By Savannah Falco, Dec 10 2018 04:59PM
Whether you are considering installing a new conservatory or refurbishing an existing one, making the right choice about what type of conservatory roof to fit is extremely important.
Poorly made, badly installed, cheap roofing can ruin the whole conservatory to the extent that the room can become “unlivable”. The wrong choices here can make your conservatory way too hot in the summer or cold and damp in the winter.
The subject range is quite wide and so the guide will cover:
Common conservatory roof problems.
Roofing options / what types of materials.
Replacing an existing conservatory roof (including from glazed to solid).
Features & benefits of different conservatory roof systems.
Conservatory roof price guides.
The pros & cons of different types of conservatory roof.
The aim is to provide a broader understanding of conservatory roofing and help homeowners decide upon the roof system that suits them best.
Common conservatory roof problems
In terms of roof problems, we can split the subject into 2 main categories
With the first category lifestyle problems, it’s about how your current (or future) roof design impacts on your enjoyment of the conservatory as a living space.
Without doubt, the 2 most common issues are the conservatory being too hot or being too cold. Usually a result of having a glass or translucent roof that offers little or no thermal insulation. Cheap quality poly-carbonate or single glazed roofs are notorious for these problems.
Another issue is noise – a single glazed or thin poly-carbonate roof offers little in the way of sound insulation. When it rains the noise can be irritating enough to make the room unusable for the duration of the wet weather.
A side effect of a poor roof is that of condensation. If condensation builds up significantly it can cause mold on furniture and the smell is also unpleasant. – A hot, noisy, damp conservatory is the last thing you want or need.
The second category of product problems relates to specific issues with some, or all, of the existing physical roof installation itself.
Broken seals and broken glass can be rectified quite quickly, but if you have a structural problem then it may not be so straightforward to repair and a full replacement is then a viable alternative.
Timber conservatory roofs may have suffered rot and become weakened. UPVC frames fitted a long time ago (15yrs +) may have warped or cracked over time. The roof may no longer be weather-proof and beyond salvage physically or financially (in other words, where it costs more to fix than replace). Or, your roof could just look outdated and horrible and you want to give your conservatory a new lease of life without having to replace the whole room.
Before you move on it’s worth paying attention to your local authority planning regulations.
The rules regarding the percentage of a conservatory roof “translucence” were relaxed a few years ago. However, this does not completely absolve every installation of a solid style replacement conservatory roof from compliance with building regulations or planning regulations.
Your chosen installer should be fully conversant with these requirements, but make sure you fully address them at outset and you know exactly “what’s what” before doing any work.
Roofing options: What types of materials can I choose?
Your primary options for a conservatory roof are:
Glass or translucent
Part Glass / part solid
Within these choices are options to use different material to do the job. Each one with its own aesthetic or financial appeal – in other words some appeal to the eye and some appeal to the wallet.
Clear or translucent conservatory roofing is either glass or poly-carbonate.
Glass can be single, double or triple glazed (who would use single glazing these days?)
Poly-carbonate is a lightweight “plastic” material.
Double glazed roof panels can be “performance enhanced” significantly by features such as low-emissivity coatings (low-e glass), Argon gas filled sealed units of up to 23mm in profile width. You can also use self-cleaning “solar-control” glass.
Poly-carbonate roof panels offer a very cost effective alternative to glass. Most common profile thicknesses range from 16mm to 35mm and can be found in translucent, Opal or Bronze colours.
Solid conservatory roof
Once more within this choice are options to use different materials to manufacture the roof.
Concrete tiles (the same as on a typical house roof)
Slate – natural or synthetic
Composite GRP Panels
The first consideration is to have your conservatory surveyed to make sure that the existing structure can take any potential increase in weight load from using a solid roof system.
Concrete tiles are extensively used for house roofing. They are good at what they do, but when they get wet they do absorb some water and therefore become heavier as a result. It should also be quite easy to get a tile design & colour that matches the ones on your main house roof.
Slate roofing is very nice. It functions really well and gives an “authentic& classy” look to a conservatory. There are also some great looking (long lasting, lightweight) synthetic slate systems in the market that offer an excellent alternative to natural slates (Tapco tile)
Composite Panels are beginning to get a foothold in the market. They are made from insulated GRP (the same material as in a car bumper) are lightweight, energy efficient and come in a range of colours.
Part glazed / part solid designs
You can, alternate glazed sections of the roof with obscure sections to create a shaded portion to the conservatory. It could be a bit “ungainly” to do something like this with concrete tiles, but it works well with double glazed sections mixed with composite panels for the obscured sections.
You could also achieve this effect on an already fully glazed roof by using an insulated uPVC (or plastered) lining on the interior underside of the roof panels. Specialist conservatory roofing companies can install an insulated uPVC “ship-lap” cladded lining in just a day or two.
However, installing linings to the underside of glass has to be done properly. Poorly designed and fitted linings very often fail to take into consideration condensation forming on the inside of the covered glazing if its cold outside & hot inside. Proper ventilation needs to be built in to eliminate the chances of vapour condensation building up within the lining.
If you opt for just fitting a lining in order to give your conservatory a non-transparent roof, then you should have the roof itself thoroughly checked for leaks and preferably overhauled. If your conservatory roof develops a leak in the future, it can ruin the lining.
Replacing a Conservatory Roof
For this section we will look at replacing an existing roof in a few ways:
Replacing a glass or poly-carbonate conservatory roof with another translucent roof.
Replacing a glass or poly-carbonate conservatory roof with a solid roof.
Replacing a solid conservatory roof with a solid roof.
Firstly, if you are considering replacing your conservatory roof then always get an accredited conservatory installation professional “on-site” to do a complete survey the existing roof. He or she can advise you on your options, come up with a solution and supply a detailed written quotation for the work.
Replacing a glazed conservatory roof with another of the same style
is usually fairly straight forward if you are replacing glass with glass or poly-carbonate with poly-carbonate, assuming that the weight loads are going to be pretty much the same.
It’s typically just a matter of carefully removing the old roof and installing the new one and can take 2 to 3 days or so depending on the complexity of the original design (Victorian, Edwardian, Double-hipped etc.). Allow 4 to 8 weeks for manufacture and delivery to site.
In many instances of replacing glass or translucent roofing, it is a case of choosing to replace polycarbonate conservatory roof with glass (double glazed panels).
Very few installations, probably almost none, are the other way around in terms of replacing double glazed glass roofing with poly-carbonate panels. But you could replace an old single glazed roof with twin wall 35mm Poly-carbonate, which should give better insulation and UV protection than single glazing.
Replacing a glass or poly-carbonate conservatory roof with a solid roof
is more complex but becoming increasingly popular. As mentioned previously, depending on the material you are planning to use, there could be a significant additional weight load and you need to establish that the existing frames can take it safely.
There are many “specialist conservatory roof” companies in the market that offer tiled conservatory roofing “systems”.
One aspect to consider is how you want the inside “ceiling” of the conservatory to look. You could put a flat & level ceiling in or maybe you would prefer to have it follow the original roof line.
For conservatories with higher roof-lines, like Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian, Gable or Pavilion, having a flat level ceiling could lose you a lot of lovely headroom.
Replacing a solid conservatory roof with another solid roof
is usually done as a result of some kind of failure of the original or because the owner wants to have a change of appearance. Solid conservatory roofs are more likely to be repaired & refurbished, rather than be completely replaced.