There is currently a lot of focus on conservatories right now. A recent media report claimed that “naff” conservatories can knock a whopping £15,000 off the value of a home. You can read more on that here.
Then a DGB poll showed that just 18% think that conservatories and glazed extensions will play an important role in their business in the coming few years. You can read more on that here as well.
Frankly, the conservatory has an image problem. Namely, white plastic boxes with the very established climate control problems.
But there is a way to breathe life into this sector. Which is important as it forms a very large part of the wider fenestration sector.
Flush, timber and aluminium
For those of you following DGB on social media, there has been a lot of attention on aluminium over the past few months. The simple fact is that this is where the strongest growth is and where the most profitable opportunities are going to be for installers, fabricators and systems companies.
I also like flush PVCu a lot. It has been the biggest innovation in that part of the market for years and rejuvenated the PVCu residential market.
This is where I see conservatories and glazed extensions finding new life. Aluminium windows and flush PVCu windows look infinitely better standard PVCu casements, and genuinely add character to any structure that they are installed into. When you look at a conservatory with a glass roof and plain White standard casements, it’s rather uninspiring. But merely change the frames to a flush option, or aluminium, then the entire thing looks different and far more attractive to look at.
Although I don’t give timber as much time as I perhaps should, timber windows and doors are also an outlet that could provide new opportunities for conservatories and glazed extensions. Aesthetically they have always looked good, and with the problem with conservatories being image-based, timber would also be a good option. But it would have to be a quality hardwood and one that held it’s finish for as long as possible. Remember that the whole reason PVCu took off was the major USP of low maintenance.
A more cost effective option
There are more than three million existing conservatories out there in the UK. That is according to estimates at least. I have a sneaky suspicion there may be more than that.
Most of these remain old polycarbonate or glass roof structures with the usual problems. That means there is still a lot of the existing market to be able to go at. So whilst there seems to be a lot of potential here, in my discussions with installers, they are being put off pushing them due to previous reliability problems, the organisation of different labours and margins that can be made on simpler window or door installations.
That being said, due to inflation over the last few years, upgrading or renovating an existing conservatory is now by far the more cost effective option for homeowners. In my dealings with clients, they have told me that the waiting time for decent builders to start an extension is comfortably over a year, and the costs have gone through the roof due to inflation. Before the pandemic the cost to build an extension versus that of a conservatory was higher, but nothing major. Now, some builders in my location can ask for £50,000 for something pretty modest.
This is going to open an door back towards renovating and extending existing conservatories. Even if a client was to make their 4m x 3m existing conservatory bigger, add a solid roof and some extra walls, it’s still going to come in cheaper than a proper extension.
What this is, is an excellent opportunity for our sector, and those that make frames and roofs to go out to the public in a significant way and ram home the cost effective argument. Which, given the UKs current economic circumstances, should be a massive USP.
The white box conservatory is dead. Rightly so. They are ghastly things. But the glazed extension is not, and with millions of structures to aim for, and now the right products to use, our sector can look to this area with positive eyes.
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