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Conservatory roof replacement guide – everything you need to know

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  • Having a conservatory can be a valuable addition to your home. But like houses, the chances are you may need to tackle conservatory roof replacement eventually.

    The quality of the roof is integral to getting the most out of your conservatory. A dodgy roof may make your conservatory ideas feel too cold and draughty in winter months. Or even worse, unbearably hot and stuffy in the summer. Either way, replacing its existing roof may be the answer.

    Stuart Walker, Head of Living Spaces, Tradelink agrees. ‘Changing the roof, he says, ‘can transform the space into a room you will love’.

    Conservatory roof replacement guide

    So how much will it cost? If you’re going to all that expense and hassle, is it going to be worth it? Especially if you’re just going to replace it again a few years down the line.

    In this guide we’ll explain the costs involved – both time and money. We’ll walk you through the various material options and help you decide whether in the end it’s a project worth going ahead with.

    When to replace a conservatory roof – signs it’s time for a new one

    Interior of conservatory with black structure and plants

    Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell

    ‘If your conservatory roof leaks or has cracks in it, then it’s time for a replacement,’ advises Jonathan Hey, CEO, Aliwood Roof Lanterns.

    ’Typically, conservatory roofs lead to temperature-control difficulties, as the room becomes too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.’

    ‘How long your roof lasts after its initial installation can vary based on the material and build quality’, explains Gian-Carlo Grossi, Managing Director, Roofing Megastore.

    ‘Even so,’ he adds, ‘whilst cleaning and maintenance will help, all roofs will eventually need replacing. In some cases, like with polycarbonate, this could be in as little as ten years.’

    Over time, you’ll find that certain problems which were occasional become persistent. If you only occasionally use your conservatory, then you might be prepared to put up with these niggling issues. But eventually, even the best made conservatories will need some attention.

    ‘The most common reasons tend to be leaks and condensation,’ says Gian-Carlo. ‘Whilst small instances can be repaired and patched, frequent issues can be a message from your roof that the materials are starting to deteriorate.

    ‘When this happens,’ continues Gian-Carlo, ‘you may also start to notice an increase in cold draughts coming through (a common problem with single glazing) as well as mould growth.’

    A draughty conservatory may be one of the factors that discourage you from spending time in the space. ‘Many older glazed roofs don’t possess the insulating properties of more modern materials,’ adds Gian-Carlo. ‘If you’re finding that a conservatory gets far too hot (or cold) to comfortably spend any time in it, a replacement roof can help’.

    What are the benefits of replacing a conservatory roof?

    Exterior of red brick home with white conservatory

    Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole

    There are a number of ways that replacing a conservatory’s roof will improve its look and feel. Some of these you’ll notice immediately. While others will become more apparent over time.

    As garden room ideas go, a conservatory is best used year round so you can enjoy the view while keeping warm and dry or cool and shaded, whatever the weather outside.

    One of the things you’ll notice straight away is the improvement in the ambient temperature. ‘The foremost benefit of replacing any older roof is the greatly reduced risk of leaks and condensation,’ says Gian-Carlo from Roofing Megastore.

    ‘If these were common beforehand,’ he continues, ‘a new roof is perhaps the most effective way to ensure they don’t reoccur. Naturally, this will also help to keep mould away – not just keeping your building safe but everything stored inside as well.’

    A new roof will improve the room’s appearance, too. ‘Getting a conservatory roof replacement is a chance to update and transform your living space’, says Stuart from Tradelink.

    ‘A thermally-efficient glass roof lets the light flood in whilst allowing you to enjoy the conservatory all year round,’ continues Stuart. ‘A pleasant side effect of having a thermally-efficient conservatory roof is that your new room will rely less on your home’s heating system to generate warmth. It can block the sun’s rays during the summer and prevent heat loss at other times.’

    As for any other benefits, these will vary depending on the quality and spec of the roofing materials you choose. ‘Double glazing or solid tiled roofs will greatly improve your conservatory’s insulation and noise cancelling qualities,’ says Gian-Carlo. ‘They are also far more secure and, by extension, tend to require far less maintenance.’

    Conservatory roof materials

    Exterior of brick home with modern black steel conservatory

    Image credit: Future PLC/Jonathan Gooch

    Opting for a conservatory roof replacement doesn’t necessarily mean you have to replace like-for-like. It may be more than a decade since your conservatory was originally installed.

    But roofing materials and technologies have moved on apace in recent years. And there are plenty of options to be considered to remedy specific issues.

    Broadly speaking conservatory roof materials can be split into three camps:

    Glass

    ‘It’s still the most popular option’, says Stuart from Tradelink. ‘Advances in glass technology mean modern glass roofs can be very thermally-efficient keeping the space cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.’ Additional self-cleaning coatings keep the roof looking good for longer and make maintenance easier.

