Guide to buying conservatories

Apart from your house and car, buying a new conservatory is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make. So, it makes good sense to do some research and proceed with care. Obtain several quotations before choosing your conservatory supplier. Then you have to ask if you want a summer room? What about double-glazing? You will have to choose between PVC-U, Hardwood, Softwood or Aluminium. There is a lot to consider, so here is our guide to making the right choice.

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What about FENSA? This is the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme for companies that install windows and doors in dwellings.

Since April 2002, all replacement glazing has come within the scope of the Building Regulations. That means anyone who installs replacement windows or doors has to comply with strict new thermal performance standards.

Many people assume that FENSA Registration will be the answer to their problems, clean up the Home Improvement Industry and guarantee consumers a fair deal and good workmanship.

A FENSA registered company is useful if your conservatory does need to comply with building regulations as it will mean that they will be able to certify that any work done on your home is up to the standard. The Scheme and the Organisation are new and it should be noted do not regulate selling methods and do not guarantee good quality or timely work.

Any installation completed by a firm that is not registered to self-certify, or is done as a DIY project by a householder will need local authority approval under the Building Regulations.

Local authorities will have records of approved installers in the area and will be able to identify unauthorized work very easily. You should be aware that as the house owner, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring the work complies with the Building Regulations.

Make sure you ask whether the installer is able to self-certify. If not, either they, or you, will need to make an application to your local authority for approval under the Building Regulations.

Some conservatories won't need Building Regulations Approval and will therefore not be covered by the FENSA scheme.

It is a big purchase so of course, price is a major factor. You will get what you pay for so go for the very best you can afford, it will benefit you in the end.

Having a good surveyor is important. The decisions concerning what is to be built, the size and construction specifications will be theirs to make.

The construction and installation quality are your most important considerations. Taking references and looking at a company's previously finished work will help to guide you. Check what contingencies there are for any problems that arise and who will pay for them.

When getting quotes (aim for at least three) it's probably best to ignore any that are too cheap or too expensive. If the specifications are the same in each case the quotes should be similar.

Avoid being pressured into making a quick decision when you are offered a discount. Conservatory and double-glazing companies use discounts and pressure selling methods. What is the APR? Compare the rate to those offered by banks and building societies.

You may be offered finance and these loans are usually over a 10 year period. You should multiply the monthly repayment by 120 months to compare the total to the cash price.

A loan by a conservatory company will almost certainly be the most expensive way to borrow. Seek alternatives if you can.

Consider the whole package and if you are not comfortable, don't sign.