Conservatories are the most common kind of home extension. They are affordable, easy to build, and a great way to add some much-needed extra living space to your home. There is a lot of confusion surrounding conservatories, however. Is planning permission necessary, or are conservatories considered to be a permitted development?
Building regulations can be confusing. Read on to learn about which rules apply when building a conservatory and what you have to do to get the process started.
Planning Permission: Is it needed for a conservatory?
Building a conservatory is governed by the same rules as other forms of home extensions. The rules for extension planning permission are quite specific about which jobs do and do not need it. In general, conservatories are classed as “permitted developments”. This means that you do not need planning permission, as long as the following conditions are met:
- You must be building a single storey conservatory.
- The conservatory covers no more than half of the total land around your home.
- The conservatory height must not exceed the height of your roof.
- If the conservatory is to the rear of your home, it must not extend more than three meters beyond the rear wall of your home (if you live in an attached house), or four meters if you live in a detached property.
- The total height of the conservatory cannot be more than four meters.
- The maximum eaves height of the conservatory must be within two meters of the boundary and the height of the eaves and ridges must not exceed the height of your home.
- Side conservatories must have a width no greater than half the width of the house.
If any of the above conditions are not met, then you will need planning permission to build your conservatory.
Conditions for Conservatories
The conservatory planning permission rules may seem confusing, but they are actually quite clear-cut. If you are thinking of building a conservatory then the first thing you should do is contact your local authority for advice.
The permitted development rules mentioned above apply only to houses. If you live in a flat or maisonette then you may need planning permission even for a relatively small and simple development.
Conservatories are generally exempt from traditional building regulations as long as they are:
- Built at ground level.
- Have a floor area of less than 30Sq Meters.
- Are separated from the rest of the house by a true external walls, doors and windows (not interior quality dividing walls).
- Have an independent heating system with separate power and temperature controls.
- Have glazing and electrical installations that comply with all relevant building regulation requirements.
If you have a multi-storey home, you should take care to position your conservatory so that it does not impede ladder access to any windows serving rooms that are a part of a loft or roof conversion. Those windows may be used as an escape or rescue route in the event of a fire.
If you plan on having any extensive wiring work carried out, be aware that conservatories are included in the building regulations covering electrical wiring. All major electrical works must be carried out by a qualified engineer. The same goes for gas appliances.
Obtaining planning permission can be a slow process, so it is a good idea to put in your application early. There is no harm in having the paperwork in place long before construction starts.
Finding Contractors to Build Your Conservatory
When most people buy a conservatory, they work with contractors that specialize in conservatory construction. This can ensure that the build runs smoothly and takes the stress out of dealing with individual contractors.
Look for a contractor that has experience with building “green” conservatories. Older conservatory designs can be a huge energy drain because they tend to become very warm during the summer but lose heat rapidly during the winter. If you design your conservatory to be more like an extension, with good insulation and energy efficient glazing, this will save you energy (and money) and make your conservatory a more comfortable place to spend time in throughout the year.
Avoid contractors that cold-call you. If you are planning to build a conservatory, ask your neighbours who worked on theirs and ask friends and family to recommend reliable workers for you. If someone tells you they know a good builder/painter or other tradesmen, ask to see the work that they did. Look for someone that has worked on similar projects. Remember that there is a big difference between hanging some shelves and building a conservatory. Many people make well-intentioned recommendations, not realising how much skill and experience some projects require.
Be wary of contractors that encourage you to borrow money from a company that they recommend – especially if it is not a company that you are familiar with. One common scam is for builders to recommend secured loan companies even for smaller home improvement projects. The terms of these loans can be quite punitive, and once the builders have what they want from you – your signature, you will find that they lose interest in the project. You could end up paying exorbitant interest rates for sub-standard work.
To avoid such scammers, do your own research, get several detailed quotes from different contractors, and choose the contractor that offers the most reasonable-sounding deal. Agree on milestone payments in advance, and make sure that you understand how unexpected expenses will be handled.
Making the Most of Your Conservatory
In all too many cases, poorly built conservatories are only habitable for a few months out of the year. Because conservatories contain so many windows, they can often become excessively warm during the summer, and particularly cold during the winter.
Choosing the right suppliers at the start of the build will, however, result in a conservatory that is welcoming all year round. Stormclad’s A-rated energy efficient glass uses state of the art technology to lock in absolutely all the heat in your home. With a ten year guarantee, you can rest assured that your conservatory will be nice and warm whatever the weather outside.
Most people use their conservatory as a communal room for entertaining, but there are lots of other things that the room can be used for.
Consider turning your conservatory into a gym. You can open the doors and windows during the summer, turn on some music, and enjoy the view of the garden while you’re riding your exercise bike. During the winter, you won’t mind that the conservatory is cold because it will warm up quickly once you start exercising.
Another good use for conservatories is a breakfast room. Most families eat breakfast together, but eating in the dining room seems a little too formal for such an early meal. Eating in the conservatory creates a more relaxed atmosphere, and the setting will boost your mood and make it easier for you to tackle the day ahead.
Whatever you choose to do with your conservatory, try to resist the urge to fill it with “stuff” while it is not in use. You do not want to turn your conservatory into a temporary storage area. If the conservatory is allowed to fill up with clutter, you will find it more difficult to reclaim the room once the weather improves. Instead of storing things in the conservatory, keep those items in boxes in the hall and commit to “processing” one box per week – either by giving it away, throwing it away, or storing it properly. This will keep your conservatory clean and tidy, ensuring it is used for its intended purpose.