I Want to Add a Conservatory

Conservatories first became popular in the Victorian period, when they were used for displaying exotic plants and ferns. If you are lucky enough to have an original Victorian or Edwardian conservatory, it’s a valuable part of your house and worth looking after.

You may need planning permission and building regulation approval to extend your house. In addition, if your house is listed you will need listed building consent. You should seek advice on the need for consent before carrying out these changes.

Conservatory or extension?

Today, new conservatories are popular as a relatively quick and cheap way of building a light-filled extension onto a house. If your house is listed, a new conservatory will need consent, and for all older houses the location, size, materials and design need careful thought.

It’s a good idea to first think about why you need a conservatory, as a solid-walled extension may be a better way of providing extra space, and could be easier to insulate and heat. It may also fit in better with the character of your old house. Weighing up long-term energy costs is as important as the initial outlay. If you need planning permission and building regulations approval, your conservatory must meet standards for energy efficiency and insulation.

What should my conservatory look like?

Choosing the right location is important: a conservatory almost always looks wrong on the front of the house, even if this is best for sunlight and internal planning. The side or rear are usually the best locations. Victorian conservatories were often sited in shady places, depending on the type of plants they contained.

As with any extension, look carefully at the scale, character and surroundings of your house. Understanding what is special about it will help you decide the best place for the conservatory, and help with choices of materials, size and style. It’s important that the conservatory does not dominate your house. If your house is very small any extension, even a conservatory, could spoil its character, unless it can be located out of sight.

The style of the conservatory need not copy historical examples, and a contemporary design may work well. A bespoke design is usually the best solution for an old house. Good options include building a plinth in the same material as your house, with a frame for the glazing given a painted finish, in colours to complement old stone or brick.

Connecting doorways

Think about how the conservatory will connect to the rest of your house. It is usually better to use an existing external doorway than to create a new opening, to avoid removing part of the historic wall of the house. If the conservatory will overlap windows, keep them as features, and avoid plastering the outside wall of the house, inside the conservatory. The old wall surface is part of the history of your house and will give character to your new space.

It’s important for a new conservatory to be reversible, meaning it can be removed in the future without damaging the house. The physical junction between old and new needs careful attention, to avoid damp problems, and to avoid damaging the old wall or other features.