Conservatories can offer to add a luxurious pocket of space to your home at less than the cost of moving to a new home, however whilst they can be stunning and elaborate structures which can enhance the look and feel of your home, they can also swallow up money and not reach their full potentially if planned incorrectly.
It’s important to fully understand the complete design and technical aspects of a conservatory so that you are fully informed and full involved in the build process from design to completion. Our conservatory planning and buying guide will offer you an overview of everything you’ll need to know when it comes to planning the conservatory of your dreams. How much a conservatory costs is covered in much more detail in our upvc conservatory cost guide.
What to Look for in a Conservatory
As you begin planning your conservatory, keep these tips in mind. You’ll get the most use and value from a conservatory that:
- You can use year round
- Suits your purposes for how you want to use the space
- Doesn’t look out of place with the style of your home
- Fits neighbourhood standards for size, material and style
- Meets your budget
- Comes with lengthy guarantees
- Is easy to look after
These are the three most common materials for conservatories along with their pros and cons.
This is the most affordable option, and it offers excellent durability. It is also the most common material for new conservatories, so you have a large range of styles to consider. Bespoke uPVC conservatories are also available.
The material isn’t subject to corrosion or rot, so is long-lasting. It is easy to maintain, perhaps occasionally requiring a light wash.
Potential problems include discolouration of cheap uPVC. Be sure any uPVC conservatory you consider has a lengthy guarantee against discolouration.
This sturdy material offers low-maintenance durability. It won’t corrode. There are many coating colours from which to choose. Standard and bespoke aluminum conservatories are available.
Aluminum costs more than uPVC but less than timber.
This option delivers elegant charm and warmth to any home. It can be painted or stained to match existing colours, and provides the greatest range of shades.
Timber conservatories are bespoke and cost the most – sometimes twice as costly as uPVC conservatories of similar size and style.
These types are covered in detail in our Orangery and Conservatory Cost Guide, but here’s a summary.
Lean-to: The most affordable conservatories have three walls and a low-slope roof usually of polycarbonate. These are also called loggias and cost £5,500 to £10,000.
Edwardian, Victorian, Georgia/Gable: All major manufacturer makes several of these styles in a range of sizes. Prices for uPVC conservatories in these common styles are £8,500 to £15,000.
L, P, T and B: These straightforward designs are produced in medium and large options with a price range for uPVC options of £10,000 to £15,000.
Bespoke: This is were you have the opportunity to design a conservatory that perfectly suits your home and your requirements. Expect to pay at least £15,000. Prices above £50,000 are not uncommon. Cost can exceed £125,000 for a large bespoke timber conservatory.
You’ll be presented with many glazing options whether you’re browsing self-build conservatories online or getting bespoke quotations from a local sales agent.
Your two primary options are glass or poly-carbonate. Let’s start with glass.
Here are the most common options:
- Double glazing low-E glass: This is energy efficient glass best used on wall surfaces of your conservatory. Some double glazing has argon gas or similar between panes to slow the transfer of heat. Some call this heatlock or heat lock glazing.
- Solar glazing: This is ideal for roofs, but can be used on walls that get a lot of direct sunlight. It is coated to reflect glare.
- Tinted/Anti-sun glazing: This is similar to solar glazing, but the tinting also improves privacy.
- Security glazing: This is laminated (layered) glass that is difficult to break. Toughened glass is another form of security glazing to consider.
- Self-cleaning glazing: This glass is coated to more easily repel dirt, and a little rain is all that’s needed to wash it clean. It is maintenance-free.
- Safety glazing: This is a specialty glazing that is less likely to break, and also less likely to pose a threat if it does break.
- Decorative and obscure glass: The names say it all. These glasses add beauty and, in the case of obscure glass, better privacy than most other types.
Poly-carbonate glazing is a tough glass alternative. It has the advantage of costing less than glass. We estimate that an average conservatory costs £1,200 to £2,000 less with poly-carbonate than with glass.
The potential disadvantage is that some poly-carbonate is inferior and will develop a yellow tint over time. Be sure any poly-carbonate you choose is treated with UV inhibitor to prevent yellowing. In fact, it should come with a guarantee that it won’t yellow.
