How to modernise a conservatory

An old-fashioned conservatory might sit unhappily with the architecture of your home, or prove unusable much of the year, but it’s possible to create a more sympathetic, practical room

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The most common reasons for upgrading a conservatory include problems with temperature control and feeling that the existing structure does not match the look of the home. If this sounds like your conservatory, read on to find out how a transformation could allow you to make the most of the space.

Where to start

Before calling in a specialist, decide what you would ideally use the space for, such as an extra living space or dining area. You should also address whether you need any storage in there.

‘Most clients will know the end use for the orangery or conservatory and may also know the scale of extension they would like,’ says Rawden. ‘This may be a starting point, but it helps if clients have visual ideas of designs or styles that they like.’

The space should work technically and aesthetically with your home. Echoing architectural details can create a harmonious feel. Colour can also be a link, with shades such as green and blue sitting happily alongside brick. Alternatively, you could match a window frame colour.

How to solve overheating and heat loss

With high proportions of glazing, conservatories are prone to overheating. If they are south-facing, this can make them almost unusable during the day in summer. On the other hand, come winter, you might find the space far too cold to enjoy for any length of time.

Fortunately, this is a problem that can be rectified when you update your conservatory.

  • Choose efficient, thermally coated double-glazing to replace the existing glass.
  • Look for options that offer additional protection from overheating or glare, such as low emissivity or tinted glass.
  • Where there may still be an issue, use automated blinds to limit solar gain. This also gives you more flexibility for the space and can make it feel less exposed should you choose to sit in there at night.
  • Replace the roof, or partially replace the roof with a solid one. This will mean the room is no longer a conservatory however, and will probably require planning permission. A roof lantern instead of a fully-tiled roof will allow a good level of light and solar gain.
  • Vents are a must — you can get automatic ones that work off a thermostat to control the internal temperature.
  • Install zoned underfloor heating or a woodburner to keep the space snug in the colder months. Just ensure you have also tackled the insulation of the build, so you are not throwing money away trying to heat the space.

Noise issues

The sound of rain on a polycarbonate conservatory roof has kept many homeowners awake, and interrupted many a TV series. Even if your current conservatory roof is glazed, you might still find all that glazing is not great for soundproofing against the outside world.

Upgrading to double glazing will again be a great way to solve noise issues. Or if you are knocking down and starting again, think about whether going for more of an orangery style with less glazing will be better suited to your needs. If you live by a busy road, for example, a fully-glazed addition without glass that carries soundproofing guarantees is just not sensible.


Material upgrades

Grubby, white uPVC conservatories installed towards the end of last century are part of the reason they get such a bad press. Replacing yours with durable hardwoods, treated softwoods or powder-coated aluminium might hold more appeal (especially on a period property), but don’t discount modern uPVC. It is a low-maintenance option and if you pay for quality it won’t date as badly as its predecessor.

Connection to the garden: doors

As with modern extensions and open-plan rooms, new conservatories also frequently feature bi-fold and sliding doors as well as the more traditional French style. Including these latest door options will create a seamless link to your outside space, making the conservatory feel bigger.

To technically be classed as a conservatory, the structure needs to be outside the thermal envelope of the home, meaning an exterior-grade door between the conservatory and house. So as to increase the connection between home and conservatory – and therefore home and garden – choose thermally-efficient double doors. A Belgian style option is great for period homes.


Case study

The uPVC conservatory on Claire and Michael Rogers’ home in Surrey was thermally inefficient, noisy in bad weather and lacked any style credentials

a dated uPVC conservatory with brick basethe conservatory has been transformed with a tiled roof an new glazing
Before: Not a very comfortable place to sit year-round, the conservatory had a roof that was extremely noisy when it rainedAfter: With a tiled roof that blends well with the house, the new conservatory creates a living room the couple can use whenever they want

A polycarbonate roof meant that once the rain started to fall, the conservatory on the side of the Rogers’ house wasn’t a peaceful place to sit. Nor did its basic appearance redeem the room. In addition, the old design wasn’t insulated to modern standards, so it wasn’t a space that could be used at any time of day or night, or throughout the whole year.

The couple had decided on a substantial two-storey extension to their house, and wanted the conservatory to work with this new addition, so called on specialist company Bartholomew to create a replacement room. The old design was demolished to allow them to begin again because of its problems.

‘The new conservatory needed to work technically with the new house extension, and provide a year-round usable space,’ explains director Rawden Rogerson.

It was possible to reuse some elements, though, avoiding the need to start again from scratch. ‘The original footings and floor slab were retained, as the footprint was staying the same to integrate with the proposed house extension, which had received previous planning approval,’ says Rawden. However, the new conservatory was built with hardwood framing designed to last a lifetime with the right maintenance.

Sash windows, also in hardwood, give the new room more elegance than its predecessor, and together with double glazing make it much more thermally efficient. Rather than a clear roof, the Rogers opted for a tiled version this time, which is both consistent with the design of the rest of the property and creates additional insulation. French doors open up the new conservatory to the garden at the side of the house.

The new room fulfils all the couple’s criteria. ‘As well as having an improved thermal performance, it’s more in keeping with the house and their vision,’ says Rawden.

How much did it cost?

A similar style would cost around £32,400 for design, construction and materials.