    Glass also lends itself well to small conservatory ideas as it keeps the space feeling light and bright. But a glass roof does present certain issues. ‘Double glazed glass far out performs many alternatives,’ says Gian-Carlo, ‘but it is heavier and may not be suitable for all structures.’

    Polycarbonate

    ‘Solid polycarbonate is virtually unbreakable’, explains Gian-Carlo. ‘It offers far greater strength than multi-wall alternatives, though they do not necessarily share in their insulating properties.’

    ‘Should you be upgrading from an old glass roof,’ continues Gian-Carlo, ‘you may also find polycarbonate options that suit your current glazing bars – a great way to save early on.’

    You may find that there are other compromises to be made if you opt for a Polycarbonate replacement roof. ’Polycarbonate is generally the cheapest option,’ says Stuart Walker from Tradelink, ‘However, a new Polycarbonate roof can be noisy when it rains, and security is not the best.’

    Solid roofs

    Where aesthetics are concerned, tiled roofs are also becoming a popular option,’ says Gian-Carlo. ‘Not only is there a fair amount of variation to choose from including metal, synthetic and tile effect sheets – all of these tend to offer great lifespans alongside their stunning visuals though may require some alterations to your roof’s structure for them to be suitable for installation.’

    ‘Opting for a lightweight solid roof turns a conservatory into an extension which truly is an all-year-round space to use,’ agrees Stuart from Tradelink. ‘Just be careful cutting off light; not so much in the conservatory itself as it will generally have lots of glazing to the sides, but to the room it is connected to. A solid roof also has better soundproofing.’

    There are pros and cons that go along with each option For instance, modern conservatory ideas tend to work best with glass roofs. But in many cases, taking a hybrid approach to materials used is something a lot of people are now opting for.

    Roof lanterns are one such option as Jonathan from Aliwood explains. ‘The benefits of replacing a conservatory roof with a roof lantern are that the room will be a more comfortable temperature year-round, through the use of solar-control glass.’

    ‘A roof lantern, he continues ‘will also reduce the noise on the roof compared to a traditional conservatory. They are typically more aesthetically pleasing, perform better, don’t leak and offer greater longevity.’

    ‘A more contemporary space can be created using hybrid glass and solid panels,’ suggests Stuart. ‘It offers the perfect blend of allowing a light space, with higher thermal efficiency.’

    Replacing a glass conservatory roof

    Interior of white conservatory with sofa, coffee table and floor lamp

    Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes

    Unlike how to clean a conservatory roof, for replacements you should always employ the services of an appropriately experienced professional.

    The actual installation process itself will vary depending on the design and specific construction of your conservatory. Before any decisions are made on the type of roof and design, have an appraisal of the existing structure. This will inform what roofing options may be available to you – and what materials to opt for.

    ‘You should first consider the condition of the frames which are going to support the new roof’ says Stuart from Tradelink. ‘The roof and frames were probably put up at the same time and roof technology has improved over the last few years. Generally, the frames will have been more protected, so will probably be in better condition than the roof.’

    Next, work out what material to use. ‘Consider what type of glass or polycarbonate is best, considering your conservatory and budget’ says Gian-Carlo from Roofing Megastore.

    ‘Double glazing and solid polycarbonate are often the preferred choices, ‘ he explains, ‘but there are many other factors to consider including whether your glass is standard, self-cleaning, or solar controlled. Such added features can greatly reduce maintenance needs and glare.’

    If you decide to go with a glass replacement roof, there are various options.

    ‘There are lots of types of glass available with various tints and colours’ says Stuart from Tradelink. ‘If your conservatory is north-facing, you may want to allow the maximum amount of light and warmth in. If it’s south-facing it may be important to reduce as much of the sun’s glare as you can.’

    Replacing a conservatory roof with a solid roof

    Interior of conservatory with table and green rattan chairs

    Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole

    For many people with conservatory extension ideas, the maintenance and other related issues of having a glass or polycarbonate roof mean that they decide to replace it entirely with a solid roofing structure.

    One of the biggest selling points of a solid conservatory roof replacement is the number of options available,’ says Gian-Carlo from Roofing Megastore. ‘These include metal, synthetic and tile effect. All of which are relatively simple to install and offer superb levels of protection. Most tiles can be installed onto pre-existing conservatories. Though you will likely first need to have your roof surveyed to ensure it is suitable.’

    ‘Replacement solid roofs are lightweight but can still weigh more than the existing roof,’ warns Stuart from Tradelink. ‘It is likely that a solid roof will need structural support via the frames. If your existing conservatory is less than ten years old, the frames should be able to support the new roof. This is as they should have reinforcement in them or be linked together with structural couplers. The presence of metal reinforcement can be checked with a magnet. Additional support in the form of new frames may be required.’

