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A Conservatory for Your Home

Conservatories are traditionally room additions with glass roofs and walls that let the outside light stream into the home. They differ from working greenhouses (which are designed to allow the gardener to care for plants) in that conservatories are extensions of indoor living spaces and are meant for seating and eating areas. A well designed conservatory will not only increase the pleasure of living in a house, it will also add exterior architectural distinction (think "the Conservatory" in the popular game of "Clue"). Conservatories are can be custom designed, but they are also available as kits.

If you are thinking of adding a conservatory, consider the following:

  • The most popular and least costly conservatories are made from walls whose glass panes are framed with UPVC (also known as PVC-U or hard PVC). These make excellent, highly insulated structures that require virtually no maintenance. Look for walls that are between 1 to 2 inches (3 to 3.5 mm) thick that have also been reinforced with aluminum or galvanized steel.
  • Aluminum framed walls are more expensive than UPVC, and they do not insulate as well. They are, however, extremely strong, so aluminum may be the most appropriate choice for larger structures.
  • Hardwood framed walls are very traditional. These conservatories are the most beautiful and historically authentic. The wood can be painted or stained in a wide range of colors. Wooden conservatories require more maintenance than other types, and they are the most expensive. Look for brands with sturdy wall thicknesses. Many companies construct this type of conservatory using “mortise and tenon” joinery.
  • The roofs of well built conservatories should be constructed from aluminum, steel or timber. Look for models whose roofs have been made specifically for them rather than being pieced together from pre-existing window framing, as these will be susceptible to leaking. A quality conservatory will have the same warranty for the roof as it does for the walls.

Conservatories come in many different sizes and styles from traditional to modern. A conservatory

that is being added to an existing house will be most successful if it harmonizes with the architectural style of the house. It is important to carefully check out the ornamental details of any conservatory you are thinking of installing, as many companies use terms such as “Victorian” very loosely.

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