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Adding a Conservatory to Your First Home

By: Sam Harrington-Lowe - Updated: 26 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Conservatory Conservatories Building A

There are many different types of conservatories so you need to think carefully about which is the best type for you. Are you planning on spending a lot of time in there and using it as another room in the house, or just having it for sitting in and eating in during the summer? Perhaps it's a play area for the children, or an office for someone working from home.

Think about how much floor space you'll need to make it fit your requirements, and think about how that is going to impact on the rest of the property - the garden particularly.

Planning Permission

First things first. If you're planning to build a conservatory at the back or side of the house, you will not normally need to obtain permission from your local authority, but it's always worth checking, as you could end up being fined or even being made to take it back down again if you need permission and don't get it first! So put in a call to the planning department and find out.

Design and Aspect

Take a look at the outside space. So you want a conservatory, but how is the best way to do it? Think about the view and how much of your garden it will affect, but also think about the light and heat it will get. Where is the sun and how many hours of sunlight will it get? Conservatories that face south or west will be much hotter, so make sure you create something that can have blinds or shade, and ventilation is particularly important. Windows that open, or specially coated glass in the ceiling can make a huge difference.

Get a few quotes and design suggestions from different firms, talking through the different options available to you. Don't just pick something out of a brochure unless you've had the chance to chat it through with at least a couple of experts. Conservatory fitters can be found using the Yellow Pages or recommendations.

Materials

Whatever it is going to be used for, make sure you use the right materials to build it. Not just getting good quality, but look at the usage. If you're planning to use it all year round as another room in the house, you'll need it to be warm, so therefore well insulated, for example.

It's usually a mistake too, to go for the cheapest materials you can get your hands on. A conservatory by its nature is less sturdily constructed than a house and will be affected by the weather. Make sure you compare and contrast when looking at the components, and this goes for the labour and installation too.

What Type of Glazing?

There are different types of glazing, and you should also check to make sure you're getting the right type installed. Normal glass or polycarbonate will allow sunlight and solar heat to penetrate, which can make the conservatory very hot.

This might be fine if your conservatory faces north or east, but if it's going to be hot, think about coatings or performance glass which will help to reduce this hothouse effect.

What's the Rest of it Made From?

Frames are usually PVCu (or uPVC, which is pretty much the same thing!) and bases are building in stone or brick, something hardwearing and solid.

PVC means Poly Vinyl Chloride, which is a compound of chlorine, carbon and hydrogen, and the 'u' means 'unplasticised' or sometimes 'unmodified' which means it has not had chemicals added to soften it. It's hard wearing, normally being reinforced with steel - and easy to clean and maintain. And it comes in white or even wood grain effect, but is not normally accepted on listed buildings, where you may need to use more traditional materials like oak.

DIY

There are some self-construction kits available for conservatories on the market but it's a building structure that requires a fair bit of know-how, and a far better idea to get someone in to do the job properly.

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