Conservatory Buying Guide


The Everest guide to everything you need to know about buying a new conservatory or extension for your home.

Conservatory buying guide Conservatory buying guide

Modern conservatories are engineered for year-round use, and integrate seamlessly with your home. You can now choose a bespoke conservatory, orangery or glass extension which achieves the high levels of security, energy efficiency and comfort that you’re after. However, there are still a lot of commonly asked questions and misconceptions about conservatories. At Everest, we've used our knowledge and experience to help you buy a new conservatory with confidence.

What to look for in a new conservatory

Conservatories come in many different shapes, styles and sizes, ranging from small extensions built to create a little extra space, to elaborate structures that give your home a stunning new look. Prices can range from £10,000 to £100,000 and more, so it's important to have a good idea of what you are looking for before making enquiries.

You might want to extend your home to create a new living area, study or kitchen. Today's conservatories can fulfil these design requirements and leave you with a purposeful space. Done correctly, your new garden room will not only fit in seamlessly with your home's look and feel, but will add a little something extra.

At Everest, we want to help you understand the more technical aspects of the design and build process. In doing so, we can help you choose a conservatory that will keep you safe, warm and happy for many years to come. That's why we've created this guide with everything you need to know about conservatories, orangeries and extensions.

Signs of a quality conservatory

Everybody's wants and needs are different, but a good conservatory will satisfy the following requirements:

  • Designed bespoke, made to measure your home
  • Look good and be aesthetically in-keeping with your property
  • Usable for the purpose for which it was intended
  • Structurally secure, with strong and stable frames
  • Offer high security through the locks, hinges, frames and glazing
  • Let in the right amount of light, without glare from the sun
  • Reduce noise from the outside
  • Have high energy efficiency (low U values) to reduce energy bills
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature all year round
  • Be fully weatherproof, with no leaks, draughts or condensation
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Long lasting guarantees that cover all areas of the conservatory (not just the glazing)
  • Add value to your home

Everything you need to know about conservatories

Modern conservatories are more technically advanced than ever before, but that means there's more to consider before buying.

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    Conservatory frame materials

    A conservatory is made from three main parts: the foundations and base (including brickwork), window and door frames, and the roof.

    The materials you choose will directly affect the performance of your new conservatory. You can choose uPVC, timber and aluminium frames, and each material has its own qualities that can enhance your new living space.

    Traditionally, conservatories were constructed with a metal frame, such as steel or cast iron, and glass – similar to today's greenhouses. Like windows, conservatories were made using aluminium frames during the 1980s, and started to become more popular in the 1990s when uPVC began to be used in glazing and materials became more affordable.

    Advances in glazing technology over the last ten years means that now, whichever material you choose, your new conservatory will be more energy efficient, comfortable and strong than previous models. You'll not be limited by your design choice – most styles are available in all of the following materials.

    uPVC conservatories

    Low maintenance and long lasting, offers great value and performance.

    uPVC is the most popular material for conservatory design, and it is the most affordable option when extending your home. It also offers a host of other benefits: it is virtually maintenance-free, will never degrade, and is guaranteed never to discolour.

    Conservatory design has come a long way in the last 10 years. uPVC frames are now more robust, reinforced with steel for added strength. The biggest difference, however, is in temperature control. uPVC frames contain multiple insulating chambers, slowing heat transfer through the frames. With quality double glazing, uPVC windows can achieve up to an A+12 Windows Energy Rating (WER), and even higher for triple glazing.

    Modern uPVC conservatories can be designed to replicate period house design, with features like fluted columns, arches and finials. As well as classic white, uPVC frames are now available in wood grain effect textured foils. Two colour frames mean that you can have a conservatory that looks like timber from outside, with a neutral colour on the inside to match your home.

    Aluminium conservatories

    Ideal material for large structural glazing, offers maximum light ingress.

    Aluminium conservatories are not the same as in the 1980s. Nowadays, aluminium glazing can achieve almost the same high energy ratings as uPVC, thanks to plastic thermal inserts that stop the transfer of heat through the frames. Combined with double or even triple glazing and energy saving glass, an aluminium conservatory will definitely feel like an extension of your home.

    Aluminium is a naturally light but strong metal that is used in structural glazing and construction. Being stronger, aluminium conservatories can have much slimmer frames whilst supporting larger areas of glass. That means you'll get more light coming in, and better views to outside.

    Naturally weatherproof and corrosion proof, aluminium requires no maintenance to stay looking as good as new. Frames can be 'powder coated' or spray finished in a wide range of colours, so they don't have to look metallic. Aluminium conservatories are very versatile, and you can create almost any design you desire.

    Timber conservatories

    Elegant looks and naturally warm, with flexible designs and colour options.

    Even with the same design, timber conservatories exude a beauty and elegance that can't be matched by other materials. The frames can be carved in any imaginable style with incredibly detailed lines, for a simple or ornate finish. Gothic arches, Georgian bars, curved heads and other joinery styles can be achieved in the windows and even door frames of a timber conservatory.

    You many have seen timber frames that have weathered, flaked or even rotted. One of the considerations when buying a timber home improvement is whether it will stand the test of time. Ensure that your company uses quality hardwood or softwood, engineered for structural integrity, and treated to last longer. Wooden frames will require repainting or staining over time to keep them looking smart, but modern timber has been designed to reduce the frequency of maintenance.

    The plus side is that with painted frames, you have an almost unlimited choice on colour schemes. As a natural material, wood frames suit countryside colours such as greens, greys and creams. They also work well with natural wood stains.

    Conservatory frame construction

    Window and door units fit together with columns, brickwork and other glazing elements to create a conservatory. For the frames, lengths of 'profile' are cut down to size, and joined or welded together to create a rectangle shape. Timber frames are made from a solid piece of wood, but uPVC and aluminium frames use hollow profiles that contain 'chambers' to trap warm air, as well as thermal barriers to reduce heat loss further.

