Conservatories, How To Avoid The Pitfalls & Get It Right First Time

Conservatories Design - Dublin - I

Conservatories, How To Avoid The Pitfalls & Get It Right First Time

Mark Quinn is Senior Design Consultant at Conservatory Designs Ltd, Ireland’s largest conservatory and sunroom Installation Company. Mark has made a 22 year career out of improving the homes of people throughout Ireland. In this article Mark discusses some of the key aspects of getting the job right First Time.


At Conservatory Designs we measure success when you, the client, are not just delighted when we are finished the job, but that years later you will still be saying that you got it right the first time. How are we so sure we can get it right every time – because with over 23 years of experience we have learnt from our customers what’s important and what’s not.

For example, consider your best every buying experience. How do you feel when years later it is still performing and people tell you how you did well?, it makes you feel great. Consider your worst ever buying experience. Does it still hurt when you go to buy or invest in something and you keep remembering this wrong decision you made and how you wasted your money? Wouldn’t you consider it important to get your home extension right the first time? Isn’t it a large investment? Isn’t it the most important decision you can make with your money right now? Here’s where we can help you.

At some stage in our lives we all need extra space in our homes, be it that we are working from home and we need a home office, or there are three or four children in our house and we need space for ourselves and our children to relax and get away. We would all love an extra family room where everyone can sit out and watch TV or entertain our friends. For whatever reason we all find ourselves needing extra space so lets look at the key steps when planning an extension for your home.

From years of experience we know the five key things people want out of their home extension:

  1. The best design to suit their home
  2. The best quality for the best price.
  3. The job completed within budget and on time.
  4. A reputable contractor to carry out all the work cleanly.
  5. A project manager so that you can get on with your busy life.

If you could be guaranteed all the above then your dreams would be realised, sadly with many projects there always seem to be one or more of the above missing and in the nightmare cases all five are missing! For example one client came to me after putting their life savings into a dream sunroom only to find that it had darkened down the house so badly, that they have to turn the light on inside of the house. This sunroom had been built perfectly, but the client’s needs weren’t met from the beginning. They didn’t get the best design to suit their home. That’s why we are different; we ask a lot of questions …. we listen … and we use our 25 years experience.

One of the key areas we discuss is light and how the impact of the new room will affect the light in the house. We take this into account, so that the finished project will complement the existing light in the home, which is very important. Unfortunately, people find this out too late to their detriment that they have built the wrong room … with the wrong builder … and have chosen the wrong solution because they weren’t guided right in the first place.

Once you have the correct design chosen, the next step is to get quotations for the work. It is at this stage that you need to consider what level of quality you require and are prepared to accept. Remember no two conservatories or sunrooms are the same, there are many ways to alter the specification if price and only price matters.

The price will be based on a number of key factors. At Conservatory Designs we offer the very best in quality as standard, but are happy to offer alternatives to suit every budget. Here are some of the issues which you will need to consider when comparing prices.

  1. Conservatory frame thickness: We use the thickest and strongest available: 70mm. Many companies in an effort to reduce prices may offer a house window specification in the conservatory. Remember a house window does not need any strength, it sits in an opening and does not hold up the house, your conservatory frames however do hold up the house or the roof to be precise. I am not suggesting the conservatory will fall down but it will be more susceptible to movement, particularly during high winds and during snowfalls. You can guess what happens to a structure if it constantly shaken over a period of 10 years…yes you will get cracks and maybe even seals breaking.
  2. Conservatory frames should be fully reinforced. Did you know there is a difference between reinforced and fully reinforced? A reinforced conservatory section has any section over 600mm long reinforced; sections under 600mm have no reinforcing. A FULLY reinforced conservatory section will have reinforcing throughout the complete framework. There is a significant difference in price! At Conservatory Designs you don’t have to ask, everything is fully reinforced, but don’t just take our word for it, look at the show conservatories, bang the walls and you will see the difference.
  3. The thickness of polycarbonate if this is your choice of roof. There are three main thicknesses available, 3 ply 16mm (rare now except in the real cheapies), 5 ply 25mm (seems to be the industry standard) and 7 ply 35mm which is what we use and recommend, yes it is dearer but there is a significant difference in the insulation values. Our conservatory roof sheeting offers double the insulation of the older traditional double glazed units.
  4. The number of opening windows, more openings incurs more cost. We always make sure that you will have more openings than you require for even the hottest day.
  5. Double glazed units should have a U value of 1.1 as a minimum. Conservatory Designs uses the brand leader in the field: Vista Therm from Carey Glass in Nenagh.
  6. Proper foundations for the conservatory or Sunroom. Our Conservatories and Sunrooms are proper home extensions and as such are built using traditional building methods and insulated to modern building standards. You need to be able to trust the contractor that you are dealing with 100% so you know the proper work is being carried out, remember you can’t be there all the time and even if you were would you know what good building practice was?
  7. Next to consider is the colour of Conservatory frame, we have a huge array of colours available from timber effect oak finish to cream, greens, greys etc, white is the cheapest option, the colours cost extra.
  8. Your choice of roof glazing will have a significant effect of the total cost of the job. Our Blue Activ self cleaning roof glazing is more expensive than Polycarbonate and depending on the aspect you may also need to budget for blinds.
  9. Will you require new doors in the house leading into the Conservatory/Sunroom, many homes already have these in place and so they are not standard in the price.

Once price has been considered, you need to consider what contractor you trust and are happy to allow work in your home. I always recommend getting testimonials and referrals from other clients, most of our clients actually write to us to thank us for the quality of the work and the service provided. You can view the many letters from clients in the testimonial section of our website.

Finally consider if the contractor has the appropriate skills to project manage the job professionally. Peter Clarke is project manager at Conservatory Designs Ltd and is qualified having managed over 3600  installations to date together with the academic background of a Masters in Business Administration from Smurfit Business School.

So in summary consider the five key points above, trust your gut feeling and you are well on your way to getting it right 100% first time. Good luck!!

Mark Quinn

Senior Design Consultant