A guide to building a conservatory

Are you thinking of building a conservatory?

For many people building a conservatory is an ideal way of acquiring more living space without having to move house. In many instances planning permission is not needed and, provided they are well-built, they are almost guaranteed to add value to your property.

They provide a versatile space and can be used as a sun room, dining room, breakfast room, family den, study or even kitchen. One of the real advantages of conservatories over any other type of extension, is that they let in the light and warmth from the garden whilst at the same time providing shelter from the elements.

Planning Permission

60% of all conservatories built require planning permission. Different local authorities have different rules and regulations so always contact your local planning office for advice. As a starting point, however, there are some general rules of thumb:

  • Detached or semi-detached houses can be extended by up to 70 cubic metres or 115% of the house’s total volume, whichever is greater. This, however, includes any previous extensions.
  • Similar provisions apply to terraced or end of terrace houses but the limit is reduced to 50 cubic metres.
  • Planning permission is unlikely to be granted if the conservatory covers more than half of the garden. Likewise, conservatories should not normally be 20m or less from the road or public footpath.
  • If your conservatory juts out from the house by more than 3m, planning permission is likely to be denied on the grounds that it will affect your neighbours’ enjoyment of their property. Similar rules apply to conservatories built within 2m of the boundary if the highest point is 4m or more.
  • If your house is a Grade II listed building or in a conservation area, you may be obliged to use hardwood and glass rather than modern materials.

Where to build it?

Conservatories have traditionally been built on the back of properties, leading out to the garden, although it is possible to have them on the side or even the front. Since they are designed to feel part of the garden they are almost exclusively built on ground floor level, although there is no real reason (apart from planning implications) why they cannot be built on an upper level, depending on the design of your house.

Different aspects bring with them different advantages and disadvantages, and careful consideration should be given to the direction of your proposed conservatory at the planning stage.

  • East-facing - This will get the sun in the morning so is ideal for a breakfast room. It will not overheat in the middle of the day or evening.
  • West-facing - This will get the sun from late afternoon onwards and provides good conditions for many plants.
  • North-facing - This will get angled sun at the start and end of the day and, although it will not overheat in the summer, it could be bitterly cold in the winter. Unless you are using the conservatory solely as a summer sun-room, give careful consideration to how you are going to heat it.
  • South-facing - This is excellent for catching the sun but will be unbearably hot in the summer with the sun overhead at the hottest time of the day. Give careful thought to ventilation and blinds.

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