlight.

Ultimate

This self-cleaning glass contains heat-reflecting properties, making it solar-efficient and maintenance-free.

Safety

If this type of glass shatters, it will form tiny harmless fragments, so your health and safety are not compromised.

Obscure

Ideal for those requiring privacy, Obscure glass is available in various patterns.

Decorative

For an individual and characterful look, decorative glass comes in a selection of bevelled, coloured and leaded designs.

The foundations

One of the most important considerations for building a strong and durable conservatory is the quality of its foundations. No matter what type of ground conditions you have, a structure with solid foundations is always achievable. Here are some things to consider.

Depth

Lots of different factors need to be considered when calculating the required depth of the conservatory’s foundations. This could vary based on specific conditions, but aspects such as tree roots, deep drains and services below the ground all play a part. Generally, most foundations are up to one metre deep. A trial dig or use of a recognised calculator, such as the NHBC foundations depth calculator, can help to work out depth requirements.

Hardcore

When space needs to be filled for solidity when building, hardcore is used to cover this gap. Essentially, hardcore is crushed solid material. Experts recommend that foundations should contain a minimum of 150mm of hardcore.

Sand bed

A layer above the hardcore known as a sand bed should be added to the foundations. This is incorporated to ensure that damage to the damp-proof membrane does not occur.

Damp-proof membrane

On top of the sand bed, a damp-proof membrane needs to be installed. This helps to prevent damp penetration and moisture seeping through the floor.

Floor insulation

To meet building regulations, a layer of floor insulation needs to be added.

Floor slab

A floor slab, preferably steel-reinforced, gives the foundations a solid base. Concrete is typically used.

Smooth screed floor

To ensure a flat and level concrete surface, a screed is used. This is a type of flat board that can smooth concrete when placed on its surface.

Cavity wall

Cavity wall insulation can prevent heat loss and may be required by building regulations. Experts recommend a 300mm of insulation between the hollow space in two walls for maximum efficiency.

Obtaining permissions

You are legally entitled to make some small alterations to your home, known as ‘permitted development rights’, but the boundaries are not as straightforward if you plan on adding an extension such as a conservatory. Before you get started on any building projects, it is vital to find out whether you need any permission first. Failure to do so could end up costing you a lot of money.

The size of the conservatory you intend to have built can influence whether you need to obtain planning permission or not. Generally, small extensions to the rear or side of the property are considered permitted development, but it is always worth checking to make sure that you fully understand what is acceptable.

If you build an extension before May 2016, you have permitted development rights that extend up to six metres for a conservatory on a terraced or semi-detached house, and eight metres on a detached home. From May 2016, the laws will change to previously applied restrictions, which are three metres and six metres respectively. For anyone thinking of adding an extension to their home, building before May 2016 when these changes take place is highly recommended.

When you have a conservatory built, it also needs to reflect the existing materials used on your home. Bear in mind that how far you can extend depends on how high the property is.

Designated areas and listing buildings may also be subject to various restrictions, so get to know what these are if they apply to you.

These are the different types of permissions that you may require in order to build an extension to your home:

Planning permission

You are legally required to obtain planning permission from your local council if you want to add to or change the use of buildings or land. The proposed design of your conservatory will need to be assessed against current building guidelines and policies to see if consent is legally required. Consent is not just for planning but also for listed building and conservation consent, if applicable. If you do need permission, your full building plans will need to be submitted to the local council, either for free or at a cost, depending on the company that is managing the building process.

Building permission

Building permission is distinct from planning permission, and whilst most conservatories built in England and Wales do not require building permission, there are some situations where it will be necessary. When making an application for building permission with the local authority, full working drawings will need to be submitted, including calculations relating to the full structure and heat loss, if applicable. The local authority will need to be informed of all key stages of the installation.

Water board authority approval

You will need to gain consent from the local water board authority if your planned extension will be installed within or over three metres of a public sewer. Following approval and any building recommendations given, you will then need to apply for building regulations. This is necessary, as a building control officer will be required to inspect the installation over the sewer.

Covenant or management estate approval

If your home is subject to a private agreement between landowners relating to restrictions on the use and development of land, known as a restrictive covenant, you may need to get approval before a conservatory can be built. Additionally, consent for building a conservatory may be required if you have an agreement in place with your property management service. Make sure your building management company can assist in helping you obtain these approvals, if applicable.

Party-wall approval

If your proposed conservatory is affected by a boundary separating two properties, you may need to obtain a party-wall agreement before building can take place.

Scottish Building Warrant approval

Any conservatory built in Scotland with a squared floor area of over eight metres will need to obtain Building Warrant Approval. Check that your building company can provide this, and whether it will be free or not.

Answer these questions before buying a conservatory

Undoubtedly, there is a lot to think about before deciding to add a new conservatory to your home. To ensure you get exactly the right structure for your needs and property, answer the following questions:

  • Is planning permission required?
  • Am I obliged to retain the existing style of my property?
  • What style works best with my home?
  • What do I want from a conservatory and will my needs be fulfilled?
  • Will the company put the foundations in place?
  • Is the material low-maintenance or not?
  • Which material will suit my requirements?
  • What colour choices reflect the style of my home?
  • Am I hoping to achieve a traditional or modern design?
  • What guarantees can I expect to come with the conservatory?