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Is it ever possible to use a conservatory as a room all year round?

(37 Posts)
firesidechat Sat 23-May-15 09:07:19

We have an old conservatory on the back of our house that needs replacing. For most of the 7 years we have lived here we have used it as a laundry drying room in summer and an extra fridge at Christmas. It is a simple one with a dwarf wall, basic wooden double glazed windows, no ceiling vents and no heating.

Our ideal solution is to replace it with an extension which we can use as a dining room. However it would go up to the boundary of our land which has a steep drop down to the lane and a very high retaining wall. The current conservatory is built on top of this wall on one side. It would be potentially very difficult and very expensive to build a permanent structure on/against this wall.

The easiest option is to replace the existing conservatory with an all singing, all dancing one - heat reflecting glass, underfloor heating etc. The companies we have spoken to say that new technology makes it cooler in summer and warmer in winter, but just how cool is cool and how warm is warm. As a statement it doesn't mean much.

The question I have is can a conservatory ever be an all year round room, even if we throw lots of money at it? It is south facing, just to make it even more tricky.

buggerthebotox Sat 23-May-15 13:47:14

Watching with interest. I have a large one that is just a glass box, really. South facing, too.

I'm kind of sceptical about the claims to "all year round living" tbh.

I've been thinking of turning mine into a kind of orangery with more wall, less glass and a roof of some kind. Could you do this?

HarrietSchulenberg Sat 23-May-15 13:51:07

My inlaws use their conservatory all year round. It's heated and has roof and window blinds. Personally I find it too hot in the summer, even with the windows open, but it's fine at all other times including evenings.

Sid77 Sat 23-May-15 13:51:56

My parents have a lovely big conservatory, west facing but nothing to shade it. It gets used as a room all year round - it's got big windows and a door which are open all the time in the summer and the glazing is good enough to keep the heat in in the winter. They put a rug in there in winter too which makes it feel warmer. It's a really nice space and very used.

Tokelau Sat 23-May-15 13:54:26

Ours is an all year round room, but strictly speaking it isn't a conservatory because it has a solid roof. It also has a radiator. It really is fine all year round. We have brick walls about 2 feet high, glass windows all around and French doors, and a slate roof and ceiling with downlighters. It is far better than the conservatory in our old house, which wasn't really usable at any time of year.

I can't give too much information though, because it was already there when we bought the house, so I don't know who did it or what it cost.

PigletJohn Sat 23-May-15 14:15:17

If you look at the roof of your house, it probably has 100mm-250mm of insulation in it. Your house walls may have 60mm of insulation plus a leaf of bricks and a leaf of insulating foamed blocks.

Your conservatory has glass and 12mm of air.

So it will always be a money heat waster. It is considered to be a shed, which is why it is not required to be built to the standards of a house, and is why you are not permitted to use your central heating in it, and why you are required to have external-quality doors between your house and your conservatory.

If you want it to be as comfortable, and as economical to heat, as your house, you need an extension with proper walls and a proper roof, not a glass box.

StaceyAndTracey Sat 23-May-15 14:28:25

We use our conservatory 365 days a year , in fact we have christmas day in here

Its North facing so so need for blinds. We have roof vents which are on a thermostat so open automatically and bi fold doors so when it's hot we can open up half of one side . We also have 4 manually opening windows , so it never gets too hot .

Heating - we have underfloor heating which is linked to our central heating and also works on a thermostat , and a wood burning stove . Although it heats up quickly with even a small amount of sun .

It's double glazed , very well insulated and the roof is solid with a large lantern ( so approx half the area is glass ) .

So yes, we can use our " glass box " all year round , but it wasn't cheap .

On a different matter , you probbaly need to consult a structural engineer if you want to put a building on top of a retaining wall , and also check planning regs if you want to build up to your boundary

StaceyAndTracey Sat 23-May-15 14:32:13

I forgot to say , it has no dwarf wall, it's floor to ceiling glass

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen Sat 23-May-15 15:02:11

Yes we do, but I would never have another tbh.

firesidechat Sat 23-May-15 17:19:40

Thanks for all the replies.

