“If your old conservatory is freezing cold in the winter, what are your options? Tim Hollingsworth, of local surveyors and property experts Rumball Sedgwick, has some ideas…
In the course of my surveying work, I see a lot of conservatories which were added to houses 10 or 15 years ago. Many of these are now in poor condition, which is not surprising as the material they are usually made of, uPVC, is not really designed to last any longer than that. Conservatories last much less time than windows, as they have to endure a lot more stress from temperature changes, which mean they are expanding and contracting all the time. This wears out the joints and the pvc itself much faster.
At the same time, the large double-glazed window panels in conservatories will nearly all be ‘blown’ after 15 years – this means that the airtight or gas-filled space between the panes will have lost its seal, and no longer be airtight. ‘Blown’ double glazing is only about half as efficient as sealed units, so an old conservatory will leak heat very rapidly.
This is becoming a more significant problem, as climate change is bringing us more bouts of extreme weather, including severe cold in the winter. Many conservatory owners will already know how hard it has been to keep the conservatory warm over the last couple of winters. And at the same time, 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 if you have a dilapidated conservatory?
As with all home improvements and extensions, the first thing to do is think seriously about how much value you will get from it. The housing market is beginning to look a bit flat, a situation which might continue for a few years. This means that you can’t assume that any extension work will add a lot of value to the property. In fact, you may not even add sufficient value to cover the cost of the work. So, it’s vitally important to think carefully about how long you intend to stay in the property, and how much enjoyment and ‘value’ you will gain yourself, from the extension or improvement.
If you don’t intend to stay in the property for very long, the best thing to do will be to repair the conservatory as best you can. This might include replacing the window units, for example, which generally cost about £100 per unit.
However, the high cost of moving, combined with the poor state of the housing market, means that many house owners are intending to stay put rather than move. If you are thinking that you may be in the property for a long time, say another ten years, then it’s definitely worth thinking about replacing an old conservatory, either with a new one, or perhaps with a more permanent structure such as a sunroom.
Replacing an existing conservatory should be straightforward to do – you shouldn’t need planning permission, and you can use the existing foundations and stub walls. There’s a much better selection of glass and glazing units available now than there was 15 years ago, such as low-E glass and triple glazing, so you should be able to create a much warmer space.
A more expensive option, but well worth considering if you need really usable space, is a sunroom. This is typically a traditionally-built room with a large amount of glass in the walls and ceiling. Because a sunroom will generally have half the glass area of a conservatory, the walls and roof can be really well insulated, making it much easier to keep really warm in winter, and to integrate into your house as a fully functional room. And a sunroom has another major advantage – buyers perceive it as a proper ‘room’, which should add more value to your house than a conservatory. You may need planning permission though, and costs are likely to be double those of a conservatory.”