    Seals sit along the edge of opening sashes and door panels to stop heat loss, draughts and water ingress. Modern glazing features seals made from Q-Lon, a material that retains its shape for longer than rubber, preventing draughts and leaks.

    Finally, detailing and joinery styles can have an impact on the overall design of your conservatory. You can choose sashes that sit flush in the frames, or ovolo frames for a curvier outline. uPVC and aluminium frames can even be welded to replicate traditional joinery styles.

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    Conservatory and extension styles

    When looking for a bright and airy extension for a house, many people begin by researching conservatories. In recent years, however, the range of home improvements on offer has exploded. Impressed by the new designs, many people now choose an orangery or glass extension for their home. Read on to learn about all the different styles.

    Classic conservatory

    Conservatories were originally used as winter greenhouses, but due to the expensive plate glass used, they were only available for the mega rich. During the Victorian period, they began to take on more of a social role, as a place to host dinner parties and afternoon tea.

    Due to the rich history of the conservatory, the outward appearance has adapted over the years according to the style of the times. It's not just the shape that's changed – the window and door framing, roof pitch, and ornate detailing also reflect the architectural preferences of the period.

    Several centuries later, and conservatories have become affordable for most households. Classic conservatories replicate these historical styles, from square Edwardian brick orangeries to rounded glass Victorian designs.

    Cheltenham conservatory

    Also known as a 'lean-to' conservatory, this style sits up against the house, with a sloping roof. Its simple design means it's a timeless classic, and will suit almost any property.

    With a single facing glass roof, this conservatory is often used as a 'sun room', as it lets in the optimum amount of light during the day. Better quality glazing means that you can use a Cheltenham conservatory all year round, making the most of the winter sun without trapping the heat in summer.

    Georgian conservatory

    A typical Georgian conservatory is a square or T-shape design with a gable front and a low hipped roof. Georgian style orangeries also exist: uPVC or aluminium fluted columns sitting on a low dwarf wall, topped with a lantern glass roof.

    The Georgian style is less recognisable by its shape than by its decorative features. Traditionally this style offers less glass than frame, as the window style features 'Georgian bars', or astragal bars, which divide up the glass pane into squares. This style is very symmetrical, and works well with a set of French doors to help balance the design.

    Edwardian conservatory

    Similar to the Georgian style, Edwardian conservatories have square or rectangular designs and a mid-height brick wall. The main difference is that the windows are free from glazing bars and tend to feature opening fanlights. The Edwardian style can be replicated as an orangery, with brick columns and corners breaking up the wall of windows.

    Edwardian conservatories are the most pragmatic, as with their square design and brick base they can operate as any other room. You can also specify an Edwardian style with a tiled roof, for a more affordable and brighter alternative to a house extension.

    Victorian conservatory

    A Victorian conservatory is probably the most popular classic style. It features one or more bay fronts, with either 3 or 5 facets, depending on whether you want more angular or rounded edges. Fitted with a glass roof, you get a stunning panoramic view of the sky.

    Victorian conservatories are characterised by their gothic revival detailing, such as cresting and spike finials. They also go well with French doors fitted in the bay, and windows with arched detailing or decorative glass fanlights.

    York conservatory

    Also known as a 'gable end conservatory', this style is characterised by its vaulted roof and wide front, offering maximum light ingress and views to the outside. For York conservatories that are wider than they are long, you can run the ridge lengthways to angle the glass roof for better views.

    Like all styles, you can customise the York conservatory with your choice of windows and doors, switch out the glass roof for a lightweight tiled roof, and even add a brick base.

    Veranda conservatory

    Veranda conservatories have a sloping glass roof that extends past the front glass wall to create a glazed garden veranda. The glass roof can be angled from flat up to 45 degrees, depending on the look you want for your home. The system uses structural aluminium, but uPVC 'caps' can be fitted to match your conservatory.

    The veranda can project outwards anywhere up to 4.5 metres, with support from oak posts. This creates the perfect space for a garden table and chairs under a covered patio area. Full width bi-folding doors really make a difference to this conservatory style, opening up the home, letting in more light and creating the feeling of space.

    Hip back conservatories

    A hip back conservatory means that the centre point or ridge of the roof is the most elevated point, with all facets or panels sloping downwards. This leaves you with a roof that is symmetrical on all sides. An alternative option is to choose a roof that remains vaulted where it meets the wall. Edwardian, Victorian and York conservatories are all available in hip-back roof options.


    Orangeries have the same origins as conservatories, and are most similar to an Edwardian hip-back in style. Instead of walls made of glass, they feature brick or uPVC pillars between the windows. The roof also features an internal ceiling border, or 'pelmet', with a roof lantern sitting in the centre. This gives the orangery the appearance of a traditional extension, with the light, airy feeling of a conservatory.

    Homeowners choose orangeries over other garden room styles for a few reasons. The first is style – the elegant design of an orangery adds a touch of grandeur to any home. With a larger area of bricks, the orangery offers better insulation, more shade, and more privacy.

    Orangeries can be customised with your choice of bricks, frame and roof materials, and door styles. You can even have your orangery rendered to match the outside of your home.

    Glass extension

    Glass extensions are made almost entirely of glass and add a bold, unique visual element to your home. They can be built in even the most testing of spaces, and let an unrivalled amount of daylight into your home.

    The 'glass box' is the most contemporary style of glazed extension, and is available within a uPVC or aluminium framework. For slimmer sightlines and better views, we recommend sleek aluminium frames.

    One worry about glass extensions is whether they will overheat like a greenhouse in summer. Glass technology has improved immeasurably in recent years, and can achieve high thermal performance. Double and triple glazed windows, doors and roofs are engineered to harness the sun’s natural energy, without transferring too much heat in or out of a room.

