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How do you keep a conservatory warm enough to use properly? / Any smart floor insulation ideas? / And are we crazy to spend money on this??

(43 Posts)
OhGood Thu 16-Aug-12 13:42:49

We can't afford to build the kitchen extension we wanted, and so are getting prices on a rebuild of the existing conservatory. We'll be knocking down a wall from the kitchen / diner into the conservatory and putting in big folding glass doors. We want to use this room properly - will have dining table in there and use it for eating and entertaining. I'll probably work in there.

Anyone know any smart ways to keep it warm? I am especially trying to find a way of adding insulation to the concrete floor. It's already plumbed into our central heating and there will be a radiator in there.

Also, are we insane to spend money on a conservatory instead of a proper extension? (Issue is that we a. don't have enough cash b. this bloody house was a bad buy, and we cannot afford to spend too much on it as we will just end up going way over the value of the house and will never recoup - and yes I do want to sell it at some stage.)

As you can see, any advice appreciated...

PigletJohn Thu 16-Aug-12 16:41:48

A conservatory does not meet building regulations for art of a house, it is considered like a shed or a greenhouse that happens to have a door from the house. The regulations require this to be a door to external standards. In the winter a consevatory will be cold. If you want to you can burn bundles of £5 notes but it will still be cold.

Consider that your house mostly has walls that are about 300mm thick probably with 50mm of insulation, and your roof probably has 150mm to 250mm of insulation. Compared to that your conservatory is practically like living in a tent, mostly made of glass with maybe a 20mm air gap.

If you have big doors open to the house it will simply make your house cold and put up your house heating bills. If you are a millionaire you might not mind.

Cezzy Thu 16-Aug-12 16:48:08

We built ours from scratch so were in a better position that you are, but we had a tiled roof added which is insulated and made sure the double glazed units were as efficient as we could afford. Sounds daft, but try to make sure your exit door is not parallel to the door from the lounge as then draughts won't blow straight through. If you can put down a wood floor, this is a natural insulator and will hold the warmth. We use ours as a dining room all year and in summer as a garden room. We have one radiator and it's usually warm enough if the heating is on. We did want to add a small wood burner but left it too late - we don't want the upheaval now, but that would also make it cosy - you can get a small once quite cheap, vent it outside and put a stone floor under it to protect the floor. Good luck.

mrsmopsmissingmojo Thu 16-Aug-12 17:34:13

We incorporated it into the central heating so it was usable in the winter. Otherwise it was too freezing to use hmm

OhGood Mon 20-Aug-12 09:44:41

Piglet. Yes I am a millionaire. hmm Obviously, going to build as close as possible to 'real' extension standards, so using Celsius glass and two full walls which will be properly insulated.

Cezzy That sounds like excellent advice. Thanks. Good point about the door.

We have room for a little / suitable woodburner and will put one in. Also going to price up plumbing in underfloor heating through CH system.

ReallyTired Mon 20-Aug-12 09:49:42

Our house has a conservatory that breaks building regs. We have carpet in our conservatory. We have carpet in our conservatory. (Weird, I know our precessors put it in)

I suggest having blinds in the conservatory to add insolation and to keep it cool in summer. We found it a bigger problem the conservatory being too hot in summer than too cold.

reluctanttownie Mon 20-Aug-12 12:39:20

We built a conservatory rather than full extension partly for cost reasons and partly for light (previous decisions meant we couldn't knock through the outside wall, and a solid roof, even with skylights would have blocked too much light from the rest of the house.) Our builder tried to talk us out of it. We were told it would be too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

In reality we LOVE it. We had underfloor heating put in which we find much better - head from rads just rises up one wall and out the roof. Underfloor heating means any heat has to pass through you first as it rises. If I was doing our house again I'd put underfloor heating in every room! A word of warning, put in a water system rather than electric if you can as much cheapter. We had blinds fitted, but bear in mind the very nicest ones are so expensive that it radically alters the conservatory vs extension budget decisions (ie 5k for a small conservatory). Ours is east facing, and on a really baking heatwave day if we sit out there we need all the roof blinds down, voiles pulled accross most windows and the doors open until the sun passes over the other side of the house. I would probably think twice about building a south or west facing conservatory - just can't see how you could do enough to combat scorching afternoon sun on days like that.

