Conservatories first became popular in late Victorian times as wealthy collectors of exotic plants looked for places to grow and display their trophies.
Their return to popularity in the Nineties came about as double-glazing techniques improved to make them a cheap and good-looking extension to a house.
They also exploit a loophole that means they are normally exempted under building regulations, at least in England and Wales.
No Permission Required
Planning permission isn’t normally needed as long as the conservatory is less than the permitted amount of the house, which is likely to be between 50-70 cubic metres, depending on the type of house.
They are treated as extensions for planning permission purposes, but are treated differently with respect to building regulations in England and Wales.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland different rules apply so it’s vital to get up-to-date relevant information.
The choice of conservatory is now very wide, with small PVCu double-glazed conservatories with polycarbonate roof glazing now available from DIY Stores from as little as £2000.
At the top end, there is no limit, but as a guide, a large bespoke hardwood and glass conservatory could easily cost £30,000 and there are many companies catering for the top end of the market that would consider that cheap!
Even the low-end DIY ones need proper foundations and damp-proof courses though, and it’s up to you to do that, or hire someone to do it for you.
The first thing to decide on is the general style. There is no consistency between different manufacturers’ interpretation of what is Victorian, Edwardian or even Georgian, the usual labels for different styles.
Choose the shape you want without bothering about the labels, look instead at the different window designs, and the number, shape and configuration of the crosspieces in the frames.
Flexible Layouts Available
In terms of shape, conservatories can be pretty much any shape to fit the house, the garden and the budget. With many modern houses now having patio doors it is a simple job to add a rectangular conservatory or lean-to.
Curved bays or bell ends can be added and combined with rectangular or square units for a more interesting configuration. Roofs can be single pitch, attached to the wall of the house, or apex.
Cheaper conservatories tend to be glass from floor to ceiling, better ones have a small wall at the bottom (called a dwarf wall) that can be in a brick or stone finish.
After deciding the main options, it’s a matter of choosing the trimmings, such as the different finials along the ridge of the roof, opening skylights and windows, the number of doors and the myriad of other selections.
Building at its Simplest
Don’t forget that this is a building project, albeit a relatively simple one.
We’ve already mentioned the need for foundations, you’ll need the plumber in to do the heating, unless you go for simple electrical heaters, and the electrician will need to put lights and sockets in too.
You’ll need to know where your drains run as well, a good builder will be able to move them but he will need to know they’re there and need moving.
Once it’s all in place, internal decoration will depend on whether you want it to blend in with the rooms leading to it or be different from it.
You also need to consider whether to install curtains, blinds, a combination or neither. It’s worth waiting for a few weeks before deciding on this so that you can see how the sun moves around the conservatory in the course of a day.
If you aren’t overlooked and it won’t be too hot, it would be a shame to cover up that view of the garden.
Once it’s all done, the furnishing is your choice, and you can then sit back and relax in your masterpiece.
Conservatories are excellent for bridging the gap between the interior and exterior of homes, and provide a way for you to enjoy the garden whatever the weather.