Tips and advice on conservatories

Who doesn’t want to make the days longer, the winters warmer and the summers extend backwards into spring and forwards into autumn? You can do all this with a conservatory.

Of course there are more practical reasons for having a conservatory too: you create more space in your home, you have a unique room that combines house and garden and you add value to your investment.Inspire Me - Conservatories article image 4

But in the end a well-built, well-designed conservatory is as much a feeling as a building; all about more light, more heat, more space, more outdoors and perhaps even more optimism in your home.

As the famous architect Le Corbusier said: “Space and light and order. Those are the things that men (and women) need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.”

Are we getting a bit highfalutin? Fair enough! Let’s look at the basics then. The first thing to decide is what your conservatory is for...

Is it a garden room, for plants and pets? Or a place to laze on summer days? A basic conservatory will probably be enough.

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Are you after the “wow” factor? Are you looking for a real design feature? Size may not be important, but the look is. High-spec may be the way to go.

Is it an all-year-round living space? A permanent home for the dining table, for example? You’ll need to plan more carefully, and think about size AND style.

But remember, no one ever said: “My conservatory is a bit too big.” We bet even the people at tourist attraction the Eden Project, where there’s a conservatory big enough to fit the Tower of London, sometimes wish they had a bit more space.

Just make sure it isn’t too big for your house, or too dominating in your garden.

So what types of conservatory are there?  Consumer magazine Which? identifies at least seven different designs – the basic lean-to or Mediterranean style, the Victorian with its bay front, the flat-fronted Edwardian or Georgian style, the ‘house-roof’ style Gable conservatory, the T-shaped conservator, the more substantial Orangery style, and the luxurious-looking lantern-roofed conservatory.

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You’ll also need to think about materials – the glass, the window and door frames and the walls.

Glass is no longer just glass; there are many specialist types available. Energy-efficient glass, for example, has an invisible coating which reflects heat back into your home. Self-cleaning glass has an outer coating that reacts with sunlight to break down dirt – it works best (and is most useful) on pitched roofs. There’s even tinted glass, which could be particularly useful on a south-facing conservatory.

Most conservatory frames are uPVC, but they don’t have to be. Metal frames – aluminium or steel – are thinner and stronger, while wooden frames add elegance, but also add time spent on maintenance.

And how much brick do you want? Most conservatories have dwarf walls below the windows, while some use an existing house wall. Brick walls give solidity to your conservatory and make it feel more like a room than a greenhouse.

Now let’s look inside the conservatory. You could heat it, by extending the existing central heating into radiators fitted against low walls or by ducting heat through decorative grilles or even underfloor heating.

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What sort of flooring do you want? The watchwords are practical and durable, so natural stone or ceramic tile are popular choices.

And what about the blinds? In a room full of sunlight, well-chosen blinds aren’t simply a design note, they also help regulate the temperature and protect the furnishings. There’s a wide choice of blinds available, including retractable pleated blinds, fabric roller blinds and trendy pinoleum blinds, made from strips of wood.

It’s worth checking too whether your conservatory needs planning permission – that’s one for your district, borough or city council. Usually it won’t, but exceptions include homes which have already been extended, and homes in conservation areas.

If you’re thinking of buying with Taylor Wimpey, sometimes we offer conservatories as an optional extra for selected plots at certain developments. If you want to find out more – or ask about the potential to add a conservatory later to a new Taylor Wimpey home you’re thinking of buying – speak to our local sales team.

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And finally, if money is tight, you really should think about whether the conservatory option is for you at all. A cheap-as-chips conservatory might actually detract from your home. Instead, bring the sun into your existing rooms by installing French or bi-folding doors. French doors with two side panels will give you an eight-foot-width of glass for around £800 plus fitting. That compares to a price of £2,600 plus additional building materials (e.g. the dwarf walls) and build for even the most basic, three-sided conservatory.

Can that conservatory dream stay a dream for just a little while longer? Or can’t you wait to get more sunshine into your life?