With regards to it making the rest of the house cold - on the contrary we NEVER close the doors between ours and the kitchen-diner, and find that heat from the rest of the house warms the conservatory up and it all evens out quite nicely. On really sub-zero nights we do have to crank up the heating, so we tend not to sit in there at night if it's really really freezing, but generally it really does just feel like an extra room in our house, and we use it loads and adore it.

Re building regs - conservatories can easily meet building regs. The company we used always meet building regs and you can easily pay the council BI fees to get the proof of this. If there is an external quality door between house and conservatory you don't need to meet Building regs.

reluctanttownie Mon 20-Aug-12 12:41:04

Btw I would highly recommend Sherborne conservatories in Hampshire if that area is any use to you. We're in SW London and that was quite far for them, but they were fab.

OhGood Mon 20-Aug-12 15:04:57

Cheers reluctant that is sounding hopeful.

Hot is going to be a bit of an issue for us but only for a very small part of year when it gets full sun.

Will definitely give Sherbourne a call.

PigletJohn Mon 20-Aug-12 15:18:13

reluctant, when you say "conservatories can easily meet building regs" I assume you mean "for a conservatory"

Whereas I said they do not meet building regulations for part of a house

Which is not the same thing.

reluctanttownie Mon 20-Aug-12 15:36:32

Fairy nuff, piglet. I'm not an expert on the exact details on the regs, I just know that there are regs that apply to conservatories and companies can build to those standards if required.

I would still correct you when you say that "The regulations require this to be a door to external standards". Actually the rules are that to be EXEMPT from building regs the doors to it from the house need to be external standard. If they are internal doors -or no doors at all - it will need to meet whatever building regs apply to conservatories.

PigletJohn Mon 20-Aug-12 15:49:27

Yes, and that's connected to my point

If you build a house, to meet building regs, it must be well insulated. Typically it will have 250mm of insulation in the roof, 50mm of insulation in the walls, 100mm of insulation under the floor.

A conservatory, like a shed, does not have to meet any insulation requirements at all. So it is very easy to meet "building regulations for a conservatory"

That's why it is required to have an exernal door between it and the house, and not to have the central heating system extended into it.

If it is made part of the house, then it is treated as an extension, and has to meet BRs including those for heat loss. AFAIK it would be pretty well impossible for a conservatory with glass walls and a glass/plastic roof to do that.

See also page 2, para 2

reluctanttownie Mon 20-Aug-12 16:43:54

But that was just what I was trying to say - it's very common to not have external quality doors between house and conservatory, and ergo to need to have the conservatory meet the necessary regs. I'm aware of many people choosing not to have external doors and I haven't heard any stories about how they all failed building regs.

I don't understand why you keep saying it's "required" to have external quality doors. It's not. You can have them, or you can choose not to, in which case you will need to meet building regs. Up to you. Whether or not it will pass is another matter, but as I said, I assume it's not impossible.

Plus there's also a lot more to building regs than energy efficiency, like foundation depth, damp proof courses etc etc etc. Presumably conservatories would still have to meet all if these if they were inspected and in these regards would presumably be no easier to pass than any other structure.

The paragraph you linked to reminded me about the other aspect of the exemption that requires that the main heating system is not extended into the conservatory. I assume when the OP says she has had it plumbed into central heating that this will mean she needs to pass Building regs? Having said that our BI seems oblivious to this bit - he has repeatedly told us that our conservatory is exempt because it has external doors out to it. No questions have been asked about our heating system. We have a separate electric sub floor system for it, but the BI doesn't know that.

PigletJohn Mon 20-Aug-12 16:47:24

people often build things that fail to conform to BRs. Many of them don't get caught.

Conservatories that have had the doors to the house removed are likely to be among them.

reluctanttownie Mon 20-Aug-12 17:06:54

What about all those houses with big open plan ground floors and those huge glass boxes on the back? I can't imagine expensive, architect-designed jobs like that, that then sell straight away, don't comply with building regs. And if the glass they use can comply then why not conservatories?

MaryPoppinsBag Mon 20-Aug-12 17:26:26

OP what is the difference in cost between the conservatory and a proper extension?