    Tiled roof extension

    A tiled roof extension is built to look like it has always been a permanent part of your home. It is a solid, minimum fuss structure that offers extra space and privacy, without seeking to make a bold statement. You can choose a full build extension with masonry walls, with your choice of brick or stonework. Alternatively, you can choose a conservatory base with uPVC or aluminium glazing, for a brighter room.

    Tiled roof conservatories are available in any shape and size, designed bespoke for your home. You can even choose the roof pitch and tile colours, as well as incorporating roof windows.

    One of the main reasons to choose a tiled roof conservatory is that it isn't necessary to apply for planning permissions, if it abides by certain conditions. You can read more under the 'Permissions' tab.

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    Design choices & decorative features for conservatories

    Now you know which conservatory or glass extension style is right for your property, it's time to think about customising it to suit your home.

    Every conservatory, orangery and extension can be customised by frame colour, glass design, roof style, and the windows and doors. The options you pick can change the look and feel of your new garden room immensely.

    Conservatory doors

    You can incorporate virtually any type of glazed door in a conservatory – from a single open in or out door, to French, sliding and bi-folding patio doors. Typically, doors are made from the same frame materials as your conservatory, and incorporate the same glass type. For example, if you've opted for a golden oak colour uPVC frame, you would choose French doors made using the same colour uPVC.

    You can choose whether your doors open in or open out, or whether they slide left or right. You can even specify more than one door set per conservatory, as well as their location.

    Conservatory windows

    Conservatory walls are created by fitting windows and doors together. In this way, the window style itself creates the overall look for a conservatory. Casement windows are typical, often with opening top fanlights. However, it's possible to specify other types of windows, such as tilt-in windows, for more secure ventilation.

    Conservatory windows are available in a range of glass designs, including diamond and square leading, with decorative bars such as Georgian and Gothic. Timber windows can even feature ornate curves carved into the head of the sash.

    No matter what styling you choose, modern glazing helps to keep a conservatory at a comfortable temperature, the whole year round.

    Conservatory colours

    It used to be that you could buy a conservatory in any colour, as long as it was white. Nowadays, it's possible to choose frames in any colour of the rainbow. Want a different colour inside and outside? You can get two colour frames, which allow you to choose a bold frame colour for the exterior, whilst maintaining a neutral tone for the interior.​ By using the same materials for the windows, doors and roof, your conservatory will be 100% colour matched.

    uPVC frame colours

    Many people choose uPVC conservatories as a maintenance-free and cheaper alternative to timber. Nowadays, that's even more tempting with the introduction of woodgrain effect colours and finishes, for windows styled to look like timber.

    Aluminium frame colours

    Aluminium frames can be powder coated in any colour. As a more modern material, aluminium suits monochrome colours such as black or grey frames, but they are also available in white.

    Timber frame colours

    Timber is the most versatile material, as it can be repainted a different colour time and time again. This material suits natural colours, like soft greens and creams.

    Furniture, fittings & fixtures

    Your conservatory company should be able to offer you a large variety of window and door furniture. These include contemporary and traditional designs in a range of metallic finishes, as well as traditional ironmongery in cast iron. Check that your installer is using high quality hardware that will stand the test of time, and that all the styles and finishes match.

    Which conservatory design is right for my home?

    Your choice will depend on many factors, such as the space available, and its intended use. Every single living space is different, and so it's important that the company you use makes your conservatory bespoke to meet your requirements.

    It's important to find somebody who can discuss options with you as well as the pros and cons of your choices. Have a think about the following discussion points that will help you communicate your ideas to your installer.

    What do you want out of your conservatory?

    • Space and shape – specifically the width and projection of the final construction
    • Fully glazed or some solid sections – panels, brick walls and pillars, or a secondary window section in the foot
    • Glass, polycarbonate, tiled or warm roofs
    • Material and maintenance factor
    • Colour schemes inside and outside your property
    • Angle of the pitched roof
    • Roofline styling (cornice) and rainwater systems
    • Local weather conditions and environment
    • Internal doors – create a separate room or an open-plan space?
    • Integrated heating and lighting
    • Furniture you want to incorporate in the room – visualise how the space will work
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    Conservatory glass & glazing options

    Glazing is a big consideration when it comes to a conservatory, because glass makes up a large part of its construction. In classic styles, the walls, windows and doors are all fully glazed. That's why it's imperative that the glass is clear, secure and energy efficient.

    As well as the windows and doors that make up the conservatory walls, the roof can also be fully glazed. Like windows, glass roofs are constructed with double (or triple) glazed units fitted within an aluminium or steel-reinforced uPVC frame. Contemporary glass roofs are perfectly stable and secure, and can achieve the same high thermal performance as other components.

    Glass in conservatories

    Conservatory glazing works in exactly the same way as with windows. Glass panes are joined by a 'spacer bar' which seals the unit, with a gap between the panes. This cavity is often filled with an inert, non-toxic gas which acts to slow down heat loss.

    Each glass section is called a 'sealed unit', and is fitted directly into a frame. Units with two panes of glass and one cavity are the most common – this is double glazing. Triple glazed units have a third pane of glass and a second gas-filled cavity, which creates a much more energy efficient glass section.

    Double vs. triple glazed conservatories

    Double glazing is the minimum standard of glazing permitted according to the building regulations. Yet many conservatory companies are now recognising the increased thermal and acoustic benefits of triple glazing.

    Triple glazing is up to 35% more effective than double glazing for energy efficiency. It retains heat generated in the home, whilst reducing overheating in summer.

    A common misconception about conservatories is that triple glazing can magnify the effects of the sun's rays, leading to a worse overheating problem. In fact, the extra pane of glass, and special coatings used in quality triple glazing can actually reduce overheating in summer.

