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Conservatories and orangeries

Conservatories step-by-step

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Our step-by-step guide will take you though everything you need to know to make getting a conservatory and having it installed stress-free.

When buying a conservatory, the number of things you need to think about and decisions you need to make can be daunting. Which is why we've put together this expert step-by-step guide to help you.

Buying a conservatory can also mean upheaval for your home and garden, with builders and decorators needing to access your property for days, if not weeks or months. That's why it’s important to be clear on what every step of the journey will involve, so you can minimise any upheaval and stress. 

To help make the process as uncomplicated and stress-free as possible, we've put together this step-by-step guide which includes top tips from experts and conservatory owners.

Below, we outline the key steps involved - from getting a quote, to welcoming the builders, before finally moving into your new conservatory. So you can take control and enjoy getting a conservatory.

Getting a conservatory quote

Shop around

Make sure you shop around and always get at least three quotes. If possible, use a firm recommended by a friend or family member, or get a local trustworthy trader with the help of Which? Trusted Trader. Our Trusted Trader endorsement scheme recognises reputable traders who successfully pass our rigorous assessment process.

To help you ensure you're asking all the right questions and getting the best service for your money, Which? members can log in to see our handy downloadable conservatory checklist, which includes all the questions you need to ask. 

Not yet a Which? member? Then sign up for a trial - you'll also get access to our exclusive research on conservatory prices and conservatories: common pitfalls.

You'll also need to think about whether you go for a local or national firm. The majority of conservatory owners we asked in a survey of Which? members* used a local firm. You can find out more about how satisfied they were with the company they used and whether they would recommend it to a friend in our guide to choosing a conservatory company

Be clear about your needs

Be clear about what you want to use the conservatory for, but be flexible on the types of conservatory, designs and materials - you may surprise yourself when you see what’s on offer. 

When we asked Which? members who have bought a conservatory about their experiences, we found that nearly one in 10 people ended up opting for a different type or size of conservatory than they initially had in mind.

About half of these people bought a bigger conservatory, 34% went for a different style, and 11% opted for a different type of glass or glass-type material. 

Don't dismiss aesthetics

Many people invest in a conservatory to add a wow factor to their home. We found about half of those who changed their mind said it was because they preferred the look of another type or size of conservatory. So it's worth being open-minded about options.

Extra costs

It's worth asking for details on exactly what is included in the quote, from installation to fittings. This is so you don't get any surprises later down the line - 11% of conservatory owners paid more than they were first quoted.

Top tip: Be aware that some features, such as electrical sockets, TV aerial points and roof vents, can add to the price. Also, the materials your conservatory is constructed from will influence temperature, light and maintenance issues, so sometimes it's worth spending a little bit more so your new conservatory is more comfortable to use.

Nearly 10% of people ended up opting for a different type or size of conservatory

Make sure you get value for money - find out how much the average cost of a conservatory is and what other Which? members paid with our page on conservatory prices.

After getting an initial quote, you should expect a surveyor to visit your home to check things like drainage and floor levels, as well as to take accurate measurements. 

Planning permission for conservatories

Conservatories generally don’t need planning permission and don’t have to comply with building regulations. But this isn’t always the case, so make sure you’re clued-up on whether you need to go down those routes.

You’ll probably need planning permission if:

  • your home is in a conservation area, national park or designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • the conservatory is not at ground level
  • your home is terraced or has already been extended
  • the volume of your home will be increased by more than 15%, or 70 cubic metres (whichever is greater). 
If you do need planning permission, you’ll need to allow extra time (around eight weeks) and money. Remember to check whether your quote includes the cost and hassle of applying for planning permission.

Conservatories are technically classed as 'non-habitable dwellings'. But if you want something more useable – for example, if you plan to open up the back of your home to create a large partly glazed open-plan kitchen - you’ll need to think about building regulations.

Building regulations usually do not apply if your conservatory is:

  • separated from your home by an external door
  • under 30sq.m in floor area
  • single storey at ground floor level
  • glazed in compliance with building regulations and British Standards (ask for confirmation of this from your installer)
  • not within 1m of a boundary
  • fitted with a roof that is at least 75% glazed and walls that are 50% glazed 

If you do need to comply with building regulations, you'll need to make sure the work is checked by your local authority or a privately appointed approved inspector. Make sure you check whether your installer will arrange this or if it's your responsibility.

During construction

How long will it take? 

Typical average-sized conservatories take between three and four weeks to build, including all snagging and finishing off. Large projects could last around six weeks.

Construction work will usually begin with the base, and tends to involve builders being on site for about about three days. 

During this time they will clear the ground, dig the footings, lay the base layers and level the floor before building the walls. Normally the building work would then be left for a few days - ideally over a weekend - to settle. 

During the second week the frames will go up and be glazed, and any electrical work started.

This is followed by plastering the walls (if necessary), finishing off the electrical work and then adding the flooring, Depending on what type of floor you choose, as well as the time of year, it's sometimes best wait a few weeks to let the floor dry out thoroughly first. 

Typical average-sized conservatories take between three and four weeks to build

How disruptive will it be?  

You'll probably want to meet the team on the first day, but a reputable company shouldn't need you to be at home for the duration of the work. 

If side access is good, disruption should be minimal. It helps if you have outside water and electrical facilities.

Be aware that your power supply may need to be switched off while the electrical work is done, and your garden may suffer some damage due to the number of people coming in and out. Boards should be used in the garden and then taken up overnight to allow the grass to grow.

Top tip: Don't panic when the base goes down and it looks small. Experts we spoke to say it always looks smaller than you expect at this stage - it seems to grow in area as the frames go up! 

*(In June and July 2015 we surveyed 893 Which? members about their experiences of buying a conservatory in the past five years and experiences with cost in the past two years.)

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