Understanding How Ground Conditions Affect Your Conservatory or Orangery Build

When building a conservatory or orangery you will need an understanding of the soil and ground conditions before any work can be undertaken on the building foundations. Most conservatory or orangery companies do not provide ground work as part of their service so ideally you should find a company that does because the work can then be included within both the cost and guarantee. Given all of that it is a good idea to have some knowledge about how the ground conditions will affect your build, after all, it is what your conservatory or orangery will sit on.

Before any building work can be started an understanding of the subsoil strata will be required first. When doing this you will need to consider the following:

• The position of sewers.
• The position of inspection covers for drains.
• Whether the soil is clay or not.
• Whether the site is on reclaimed land or not.
• How close trees are to the proposed building.

Building over or near sewers
If your house was built prior to 1939 then it should have a private sewer system so it will not be owned by a local water authority. If unsure then just contact your local authority to find out. If you are building within 3 meters of a public sewer then legally you must contact the local water authority and consult with them before gaining their approval for the build. Allow time for this within your schedule. Also, you need to know the position of existing pipe work to ensure the extra weight cause no problems like cracks.

Building over inspection covers
If you plan to build over drainage inspection covers you really have two options, build over it or move it. Building over it can be an easy option but make your builders install a sealed screw down cover over the existing cover to prevent odours and gases coming into your new conservatory. This of course will affect your choice to flooring too. If there are no other inspection covers it may be worth moving it to a point where you can gain easy access. Remember blocked drains are not common but over the life span of the property they can occur, so if they do and your toilet facilities are overflowing, think how quickly and easily you will want to fix this!

Building on clay soils
Clay soil is subject to big changes in volume due to the moisture it carries. This volume change depends upon the make up of the fine particles that make up clay. Foundations within clay soils need to be a minimum of 1 meter but if the clay is very soft this may need to be deeper. A good builder will consult the local authority building inspector regarding this and this may need signed building regulations before you can insure your property.

Building on reclaimed land
Britain has limited space, a need for homes and a rich industrial past. All this means your property may be built on reclaimed land. This could be a brown fill site or old marsh land. What this means is that your conservatory or orangery may need different foundations to the standard build. This is not arduous as it used to be and it is now quite common to sink concrete bore holes into the ground so they rest of more solid ground. These bore holes then have concrete beams placed between them to provide a solid base. With access to the property and modern machinery this is not as big a job as it used to be, in fact one can even hire smaller bore hold diggers if access is restricted. That said it is still more work than normal foundations so this needs to be factored in.

Building near trees
Trees can take up so much moisture from the soil that this can cause subsidence. Therefore it is necessary to ensure you have the right foundations to avoid this problem if you are building your conservatory or orangery near trees. The guide is that if you are building within 35 meters then you could be affected. The type, the size and number of trees will clearly have a big impact on this. To help with this, the British Standard 5837 2005 “Guide for Trees in Relations to Construction” will be very helpful.

As with all of these considerations, it is a good idea to seek good advice on your particular build and it is a good idea to consider a conservatory or orangery company that include ground-works within their service so they can factor this into the build of your conservatory.

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Choosing a conservatory roof

Picking the right roof for your conservatory needs some thought and consideration. Designers often concern themselves with the actual design or look of the building while builders are focused on the construction itself or how familiar there are with certain materials, e.g. tiles. A key consideration though is the material you use for the roof. Although there are different materials one can use, ranging from budget polycarbonate to lantern roofs you must remember not to make the choice based solely on the initial cost of construction.

Cheaper roofs may be cheaper to install but often their owners end up being unhappy with them because they become too hot in summer and too expensive to heat in winter. This effectively reduces the amount of time you can use your conservatory and reduces the actual value of your investment – something to consider when thinking of selling your house on.

With conservatories, the main choice of material will be glass. This in itself also needs consideration since there are different options that need to be considered. These include:

Heat reflective glass
Laminated glass
Self clean glass

We will look at each one in turn.

