We are all very much aware of the inherent problems with the UK’s current crop of conservatories. I have one, it’s terrible. It’s the streets biggest fridge during the winter, so the beer goes in there. Melting hot in the summer. Deafening in the rain. Unsightly. Crappy polycarbonate roof sheets. Finials that are a pain in the arse to clean. You get the picture. It’s garbage.
The pattern is repeated to millions of UK homes. All installed during the height of the conservatory market until it peaked in 2006 where a massive 240,000 new conservatories were built and installed. It’s gone downhill quick ever since.
Since then however, the market has changed significantly. There is a whole new suite of products which when combined create a stunning bit of architecture (assuming it’s designed properly) which is simply not worthy of the term “conservatory” but instead: glazed extension. One of those new products has been the solid roof.
A quick revolution
The rise of the solid roof has been meteoric. In just a few short years, solid roofs have quickly become a household recognised product. A difficult task when you consider how disengaged the general public has been with our industry in recent decades.
But it’s taken off because it solves a genuine and large-scale problem with the current population of conservatories in the country.
However, one of my biggest concerns in the early years of this product are the ramifications for things like building regulations, planning permission and structural safety. When solid roofs came out in the early days, it was safe to say that there was a definite grey area concerning planning permission and building regulations. Was the structure classed as an extension if the conservatory roof was replaced with a solid one? Do you need to apply for planning permission again? What areas of building regulations are relevant?
A few years later and those queries seem to have been cleared up in the most part. Yet, I still remain concerned about the structural aspect of solid roofs on the rest of the structure. If you think about it logically, the existing conservatory was built to take a polycarbonate roof in most cases. Therefore the strains and stresses on the frames, walls and base are used to that. Replace that with a solid roof with tiles, plastering, electrical works, lots of timber, steel and insulation, it’s going to be many times heavier than what it has been used to.
I’d love to believe that every company undertakes the necessary steps to check the existing base, walls and frames to make sure that a heavier solid roof is suitable to replace a lightweight one. However, I suspect there aren’t, and my biggest fear is if some slapdash, rogue installer plonks one on top without really thinking about it properly, the worst case scenario isn’t worth thinking about.
As with all products in our industry, there are varying qualities. At our place we didn’t rush into it. We knew that as a young industry, there were mistakes yet to be made, with other companies bringing out improved versions. In the end, we decided that Prefix’s Garden Room was the ideal choice for us:
We looked at the early versions and we just weren’t happy with the build quality. There were cold spots all over the place, inadequate insulation and the general appearance of the finished product lacked the quality we are renowned for. So Prefix it was, and needless to say, we’re more than happy.
Quality has got to be the key with solid roofs. Get it right and you can transform any existing conservatory or new-build glazed extension into a work of art, totally transforming the elevation of the house that it’s built on to. Get it wrong, and it can easily look like a cheap, make-shift solution to get round a problem already caused by a cheap, make-shift solution. These things aren’t cheap, so if a home owner is going to invest thousands more into their conservatory or glazed extension, it needs to be done right.
Solid roofs have changed the industry because they now offer a genuine, quality alternative to the massively flawed standard conservatory.
It gives home owners a choice to have the look of an extension, combined with the aesthetics of an Orangery or a Loggia. It need not cost the same as a full blown extension, thanks to it’s pre-fabricated nature and environmentally friendly tile options. They’re quick too, with the majority of the heavy work done in the space of a day.
The solid roof, combined with other new glazed extension innovations, is helping installers take on a market normally reserved for builders, whilst at the same time attacking the massive and yet untapped renovations market that has come about thanks to an aging existing conservatory population.
Quality is key though. There are many risks and downsides to the cheaper, lower-end solid roofs that come with all the claims but lack the follow through.
Solid roofs are part of the wider future for glazed extensions, they’re here for the long term and they are a product that we should all be doing. Anyone still doing polycarbonate out there?
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