An Online Buyers Guide
Designing and building your new conservatory has never been easier - with access to the internet you can have your new conservatory designed and priced - often in minutes! It is easy to have your conservatory even at a distance without the need of a salesman sitting in your home for hours on end telling you how brilliant their product is compared to everyone else's! You can take control and be your own project manager (with a little expert help).
The cost savings can be huge! You can save thousands of pounds and the quality of a self building conservatory from some of the online specialists is every bit as good as the quality from national companies. Many online sellers offer you a free quotation service, some of them will have a webpage with 'Drop Box' options for size, shape, colour and style - fill this in and press send.
Remember that online sellers rarely employ sales people so give your details in the knowledge that there will not be anyone knocking on your door. Your reply will be by email or by telephone (always give a number that you can be reached on). Ask them to send you an information pack and brochure. The quality of the package and its presentation will give you a good idea of the quality of the supplier you are dealing with. Look at your pack: has it got a colour brochure? Information sheets? Guides for measuring? Is it easy to understand and printed clearly?
uPVC - Hardwood. Aluminium.
uPVC - Affordable, accessible and medium skill levels required. Possible on a DIY basis.
Hardwood - Much more expensive and high levels of carpentry skills required. Not a DIY project.
Aluminium - Similar price to hardwood but not recommended for DIY without a hugely skilled tradesman present.
Co lour choices for uPVC Conservatories will include white as standard, then oak or mahogany wood grain, either: double sided or white on the inside.
This year, many uPVC extruders are producing wood grain finished in colour (for example, the 'Artisan' range from Synseal - one of the UK's leading extruders).
Creams, greens and, yes, even blue! Many wood grains, including white, are now freely available (at an extra cost). This type of colour finish was normally reserved for the expensive and exclusive hardwood market.
A new uPVC conservatory has more security features than ever before: multi-point lock door systems; anti-bump locks; anti-jemmy devices for patio doors; door restrictors built into the head (so doors don't blow back); shoot bolt key locking windows and internal beads on the frames so the glass units can only be replaced from the inside. Ask about all these and are standard or extras. Look out for the following British Standard Kitemarks.
BS 6399 - Your assurance that wind, snow loadings and stress calculations have been achieved.
BS 5750 - The industry benchmark for quality UPVC extrusion.
Glass (Usually toughened but ask)
BS 6262 and BS6209 - These are essential Kitemarks to avoid cheap foreign imported glass which does not always meet safety standards.
There is a huge choice of glass sealed units. Look out for safety glass firstly for the side of frames and if you want a glass roof (as opposed to a Polycarbonate roof) choices will include: 'K' Glass of' Low E' glass. This is a mineral coating which reflects heat back into the room. Also, argon gas filled sealed units have superb thermal efficiency (the lower the 'U' valve, the better the thermal efficiency but it does carry an added cost). The sealed unit or IGU (Insulating Glass Units) should be 28mm in width.
Nearly all UK conservatory roofs are aluminum structures with a strong eaves beam and all bars and ridges in aluminum. There are clad or capped inside and out with UPVC (color match to your side frames) and nearly always have their own integral guttering system. Watch-out for color matches between roof and side frames and ask if they are from the same uPVC extruder! Roof glazing will be a choice of polycarbonate (should be 25mm thick) or glass.
Roof glass options can include anti-sun glass (if you are South facing) and self cleaning glass (and yes it really does work!) such as Pilkington Active Blue or St. Gobain Planitherm - an extra charge will occur for these options.
When web browsing, look out for the supplier who offers downloadable information and self help guides. A glossary of terms is useful and guides you through the 'conservatory speak' of the salesman. Look at the overall quality and appearance of the website.
Questions to ask
Will they deliver to your door and is there a charge? How long from order to delivery? (Max. 21 days in UK) Is there a meaningful Guarantee Insurance underwritten and by whom? Check out how long they have been trading and have they had a name change over the years!
Ask if they have expert advice available by telephone - can they offer a fitting service? Many quality firms will give you a separate quote for installation; although, with the growth in DIY skills, many straightforward conservatories can be built over a couple of weekends using friends and one skilled helper.
Some online sellers will offer a bespoke service for more complicated designs. Don't be afraid to be adventurous. A 'P' shape or Gable front or a Hip back to a bungalow or a Glass Box often seen on Grand Designs may well be available. Remember they should provide you with all the base and building plans free of charge and all elevation drawings.
Information Packs always ask for an information pack. Do they provide one and not just a standard industry brochure? A good information pack will reflect the quality of the company you're dealing will.
Look carefully at their website - is it quality? Is it east to use? Can you contact them by freephone? Are the images in their gallery their own of just industry 'standard' pictures?
Their websites may have links on it - are they useful to you and do they further explain the quality of their own business and business partners?
Planning Permission - Do you need it?
A simple guide is that if the house has not been extended since it was built and you have a garden, the chances of you needing a full application (usually 110 or more depending on the local authority) are small. To be on the safe side, put in a Planning Development Inquiry (PDI) it is usually free and they will reply in writing advising you if you do or do not need an application. Keep this letter safe as it will be important if you sell the house as a solicitor will do a land registry search.
As a rule of thumb, if there is a door or French doors between the conservatory and the house, you will not require Building Regulation Approval. If the conservatory is to be left open or your kitchen extends into the conservatory, you will need the correct approvals and there are fees to pay to your local authority (see the 'Building Control' pages of your local council. There will be a menu pricing system for fees).
Please remember the rules for planning application can vary from one local authority to another. Houses in a terrace or in conservation areas, National Parks. If there is a local plan in place, it may have certain restrictions.
All local authorities have the same government blue cook 'A Guide to Planning' - get hold of a free copy. Remember: if in doubt, ask for advice. A recent national survey showed that up to 55% of householders world consider DIY as a serious option to create their new kitchen, bathroom or conservatory rather than having someone in to do it. Self build is not daunting! Go online and ask for an information pack and ring them up and talk to them about your project. You will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the advice they can give you. Deal with established businesses and your self build conservatory will be a realistic and affordable dream come true.
Autor: Nick Schofield Nick Schofield
Level: Basic PLUS
I am a UK (Manchester) based SEO/Website Promotion expert....
Added: April 15, 2009