Don’t be conservative

A well-planned, well-built conservatory is a stylish addition to any home. As well as providing more living space, a conservatory can add to the overall value and marketability of your property.

Common estimates will put the added value of a new conservatory at around 5%. However, to ensure you get the best return, plan your project well and do your research.

There are a number of factors you should consider before opting to build your conservatory. Firstly think about what the area is likely to be used for and how it will affect the dynamic of your home. Will it be a family room such as an extension to your kitchen or living room? Will it accommodate a more formal setting, such as a dining room, or will it be a quiet area to escape and reflect?

It is also worth considering what you are sacrificing to accommodate your new extension, not only in terms of money, but also garden space, privacy and the overall aesthetic feel of your property. That is why it is important to consider the look and shape of your build from the outset.

Other considerations

Ventilation is vital, especially in direct sun where a conservatory can quickly become hot and stuffy and, in some cases, condensation can be a problem. Building Regulations use a simple formula to tell you how much openable window area you must have and any trustworthy installer will be familiar with these rules.

The material of the conservatory roof itself is also worth some thought. Polycarbonate is less expensive than clear glass and casts a much softer light, especially in harsh direct sun. It can also offer more visual privacy from neighbouring upstairs windows although it is noisy in heavy rain or hail.

The actual structure of the roof is even more important. Any reputable installer will use a ‘roof system’. This is a pre-manufactured infrastructure designed to give appropriate support. Most are named by manufacturer’s brand and will provide accreditations to back up their technical specification.

Also think about heating and lighting. If you intend to use the conservatory in the winter, it will be massively more economical to extend your central heating system than put in a separate unit. You may want fully built-in lighting via wall switches or if you only need table lamps, perhaps a few mains sockets will suffice.

Also don’t forget to think about your energy rating. An ‘A’ rating will save you fuel bills in the long run. Where your conservatory meets the ground, the most popular choice is a dwarf wall, usually made of materials matching the main building or you can choose glass panes all the way to the ground.

Another worthwhile exercise when considering extensions is to mark out the area on your property that the planned structure will occupy. This will help you visualise how it will impact the view from different parts of the property, both inside and outside, the type of privacy the room will receive and where your conservatory will sit in relation to the sun.

You might want to take a photo from the outside of your house so you can compare it directly with brochure pictures. Whatever you do, don’t just settle for seeing things on an architect’s plan, as visualising how large your structure will be will help you to define exactly what you might be giving up in terms of green space.

Shop around

It is always advisable to get a number of quotes before starting any significant project and you should factor in a reasonable amount of time to achieve this. One approach is to compare quotes from national companies and local companies. While a national supplier will likely have an established reputation, they may lack the personal touch that many prefer when tradesman are working in your home for an extended period of time. Local companies succeed or fail on the strength of their reputation.

Don’t just go for the cheapest choice. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t always opt for the cheapest quote, unless you can be sure that the products and services that will be used are on a par or indeed even better than other quotes that you may have.

Cheaper can mean substandard materials and the company doing the work may not be very experienced. The two main building materials for conservatories are uPVC and timber. Both have different benefits and will certainly give the finished build a very different look.


Any alteration to your home may be subject to legislation such as Planning Law and Building Regulations. These cover many issues from the look of the addition, to safety concerns such as fire escape routes. These can vary, both in substance and interpretation, in different parts of Britain and Ireland. Any reputable installation company will be happy to advise or may consult the authorities in case of any uncertainty.


You have to be sure that the company you appoint can carry out the work and do a good job in a time period that is acceptable to you. There is no point getting things done in two weeks if you have to spend the next two years trying to get things that have gone wrong corrected. When you are considering your supplier perhaps pay a visit to a job they are currently installing and speak to the home owner who is sure to give you an honest appraisal of how the project is going. It’s a big investment for you and your family, so don’t be afraid to investigate everything thoroughly!

The future’s bright, the future’s…

More and more homeowners are choosing an orangery as an alternative to a conventional conservatory. A fusion of glazed expanses of wall with conventional building materials in areas such as corners, mullions and part or all of the roof, an orangery is an elegant option.

Something worth a little thought: if you are building an orangery onto existing patio/french doors or even replacing a conventional conservatory, think about the light that enters the main part of your home. A solid, or even a solid and glass, roof may have some impact on that light, either reducing it or simply changing the direction or texture.

A benefit of an orangery roof is that it keeps out more light and heat when the sun is at its highest and hottest, while the glass walls let it stream in when it is lower in the sky and most welcome.

Who guarantees the guarantees?

We’ve all heard tales of dodgy installers ducking out of their obligations by folding their company and then starting again. One form of protection is the insurance-backed guarantee, which is backed by a third party so it remains valid, even if the installation company goes bust.

However, some guarantees are less fool proof than others, so here are a few tricky questions to help you spot the better ones:

  • Is the insurer/administrator based in the UK?
  • Are deposits and ‘work-in-progress’ payments covered?
  • Are remedial costs covered to the full value?
  • What about ‘ceasing to trade’ clauses? Will your guarantee still be valid if the company folds voluntarily?
  • Is the guarantee transferable to new owners if you sell the house?