Grand Conservatory on a Substantial Channel Islands Property:  Conservatory by Vale Garden Houses

​What not to do when building a conservatory

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan

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Adding a conservatory to your home can be one of the most fun building projects. Not to mention what it can do for your house’s value. Conservatories can provide you with a lot of different options, from an extra space to sit and read to a formal entertaining/socialising area for friends and colleagues. 

However, before building a conservatory, there are a few errors to sidestep in order to avoid financial and practical problems.

But let’s start at the beginning: what exactly is a conservatory?

1. What is a conservatory?

Modern Garden Room:  Conservatory by ROCOCO

Modern Garden Room


A conservatory is an exterior room made up of glass walls and –roof. Often called a ‘greenhouse’ or a ‘sunroom’, it adjoins the main house, yet is located in such a spot so that it enjoys the best garden- and yard views. 

Before building a conservatory, it must also be kept in mind that conservatories are best situated in areas that receive lots of sunlight and fresh air. Many manage to put it to use during the winter as long as it’s well heated and insulated.

Conservatories are popular with upper middle class and wealthy households, yet if you have the space and budget for your own little sunroom, then more power to you!

2. Do you need Planning Permission to build a conservatory?

Aluminium orangery with bi fold doors:  Conservatory by ROCOCO

Aluminium orangery with bi fold doors


Technically, no. A conservatory is a part of the permitted development rights; therefore, no Planning Permission is required as long as you comply with the following conditions:  

• The construction must not be more than 50% of your original house. 

• There can’t be any raised platforms, verandas or balconies. 

• The conservatory is not higher than the highest part of the roof. 

• Height must be less than 4 metres. 

• The conservatory doesn’t front or obstruct any public road. 

• It doesn’t cover more than 1/2 of the land your house is located on.  

• A single-storey extension at the rear of the house must not extend more than 3 metres beyond the rear wall if it’s an attached property, and not more than 4 metres if it’s detached. 

• Listed building consent may be required if the work is proposed on a listed building.

Please note that failure to abide by these rules could result in a hefty fine or the demolition of your conservatory.

3. Building a conservatory: Don’t pick the wrong style

Garden/Living transition:  Conservatory by Paul Wiggins Architects
Paul Wiggins Architects

Garden/Living transition

Paul Wiggins Architects

With extensions, there’s always the risk of the new building looking out of place. When building a conservatory, be selective with the design and choose features that blend with the style of your house.

4. Building a conservatory: Don’t ignore the landscape

Orangery with Bi-fold Doors:  Conservatory by Vale Garden Houses
Vale Garden Houses

Orangery with Bi-fold Doors

Vale Garden Houses

An area will need to be cleared for the ground works of your building. Once the conservatory is finished, you don’t want the surrounding grounds to remain a wasteland, do you? Plan the landscaping in advance to create a seamless link between extension and garden.

5. Building a conservatory: Don’t forget the furniture

Dual Level Orangery and Rooflights Transform a London Townhouse:  Conservatory by Vale Garden Houses
Vale Garden Houses

Dual Level Orangery and Rooflights Transform a London Townhouse

Vale Garden Houses

If you want to include a favourite bookshelf or dresser, ensure that your new conservatory has sufficient wall space in its design. On the other hand, don’t pick big and bulky pieces that will eat up too much legroom or get in the way of garden views.

6. Building a conservatory: Don’t disregard the rest of the ground floor

Georgian Orangery opens up the kitchen to include dining space:  Conservatory by Vale Garden Houses
Vale Garden Houses

Georgian Orangery opens up the kitchen to include dining space

Vale Garden Houses

The best-designed conservatories are the ones that flow seamlessly with the existing house. As you're investing in new flooring, plastering and electrical wiring for the extension, it's often worth getting the full potential from your investment by re-configuring the adjacent rooms as well.

7. Building a conservatory: Don’t make planning assumptions

Conservatory with Bronze Casement Windows on a Period Farmhouse:  Conservatory by Vale Garden Houses
Vale Garden Houses

Conservatory with Bronze Casement Windows on a Period Farmhouse

Vale Garden Houses

Ensure you have a capable professional by your side, check all the facts, and never make assumptions – it’s not worth the risk of having to take down your newly built conservatory.

We’ve already established the rules for Planning Permission, yet it never hurts to double check.  Find an experienced company that can advise on regulations and obtain the required consents before building a conservatory.

8. Building a conservatory: Don’t underestimate the view

Complex Conservatory on Victorian Rectory:  Conservatory by Vale Garden Houses
Vale Garden Houses

Complex Conservatory on Victorian Rectory

Vale Garden Houses

Obviously your choice of furnishings and décor is important, but one of the most crucial factors with conservatories is the exterior view. 

Therefore, put extra effort in planning the size and positioning of your conservatory’s windows and doors.

9. Building a conservatory: Don’t overlook temperature control

Grand Conservatory on a Substantial Channel Islands Property:  Conservatory by Vale Garden Houses
Vale Garden Houses

Grand Conservatory on a Substantial Channel Islands Property

Vale Garden Houses

Would you make use of a conservatory that’s freezing in winter and boiling in summer? Not likely! Solar-control glazing will minimise the amount of heat passing through (in either direction), helping the space to remain an even temperature all year round.  

Also keep in mind that heating, whether underfloor or radiators, will also ensure your new extension is comfortable throughout the year.

10. Building a conservatory: Don’t misjudge the maintenance

House on St.George Hill:  Conservatory by EVGENY BELYAEV DESIGN

House on St.George Hill


All garden buildings require a degree of maintenance. To keep this to a minimum, choose aluminium gutters (not plastic), an aluminium roof, hardwood construction and check out the manufacturer warranties.

11. Building a conservatory: Don’t scrimp on space

You don’t want to finish your conservatory just to wish you’d rather included a little extra legroom. Once it’s built, it’s going to require money, effort and time to change it.

12. Building a conservatory: Don’t neglect your homework

Making hasty decisions without any research is the quickest way to a building blunder. 

Draw up a shortlist of conservatory firms and ask to speak to their existing customers for a reference. If possible, go and check out the workmanship yourself. Afterwards, find out what your options are in terms of guarantees, insurance and customer service support before making a final choice.

At the end of the day, it is you who is building a conservatory (with the help of professionals, of course), which means you’re the one responsible for the costs. Make good choices!

See the 13 things you CAN do without planning permission.

Do you have any other important information when it comes to building a conservatory? Do share with us!
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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