Glass, poly-carbonate and solid roofs of some type are used.
Glass and poly have been discussed above in the section on conservatory walls.
Glass is the most transparent, a great choice where sunny days are few and you wish to take best advantage of natural light.
Poly-carbonate is an effective, lower-cost alternative. It is strong, so if falling debris from nearby trees is common, consider this material for your roof. As we noted, be sure the poly you choose is guaranteed not to yellow.
Solid roofing is used in orangeries more than in conservatories. By the definition many use, a conservatory will have a roof at least 75% glazed. A combination of solid roofing and glazing is common.
The most typical solid roofs are tiled.
A fully tiled orangery roof can be insulated, so thermal efficiency is much better than a glass or poly-carbonate roof. Upkeep is low too, and tiles will last 40+ years. There’s an upgrade in appearance with tile too.
The disadvantages of tile are a higher upfront cost and the loss of natural light overhead. Some light can be added with a Velux or similar window. Finally, a fully solid roof will look top-heavy on a small conservatory.
Not a very glamourous topic, but necessary for those who wish to understand the nitty-gritty of conservatory construction and cost.
A properly set foundation is crucial. Without it, the foundation could subside, causing major damage to your conservatory.
Here are the materials and factors considered when installing a conservatory. Your local conditions will determine the exact materials and techniques used, and those will impact cost.
- Foundation depth: Most foundations are 1 to 1.5 metres in depth. This gives the conservatory a very solid base. The footings should be concrete for maximum strength.
- Brick cavity wall: This wall is built onto the foundation. According to Everest, a leading conservatory brand, “it should be insulated with 75mm of wall insulation.”
- Piled foundations: If the soil in your garden is very loose, then piles, which are steel rods, are driven into the ground as reinforcement.
- Hardcore: The base of most conservatories is crushed stone, called hardcore, which covers the concrete foundation. This layer is usually 150-200mm thick.
- Sand bed: Sand is added next to create a perfectly even surface.
- Damp-proofing material: Moisture works its way up from deep in the ground, and if there is no barrier between it and your conservatory flooring, water damage is sure to occur. The damp-proofing material prevents this.
- Insulation: Heat seeks to escape any building. The insulation holds it in.
- Screed layer: A steel-reinforced layer of concrete is poured onto the insulation. Then, a thin concrete layer, called a screed or screed floor is added. A screed layer is worked very smooth.
Any flooring you choose is then installed on top of the screed layer.
Supply-only uPVC conservatories start at about 1.5x2m. An average size is 3x3m or 3x4m. The largest are about 4x6m.
Sizes are about the same for aluminum self-build conservatories.
Wood conservatories are typically larger, starting at about 3x4m and ranging to 10x15m or larger.
Pros and Cons
A conservatory is a lovely extension of any home. But it isn’t all roses. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of a conservatory for your home.
Space added at an affordable cost. A conservatory costs a fraction of what a home extension of the same size would cost.
Style options. Even if you don’t choose a bespoke conservatory, there are many options, so you are sure to find styles to consider that fit your home and your personal sense of style.
Bright and natural lighting. Natural light is the most genuine and healthy. It’s also free. An airy conservatory with plenty of window space makes you feel like you’re in the garden whilst protected from the elements.
Extended growing season. Start your flowers and vegetables earlier in spring and grow them longer into autumn in a conservatory compared with outdoors. In fact, you’ll be able to grow many plants year round in your heat-conserving conservatory.
Heating and cooling a conservatory are costly. Glass and polycarbonate are poorly insulated. Heat escapes in winter; heat penetrates the conservatory in summer. Windows help in warm weather, but they add cost to the project.
See the FAQs below for a question on how to heat and cool a conservatory.
Privacy issues when houses are close. Whether your garden is overlooked by taller homes and buildings or the neighbouring houses are close, a conservatory isn’t your most private option.
Options, Costs and Cost Factors
Details costs are included on our Orangery & uPVC Conservatory Cost Guide.
That page includes a table of Low, Average and High costs and what you get in each cost range.
The cost factors below discuss the options available for designing a conservatory best suited to your purposes.