This glass allows you to use your conservatory in the height of summer without it turning into a type of greenhouse. It also reduces the glare from bright sunlight while allowing light to come through on dull days. In recent years heat reflective glass has proved very popular.

It is also known as ‘energy efficient glass’ or ‘low e-glass’. It has a metallic coating on one side that makes the glass have a slight brown/gray tint to it. In effect this coating allows the sun’s energy to pass through from the outside but then reduces the heat loss from the inside. What is important here is that it does not provide heat insulation on its own and needs to be part or a double or triple glazed unit to provide substantial insulation.

Heat reflective glass comes in two types, sputtered (or soft-coat) and pyrolytic (or hard-coat). Sputtered glass is susceptible to damage by air or moisture so is usually used on sealed double or triple glazed units. Pyrolytic is more robust so therefore does not have to be sealed, but is less effective at keeping the heat out of your conservatory when it gets hot outside.

Laminated glass adds strength to your glass to stop it easily breaking – which makes it great for security and safely. What’s key to know here is that it is different from toughened glass because it does shatter when you absolutely need to break it, say with the advent of a fire. You may be familiar with this sort of glass because it is often used in car windscreens. So when hit with force, the glass will smash into tiny pieces and not huge chunks that can cause damage.

Toughened glass on the other hand is strong also, but either won’t break when you need it to, or with enough force, will break into larger more dangerous pieces.

Laminated glass is slightly thicker than normal but does have better insulation properties to both the cold and noise.

Self-cleaning glass sounds great and is actually very clever. It works by having a very thin photocatalytic coating on its surface. The sun’s ultraviolet rays then hit this coating and steadily breaks down dirt and grime from the glass so it can be washed away when it rains. So with the sun acting as a sort of cleaner (photocatalytic) and the rain acting as a sort of rinse aid (hydrophilic) you end up with cleaner glass for much longer.

Self-clean glass can also be specified with heat reflective glass so ensure you consider both options before you purchase.

In conclusion, you need to think through how you could potentially use your new conservatory. If you like the idea of adding more months to the year when you can comfortably use your conservatory then you need to carefully consider the types of glass you can have.

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Why choose a upvc conservatory?

A conservatory is a great way of adding space to your home at minimal cost. It also allows you to continue to enjoy your garden long after the rains have come and the air has turned cold. A conservatory made of UPVC is a particularly cost effective way of ensuring your house benefits from additional space and a place to enjoy the outside whilst staying warm and toasty inside. UPVC is a material extremely durable by nature. Traditionally conservatories were made from wood, but the advent of uPVC which is longer lasting and much cheaper means that the majority are now made from this. UPVC stands for Unplasticised Poly Vinyl Chloride. Being “unplasticised” means there are no softening agents or “plasticisers” within the material making it ideal for large structures such as conservatories. Being able to manufacture conservatories from the material uPVC means that a much greater number of people have access to what was previously a very costly and luxurious item.

It is still possible to purchase wooden framed conservatories, but there are a number of disadvantages for doing so. For a start, uPVC structures are very low maintenance. There is no varnishing, painting, sanding or any other DIY to be carried out. Once the structure is up, you can simply sit back and enjoy. UPVC is also a very simple material to clean. The occasional wipe with a damp cloth and a drop of washing up liquid is all that is required to keep it looking in excellent shape and remove any grime. Wooden frames are liable to fade in the sun too. Weather badly effects wood which needs constant attention, varnishing and caring for and the dirt although perhaps more easily hidden is much harder to remove. UPVC frames are extremely durable and will last for decades. They will not rot like wood can which as well as looking unsightly, can even pose a security risk.

UPVC conservatories are accompanied with excellent security measures. Many come equipped with advanced locking systems that provide total peace of mind. Additionally there are internal reinforcements included in the designs that provide extra strength and impact resistance for added rigidity and overall security. Although uPVC is a plastic material, it is non-toxic and fully recyclable. Conservatories made from this material are extremely energy efficient too as heat is retained easily during the winter and kept out during the summer through the incorporation of special insulation. This lowers heating bills in winter and prevents the room needing fans or air conditioning in summer. It also provides another reason, as a conservatory made from uPVC acts as a friend rather than foe to the environment.