    While the structure and frames may be sufficiently strong, you should also check what’s going on at the base of your conservatory.

    ‘The existing foundations also need to be capable of supporting the additional load,’ continues Stuart. ‘Signs of cracking or the base coming away from the house, may be an indication that the foundation is too shallow. That should be investigated at an early stage.’

    Do I need planning permission?

    Interior of conservatory with white and green botanical blinds

    Image credit: Future PLC/Nick Pope

    According to government guidelines, conservatory planning permission is probably required when:

    • You build something new
    • Make a major change to your building, such as building an extension
    • Change the use of your building

    So in the event of you having to replace the roof of your conservatory, should you seek planning permission?

    Not always, advises Gian-Carlo from Roofing Megastore. ‘Most glass and polycarbonate conservatories will be exempt from building regulations. Therefore you will not need planning permission when replacing their roofs.’

    ‘If your conservatory is at ground level with a floor area of less than 30m²,’ he continues. ‘Or if thermally separated from your home with walls and doors and has independent heating system then you should be fine to go ahead with your project.’

    Things do get a little more complicated when you change from a glass or polycarbonate roof to a solid one. Gian-Carlo suggests ‘if you are upgrading to a solid roof then it is entirely possible that your conservatory may be re-classed as a “permanent extension” which may need planning permission.’

    In any case, it’s always advisable to check with your local planning authority or the Planning Portal when planning any work.

    How long does it take to replace a conservatory roof?

    Interior of conservatory with dining table and chairs

    Image credit: Future PLC/Robert Sanderson

    Knowing the timescale of any structural project you’re about to undertake is key. The integrity of your home will be altered during the time that work is taking place. And you may have to make allowances for this in your normal household routine.

    There may also be security implications and other considerations that go along with part of your home being exposed to the elements.

    The timescale very much depends on the nature of the work scale of the project.

    ‘Assuming your materials have been sourced, a complete replacement can take anywhere between two to five days,’ says Roofing Megastore’s Gian-Carlo. ‘Potentially longer if upgrading to a solid roof and if any plastering or electrical work needs to be undertaken.’

    Before you start, make sure you get an approximate timescale agreed with those undertaking the work before the project commences. This way you’ll be sure that things aren’t left insecure and open to the weather any longer than is necessary.

    How much does conservatory roof replacement cost and is it worth it?

    Interior of conservatory with curtains and armchairs

    Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes

    Whether or not you opt to replace your conservatory roof and the materials you use to do it will often come down to cost. Cheaper options will come with compromise – both in aesthetic, quality of build and durability.

    Costs do vary. ‘These include the size of your conservatory, the materials you’ve chosen to replace your roof with as well as labour,’ explains Gian-Carlo from Roofing Megastore. ‘Your location and condition of your conservatory also play a role, too. With all these factors considered the costs can range anywhere between £2,000 to £9,000 for the average build.’

    Stuart from Tradelink adds ‘While glass roof replacements typically cost between £2,500 and £8,500, solid roof versions cost double.’

    ‘Our roof lanterns start at £1,250,’ says Jonathan from Aliwood. ‘If your roof is underperforming and you want to make the most out of the room then this is worth it; a roof lantern may also add value to your home, showcasing a more modern take on roof glazing.’

    ‘Whether it’s worth it depends entirely on what you are able to invest,’ says Gian-Carlo. ‘By using quality materials, such as double glazing and installing some insulation, conservatories can be made quite energy efficient.’

    ‘There is also the matter of added value to your home,’ he adds. ‘With a quality conservatory able to add around 7% to the final selling price. Most of all however, a conservatory’s worth can be ascertained by how often it is used. All roofs will eventually need replacing. So if you use your conservatory a lot, it is worth spending a little more to get a lot more out of it.’

    How long will a new roof last?

    Interior of white conservatory with solid walls and dining table and chairs

    Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore

    Bearing in mind the complexity and cost of replacing a conservatory roof you’ll want to be sure that it’s going to be sufficiently long-lasting to make the project worthwhile.

    Apart from quality and workmanship, a roof’s durability very much depends on the type of material used. Plus the particular options you decide to add to that particular roofing type.

    ‘Most polycarbonate roofs have a life expectancy of around 10 to 15 years,’ explains Roofing Megastore’s Gian-Carlo. ‘Glass performs better with many expected to last from 20 to in excess of 30 years, with little discolouration. It is solid tiled roofs, however, that are the most durable. Tile effect and synthetic options often clock in well past the 40 year mark. Most metal tiles still performing well after half a century.’

    Words/Douglas Rankine