The Great British conservatory is dead isn’t it? Those tacky looking white boxes, impossible to use throughout the year, have surely now been consigned to the “value” end of the market, or even history? We’re certainly a long way off the 2006 peak in the conservatory market where 240,000 new conservatories were installed. A lot has happened since then, and the economy and the window and door industry looks a lot different compared to back then.
A transformed market
It was during the turbulent years of 2008 – 2012 that the industry saw some immense and rapid diversification to the product portfolio in the conservatory market which saw the birth of the new glazed extension market and the death of the old conservatory market.
The industry faced up to the hard truth that if home owners were going to fall back in love with the conservatory market, they needed to offer them something different. Something that looked visually far more impressive and would actually generate genuine interest and excitement from home owners. Something that would allow home owners to use these rooms as a proper room of their home 12 months a year. Something that was solid, secure and felt part of the rest of the building. The industry, in the most part, has delivered.
Ultraframe are perhaps the most high-profile company in this sector, and were the first to really break ranks and show installers that new products like the Loggia, Cornice gutter, LivinRoom and LivinRoof were all ground breakers. Others in the industry followed, with their own solid roofs, their own columns, own internal and external products which when put together, gave home owners a proper extension, orangery or glazed extension.
This part of the industry has now evolved. Perhaps it’s a bit triumphant to say that the traditional conservatory market is dead, but it’s certainly on life support. But the question to ask, as we look forward, is if this new glazed extensions market could be as popular as the old conservatory one?
There’s no doubting that this new age of glazed extensions looks so much more sophisticated, elegant and relevant than their tired predecessors. Put an image of a conservatory and a glazed extension next to each other, I know which home owners will pick.
But it’s also worth remembering that a 2015 glazed extension compared to a 2015 conservatory is going to cost the same. It’s going to cost more. Quite a bit more in some cases. And you have to consider that during the early conservatory years, they boomed not only because of the promise of extra space, but because they were cheap. Many companies were throwing these things up. You cannot throw up a properly crafted glazed extension, and you certainly cannot do it on a conservatory budget.
So whilst it’s nice to think that all home owners are immediately going to drop the idea of the humble conservatory to go for the glazed extension instead, reality and logic will dictate that some simply won’t be able to afford it. That’s where the refurbishment market comes in.
We may not see a year where 240,000 brand new glazed extensions are built. That seems a bit of a tall order at present. However, the dearly departed conservatory market has left us with quite a hefty gift, in the form of a few million old conservatories that are ripe for refurbishment.
Why build a new glazed extension when you can turn an old conservatory into one? Check the base and dwarf walls are good, then tear down the old frames, install a nice new bi-folding doors, a couple of brick columns or Loggia columns, install a solid or partially glazed roof, throw an internal pelmet into the mix, a slick aluminium gutter, plaster, electrics and heating and voila! Within the footprint of the old conservatory now stands a gleaming new piece of architecture that looks part of the home and can be used all year round, as intended.
There are millions of old conservatories ripe for ripping down and rebuilding properly. Mine being one of them! So whilst we may not see hundreds of thousands of brand new ones being built every year, it is quite possible to see hundreds of thousands of refurbishments being completed instead.