A conservatory can make a wonderful and valuable addition to your home. They don't, however, come cheap and it is important to know what will best suit you and your home.
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Before you start
Though any reputable conservatory company will be able to advise on building regulations and planning permission, it is worth checking for yourself what can and can't be done. Though planning permission is rarely necessary for a small domestic conservatory, there are instances where it is required so check with your local planning department. Similarly some basic building regulations apply and, though it is unlikely you will fall foul of the law, double check that your ideal conservatory fits the bill.
As a general rule, a conservatory that suits your property will work best. Take a good look at the outside of the house and decide upon a style that will match the look of the property. Traditional styles, such as Victorian and Edwardian, include pitched rooves and can be made with either full-height glass walls or dwarf walls with glass above - the latter is useful if you are planning on installing radiators. A lean-to, on the other hand, may work best for those with limited space.
Contemporary conservatories are also increasing in popularity. They offer a wider variety of materials and styles and, if sympathetically designed, can add a wonderful modern space to your home. However, these are often bespoke designs and as a result, can be more expensive.
Double glazing is ideal if your conservatory is to provide all-year-round space. A low-emissivity glass will reflect internal heat back into the space while allowing sunlight in from above. Of course, safety glass is essential and, where the structure cannot support a glass roof, polycarbonate may provide the answer.
There have been many improvements in conservatory glass in recent years so it is worth checking with your chosen supplier about options such as self-cleaning or Pilkington solar-controlled glass.
The structure itself poses questions too - some councils insist on timber frames so do check but aluminium and uPVC alternatives are also available.
Depending on what you are going to use the room for, it is worth budgeting for more than just the build. Flooring, heating, decorating, and furnishing the conservatory can be expensive so consider these carefully. Will you be installing blinds, radiators or underfloor heating? A durable floor is ideal but real wood, ceramic or stone tiles can be pricey.
While it will keep you warm and cosy during the colder months, the summer can turn your conservatory into a sauna - solving this problem with blinds or air conditioning will also add to the cost so it is important to factor such expenses in.
Bear in mind also, that building work may leave your garden in a mess so be prepared to make good any areas that have been damaged.
If you are a DIY enthusiast, a self-built conservatory might save you some money. DIY conservatories come with comprehensive instructions and should offer a customer helpline. However, if you are novice, you may quickly find yourself in hot water.
Instead, call a dedicated conservatory company - they will help you with the design, give advice on positioning and materials and carry out the building work. However, it is best to obtain quotes from several companies and, once you've chosen a supplier, take a look at previous examples of their work. A good, reputable company should also guarantee the structure for at least 10 years so be sure that this is the case.