10 May 2016

Your guide to planning a conservatory

Spring is a great time to spruce up your home and think about improvements that you could make to your living space.

If done properly, adding a conservatory could transform an unused patch of garden into a light and airy living space – and potentially boost the value of your property.

But before diving into the popular conservatory market, which according to AMA Research was worth almost £620m in 2014, what do you need to consider?

Is a conservatory the right option?

Building a good quality conservatory can be a smart way to introduce light into a property, particularly in a built-up, urban area. But if you’re just looking for extra space it may not be your best option.

A conservatory is a relatively quick and easy way to add space to your home, says Mark Hayward, Managing Director of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA). ‘In some instances, however, you might find that it’s actually cheaper to extend your house with bricks and mortar than it is to build a conservatory,’ he points out.

Think carefully about what you plan to achieve with the new structure and, when you do decide, make sure that you get quotes from a couple of different contractors, he advises.

How will it affect the value of your house?

According to Move with Us, adding a conservatory could add 5% to the value of your property. Based on the Land Registry’s average house price in England and Wales in September 2015 of £186,553, this could mean an increase of over £9,000.

The value that a conservatory adds to your home – in terms of standard of living and the market value of the property – depends on its quality, however.

‘Housing transactions are still down 35% from their peak, so we’re seeing that more people are staying put and trying to improve their properties for medium- to long- term gain, rather than to make a short-term sale,’ according to the property expert.

To add value to the property the conservatory has to be a real, integral part of the house, not an addition that’s going to be too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, says Hayward. ‘It should blend with the style and character of the property, rather than being “one size fits all”.’

If you’re in doubt as to whether it will add value to your property, your estate agent should be able to help.

Do you need planning permission?

Conservatories are generally considered to be what is called a permitted development, provided that they follow certain limits and conditions. Permitted developments do not need planning permission.

These limits and conditions vary between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so make sure that you check the rules that apply where you live.

Are there other approvals you might need to check?

As well as checking whether you need planning permission, you’ll need to find out whether your new structure requires a building warrant in Scotland or building regulations approval in England and Wales. If you live in a listed building, you’ll also need to get special consent before making any changes to your property.

Will you lose heat through the conservatory?

According to the Energy Saving Trust, conservatories can either act as a drain on energy or an insulating layer that reduces heat loss, depending on how they are constructed.

To reduce heat loss, it recommends installing a sealed sliding door and sealed blinds or heavy curtains so that the conservatory can be separated from the rest of the house during cold weather. It also warns against heating the structures, because glazing loses heat faster than an uninsulated cavity wall.

The government’s planning portal goes one step further and suggests that the conservatory should only be accessible via an insulated, external door.

Will it be covered under your home insurance?

Existing conservatories that form part of the main structure of your home will usually be covered under your buildings insurance, but the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (PDF) advises that you check with your insurer. Your home insurance is based on the description of the house that you provide, if you build a conservatory you must inform your insurer or risk finding your policy is invalid when you try to make a claim. This applies for any major structural changes.

If you’re thinking of building one, make sure that you speak to your insurance company before starting work.

Another important consideration that is easily overlooked is security. As your conservatory provides another access route into your house, inadequate locks could leave your whole property vulnerable and potentially invalidate your insurance policy.

If you already have a Nationwide Home Insurance Essentials policy or Home Insurance policy, you should ensure that your conservatory has key-operated window locks, and that any outer doors are locked using one of the following:

  • Five-lever mortice lock, or locks that comply with BS3621:1998
  • Multi-point locking
  • Patio doors should have individual key-operated locks/bolts at the top and bottom or multi-point locking.

Get the right cover

Find out more about how Nationwide home insurance could offer the cover that you need.

If you have home insurance with us and plan to make changes to your house, make sure that you let us know before you begin.

Nationwide home insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited.

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