Conservatories – the positives and pitfalls01/06/21
There’s something very British about conservatories – those greenhouse-like structures that are often added to the back of houses as an ‘outside-inside’ extension to the lounge. They have been a popular and enjoyable addition to UK properties for many years now, since their 1980s heyday. They offer a relaxing space at the rear of the property, with garden-facing views, come rain or shine. But like any aspect of a building – particularly anything that has been added at a later date – they can be problematic.
An appealing addition
The appeal of conservatories is twofold. They offer a weather-proof place to sit and relax that can be enjoyed all year around. They are often mainly made of glass or uPVC panels, which allows the sunshine in – so much so in fact, that many are fitted with retractable blinds. But they are also a valuable source of extra space and many homeowners view conservatories as an extra room. One of the mantras of home renovation is ‘improve don’t move’. If you’re running out of room, the addition of a conservatory can make all the difference.
One big advantage of adding a conservatory to your house is that they fall under ‘Permitted Use’ in local planning law and so usually don’t need planning permission from your Local Authority – whereas a full-scale extension would. The biggest issue with conservatories is their functionality as usable living accommodation, as they have tended to be built without radiators or integral heating. Depending on their geographic orientation, they can be really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter. This means you need to have a fan or a heater on hand, depending on the temperature.
It’s important to remember when erecting a conservatory that they have a ceiling value – if your conservatory costs you £10,000, you may not realise that, as an additional value to your property overall. Compare this to an extension, which could form an additional bedroom, which would have a more direct impact on the property value. A study by Towergate Insurance in 2017 showed that for conservatories there may be an uplift in value of 5%, whereas the equivalent for loft conversions was nearer 15%. And of course, after a few years of wear and tear on a cheaper conservatory, it may look tatty and actually deter potential purchasers, or make them submit a lower offer, because of the maintenance work required.
When you’re looking at buying or selling a property with a conservatory attached, it’s worth bearing these tips in mind, regarding any potential problems. Polycarbonate roofs can quickly become discoloured and yellow, which makes conservatories look very unattractive. They can also gather moss or that green algae that develops under overhanging trees. Leaves have a habit of carpeting them too, especially flat roofs, and regular maintenance of the guttering is required, to prevent blockages of leaves and sticks. Like any external addition to a building, the junction of the two structures can cause problems. The valley between the wall and the conservatory roof can be a weak spot for leaks, so will need regular maintenance to prevent this. In addition, there are all the usual uPVC issues with misting, condensation and failing seals after 10-15 years, as well as the glazing itself becoming damaged.
If you’re looking at buying a property that has a conservatory, then get in touch. Our expert surveyors and valuers are on hand to talk through any concerns you may have.