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Self-build Conservatory

When I tell people we built our own conservatory, they often look at me as if I am completely crazy! It really is a doable project though – even for someone with fairly basic DIY skills.

Our last house, had a conservatory tacked on to the back of the lounge. We thought this was a great bonus; it gave us that bit of extra bit of living space and great views of the garden. It was only when we moved in we realised it was falling to pieces! The seals had gone in many of the double glazed units and there was rising damp in the dwarf walls. In addition the polycarbonate roof sheets had started to slip down away from the house walls, meaning that when it rained we ended up with puddles on the floor! As if that wasn’t bad enough, because of the roofing material, the conservatory was freezing in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer.

Dumping ground

Unfortunately we just didn’t have the money to do anything much with the conservatory straight away. We just patched it up as best we could and it became the kids play room. Over time it also became a bit of a dumping ground.

Having looked at different options for the space, we decided that the best thing to do would be to upgrade the conservatory to one with a solid roof and higher quality glazing. The existing conservatory had a dwarf wall, and we decided we may as well keep this too.

Employing a local glazing company to build a new conservatory in the style that we wanted would have cost approximately £15k. However in the first house that my husband and I owned, we built a conservatory ourselves for a fraction of this cost. We therefore decided to take the plunge and go down this route again.

Technical Considerations

There are many companies in the UK offering DIY conservatory options, however our previous experience meant we gave careful consideration to what we were looking for. Conservatories normally do not require building regulations in the UK, therefore there are very few standards that manufacturers have to adhere to. It is possible to find very cheap conservatories for sale that offer ‘double glazed’ glass. This is simply to 2 panes of glass sandwiched together with an air gap between them. This is better than single-glazed glass, but nothing like ‘A-rated’ energy efficient glass with Argon gas between the panes and special coatings to help retain heat.

Roofing choices

The choice of roof materials is also key. The cheapest conservatories offer 25mm clear polycarbonate roofing, which again offers very little in the way of insulation properties. There are various other thicknesses of polycarbonate available, some with special coatings which improve the insulation a bit, but it’s never as good as glass. There are also multiple glass options, which have improved insulation properties and give a lovely light feel. However as we wanted to be sure of being able to use this room all year round, we decided to go with a solid roof.

After much searching and thinking about our requirements, we decided to go with an Edwardian design solid roof conservatory from Trade Price Conservatories. This company offers ‘A-rated’ Planitherm double glazing for the window glazing of the conservatory, and a solid roof which has been signed off for England and Wales building regulations by Jhai, an approved private building regulations company. It is a bit of a grey area in the UK as to whether solid roof conservatories require building regulations approval, however having a roof that would get building regulations approval is a sign of quality as much as anything else. The cost of our conservatory was approximately £6.5k.

Demolition

Before we could start to put our new conservatory in place, we had to demolish the old one. This took just an hour! Once the roof was removed, the rest quickly came apart. We hoped to re-use the original dwarf wall, however it became obvious this wasn’t viable. once the weight of the conservatory sitting on it was removed, the whole thing quite literally started to crumble! So, out came the sledgehammer and away went the dwarf wall into the skip. A quick phone call to the conservatory company adjusted our order to a full height glass conservatory. Fortunately we were able to order a conservatory that fitted the existing base exactly, so we re-used this.

The Build

About 2 weeks after placing our final order, the new conservatory arrived. Construction of the walls was incredibly fast – probably 1-2 hours. This was because the instructions were geared for DIYers and and because the construction system was super-simple. The walls came in pre-glazed panels, that simply slotted together on to the bottom sill. The first panel was screwed to the house wall and then the rest just slotted and locked together – easy!

New wall panels being constructed
New walls complete and in place awaiting new roof.

Getting the roof on

The roof also came as a kit, with everything we needed. First a beam was put around the top of the walls, which the roof panels sat on. Next, the roof panels went on. These were large pre-fabricated sections, with insulation pre-installed inside. Again, the instructions told us how to bolt them together.

Next, we laid a waterproof membrane over the top of the wooden roof panels. This was to ensure the roof would be fully watertight.

New roof in place - waterproof membrane being attached.

Wooden battens were attached over the top of the membrane so the roof tiles could be attached. The roof tiles were special light-weight ones, to keep the total weight of the whole structure low.

Meanwhile, inside the conservatory, we attached further insulation to the roof. This came in rolls and was stapled to the underside of the roof. We then battened over it so plasterboards could be attached ready for plastering to finish it off. As a results of the fabulous insulation, we had a lovely room that was usable all year round – not too hot or too cold, ever!

There were lots of fiddly finishing off bits; guttering, sealant etc., but the only parts of the whole process we got outside help for was the plastering of the ceiling and the roof flashing, to seal the gap between the conservtory roof and the house wall. We completed the building work over about 4 weekends. In total, the whole build including flooring, window blinds etc. came in at around £8k. A pretty massive saving on what it would have cost to get a company in to do it.

Internal view of completed new conservatory

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