Expert View: Is your conservatory just a fair-weather friend?

Tim Hollingsworth, Rumball Sedgwick

Tim Hollingsworth, Rumball Sedgwick - Credit: Archant

If your old conservatory is freezing cold in the winter, what are your options? Tim Hollingsworth, of leading local chartered surveyors and property experts Rumball Sedgwick, has some ideas…

In the course of my surveying work, I see numerous conservatories which were added to houses 10 to 15 years ago. Many of these are now in poor condition, which is unsurprising as the material they are usually made of, uPVC, is not really designed to last any longer than that. Conservatories last less time than windows, as they have to endure much more stress from temperature changes, which mean they are expanding and contracting all the time, wearing out joints and the uPVC itself faster.

Also, the large double-glazed window panels in conservatories are often ‘blown’ after 15 years – meaning that the gas-filled space between the panes will no longer be airtight, making them only about half as efficient as sealed units.

The higher cost of energy means that it’s more important than ever to reduce heat loss from our houses.

So what are your options? As with all home improvements, the first thing to do is think seriously about how much value you will get from it. You can’t assume that any alteration work will add a lot of value to the property and may not even cover the cost. So, it’s important to think about how long you intend to stay in the property, and how much enjoyment and ‘value’ you will gain from any improvement.

If you don’t intend to stay in the property for long, repair the conservatory as best you can. This might include replacing window units, for example, which generally cost around £100 per unit. But in the current market many house owners are intending to stay put rather than move: in this case it’s worth thinking about replacement, perhaps even with a more permanent structure such as a sunroom.

Replacing an existing conservatory should be straightforward – you shouldn’t need planning permission, and you can use the existing foundations and walls. There’s a better selection of glass and glazing units available now than 15 years ago, such as low-E glass and triple glazing, so you should be able to create a much warmer space.

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A more expensive option, but well worth considering if you need really usable space, is a sunroom. Typically, a traditionally-built room, generally with half the glass area of a conservatory, will allow the walls and roof to be well insulated, making it easier and cheaper to keep warm in winter. A sunroom has another advantage – buyers perceive it as a proper ‘room’, integrated into the house, which should add more value than a conservatory. You may need planning permission though, and costs are likely to be double those of a conservatory.

For property advice contact Tim and his team on 01727 852384 or at