A Conservatory or an Extension: How to Decide

A conservatory or an extension? Here's all the things you need to consider in order to make the best possible informed decision.

If you’re looking to extend your living space but aren’t sure what to go for or how to do it, there are now plenty of options. Those who have the luxury of land to extend into may consider adding a conservatory to their property or taking on the bigger job of adding in new rooms through a full building extension. Both are major home renovations but equally both have their own pros and cons. Here’s all the things you need to consider in order to make the best possible informed decision.
A extended kitchen at night

Intended use

If you need to extend your kitchen or add in an extra bedroom to your home then a conservatory simply won’t be an appropriate addition. However, if you’d like to entertain guests or add in a new space to relax, a conservatory will do just fine. Conservatories are more versatile than many people consider and so don’t disregard the option for a home office, dining room, play room or library. There are many circumstances in which it can be beneficial to bring a sense of the outside in, and they don’t all involve lounging about on rattan furniture!
Larger extension projects may exceed a single storey solution and in these cases, you’re likely to need to hire a full professional renovation team to work on the job for you.
The view from inside a conservatory


East-facing conservatories enjoy sun in the morning but west-facing in the evening. If facing north you’ll enjoy a little of both, and if south, you’re likely to find conditions beautifully warm in the summer but sometimes a little too temperamental. None of these considerations need to be thought of with quite the same gravitas for a standard extension, although it may be worth considering that if you live near the sea or somewhere that experiences inclement weather, an extension may be a better idea than a conservatory.
The location of the new room to be built should influence not just the materials used to build it but also the ventilation used, blinds and the heating within. If temperature is a concern but you are determined that you would like a conservatory in place of a full extension, there are specialist insulation products available for conservatories and these can be installed by expert technicians. These products are designed to work to complement the large glass elements of the conservatory; keeping the temperature ambient throughout both cold and hot weather without reaching uncomfortable fluctuations.

Budget levels

Of course, there are ways to splurge and save on both the installation of single-storey extensions and conservatories – but your budget may well dictate exactly which renovation is more appropriate for your home. A conservatory is almost always cheaper than an extension, and are priced on the size and style required. However, expenditure levels vary and the following can all influence the total cost:
- How big (tall) the structure will stand
- How complex the structure is to build
- The quality of the materials used in the build
- The access requirements to the land to be built upon
- The planning permission required to extend – this may incur additional delays and/or fees if not a straightforward build.
It is important to remember when gathering quotes for extensions that builder’s estimates are often only a ballpark figure. There are many factors that can crop up during the building process which may require additional works adding on cost and time to extension projects.
Both single-storey extensions and conservatories can add value to a home, and the amount of which it does is often dependent on the spend made. Conservatories, if complete with a relevant buildings regulation certificate and if constructed to a high quality, can add between 4-7% on to a property’s value. Similarly, a single-storey extension can add between 8-12% to the value.
Inside an extended lounge


OK, so they say never to judge a book by its cover – but buyers in the future will judge your home primarily on aesthetics. Regardless of whether you choose a conservatory or a single-storey extension, it is key that the extension suits your home from the outside and doesn’t look (too obviously) as though it’s been added on as an afterthought. 
On both conservatories and full extensions, brickwork, windows and doors can be matched to those already on the home to blend it in. Both should introduce plenty of natural light to the living space within – although this is naturally easier for a conservatory to achieve. Skylights can help to do this for single-storey extensions without affecting the exterior view of the building too much; as they are often too high to be viewed by those on the ground. 

Planning permission

In most cases, building a conservatory on to a house is considered a ‘permitted development’ legally and so does not require planning permission. Most extensions however, do require specific permission from the local authority before work can begin. 
It is always recommended (whether opting for a conservatory or not) that homeowners work with the local planning authority (LPA) to understand their restrictions and permissions before they make any building decisions. Not doing so can result in costly work needing to be reversed and even in legal action. Local rules on developments may, in some cases, mean that only a conservatory is an achievable extension.

Personal preference

At the end of the day, the decision is the homeowners – and even if one choice is likely to be more expensive and take longer to manage, they may wish to go with it anyway. There are many possibilities with extending a home and when doing so you should take your time, make a properly informed decision and go with your gut. Homes are for enjoying and should nurture you rather than stress you so once you’re confident that you’ve made the right choice for you – go for it!

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Refresh makes renovating your home easy with our end to end process. We manage everything, so for a hassle free home improvement project that stays on time and on budget, get in touch to see how we can help you achieve dream home status.

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