They are extremely easy to assemble too making the installation a simple process. More often than not they can be assembled on site. With a variety of wood effect finishes available, it is even possible to have all the benefits of uPVC whilst still retaining a traditional feel. The untrained eye would not be able to tell the windows, doors or conservatory were made from anything other than timber.

With a host of different styles available, any type or size of home can benefit from a uPVC conservatory. It comes as no surprise that they are extremely popular all over the UK in particular where summers can be short. Often it is unnecessary to obtain planning permission before assembling a conservatory and the low cost makes them an affordable way to extend the house with the minimum of difficulty. UPVC is a very strong and hard wearing material that weathers extremely well. This makes it an ideal material for structures such as a lean to conservatory or sliding patio doors that are subjected to harsh weather every day. With wood effect finishes and different colours available, all styles and tastes can be accommodated.

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The Materials and Detailing of Conservatory Roofs

Choosing a conservatory roof is one thing, but on every roof there are details that need to be considered. Crestings and finials are architectural features that are used to make the roof more decorative. They have been around for many years but it was from the Victorian age that architects became obsessed with detailed designs and ornate devices, so in conservatories built from this period onwards crestings and finials have frequently been used with the design of the building. As styles have changed and morphed over the years, these styles are still evident today although with more contemporary conservatories one can either just not use them at all or use then in a minimalist way.

Cresting is the material or finishing that runs along the central ridge of the roof while the finial is the pointed feature that sits at the front of the apex of the roof. Both these features sit on the roof capping and are more ornamental than functional. That said, they were originally designed so that the eye would glance up at the roof but they have also evolved so that they are also used as a devise so that birds to not perch on the roof and then leave a bird-like message on your clean glass. The finial also has a slight practical use in that it can be used as a lightning rod, although today the material used is often the same as the construction material, whether this be wood, cast aluminium or moulded plastic.

This brings us onto what crestings are made of. Most of the time it is similar to the finial and is made of either cast aluminium or moulded plastic. Most aluminium varieties are finished with a polyester based powder coating that leaves a very durable clean surface that is often guaranteed for 10 years depending on the supplier and the price of the cresting. Of course one can always use a moulded plastic cresting and this often comes out cheaper than aluminium. All crestings and finials should be available in a colour to match the paint work of your conservatory.

Crestings and finials come in a variety of designs, typically these are:

– Antique
– Traditional
– Victorian
– Regency
– Fleur-de-lys
– Baroque
– Edwardian
– Elizabethan
– Tudor

Sometimes a roof will have to be constructed of a stronger material like such as lead. Building regulations may stipulate that you construct the conservatory or orangery in a way that does not restrict ladder access to either windows on the first floor or a loft conversion. This will mean you may have to build the conservatory with a partial flat roof to give fire access. In cases like this the builder may also need to get building regulations signed off to prove this point. In addition to fire regulations, if a window in the main building overlooks the conservatory or orangery you will want to consider the design of the roof and its fittings much more closely since they will be visible from this window. If this is the case you might want to consider more expensive materials like lead, zinc or copper. The colours and textures of these metals can add a great deal to the look of your conservatory and change over time, although be prepared because they can also add a substantial amount to the final cost. For this reason we usually recommend synthetic weatherproof materials with a long guarantee.

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Problem Conservatories

Buying a conservatory is fraught with worry and potential problems. Part of this worry is down to the industry’s reputation for certain cowboy builders who are known for aggressive sales techniques, broken promises, poor quality work and occasionally going bust leaving the customer with no-one to turn to.

In response to this, the windows and conservatory industry has come together to rid the industry of the cowboys and provide protection to its customers. The result is the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS) who are there to take the risk out of buying conservatories for consumers.

There are other professional trade bodies covering the industry at the moment but none of them offer protection to the consumer in the way the Ombudsman can. What makes the DGCOS unique is its power and muscle it has within the industry.

