Conservatory ideas and tips

August 22, 2019

Looking for conservatory ideas and tips? We’ve got all your random conservatory questions answered.

You’ve decided you’d like some more living space (seriously – who doesn’t?) and have realised that a conservatory will be cheaper than a new extension for your next home improvement – and much, much quicker too! Along with the speed and value for your budget though, there’s all the light it will allow into your home, the long ‘summer’ afternoons spent almost-outdoors when our Great British Summer rains on us again. Maybe, it’ll be a new dining room, a playroom… and then there are all the winter days with at least one room that doesn’t feel dark and gloomy by two in the afternoon. Really, what’s not to love?

But if you’ve never had one before, there are some everyday worries, which we thought it would be good to look at.

The first is the most obvious:

How much does it cost to install a conservatory?

Actually, there’s no way of answering this one. How long is your piece of string? There are so many variables that every conservatory is bespoke, and it would be a silly question to answer through your screen.
conservatory ideas
Your best course is to go to a trusted tradesperson site, like Checkatrade, which checks members. Make sure you get at least three quotes and compare them carefully, to see what is covered.

Have a basic size and shape in mind, but be open to their expertise and listen to their advice; they’ll likely have suggestions and solutions you haven’t even thought of. And at the earliest of stages, make sure you think about electrical sockets if you need a TV aerial, where doors will go… they’re all simple things to arrange before building begins, but tricky to change in a few months once you’ve moved in.
And remember that the cheapest materials may cost you more in the long run (for example a glass roof is more heat efficient than a cheaper polycarbonate one, and it lets in more light whilst keeping out more of the neighbourhood noise).

So on to the common questions, I CAN answer…

What is the difference between a conservatory and an orangery?

Well, to be honest, there’s no formal distinction. But in general, a greenhouse is a fully glazed structure, with a sloped, transparent roof to make the most of the light. An orangery, on the other hand, is more of a ‘halfway house’; between a conservatory and an extension, usually with the lower half of brick, and often with a solid flat roof with a ‘skylight’ type opening in the centre.

Both are excellent alternatives, it all depends on your house construction, the style and use of the room you’re looking for – and your budget!
orangery versus conservatory

Do I need planning permission for a Conservatory?

Nope. Adding a conservatory is considered ‘permitted development’ provided it stays within various restrictions – you can check all the rules here. But the government advice is always to check if you need approval before you construct or change buildings. And of course, you do not need to get approval yourself if you use someone registered with a competent person scheme.

Find your local conservatory installer

Gain more living space today!

Can I put a kitchen in a conservatory?

Of course, you can! You’ll need to consider a few things, but your new conservatory can be your cooking space. Since having an actual extension on the house, I use my conservatory as a utility room; it’s where my washing machine, tumble dryer and big American fridge freezer live. However, making a conservatory kitchen is a more complicated process than if you want a larger space for a new sofa. You’ll need to think about your appliances and their requirements – you’ll need plumbing for a sink and washing machine, dishwasher etc. You’ll need plenty of power outlets, and potentially mains gas access too.

You’ll also need to make sure the room is properly heated as you’ll be using it daily all year round. None of these are major issues though, and experienced professionals will be able to run them from your main house supply. You’ll obviously need to make sure it’s well-ventilated, of course, and if it’s south-facing you’ll want to invest in excellent conservatory blinds, too, or you’ll be roasting alongside your roast!

How warm are conservatories?

You’re back to that ‘piece of string’ question again. This one all depends on how it’s constructed: mine isn’t very warm at all in the winter – there’s no heating except a small gas heater, and the roof is simple polycarbonate sheeting. Cheap and simple to fit, but not very energy efficient. But that’s okay for us – it’s a pass-through area we use for laundry and food storage, and to keep our shoes and bags etc.in.

If you’re planning to use it as a permanent day room, then you’ll want to ensure it’s fully insulated to keep your heat in. For warmth, you can either connect it to your central heating or if you’ve only got a small conservatory, then a small heater will do just fine.

There are two basic rules to a warm room: create heat and conserve the heat! If you’ve taken care of those two points, then there’s no reason why you won’t be sitting in your conservatory all through the winter.

On the other hand, your conservatory can quickly become too warm. If it’s a real sun trap, then in the heat of summer it may well become a hotbox during the day; we’ve had huge church candles melt into a swan-necked droop in one memorably hot afternoon. Ventilation is a must, and you’ll need to think about blinds to keep the glaring midday heat at bay.

Of course, the evolving ‘smart homes’ systems mean that your fabulous new blinds could also be controlled via a phone app, Alexa, Google or Siti, or connect to your existing smart home automation systems.

How long will a conservatory last?

Well, this one all depends on getting the right person to do the job. It used to be that a new uPVC conservatory would be guaranteed for just ten years – but with experienced fitters, modern installation methods, high-quality materials and proper maintenance, you can expect your beautiful new conservatory to last at least 25 years!

How big should I make my conservatory?

Which? recently conducted a survey about readers ‘conservatory regrets’ – and one of the most popular was that they wished they’d gone bigger.

Yes, a bigger conservatory will undoubtedly need a bigger budget, and potentially planning permission too; but if you’re happier with the result, and have a room you genuinely love, it’s worth considering.
Measure your planned new space in your existing living room – mark it out with string on the floor. Then you’ll easily be able to visualise how furniture will fit, how much room there will be, and whether it will be everything you wish for.
large conservatory

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