We have thought about a garden room and we may have to consider that. Our preferred option is a dwarf wall, lots of windows, french doors and a solid roof with velux windows.

The builder was going to have a word with an architect to see if an extension is possible, bearing in mind the retaining wall. Having said that anything is possible, but the hassle and cost may be too much.

We extended our previous house, but that was very straightforward. I worry that we will undermine the integrity of the wall and our garden will go crashing down onto the lane.

Sorry for rambling, but it is interesting to get others opinions. It doesn't help that I would never willingly have a conservatory because they seem to cost nearly as much as a proper extension and yet rarely add the same value to the property. Also my nice big kitchen is dependant on us moving the dining space out of the kitchen/diner.

orangina01 Sat 23-May-15 20:27:39

You may well be able to put a "warm roof" on. We are doing this to our dwarf wall, polycarbonate roof conservatory. It will have a lightweight roof with velux, plastered ceiling and windows all around. It isn't cheap but looks great. Google warm roof or look in your local paper for suppliers - I think the roof itself is manufactured by a company called Guardian?

SaltySeaBird Sat 23-May-15 20:33:38

Ours is pretty old, 2 glass walls and glass roof. One solid wall (as it joins onto the L of the house and the internal bit is a big double door.

We use it year round even though it is south facing. We have a radiator on the solid wall and keep the inner doors open so the heat flows from the rest of the house. In the summer we leave it open a lot.

It used to be a dining room but now it's a playroom.

firesidechat Sat 23-May-15 20:42:50

I'm feeling slightly more encouraged that we can sort something out. The views at the rear of our house are stunning and it sees a shame not to make the most of them.

I will look that up orangina. Thanks.

Millymollymama Sat 23-May-15 22:49:07

My kitchen is an oak framed orangerie with a glass roof and opening glass doors. I am afraid PigletJohn is not correct because my conservatory has the same heating as the rest of the house and is partially open to the lounge and the hall (no doors). It really depends on the type of conservatory construction and spending as much money as a traditionally built extension is the key. Or more in our case! Cheap conservatories just do not work. We have two internal walls and the orangerie faces north and east. It is occasionally too hot in the mornings in summer when the sun comes in directly through the glass roof. In the winter it is fine and we have underfloor heating - an absolute must.

Ours was built on 2m foundations due to trees nearby. Be very careful about what you build on a retaining wall that has been designed to keep earth in place. It has not been designed as foundations for a proper building as well. Having a short brick wall makes no difference to the warmth of a mostly, glass building. You just have to pay for the best components and pay more for your heating. Every day I think my kitchen is wonderful. I can see the sky, the birds, the trees and my garden. It is just great!

UsedToBeAPaxmanFan Sat 23-May-15 23:11:19

But MillyMolly what you have isn't a conservatory by the sound of it. It sounds lovely though.

I'm sure Piglet John is right, that a conservatory has to have external doors betwen the conservatory and the main house, and a separate heating system. Otherwise you need planning permission and it would have to meet building regs.

GinBunny Sat 23-May-15 23:49:28

We had our conservatory roof replaced last year because it was like you say, sauna in summer, freezer in winter. We got the heat reflective glass, cost us £6k and made no difference. In fact, our guinea pig that lived in there died from heat stroke sad
We haven't found a viable alternative yet.

senrensareta Sun 24-May-15 00:06:40

We have an orangery (or at least that's what the company who built it called it). It has full height brick walls with tall windows in, double glass doors leading out, a reflecting, insulating glass roof and underfloor heating. We could use it all year round but somehow, even though it is warm enough, it doesn't feel as comfortable somehow in the cold so we tend to use it more in the warmer weather.