- Size: The larger the structure, the more it will cost. But consider this: The cost per m2 goes down as size goes up. You might be surprised that a 4x6m conservatory doesn’t cost a great deal more than a 3x5m unit of the same material and design. Be sure to get quotations for several sizes to maximize value for the money you spend.
- Foundation depth and construction: Your soil conditions and local factors will determine the depth and materials of any foundation used, and cost will be decided by those factors.
- Site preparation: Must bushes or trees be removed? What about drains and pipes? The more fuss, the higher the cost.
- Material: This is perhaps the biggest cost factor. As noted above, your options are uPVC (£-££), aluminum (££-£££) and timber (£££-£££££).
- Corners: A 2-corner lean-to is least costly. An elegant design with a multi-sided front can be two to three times more costly for the size.
- Wall materials: When a dwarf wall or half-wall is included, cost is higher.
- Windows and doors: Adding more than just a single basic door will raise the price, but having windows for ventilation can make the space much more comfortable during a warm summer.
- Roof material: Polycarbonate costs less, but is the least attractive. Glass is next. If you choose a solid roof, cost will be higher. The most elegant conservatories and orangeries feature tile and slate roofing.
- Glazing: You’ll be presented with many glass options including solar reflective or other type of anti-sun glass, double glazing with low-E glass for energy efficiency, security glass, safety/shatterproof glass, decorative or obscure glass, self-cleaning glass and other choices.
The law allows you to make minor alterations to your home. According to the UK Planning Portal, “Adding a conservatory to your house is considered to be permitted development, not needing an application for planning permission.”
There are restrictions though. Everest shares them:
- 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
The Everest windows blog provides a nice summary, helping you to decide do you need planning permission for your conservatory.
You can also find all of the details you need at the UK Planning Portal.
Find a Conservatory Supplier You Can Trust
There are quite a few suppliers, and not all of them offer equal quality and customer service.
Just like when you are planning to replace the windows in your home, due to the variability of the window replacement and conservatory companies out there, our recommendations is always to request quotations from 3 or more suppliers or fitters with a good reputation.
This can take weeks or longer to sort the options, learn about their experience and check their reviews and ratings.
A fast, convenient option is to use our Get Quotes Now service, which is free with no-obligation. Share a bit of information about your conservatory project, and top fitters in your area will provide you with quotations. They are pre-screened for experience and quality workmanship.
Again, there is no cost, and you are not obligated to accept any of the quotes.
When reviewing the quotes, consider:
- How long the company has been in business. Longer generally means better.
- Guarantees: Does the company stand behind its products or the products it installs with lengthy warranties? It should.
- Customer reviews: This is a useful source of information about what you can expect if you hire the company for your conservatory.
Frequently Asked Questions for your Conservatories?
According to one bespoke fitter, “The biggest difference is the construction of the roof. A conservatory has over 75% of the roof glazed, an orangery has less than 75%. A conservatory by definition must also have over 50% of its wall area glazed.”
Orangeries are more luxurious, offer more privacy and come with a higher cost – much higher in many cases.
Your budget is often the best guide to the right material.
uPVC is most affordable followed by aluminum. Timber costs the most.
Secondly, choose a material that fits your neighbourhood. If all the conservatories are timber, a uPVC conservatory might look cheap. On the other end, a luxurious timber conservatory in an area where most are uPVC will cost far more than the value it will add to your home’s selling price.
Cooling is accomplished by the use of windows and vents. Fitting windows that face the sun with blinds will control heat penetration. A solar or sun-reflective roof costs more but is effective against heat and UV radiation.
A few conservatories are air conditioned, but that leads to high energy costs.
Warming is accomplished with electric radiators during the coldest weather. Insulated blinds on walls and the ceiling will hold in the heat too. Putting carpets on the floor will make it feel warmer underfoot.
uPVC and aluminum conservatories will last 30+ years with proper care.
A timber conservatory will last indefinitely when maintained.
The average uPVC conservatory cost is £7,000-£12,000.
For aluminum, it is £8,500-£14,000.
Timber conservatories start at about £12,000, but the average is closer to £25,000-£40,000.
Again, see our Cost Guide for comprehensive details.
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