    Energy efficient conservatory glass

    Conservatory glass has been developed to help achieve the same high level of energy performance as the rest of your house. This means a new glazed extension will not let the heat escape in the same way as older, colder conservatories.

    Specialist glass can be used to improve the energy efficiency of a conservatory. Depending on its location and position, you might need to either limit or harness the effects of the sun. Your company will be able to help you design a conservatory that will enable you to enjoy the sun in comfort, all year round.

    With all these intelligent glazing options in place, you may not even need to splash out on blinds or shades.

    Heatlock glass

    Good conservatory glazing will feature heatlock glass, which works to reduce heat loss and save you money on heating bills. The internal pane of the double glazed unit is coated using a thin 'low E' or low emissivity layer. This reflects internal heat back into the room, helping to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. The space between the two panes can also be filled with argon gas, a non-toxic gas which also reduces the outflow of heat.

    Solar glass

    Low-e glass can also be used as 'solar glass', where the reflective layer is applied to the outside of the glass. This can reflect up to around 80% of the sun's heat, helping to reduce overheating on very hot days. Triple glazing also protects against excessive heat gain with its extra reflective glass layer and cavity.

    Anti-sun glass

    You might want to use your new conservatory as a sun room – a bright and warm space to enjoy the best of summer. But as well as being too hot, the sun can also be blinding, so it's also important to be able to limit the sun's harmful UV rays. Conservatory glass can be tinted with an anti-glare coating in subtle shades of blue or aqua, which can reduce glare by over 60% and reduce UV rays by over 90%.

    High security glazing for conservatories

    Conservatories are now more secure than ever, thanks in part to tough glazing. Glass can be laminated to prevent it from shattering when broken, or thermally toughened so that it is less likely to break in the first place. Most glazing in residential properties will use this strengthened glass, although it will depend on the project.

    Safety glass

    Glass in conservatories must be toughened if it will be used within 800mm of the floor, or up to a height of 1500mm for glass doors. Any quality glass roof should also feature toughened glass as standard. Tougher glazing means that you won't have to worry about breaks and break-ins.

    Internal beading

    A previous weak spot in windows, doors and conservatories was that the bead holding the glass in place could be removed from the outside. Nowadays, most glazing is designed with 'internal beading' to avoid this security flaw – check with your conservatory company to see that this is the case.

    Conservatory glass designs

    You can choose coloured, leaded and bevelled glass options, in traditional and contemporary designs. We recommend using glass designs sparingly, to ensure that you can still enjoy clear views out to your garden. Decorative glass fanlights are a beautiful way to add character to your new home improvement.

    Decorative glass

    Decorative glass is made by joining coloured and bevelled glass pieces together by metal 'cames' – the leading or metal bar you traditionally see in stained glass windows. The decorative glass pane is then paired with a standard pane to create a double glazed unit, or encapsulated within triple glazing.

    Clear glass for beautiful views

    Windows for bathrooms often use privacy glass to obscure the view inside the room, but this means you can't see outside, either. The opposite is necessary with conservatories – you want clear glass and unobstructed views to outside.

    Low iron glass

    Conservatory glass that contains low iron glass have noticeably clearer views. They allow a higher level of light to pass through compared to older glass types, which can have a slightly green tint.

    Self-cleaning glass

    Modern windows, doors and glass roofs are constructed using 'self-cleaning' glass. The glass features a special outer coating that reacts with sunlight to break down dirt, which gets washed away by the rain. Not only does self-cleaning glass give you better views, but it is also incredibly low-maintenance.

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    Conservatory roof options

    Conservatories used to only have one roof option: polycarbonate. Over time, some older models have experienced problems such as leaking roofs, overheating, cold spots and poor sound insulation. With improvements in conservatory roof technology, these problems have been virtually eradicated.

    A wider range of materials are now used to make conservatory roofs, which perform better for longer. Glass roofs use clever reflective coatings to keep the room at a comfortable temperature, tiled roofs are insulated to reduce heat loss, and modern polycarbonate roofs are now more energy efficient than ever before.

    Glass conservatory roofs

    If you want a sleek, architectural finish for your conservatory or extension, a glass roof is the ideal choice. They are available in any size and shape, and you can even specify a large atrium style roof.

    Glass roofs are constructed using strong aluminium frames which support the glass units. These are also thermally efficient, and can be fitted with uPVC 'caps' to match the frames if you have a uPVC conservatory. Sturdy and robust, these roofs are designed to withstand the worst of the British weather, including high winds and heavy snow.

    Advances in glass technology means that a glass roof conservatory is not a greenhouse. These high performance roofs are designed to retain natural heat whilst reflecting the sun's glare, for a room that you can use all year round. A designer will be able to help you choose the right roof glass for your conservatory, depending on the angle of the sun.

    Roof lanterns

    Orangery designs often incorporate a glass roof that covers the whole roof without meeting the edges. This is because the inside features an interior ceiling perimeter, and the glass roof 'lantern' sits on top like a crown.

    Lantern roofs can be made for any shape of orangery or conservatory, meaning you can have a more 'square' type design, or one with rounded edges. You can even choose the frame colour, roof pitch, and glass type. The 'pelmet' or ceiling border can also incorporate lighting and even speakers.

    Polycarbonate conservatory roofs

    A polycarbonate roof is a multi-layered plastic roof made with clear or tinted plastic. It is created using layered 'multi-wall' plastic sheeting with an air gap between the sheets that helps to trap warm air. Lightweight and structurally stable, polycarbonate is an excellent and affordable way to roof your conservatory.

    Like other roof materials, polycarbonate is now better equipped to deal with the elements. Blue, gold and other tinted roofs can help reduce heat gain by as much as 7 degrees on a hot day. Modern polycarbonate roofs also contain solar reflective inserts, which can reduce glare and block up to 99% of UV rays.

