The Zero Stress Guide to Conservatories


What You Need To Know Before You Buy a Conservatory

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Choice of Conservatory Materials

Top tips

  • PVCu is a good budget option
  • Frame thickness determines structural strength
  • Aluminium is often best choice for commercial (hard wearing) locations

The three basic materials used for conservatories ensure that there is something to meet every taste – and every pocket.

PVCu ConservatoriesPVCu Conservatories

PVC, PVCu, uPVC, PVC-U, and PVCU all essentially refer to the same substance. The most popular choice, this is an excellent material which has the advantage of needing little or no maintenance. The least expensive of all the available materials, it is most popular in white but is also available in mahogany and oak wood-grain styles.Problems with discoloration are negligible and most suppliers will provide warranties against this. The design of the windows varies from company to company but points to look for include:

Internal or externally-glazed windows – an option offered by most PVCu systems. Internally-beaded windows, where the glass is held in from the inside, are generally deemed more secure and burglar-resistant. However, there are also perfectly satisfactory externally-beaded PVCu systems on the market. Many feature either internal wedge gaskets or a double-sided tape that firmly fixes the external bead.

Thickness of PVCu wall – most PVCu systems for window and door construction are ‘multi-walled’ with internal reinforcement provided by either aluminium or galvanised steel box section. Wall thickness can vary from system to system, most being around 3mm or 3.5mm. In general the thicker the walling, the stronger the section. Ask your supplier to show you a sample section and establish whether the frames are fully reinforced. Be aware, too, that the greater the number of internal walls, the greater the strength of the building.

Depth or thickness of frame – the depth of frame extrusion can vary from as low as 50mm to more than 70mm, although most are in the 60-65mm range. This, too, has an effect on the structural strength of the conservatory – the thicker the frame, the stronger the conservatory section.

Note that PVCu is unacceptable to planners for use on listed buildings, nor is it popular with planners in conservation areas.

Hardwood ConservatoriesHardwood Conservatories

A more expensive material, hardwood is the choice of those seeking a traditional design with an authentic look and is a particular favourite for use in listed buildings or period properties. It has the twin benefits of being suitable for the recreation of virtually any traditional design or feature, while incorporating the contemporary advantages of double-glazing. Hardwood is available in a variety of stains such as mahogany and light oak, as well as various painted finishes and, while it does require periodic maintenance, this is not an onerous task thanks to modern paints and stains.As with PVCu, the frame thickness will affect the structural strength. It is also important to ascertain which jointing method is used – most suppliers use a traditional mortice and tenon joint but other systems do exist.

Aluminium Conservatories

This shares many of the features of PVCu, although aluminium is more expensive and does not provide such efficient insulation. However, it is an excellent choice for commercial locations and any circumstances in which strength is an important factor.

Many conservatories, although clad in PVCu, use aluminium in the roof structure because of its superior strength.

Aluminium Conservatories

Oak – Green and Seasoned Oak Conservatories

Oak – Green and Seasoned Oak ConservatoriesDespite the higher cost, oak has become the most sought-after European hardwood for conservatories. It is used in two forms – green or seasoned. When trees are first felled, the wood – known as green oak – is softer, full of sap and easier to cut. Conservatories using green oak are built from large pieces of oak held together by beech pins. As the wood dries and shrinks, the beech pins tighten and pull the building together. Green oak conservatories are often recommended for use in period properties as these tend to be single-glazed and riddled with nooks and crannies – natural airflow is part of the appeal.

Seasoned oak, which is dried before the manufacturing process, is recognised as the superior material for conservatories. Huge slices of wood are racked in the open air until the oak has weathered, shrunk and hardened, at which point the wood is ready to be carved, if required.

Seasoned oak is used for all styles of conservatory, from simple contemporary designs to the more traditional, complete with intricate carvings.

The wood can be painted or stained – a popular solution is to paint the exterior to blend with the house while using a natural stain on the interior to accentuate the wood grain.

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