Although we have separate heating, it is accessible from 2 rooms and we do not have external doors between them and I know it was inspected by someone from the planning department due to some of the issues that arose when building it

buggerthebotox Sun 24-May-15 09:23:45

I've never understood why some people have conservatories that are open to the rest of the house. How do they get it past building regs, and how the jeff do they keep the temperature right? I'm envy.

Whyjustwhy Sun 24-May-15 09:30:45

We moved house the end of last year and our house has a conservatory that leads off the dining room - no doors, and is connected to the main central heating in the house.
I assume it pre-dates the current building regs.
If it helps, it was bloody cold in there last winter, so we needed extra heaters if we wanted to use the dining room,
This year, we're getting glass doors fitted to isolate it over the winter

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen Sun 24-May-15 09:57:56

Bugger - building regs? I thought under a certain size there weren't restrictions?

We have a solar glass roof and it's on the coolest side of the house, it's rarely cold in there and we just have a small electric heater that comes on for 4 hours a day in the winter.

ValancyJane Sun 24-May-15 09:59:01

Our conservatory is my absolute favourite room in the house (we wouldn't have built one ourselves, but the house we bought already had one) and we have used it year round. It has dwarf walls, french doors, loads of double-glazed windows and quite a thick polycarbonate roof.

It has a large radiator so that keeps in nice and warm in winter and electric underfloor heating (that we use rarely as it can be expensive, but on the colder days we put it on if we have people over as our dining table is in there). It does get chilly in the night in winter when the heating's off - we had a door blocking it from our lounge, but the door is now broken so it was open to the lounge this winter. But we have thick heavy curtains and they did pretty well at keeping heat in the lounge.

It does get very warm on really sunny days, it has blinds but I like the sunshine so we just have all the doors and windows wide open and it keeps the air moving. I'm planning to get a fan in it for this summer.

It's interesting reading above that it should be separate from our central heating system - it doesn't surprise me as former owner was a builder of dubious standards and we have found some appalling work in the house. But we have no plans to move in the immediate future, and will probably convert conservatory to proper extension as and when it needs work doing, so shouldn't be a massive problem I hope. Technically we're breaking regulations left right and centre since it's now open to the lounge, talk about living on the edge ;)

UsedToBeAPaxmanFan Sun 24-May-15 11:36:07

From memory, the rules changed in 2010. You can still build an orangery or conservatory-type extension which is integrated into the main house, but since 2010 you have to prove that in doing so, you haven't reduced the overall thermal efficiency of the house. It's flipping hard to do that with a cheaper type of orangery or conservatory.

We bought a house with a conservatory a few years ago, and the conservatory was freezing in winter. It was also boiling in summer although we were usually outside so that wasn't so bad. We looked into every possibility of re roofing, putting in under floor heating etc but in the end had it knocked down and a proper extension built, which is open to our kitchen.

It's the best decision we ever made, and I really would recommend trying to replace a conservatory with a proper extension rather than with another conservatory. You can have an orangery-type extension which incorporates lofs of glass as long as you can prove it meets the thermal efficiency criterion.

Interestingly, our new extension which has solid foundations, solid roof, brick walls etc meantnour house was less thermally effivient because the old conservatory didn't count in the calculations. We had to get our loft reinsulated before the Building Regs inspector would sign ours off.

StaceyAndTracey Mon 25-May-15 09:23:57

Could I politely point out that none of us can advise on planning permission and building regs as we don't know where the Op lives?

Please don't start any work until you have checked it all out with th relevant authorities where you live

firesidechat Mon 25-May-15 10:08:19

Of course we wouldn't start work without checking building regs and planning permissions. We will probably need a structural engineer to have a look if we go for the extension option too. We extended our previous house and had to get planning permission for that, so we know how it works.

I just wanted to know if a conservatory was workable if the extension is too difficult or expensive and as expected I've had a mixed bag of views. It has been useful to hear about others experiences though and I'm grateful to all the posters for their views.

Nolim Mon 25-May-15 10:11:15

My conservatory is my dinning room all year long. And one of my favorite parts of my house i must add.

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