    Tiled conservatory roofs

    One complaint about ageing conservatories is that they let in too much light and heat from the sun's rays. Whilst these issues have largely been resolved, some homeowners prefer to opt for a tiled roof instead.

    Tiled roofs can fit the shape and style of your conservatory, giving you a vaulted or sloping ceiling. Different tiled finishes are available to match any style home, such as slate grey, pale shingles, Marley clay, and black or red tiles. Tiled roofs can even incorporate skylights or glazed sections if you want to let in more light.

    These roofs are also known as 'warm roofs', because they can achieve high levels of thermal insulation. They can reach a U value as low as 0.12 W/m²K – that's better than the average house roof.

    Tiled roofs can be installed as quickly as any other conservatory roof, so you can start using your new conservatory sooner rather than later.

    Roof decoration

    Traditional conservatory styles are ornate, with decorative features such as cresting along the ridge, and a finial at the top or end point. Another consideration is the roofline – you can specify a cornice, or neat roof edge trim, which adds to the period styling. Ask your designer about rainwater systems and downpipes to check that this system doesn't detract from the overall look of your conservatory.

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    Conservatory foundations

    Many people assume that, like windows and doors, conservatories can be installed from the ground up. But conservatories are more like an extension of your house, and need to have the same structural stability as any other building.

    A conservatory is only ever as strong as its foundations – without the correct footings, it could start to subside. Even for a single storey conservatory or extension, you will need deep foundations to make sure it stands strong for years to come. This involves digging down to a considerable depth, and constructing a base made from a number of important elements.

    Before digging out the foundations, check that your conservatory abides by planning permissions. Read more about the legalities under the 'Permissions' tab. Also, make sure your installer also has the building skills required to construct a solid base.

    Foundation depth

    How deep you dig your conservatory foundations depends on many things. Soil conditions, and the proximity of trees, rivers and train lines all have a bearing on how the ground should be prepared before building on it. It's also important to check for obstructions such as drain covers, which should be avoided.

    On average, we recommend digging at least a metre deep and filling the trench with concrete for maximum strength. Ideally, the depth would be closer to 1500mm, like a traditional extension. This is because more substantial materials are used in conservatory and orangery builds nowadays.

    The brick cavity wall is built onto this base, and it should be insulated with 75mm of wall insulation.

    Piled foundations

    In loose soil conditions, it's necessary to bypass this upper layer and reinforce the foundations by driving piles into the ground. These are steel rods that help distribute the weight of the conservatory evenly, for an unshakeable foundation.

    Conservatory base

    The conservatory base comprises a layer of 'hardcore' covered with a layer of sand. Hardcore is a solid material, like stone, that has been crushed and laid on top of a concrete foundation for a level base. At least 150mm of hardcore is recommended within your foundations. The compacted hardcore is then laid over with a bed of sand to provide an even surface.


    A special layer of damp-proof material covers the base, to ensure that moisture from the ground does not rise up through the foundations.

    Floor insulation

    On top of the damp-proof membrane, a thick insulation layer is laid down to ensure that heat isn't lost through the floor. We recommend using an insulation layer between 70mm and 100mm thick.

    Smooth screed floor

    A final layer of concrete is poured over the base and reinforced with steel, before applying the floor screed. Screed flooring is made from cement, or a mixture of sand and cement, and is 'smoothed' into place using a levelling board over a raised timber bed.

    This is the final layer before laying down tiles, wooden flooring or carpets, and it's there to ensure a flat and smooth surface.

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    Conservatories that keep you safe, warm and comfortable

    Even as recently as 10 years ago, conservatories did not achieve the same high levels of security and energy efficiency as today. Previous generations let out heat too easily and magnified the sun's rays, leading to conservatories that were unusable for 6 months of the year.

    Glazing technologies have since developed which have made conservatories more comfortable. Not only do they offer better insulation, but they help to create a safer and more pleasant environment. This means you can use your new conservatory for what it was intended, rather than just another storage space.

    Energy efficiency

    Older conservatories were often not as energy efficient as the rest of the house, leading to a noticeable temperature difference. One of the complaints about traditional conservatories is that they were too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. Now, they are designed for year round use. When looking for an energy efficient conservatory or orangery, look out for the following:

    Energy efficient frames

    uPVC and aluminium frames contain air-trapping chambers and thermal barriers to reduce the outflow of heat. The aim is to choose glazing that achieves the lowest U value, or the highest Windows Energy Rating (WER).

    Conservatory insulation

    Premium quality conservatories and orangeries use insulation in the walls and pelmets, as well as in tiled roofs.

    Heat-saving glazing

    The cleverest innovation has to be with the sealed glass units themselves. Conservatory glazing and glass roofs contain specially coated glass that reflects heat back into the home, preventing heat loss through the glass. It offers double the insulation of regular double glazing, and four times as much as single glazing.

    Solar glass

    Not only is it important to make sure your conservatory is not too cold, but it's important to make sure it's a pleasant temperature in summer, too. Here the reflective layer is applied to the outside of the glass, reflecting up to 80% of the sun's heat and reducing overheating on very hot days.

    Triple glazing

    Most conservatories are designed and built with double glazing, however triple glazing is up to 35% better at retaining heat. Contrary to popular opinion, triple glazing is also better at reducing the effects of overheating in the hot months.

    Airtight installation

    It's also worth checking to see that your chosen company installs their glazing products precisely, with a fully airtight and weathertight finish. Modern glazing is designed to withstand extreme weather, so any issues with drafts or leaks will be due to either a faulty unit or poor installation.

    Conservatory heating

    Conservatories can achieve the same thermal efficiency levels as the rest of your house, so you no longer have to worry about it being a 'heat drain'. This means you need to think about heating the room as you would the rest of the house, to reduce heat pooling and cold spots. Your company will be able to help you design the space with heating in mind.

