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Planning a conservatory? Here's everything you need to know

If you're thinking of adding space to your property, there are a range of options.

Some may work for your home and others may not, while you'll also need to consider costs and exactly what you need to get from any additional square footage.

Options include building a rear or side extension, or undertaking a loft conversion.

Both of these come with various pros and cons, levels of work and costs.

So, with all that in mind, it could be worth considering a conservatory.

Pros and cons of conservatories


The first thing to consider is costs and, generally, conservatories cost less than an equivalent rear extension.

As with most building work, the exact costs will depend on things like size, specification and quality.

On average, conservatories cost between £10,000 and £30,000, but can cost less and can cost more.

A small lean-to, uPVC conservatory, for example, could cost around £7,000, while a large Victorian-style conservatory made from Oak could cost between £30,000 and £40,000.

Planning permission

Many conservatories don't require planning permission, but as rules around planning vary depending on your local authority, it's always best to check with the planners before you start any work.

Under Permitted Development Rights, you may not need planning permission if:

  • Your conservatory is less than four metres in height and not higher than the roof of your property
  • Your conservatory doesn't face a public road
  • It is smaller than half the land area of the original house
  • There are no balconies or verandas
  • The conservatory doesn't extend more than four metres (detached house)
  • The conservatory doesn't extend more than three metres (semi or terrace)
  • Your property is not a listed building or in a conservation area

Building regulations

If your conservatory is at ground level and no bigger than 30 square metres, you may not need building regulations approval.

Equally, if the conservatory has its own heating system and independent temperature controls, building regulations approval may not be needed.

A new doorway from the property to the conservatory, however, will always need to be approved.

Where to build your conservatory

"On the back of the house, surely", we hear you cry.

And, yes, most conservatories are constructed on the back of houses so they lead out to a rear garden.

But it is possible, and more common than you think, for homeowners to build conservatories on the sides of their properties and sometimes even on upper levels.

Before deciding the best location for your conservatory, consider what you will be using it for.

If it is to be a summer room for reading and relaxing or eating, then consider how much sun will beam into the conservatory and at what times of day.

Breakfast room conservatories are best on the east elevation as they will get sun in the morning but won't overheat during the day.

If you're keen to house plants in your conservatory, a west-facing construction will be best as the sun will beam in during late afternoon and early evening.

A north-facing conservatory, meanwhile, might be good for keeping cool due to angled sun in the morning and late afternoon, but during the winter months it could be bitterly cold.

Finally, a south facing conservatory will receive sun all day and could be too hot to use in the summer without adequate blinds or shutters.

Designing a conservatory

The first thing to consider when choosing a conservatory design is the existing style of your house.

If you are lucky enough to live in one of Chelmsford's stunning Victorian homes, a uPVC lean-to conservatory might look out of keeping.

However, many homeowners now combine modern materials on conservatories and extensions with period features and this can work well.

Also consider size and don't be tempted to over-do things. If you're planning a rear conservatory then you'll still want some garden to step out on to, after all.

Finally, think about what you will use the conservatory space for.

If you need space for a dining table for six people then you might need a slightly larger conservatory than you would if you were using as a space to relax.

Conservatory materials

Which material you choose for your conservatory will depend as much on your budget as the type of property you live in.

uPVC conservatories are among the most popular due to their long-lasting and low maintenance credentials, but metal and wood conservatories are also great choices.

Aluminium conservatories are great if you are keen to have lots of glass as this material is stronger, but it is also more expensive than uPVC.

Hardwood conservatories suit period properties from the Edwardian and Victorian eras and can look absolutely stunning.

However, they do require more maintenance than uPVC or metal conservatories.

Heating your conservatory

If you opt to add radiators to your conservatory as part of your existing heating system, ensure you use a recommended plumber.

Depending on your conservatory's positioning, heating may not be required beyond a small, compact electrical heater during the cooler months.

Other things to consider

Depending on your main use for a new conservatory, you'll need to consider things like blinds, furniture and flooring.

Electric blinds are a lovely touch for a high end conservatory, while engineered hard wood flooring can add a high quality finishing touch.

When it comes to furniture, always remember that a conservatory can be a sun trap - and that can mean damage to fabric furnishings.

Wood furnishings, like tables and chairs, can also be tested in the sun when wood expands and contracts during varying temperatures, so be mindful of this when choosing what to put in your new conservatory.

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