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03rd November, 2022

12 top questions answered about building a conservatory or orangery

If you are currently thinking about extending your home or adding a free-standing space with a conservatory or orangery, you are likely in the researching phase and will have questions about designing and building your dream glass extension. As conservatory specialists, we have guided 100s of customers over the past 5 decades with planning, designing, and building a glass space that fulfils their practical and dream extension requirements.  We have put together a quick-fire guide to the top 10 most frequently asked questions, to give you the answers.

1. How much does a conservatory or glass extension cost?

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to give a price list as there are so many variables that affect the final investment for adding a glass room.  The cost depends on your space requirements as well as the style and finish that you want.  There are some companies that offer ‘off-the-shelf’ options that can start from as little as £5,000, and while these may be cheaper the quality is unlikely to be as good and they will not take into consideration your individual requirements. You also won’t have the customisation freedom and options that you would get from a bespoke conservatory company. Often these lower prices are only for the structure and don’t include the groundwork and build costs, so in reality, the costs could be much higher, it’s important to be clear on exactly what is being offered for the price. A good quality bespoke conservatory generally starts around the £20,000 mark for a uPVC framed structure, which includes the whole build and materials. Orangeries tend to start at around £35,000, but again it could be less than a conservatory for a smaller orangery. On average for a bespoke, medium-sized conservatory or orangery you would be looking at investing between £30,000 – £60,000.  Many people make the mistake of thinking that frameless glass structures are a cheaper option, however, it is the opposite.  The more glass you have in your structure the higher the cost is likely to be, and frameless glass is a premium option. A small frameless glass structure starts from £30,000, but most structures fall into the realms of the £40,000 – £80,000 investment mark.

2. What is the difference between an orangery and a conservatory?

The main difference between an orangey and a conservatory is the roof. A conservatory has at least 75% of the structure covered in a glass roof, but more usually the entire roof is made of glass.  An orangery traditionally has a flat solid roof with a glass lantern in the centre to let in light. Although there are other features that distinguish between the two types, the roof is the deciding factor when categorising glass extensions. A traditional extension will have a solid roof, sometimes with skylight windows included to light the room. Other terms used interchangeably in the conservatory market are sunroom and garden room. A sunroom really is another general description of a glass extension that is going to be used for relaxing and enjoying the warmth of the sun.  A garden room is often used to describe a conservatory but technically a garden room would have a solid tiled roof, it may have skylight windows included within the roof to let in extra light, but the garden room will not have a full glass roof.

3. What frame material options can I choose from?

Glass extensions can be built in a variety of frame choices, which each has its own benefits and aesthetic.  The frame choice will also have an effect on the overall investment of your build, with uPVC traditionally being the lower-cost option and Timber requiring a larger investment. Choose from environmentally friendly sustainable traditional hardwood timber, beautiful quality crafted traditional oak, modern and durable aluminium and low maintenance and sleek uPVC. Or if you love a contemporary and ultra-modern look, opt for a frameless glass structure. Each frame choice provides its own colour options, flourishes and finishing touches to help you achieve your vision. When choosing your frames as well as the look and cost, it is worth considering the level of maintenance required so that you are clear on the upkeep required to ensure your structure stays looking its best.  For example, uPVC is very low maintenance and in general, will only need a good cleaning a few times a year.  Timber will likely need a re-stain or paint every 2-4 years depending on how it is weathering, to keep the wood sealed and free from dampness and any rot developing, as well as to ensure that your extension looks as good as it did when it was first built.

4. Will a glass room be too hot or too cold?

The short answer is no, your conservatory will not be too hot or too cold, if you consider your heating and insulation options carefully, as well as choosing the right glass to be installed you will be able to use it all year round. The fact that a conservatory is made mainly of glass including a partial or full glass roof, obviously means that you will be able to enjoy a light-filled space with views of your garden, but without the right kind of glass in place, you may experience your glass extension being too hot as well as a glare when the sun is shining.  You may also find that if your glass doesn’t have a superior UV filter, your furniture and soft furnishings will fade, and the sun’s rays could also be harmful to your skin. On the reverse side, in the autumn and winter when it becomes colder and you turn the heating on, you may have heat escaping out of the glass too fast, leaving your glass room far too cold to enjoy and your heating bill sky-high. To combat heat penetration and escaping from your glass room you need to do your research and find a superior temperature control glass.  Not all glass on the market is created equal and unfortunately, it is unlikely that a lower budget structure and glass will have the superior properties you need to make your room usable all year round. While the right glass may cost more combined with investing in advanced insulation for your room, you will save money in energy costs and get so much more use out of your room too.