    Roof vents

    Depending on your conservatory's position in relation to the sun, you might need to install more than one roof vent in order to minimise the chances of overheating in hot weather.

    Conservatory security

    Knowing that your conservatory is safe and secure will give you the peace of mind to relax and enjoy your new living space fully. Ensure your conservatory is up to scratch by looking out for the following security features:

    High quality construction

    A conservatory is only as secure as its weakest point, so all building materials – as well as the installation itself – need to be top quality. This includes the masonry or brickwork, the glazing, and the roof materials.

    Poor quality frames can warp over time, leading to a weakened and vulnerable structure. Ensure your conservatory stands the test of time by choosing the best quality materials.

    Toughened glass

    Glass can be thermally toughened to prevent it from breaking, and can be up to 4 or 5 times stronger than regular glass. Conservatories must use toughened glass up to a height of 800mm, according to the building regulations. This rises to 1500mm for doors, as well as the windows alongside it.

    If you choose a glass extension, it's likely that all the glass must be toughened. In conservatories with a dwarf wall, however, the windows don't have to incorporate safety glass. Check with your company to see where toughened glass is used, and ask for toughened glass specifically in the case of windows, for extra security.

    Secure locks

    In terms of forced entry to a conservatory, the door is the easiest way to break in. Successful break-ins tend to occur because of weak hardware; windows and doors are much harder to force when they use ultra secure locks, hinges and handles. Look for multi-point locks, which anchor the sash securely in the frame. Bi-directional hooks and top-and-bottom shoot bolts also provide extra support. Modern sliding and folding patio doors feature anti-lift technology, so the door leafs cannot be lifted straight out of the frame.

    Choose glazed products that offer top security credentials. Doors and windows should be British Standards approved and certified to PAS 24:2012. Some even achieve the 'Secured by Design' police backed accreditation.

    Shutting windows and doors

    Around 15% of burglaries don't involve any kind of forced entry, so it's important to remember to keep doors and windows locked. Trickle vents in the frames and automatic roof ventilation means that you don't have to leave the windows open to air the room.

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    Building regulations and planning permissions for conservatories

    It may be a surprise to learn that the decision to extend your house is not entirely yours. Often you'll need to get planning approval, and failing to run these checks could prove costly.

    Getting retrospective planning permission is an offence. At best, you may have to make expensive amendments at your own expense. Local authorities even have the power to tear down illegally built structures. We strongly recommend that you get the go-ahead before you build – any good conservatory company will be able to help you arrange planning permission.

    Planning permission

    Planning permission is required by UK law in order to allow you to build on, or change, the use of land or buildings. Conservatories can be an exception to this rule, as like other glazing they count as a 'permitted development right'. Single-storey extensions can be built without seeking permission first, as long as they abide by these conditions:

    • The conservatory does not cover more than half your garden
    • The house has already been extended
    • The roof ridge or top point is no higher than the eaves of your property's roof
    • There's a maximum height of 4 metres, or 3 metres high if within 2 metres of boundary
    • Side extensions must not extend beyond half the width of the house

    In 2013, the government doubled the size of permitted conservatory developments. Now, until May 2019, you can extend outwards by up to 8 metres for detached properties, or 6 metres for other house types. Instead of applying for planning permission, you will need to undergo a 'Neighbour Consultation Scheme'. This will ensure that your conservatory doesn't impact negatively on your neighbours' living space.

    For terraced houses, flats and maisonettes, you will still need to get planning permission.

    Whether or not your conservatory will need planning permission depends entirely on your project specification, and every case is individual. A good company will assess your conservatory design and location in order to establish if planning, listed building or conservation consent is required. They will also prepare full plans and submit them to your local authority for you. Some companies will offer this for free but some may want to charge, so check that this is included in the service.

    There is more information available on the government's planning portal.

    Building regulations

    Complying with building regulations is a separate matter to planning permission. The building regulations set the standards for the health and safety of buildings and their users. The majority of conservatories in England and Wales are exempt, but there are circumstances where an application will be necessary. A conservatory is exempt from building regulations when:

    • Built at ground level
    • Less than 30 metres square
    • Separated by an external wall, or external windows and doors
    • The conservatory has an independent heating system
    • No less than 1 metre away from any boundary

    If you want to remove the doors or wall linking the conservatory to your house, you will have to apply for building regulations approval. To satisfy requirements, you will have to prove that your conservatory is as energy efficient as the rest of the house, and not an energy drain.

    Your company will need to prepare full working drawings, including full structural and heat-loss calculations where necessary. They will then submit them for approval, notifying your local authority at all key stages of the installation.

    Scottish building warrant approval

    Building warrants are similar to the building regulations in England and Wales, in that they refer to the health and safety aspects of the structure, rather than the aesthetic considerations. Conservatories built in Scotland are exempt from building warrant approval when they meet certain criteria:

    • Smaller than 8 metres squared
    • Located at the rear of the property
    • At the side of a property, not facing a road
    • No less than 1 metre away from any boundary
    • Does not contain a chimney or flue, or any bathroom plumbing (i.e. no showers or toilets)

    If your conservatory design does not meet these requirements, you'll need to get building warrant approval. Some replacement roofs and porches will also require permission, as will open-plan extensions.

    Scottish building regulations are complex, and it's not easy to say whether a certain type of structure will get building warrant approval or not. We recommend choosing a conservatory company with a surveyor who will check and apply for the relevant permissions on your behalf.

    Water board authority approval

    If you're building on or within 3 metres of a public sewer, you need permission from your water board authority. After installation, your local building control officer will have to inspect your conservatory to check that no damage has been done.

    Listed buildings, conservation areas & restrictive covenants

    If you live in a listed building or conservation area, you'll need to ensure your new conservatory is in-keeping with your property.

    Houses in conservation areas, national parks or designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are subject to 'Article 4 Directions'. These restrict the work that you can do to the outside of your property, without first getting planning permission.

