Building a conservatory: What you need to know

Find out all you need to know about extending your home and adding extra living space with a conservatory

If you’ve been spending a lot of time at home recently, you may be feeling like it needs a bit of a spruce up. And you certainly may be thinking that you could do with a bit more space for everyone!

Adding a conservatory is a great way to extend your home, giving you an additional playroom, breakfast room or family room. Can’t you just picture yourself relaxing in your new conservatory with a book while rain patters down on the roof above, or entertaining guests by candlelight in the evening?

As with any major project, it’s important to take your time to plan your new conservatory well. If you get it right, you’ll be enjoying your conservatory for years to come. Get it wrong, and it could well be an expensive mistake that you come to regret!

So here are some of the main things you need to consider when you’re thinking of building a conservatory.

Set a budget for the work

It’s vital to set a realistic budget for a large project like a conservatory. Otherwise, you can easily find that you are spending more than you can realistically afford.

Obviously you need to include the cost of the conservatory and having it constructed. But if you’re planning to use your new conservatory to house a kitchen you need to include those costs as well.

You may also need to get in touch with a separate domestic concrete supplier to provide the concrete for the conservatory’s foundations. Your conservatory design company will be able to advise on that.

Do bear in mind that some features like roof vents or electrical sockets in the wall can increase the cost of building a conservatory. And even something like the orientation of your house can affect the cost. A south-facing conservatory will get very hot in high temperatures, so it may be worth spending a little more on the construction to make sure it’s comfortable in summer.

Remember to budget for any additional furniture, blinds and accessories that you may need to buy. And of course, allow a contingency fund for the little extra costs that crop up along the way!

Choose the design of your conservatory

This is a big decision to make, and not one that you want to rush. Take your time to look through home design magazines, websites and Pinterest to get inspiration.

First of all, you need to choose the general design of your conservatory, and how it will fit with the design of your house. Do you prefer a modern look or a more vintage style? If you want sheer wow factor, you could go for an orangery with a lantern style roof, but that will come with a larger price tag!

You also need to consider what the conservatory will be used for. Will you use it for growing plants, or is it going to be a family room with home cinema system and plush seating?

If you only plan to use your conservatory in the summer, then you can probably go for quite a simple design. But if you’re planning to extend your living space by knocking down a wall or adding large glass doors, you need think carefully about its size and construction.

You’ll also need to think about how cold it may be in winter, and how it could affect the temperature in the rest of the house.

What materials will you use?

Most modern conservatories have doors and windows with uPVC frames, while less common materials for the framework of a conservatory include aluminum or wood.

uPVC is modern, easy to maintain and won’t rot, but you may prefer the more elegant look of a wooden frame. The downside of this is that a wooden frame will need more maintenance to prevent it from rotting.

An aluminium frame will be stronger than the other options, which means that the framework can be thinner. This gives it a more contemporary look, and has the additional benefit of letting in more light.

You may decide to have no brick walls at all in your conservatory. But floor to ceiling glass can make your conservatory feel more like a greenhouse, and it can be harder to regulate the temperature. You could end up with a space that is too hot to use in summer and too cold in the winter.

Adding brickwork to the design of your conservatory will make it feel more like an extension of your home. You may decide to have dwarf walls below the glasswork and possibly a solid wall. Insulating the brickwork will also help with temperature regulation.

Many conservatories have a glass roof, as this is a great way to increase the light in the space. You may need to fit blinds though, especially if your conservatory is south-facing.

If you don’t want a glass roof, you could have a tiled roof which will make your conservatory feel more like an extension.

Get quotes and choose a builder

It’s important to shop around for your conservatory, as this is a major purchase. It’s best to get at least three quotes, and try to use firms that come personally recommended to you or which have good impartial online reviews.

Some people like to go with a large national brand because of their experience and reputation. Other people prefer to use a small local firm, feeling that they may get more personal service this way.

If you choose to use a local firm, you could look either for a conservatory firm or a local builder. A builder will probably have a wider range of skills and may be better placed to work on a more complex build.

When you talk to your conservatory builder, you should already have a good idea of what you want from your new conservatory, but be prepared to be flexible. The company may have some alternative suggestions for the design or see problems and omissions in your plans.

How long will it take to build a new conservatory?

Adding a conservatory to your home is a major project that is going to cause a great deal of disruption. There will be groundworks to construct the foundation, and you may need part of the back wall of your house removing. You should expect quite a lot of mess!

So if you need the conservatory to be complete by a certain date, it’s important that you plan the timing of your project as carefully as you plan the budget or the interior design.

A typical conservatory build will take around a month, but larger ones could take up to eight weeks. And you should remember to allow time for the planning permission process as well.

Do you need planning permission for a conservatory?

You will probably need planning permission for a conservatory, depending on the location and size of your house and the size of the conservatory you are planning.

It’s best to check with your local planning authority at the start of the process, so that you don’t end up disappointed somewhere down the line. Search online for ‘local planning authority’ and your local area to find their details.

Allow up to eight weeks for this process, and don’t forget to include the cost in your budget.

Planning the interior

How you design the interior of your conservatory will depend very much on how and when you plan to use it.

A tiled floor will be durable and easy to clean, but may feel cold underfoot in the winter. You might like to put rugs down if the conservatory is going to be used as an extension of your living space.

Other options for flooring include carpet, laminate and wood flooring.

Insulating the floor of your conservatory will help stop it losing heat and make it more comfortable in the winter. You might also like to install underfloor heating, particularly if your floor is going to be tiled.

Fabric, plastic or wood blinds will be a good investment for your conservatory. They will make your conservatory cooler in summer and warmer in winter, as well as protecting your furniture from sun damage and giving extra privacy.

If your budget allows, you may like to install electric blinds which are quicker and easier to open and shut.

And one final point: don’t forget to let your neighbours before work starts on your new conservatory. It’s just common courtesy!

Then when your conservatory is finished, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy your new space!