Top Tips When Planning a Conservatory or Sunroom

General advice.

Negotiate fairly with suppliers. Don't expect to get all mod cons if you're only prepared to pay for the cheapest design.

Try to meet the builders who will be doing the work ? it's crucial that you can get on with them.

Check whether you'll need planning permission ? don't rely on the conservatory supplier to take care of that for you.

Be friendly and cooperative towards the constructors ? you'll have more chance of getting the job done well.

If possible, view some installations done by your proposed supplier. Talk to their customers about how the builders went about their work, whether there were any major delays etc.

Always have a small contingency as there may be unexpected and unpleasant surprises once the construction starts, for which money will need to be available.

Buy the best conservatory you can afford. Gather as much information as possible on glazing options and construction materials so that you can make an informed purchasing decision.

Let your neighbours know about your plans so that they won't be offended by your conservatory ? either through jealousy or loss of light in their garden.

Inform your insurance company, as you will need to review your cover.

Design and decision tips

Use pegs and string to mark out the area of your proposed conservatory and then, ideally, fill it with the planned furnishings ? a dining table, a sofa and plants ? to check whether you have as much space as you would like. If moving the furniture is impractical, use sand or chalk to mark out the spaces they will take up.

Always calculate your internal floor size when ordering a conservatory and remember than most conservatory companies quote for the external area. Get at least three quotations but don't automatically choose the lowest. The cheapest supplier will rarely give you the best product or service.

Depending on the shape of the conservatory, it is generally inadvisable to put doors in the front of the conservatory, as it creates a corridor that makes fitting in furniture difficult.

Build your conservatory onto a well-used room, like your kitchen or living room.

Don't compromise on the size of your conservatory.

Choose a shape and style that will enhance the look of your home.

Try to match the construction materials and colour with those used for your home.

Take interesting details like bargeboards and unusually-shaped windows into the design of your conservatory.

Have a plan drawn up by an architect if you are looking for a specific and unusual design. This helps in discussions with the supplier and will also enable you to compare estimates on a like-for-like basis, which is important.

The more money you spend on efficient insulation and roofing and glazing systems, the less you'll end up spending on heating and cooling systems for your conservatory.

Remember to budget for extras such as blinds, furniture and heating.

Construction Tips

Attach 20mm PVCu trunking to the head of the PVCu frame between the roof and window sections. This gives the appearance of it being part of the window frame and provides great flexibility in adding extra lights, speaker wires, alarm detectors, etc.

Always lay your insulated central heating pipes in a gap created in the concrete flooring, never bury them in the concrete (should there be a leak it would be a disaster!).

DIY tips

Do your homework. Research which conservatory you want by having a look around on the Internet and at your local conservatory suppliers. Make lists of all the materials you will need plus their costs ? this will help you set your budget.

Be aware that manufacturers often quote 'inside cill' sizes. This is roughly equivalent to inside of the outside skin of bricks in a cavity wall, which is neither the indoor floor size, nor the outside wall size.

Buy where the trade buys. (Look for trade suppliers of screws, bolts, silicones etc)

Make the conservatory floor height the same as the floors in your home.

At the planning stage, add sufficient funding for extras such as skip hire, drainage pipes and paving.

Beware of building your dwarf wall too high ? you won't be able to enjoy the view of the garden!

Make sure you have the right tools for the job.

Get help from friends who have experience in skills like concreting or plumbing. And don't be afraid to hire professional help when you really need it.

Don't skimp on the finishes you won't see, like cavity insulation and foundation. It will catch up with you in the long run.

Buy from a conservatory specialist rather than a DIY store. The former can give you invaluable advice on glazing and roofing options and you might need his help when things don't go to plan.

Maintenance tips

Use a silicone lubricant on squeaky hinges.

Using washing up liquid to clean the windows will degrade the sealant so DON'T DO IT!

Don't use abrasive cleaners on woodgrain PVCu conservatories.

Aluminium polish bought at motor shops can be used as a cleaner for silver aluminium conservatories.

Finally

Make sure there is someone to take care of the plants in your conservatory when you are on holiday! More than anywhere else in your home, plants in the conservatory need plenty of water.

Be careful when burning candles during the day. The heat can cause them to melt or bend so don't leave them unattended.

Barry Dunlop is the Founder of ConservatoriesOnline.com - The online place for people interested in conservatories, sunrooms, garden rooms, and orangeries. Find more tips and advice at his website: http://www.conservatoriesonline.com


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