    This is also the case if your house has a restrictive covenant. This is a private agreement detailed in the title deeds of your property, which restricts the way land may be used and developed.

    Conservatories and extensions to these properties are subject to permitted development guidelines. In most cases, conservatories can be added if their design is sympathetic to the property's aesthetic. This means frames and glazing must match the rest of the property, and cladding such as pebble dash is not allowed.

    If this is the case, it's often simpler to find a company who can help you apply for and gain consent for your project to get the go-ahead. Look for companies with previous experience of getting conservatories approved in conservation areas.

    Party wall approval

    In England and Wales, a party wall agreement may be required for the proposed conservatory. This is an agreement between two parties regarding the construction on or near a boundary separating the two properties. You must give at least 2 months' notice in writing to your neighbour if you will be making changes, like excavating near their property to lay conservatory foundations. Your company should be able to help obtain this approval.

Questions to ask before you buy a new conservatory

Now that you know everything that makes a conservatory great, you should think about what you want out of your new living space. To help narrow down your search, ask yourself the following questions:

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    Why should I invest in a conservatory?

    The reason you want to build a new home improvement will be personal to you. Here are some popular reasons why homeowners decide to buy a conservatory or orangery:

    • Expand or create more living space
    • Provide enough room so you don't have to move house
    • Create a purposeful room: study, playroom, extra recreation room
    • Relaxing space to enjoy your garden
    • Function room to host dinner parties and family gatherings

    Our view is if there is a clear benefit to improving your lifestyle and you can afford it, then why not build one? If you select a quality conservatory, then this is something you will only have to do once in your entire life.

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    How much does a conservatory cost?

    Conservatory prices can range from £10,000 – £100,000 and more. The cost depends on the size and complexity of the project – whether you want a simple uPVC conservatory with no building work, or a large, bespoke and open-plan mixed extension. With so many elements that go into making a conservatory, it's impossible to give an accurate price until after design and specification.

    We recommend speaking to a conservatory designer and a surveyor, who will measure up your property and tell you what is possible. The important thing to know is what you want the space for – then, with a ballpark budget in mind, you can discuss the perfect garden room for your needs.

    Some factors to think about that will influence the conservatory cost:

    • Size of the conservatory – a bigger conservatory will cost more
    • Open plan design – this adds building work, and requires more energy efficient glazing
    • Complexity of the design – this will extend the build time
    • Frame material – aluminium is the most expensive, followed by timber
    • Roof material – polycarbonate roofs are cheaper than glass
    • Glazing quality – triple glazing costs more, as does specialist glass
    • Electrics and heating – integrating systems with the rest of the house will cost more

    Speaking with a conservatory expert, you will be able to work out what you can afford for your budget, and discover ways to keep the costs down whilst getting the looks and comfort you want.

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    Do I actually need a brand new conservatory?

    If you experience any of the following problems, it could be time to get a new conservatory:

    • Too hot in summer or too cold in winter
    • Draughty or leaky windows or roof
    • Misted glass units (failure of glazing seals or broken glass)
    • Timber frames are warping, bowing or rotting
    • Plastic has perished, is peeling or discoloured
    • Conservatory rattles or feels unsteady

    If you've had your conservatory installed in the last 10 years, it may be that it was not installed correctly. Get back in touch with your installer to see if they offer repairs or replacement parts.

    If you're experiencing issues with some, but not all, parts of your conservatory, it may be possible to refurbish your existing conservatory.

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    How can I refurbish my existing conservatory?

    If your conservatory feels too hot or cold, or if you are experiencing leaks, a new roof may well be the solution without having to pay for a whole new build. It may also be possible to refresh your existing conservatory with a new door set, or better glazing.

    Whether you are able to replace the roof or glazing depends on the quality of your existing frames and foundations. Conservatory roofs nowadays are made using heavier materials, and require sturdier frames to hold them up. Contact a surveyor or conservatory expert, who will be able to assess the structural integrity of the current frame.

    It could be that your existing conservatory lacks its original magic. Maybe the design was fine at the time, but hindsight has given you ideas for how to improve it. Upgrading the roof or glazing can give it a new lease of life, and a new purpose.

    Your company will be able to survey your existing conservatory and tell you if it's possible to 'retrofit' with a new roof. If not, they will be able to provide you with a quote for a brand new conservatory.

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    Can the replacement roof match my existing roof?

    Replacement tiled roofs for conservatories are available in slate grey, Marley clay and black roof tiles, as well as many other matching colours. You can even incorporate skylights or roof windows into the design. Tiled roofs can fit the shape and style of your conservatory, or be designed to match your home.

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    What is the best type of conservatory?

    Home design is subjective, and only you can decide what you want your conservatory to look like. Just as important, though, is its performance. Start by giving some thought to what you want to get out of your new living space, like sunlight, privacy, space or energy efficiency. A conservatory designer will then be able to help you design a conservatory that meets your needs.

    Conservatory engineering has come on leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. A conservatory made with similar materials is likely to perform better now than previously. For example, double glazing can achieve higher Windows Energy Ratings (WER), polycarbonate roofs contain solar reflective inserts, and uPVC frames are now reinforced with steel. New conservatories are designed to be habitable 365 days of the year, adding an extra, usable room to your home.

    In terms of what's popular, uPVC conservatories are our best-sellers. Classic conservatories are still more popular than other extension types, and the Edwardian conservatory is the most sought-after design. However, we're seeing more homeowners add life to their existing conservatories by replacing the roof, alongside more interest in orangeries and combination builds.

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    What is the difference between an orangery and a conservatory?

    Historically, orangeries were installed by the wealthy in order to protect citrus trees from the cold. Conservatories later did the same for plants and shrubbery, but both evolved simply to add extended space to a home.