Independent Ombudsman
The DGCOS is a true independent Ombudsman that has an ongoing process of vetting installers to ensure they are both honest and provide a quality service. This vetting process is an ongoing procedure to ensure standards do not slip. In addition to this they can act as a powerful arbiter if disputes do arise.

Why choose a DGCOS installer
As an overview the Ombudsman provides peace of mind. Specifically they deliver this by offering a series of benefits that are designed to help you.

Deposit protection: Initially they will protect any deposit you put down so long as it is not over 25% of the purchase price. This is great because this is always the point of no return with most contracts and parting with the money to someone who could go out of business the next day is always a worry at the back of your mind.

10 year guarantee: Having a comprehensive 10 year guarantee is essential to avoid the worry that you won’t be able to find your installer years after they have banked your money and then the roof starts to leak. We all know conservatory companies offer guarantees but also all worry they won’t be that bothered years after the conservatory has been completed. This guarantee is similar to the NHBC 10 year warranty offered by house builders.

Insurance Guarantee: What do you do if your conservatory company goes into liquidation? The insurance backed guarantee guards the consumer against this problem.

Professional Mediators: Like any complex project, disputes do happen. The conservatory industry cannot avoid these but what the Ombudsman can do is provide a free mediation service in the case of a dispute with any of its members.

Independent Inspectors: As part of the dispute resolution process, the Ombudsman can provide independent inspectors to verify exactly what work has been carried out and to what standard it has been done.

Binding Arbitration: The key to resolving any disputes within the DGCOC is a mandatory and legally binding arbitration service that all the members sign up to. This comprehensively protects the consumer with a process they know all installers will adhere to.

The DGCOS is a win-win for both consumer and installer. It offers the consumer complete peace of mind, while conservatory companies like it too because they do not want to be associated with cowboy installers that bring the reputation of the industry down and therefore deter people from buying.

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Finishing Touches to Your Conservatory

So you’ve decided to have a conservatory built. The next step is budget and design. Yet there are so many more layers to the design that can be easily overlooked. The last step for most people is the decoration of the interior, the finishing touches, and so people expect to consider this when the conservatory is finished.

This article suggests that you employ some reverse logic. Whilst it is vital that you employ the right builder and ensure that they (and you) stay within your planned budget, your conservatory will be there as long as you live in your home, and it is also important that you get the interior look you want. By thinking about the finish at the start, you will be able to make choices about design that will not be available to you once the conservatory is actually built.

This is all about avoiding any nagging regrets, perhaps at not spending just a little more to have had the eventual look and feel that means that you can really enjoy the new space in your home.

A reputable builder, with dedicated experience of building conservatories will be able to talk you through the different options available in terms of structural design and how that will impact on the interior design. Some firms can also provide these finishing touches so that you really can begin the design process by exploring their portfolio from ‘finish to start’.

What to consider

Flooring will have a huge impact on the look and feel of the space. But avoid making choices in isolation, consider how the new flooring will match to that in the existing room, where the conservatory will join. If your heart is set on wood flooring, consider having the same flooring cross into the existing space by re-flooring the adjoining room too. Similarly, if you want ceramic flooring in the conservatory, this might well match better to wood flooring or laminate. Even the skirting is worth considering in this way. Ask your builder about matching the skirting in your adjoining room to that of the new conservatory.

If you like the look of clean plastered walls for the conservatory, but have wall-paper in the adjoining room consider whether this mismatch will work. Perhaps one wall can remain papered, as a feature wall, with the walls immediately adjoining the conservatory changed to match its interior.

Furnishings matter. Do you want the conservatory furnishing to stand-alone, matching only to the feel of that new space, or do you want a consistent feel throughout. Think about your current furnishing, would it work in the conservatory, if so then you might prefer to re-furnish your existing room where perhaps you’ll spend more time.

The key is to try to see your existing space as objectively as you can. It’s difficult when you see it every day, but a friend can help guide your view to see it how it really is: traditional; contemporary; a classic 1960s-build or Georgian. Then you have a place to start, do you want to keep consistency or create an interesting contrast.

Sometimes the finish is the best place to start.

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