Choosing a Suitable Roofing System and Material for your Conservatory

orangery-conservatory-1When considering the most suitable type of conservatory roofing and glazing system there are a number of factors that may influence your decision. You may be looking to upgrade or replace the roof on your existing conservatory, for example to improve its thermal properties – or you may be looking at the available conservatory roofing materials as part of an entirely new conservatory project.

Conservatory roofing systems are available in a variety of materials, such as uPVC (PVCu), aluminium, and timber. Glazing materials include various types of glass and glazing unit and also polycarbonate – essentially a type of plastic. These materials have different properties, benefits and drawbacks and these should be taken into account when making your choice.

The primary factor in choosing conservatory roofing and glazing will for most people be one of aesthetics – the overall appearance of the conservatory – from both inside and outside. The appearance of the conservatory roof and associated glazing and detailing (such as finials and crests) is responsible for most of the visual impact of the conservatory.

It is important to understand however that your choice of roofing and glazing system is possibly the greatest single factor affecting the usability of your new conservatory – choose the wrong material and you may well end up with a conservatory that is too hot in the summer and too cold in the cooler months, or a roof that will require replacement or regular maintenance and cleaning.

It is also important to consider that while cheaper systems may save you money in the short term they may result in a space that is expensive and difficult to heat effectively due to poor thermal efficiency. With energy costs increasing regularly at present it is worth paying particularly close attention to this aspect. Frames should also be thermally clad where possible as this will also aid energy-efficiency.

Another factor in choosing a roofing system is whether or not you will be having conservatory blinds or any other special extras fitted to your conservatory and how you envisage these working. Some conservatory roofing system manufacturers can offer integrated blind systems and even integrated audio speaker systems.

Placement of the conservatory in terms of how and where it is attached to your property may also introduce the need to consider integrated guttering or drainage options as part of the roof structure.

The type of roofing system will depend to a large degree on the type of glazing material that you will be using for your conservatory – polycarbonate is a lightweight material that can be fitted in different ways – either using a self-supporting system of glazing bars with sufficient structural integrity to support the glazing material and itself, or a timber-supported system whereby special glazing bars are affixed to an existing or purpose-built timber conservatory structure allowing the polycarbonate sheeting to be held in place. This can often prove to be a simple and efficient way of re-roofing an existing timber-framed conservatory such as a lean-to conservatory.

Traditional glazing or double or even triple-glazed units are considerably heavier than polycarbonate sheets and are therefore going to require a much stronger roofing system and frame than a polycarbonate-glazed conservatory. Where you are replacing an existing roof or glazing with anything other than like-for-like materials, it is of great importance to ensure that the existing frame is adequate if you plan to expose it to additional loading.

Some cheaper conservatories may feature uPVC / PVCu roof frames that are essentially sections of window frame mouldings assembled to produce a frame. Such systems are more prone to leakage and it should be noted that most conservatories use an aluminium-based system – even those which have uPVC frames for the rest of the structure.

Choosing a conservatory – next steps

After having perused our comprehensive conservatories section, it is likely that you will want to start evaluating conservatory prices and the various styles available so you can make a more considered decision.

The best way to get started is to select around 3 different FENSA registered specialists and arrange for them to come to your home and show you the range available, and advise you on how best to make use of the space in which you are planning to erect your conservatory – they may be able to offer size or layout options that you hadn’t even considered as well as specific conservatory planning permission or building regs information relevant to your particular project.