    Conservatories tend to feature more glass than brickwork and offer a relaxing sun room with views over the garden. Orangeries typically have more brickwork and are generally larger – considered as private spaces with an emphasis on luxury.

    The difference between conservatories and orangeries nowadays is minimal. And with bespoke designs, you can blur the lines between the two. Whichever style you choose, there are hundreds of ways you can customise a conservatory or orangery to create a bespoke room for you.

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    Are all conservatories the same size?

    No, conservatories are bespoke, which means they are made to measure the specific requirements of the home and owner. As well as being different sizes, they can be different shapes to fit perfectly against the side or back of a property.

    There is no limit to how small a conservatory can be – in fact, they are often constructed as an alternative to front porches. Large conservatories can protrude outwards by up to 8 metres for detached properties, or 6 metres for other house types without needing planning permission, as long as it does not take up more than 50% of your garden space.

    Think about how much space you'll need for your new room, and how much garden space you can sacrifice. A surveyor will be able to help you identify any issues, such as drain positions, and plan around them.

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    How do I know if a conservatory is any good?

    A conservatory is made out of many components, so make sure each product is the highest quality in its own right. Glazing should be marked with the CE logo and British Standards Kitemark – marks of quality, performance and security.

    A conservatory's performance all depends on the quality of the installation, of course. Your conservatory should have strong frames with no give, and no gaps that let in draughts or leaks. The room should be insulated and feature energy efficient glass to give you a comfortable room, whatever the time of year.

    A conservatory will be good for you if it meets all your performance requirements. Decide before you buy what you need your conservatory to offer, and communicate this with your company.

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    Do I need planning permission for a conservatory?
    In most cases, the answer is no, but there are certain checks you can make to see if you need permission or not. Find out more under the 'Permissions' tab in our guide above.
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    Do I need planning permission for a new conservatory roof?

    In most cases, you can replace your conservatory roof without having to reapply for planning permission. You should stick to a similar design and dimensions – a big change may require resubmission. Roofs must be less than 4 metres in height, or 3 metres high if within 2 metres of your property's boundary. The highest point must also be no higher than the height of the eaves in your house.

    When buying a new conservatory polycarbonate, glass and tiled roofs do not need planning approval as long as the overall conservatory design meets the right criteria. You can read more in the 'Permissions' tab above.

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    How do I maintain my conservatory?

    The beauty of modern day conservatories is that the materials they use don't need much maintenance. For uPVC and aluminium frames, an occasional wipe down with some warm, soapy water is enough to keep them looking as good as new. Timber requires more attention, needing repainting or staining every few years.

    As a general rule, the better quality conservatory you buy, the longer it will last and the fewer problems you'll experience along the way. Look for products with long guarantees, and choose a company who will help you post-installation, if needed.

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    How often should I clean my conservatory?

    You can clean your conservatory as often or as little as you like. Modern conservatories often use self-cleaning glass, which uses the heat of the sun to burn off any dirt and the rain to wash it away. That means you only really need to clean the frames, guttering, and the interior.

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    How do I know if a conservatory installer is any good?

    There are many industry renowned federations and bodies who take great efforts to ensure that good companies are easily identified. The main ones to look out for are GGF, BFRC, FENSA, Conservatory Association, TGO and BBA. Good conservatory companies will have accreditations from these bodies.

    Choose companies with a long history of trading and satisfying customers. Ask about the professional experience of the team – does the company have dedicated and experienced advisors, surveyors, installers and project managers?

    Check out their reviews online, and ask to see examples of recent work, including customer testimonials and installation pictures. Finally, make sure they are confident with undertaking a similar projects to yours.

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    How do I get an opinion from an expert I can trust?

    The first step towards buying a conservatory is research, and there are plenty of magazines, websites and TV programmes where you can find inspiration. You'll probably have loads of ideas in mind, but only with the help of an expert can you realise your dream home improvement.

    By sitting down with a conservatory designer, you can see all the options laid out in front of you. With samples, you can also get a feel for the frames, handles and glazing in person. A surveyor will be able to map out the best place for your new conservatory in your garden, and advise on what products offer the right performance for you.

    A full-service conservatory company will have a team of designers, surveyors, builders and installers, who can give you comprehensive advice about your conservatory build.

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    Will my conservatory company build the foundations for me?

    Any good conservatory or orangery must have quality foundations and flooring put down before moving on to the installation, as they are robust structures that need ground support to stay standing strong.

    Specialist conservatory companies offer a full design and build service, which takes care of both the foundations and the finishing touches. Ask about their installation process, and be clear about whether the foundations are included in the price.

    Some conservatory companies even offer a choice of flooring, as well as lighting, fans, and other extras. Again, agree what you have paid for in the contract.

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    Do you install where I live?

    Narrow down your company search by looking for local conservatory companies. Not only will this save you time in your search, but you can be confident that they have experience with similar house styles.

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    How long will the installation take?

    One of the frustrations of buying a conservatory is the time it takes until installation – with some companies, the wait can be months. Some companies offer better installation speed than others, some within 6 weeks of ordering.

    Long waits can be due to a variety of factors, including manufacturing complexity and arranging any planning permission. As long as the company is responsive and communicates at every step of the process, it is the sign of a good service.

    The time it takes to install a conservatory depends on the size and complexity of the design. If you're removing the original external wall and door, additional building work will also take time to complete. After the foundations are laid, a conservatory can take anywhere from 2 days to a week to install, but your company will be able to give you an estimated installation time when booking.

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    Do you offer aftercare, such as callouts and repairs?

    Even if you’re confident in your installation company, it's good to know that you can call on them again at any time. A good company will be able to give you maintenance advice, troubleshoot any problems, and even come out to repair or replace parts over time.

    Ask your company about their aftercare service, and whether they offer callouts and free repairs if anything goes wrong. It's unlikely you'll need to use such services, but it's wise to check beforehand.

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