Viperidae Mon 20-Aug-12 17:35:56

We have a "garden room" which has full height walls with windows in. It has a glass roof but is some sort of "magic" glass that keeps it cool or warm. As it has walls I have proper furniture in it, not garden-y stuff, and I think that makes it feel warmer psychologically.

It cost about £6k more than a conservatory would have done but has full foundations, etc and I would recommend doing a bit more than a bog standard job if you really want to get the use out of it.

Ohhelpohnoitsa Mon 20-Aug-12 18:03:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tricot39 Mon 20-Aug-12 18:15:32

Pigletjohn is right. It is entirely possible to do all sorts of illegal stuff in your house. There are no building police to check. It usually only comes to light when the house is sold and paperwork is checked. Often this reduces the value of the property.

People who have no doors between the conservatory and house often live without them but replace them for sale. Similarly people temporarily disable the self closers on fire doors installed after loft conversions etc. But that doesnt make it legal.

I dont think i am alone in saying that a conservatory would put me off buying a house. So OP dont spend much. Although insulating/overcladding the roof would be a good idea if you can.

tricot39 Mon 20-Aug-12 18:19:49

reluctant big flash glass box jobs.have big.flash consultants who get paid lots of fee to do complex.sums under part l to make it comply. Often by superinsulating the rest of the house. This is rarely the case with a plastic.conservatory.

HaplessHousewife Mon 20-Aug-12 18:22:26

We had ours as part of the house with a radiator etc and found it wasn't cold but it did get very hot in the summer even with blinds.

We found out when we were selling our house that it didn't meet regulations. It should have had external doors from the house and no radiator. I think it's all to do with how much glass you have – there's a ratio of how much glass you're allowed in relation to the overall size of your house (can't remember exactly).

Luckily our buyers were happy to have an indemnity policy to cover the fact we didn't have building regs for it but we might not have been so lucky with a different buyer…

cantpooinpeace Mon 20-Aug-12 18:27:48

We have a 'lean to' which is cold in the winter & obvs hot in the summer. We have an insulted curtain that we pull across in winter only and turn the radiator off in there. If we want to entertain in there when it's cold we put the oil heater on in there for a while but once it's full (the table is in there btw) it is more than fine smile

colleysmill Mon 20-Aug-12 18:31:18

We had a conservatory built last year which we use as a play room for ds. We had the French doors into it replaced a few years before so they are proper external doors.

I worried it might be cold in winter so bought a little heater for it and whilst I know it was relatively mild last winter we only used it twice. In the day it heated up simply by opening the doors and was quite useable but we did notice a chill into the house in an evening tbh. As it is the playroom we simply close the door and also on the mess. We also carpeted the floor with a cheap and cheerful carpet so its not too cold on your bum when playing on the floor!

When we were getting quotes (including a garden room style extension) we told the companies that we wanted it to be useable all year, some weren't prepared to offer what we wanted but we went with a local firm who quoted for a thermo roof and extra wall insulation. I was so impressed with them we had them back to replace our other windows.

Overall our bills are down by a third although previous windows were so rubbish we used to gaffer tape them up in the winter grin

GrandPoohBah Mon 20-Aug-12 18:35:43

IIRC, conservatories are exempt from building regs, BUT the definition of a conservatory is a room which is divided from the rest of the house by external quality doors, has over 50% of the wall area glazed and 75% of the roof area, with no heating plumbed through. If the room you build doesn't comply with these regulations then it doesn't count as a conservatory and would be subject to building regs sign off (which it won't get as a conservatory type room doesn't comply with relevant regulations).

So. You can build a conservatory which (for example) has one cavity wall with double glazed external quality concertina doors to the rest of the house (for leaving open) and electric underfloor heating on a separate system to the main heating in your home (which, FYI is what I'm planning on replacing our glorified greenhouse with when our kitchen is finished). But you couldn't build a room which has one solid wall, half walls around it with a radiator and no dividing doors as it would contravene regs - even if it did have a glass roof.

mumzy Mon 20-Aug-12 21:07:19

We have an electric heater plug in and underfloor heating in ours. Both are on timers and we find if on for 1/2 hour before we get up in morning and before we get in in evenings in winter it's pretty warm. Both are off during the day when no one is in the house.

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