5. Do I need planning permission to build a conservatory?

It really depends on the size and style of the extension, your property, and the area that you live in. Planning permission will not be required for most conservatories that are less than 6 metres or 8 metres in length for a detached house if your home hasn’t already been extended, meets the other Permitted Development Rights and is not listed or in a conservation area. For listed properties or homes located in a protected area, you will require permission. You can gain further insight into Planning and Building regulations by reading our blog ‘Do I need Planning Permission?’  Another helpful site is the Planning Portal.

6. How large can my conservatory be within the permitted development?

A conservatory, orangery, glass or traditional extension can be up to 6 metres length-wise for a terraced or semi-detached house without most homeowners needing to gain planning permission.  For detached houses, you are allowed to build out by up to 8 metres from your home under Permitted Development. The amount you can extend your home by is a total for your property rather than per extension, so if your home has been extended before, this area will reduce the size you can use for your glass extension.

7. Do I need sign-off from building regulations?

No, you usually don’t need Building Regulations to sign off a conservatory if they meet the below requirements:

  • Single storey extension
  • the area is less than 30 square metres internally
  • the extension is separated from the property via doors/windows glazed to external quality
  • must not restrict emergency escape exits
  • heating should be installed separately or with a separate on/off function to the main home heating
  • at least 50% of its external wall area must be glazed
  • have a glass or translucent roof
  • glazing in doors, adjacent windows, and windows within 800mm of floor level must be safety glazing

If you wish to remove the external doors between the new conservatory extension and your home, and possibly also widen the gap to make your new extension open plan, it is likely you will require the ok from Building Regulations, especially as there is more structural work involved.

8. Can I add a glass extension on a listed property?

Yes, you can, but it will require planning permission. The main factor in gaining planning permission and listed building consent for grade I and grade II listed buildings are in creating a design that complements the existing property. The design of your home and the era that it was built will play a huge part in forming the overall design of your conservatory or orangery, along with the surrounding landscape. The use of hardwood timber within your new glass structure will likely be favourable, over uPVC for example, due to it being a traditional material that would have been available as a building material at the time when your property was built. It is elegant and can be painted and finished sympathetically to your property, matching existing wood details and window frames to create a cohesive aesthetic. Often, customers wish to blend the traditional listed building with a much more practical and modern look. Frameless glass box extensions offer a contemporary, yet elegant design that is proving popular with planning and Conservation Officers for listed buildings. This is largely due to the nature of an all-glass extension often enhancing the historic features of the building, whilst having the added benefit of being able to externally view the fabric of the building through the glass.

9. Can I open my home up to my conservatory?

Yes, you can! You will need to have sign-off from Building Regulations to remove the doors between your house and your conservatory or glass extension.  Removing the doors will mean that you need to look at insulation and heating efficiency to ensure that your home doesn’t become cold in the winter months or even overheat in summer now that our climate is heating up. New regulations on overheating policy have especially made the risk of homes overheating important in planning glass extensions.  It is also likely you will need to add additional structural support due to the fact the external wall is a supporting wall.  You may even be able to widen the opening further to make the existing room and your glass extension feel like one room and a fully open plan.

10. Do I need foundations built for my conservatory?

Yes. A conservatory cannot be added on top of a temporary base or on open ground. Foundations create support for your structure creating a solid permanent base to stop subsidence and also offer insulation for your home from underneath.

11. How long will the build take?

On average a glass extension requires far less structural building work than a traditional extension.  Most of your conservatory or orangery will be constructed from glass and frames, so can offer a much quicker build and with less mess and disruption too. The length of a project really depends on the glass extension design and size, but on average the build will take between 6-12 weeks from breaking ground.

12. Will my conservatory require a lot of maintenance?

A conservatory, orangery or glass extension is a substantial investment, but if done well, the value it adds to your lifestyle and your property will far outweigh the monetary cost in the long term. To protect your investment and keep your new glass extension looking like new it is essential that you clean and maintains the frames, glass, and mechanisms annually to stop the structure from degrading over time. We would recommend having your structure valeted inside and out every 3-6 months by a conservatory cleaning specialist rather than a standard window cleaner to ensure that your glass room always looks its best. Depending on your frame choice you may also need to factor in staining or painting the frames every 2-4 years to keep the structure sound and looking good. If your Conservatory is regularly maintained, it will last you for decades and can still look as good as the day it was built.

Any more questions?

We hope that this quick guide has covered most of your general questions, but if you still have questions we haven’t answered or what specific information is tailored to you and the glass room you have in mind, our specialists are happy to discuss it further, offer advice and give you a quote.

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