New & Replacement Conservatory Roof Guide.
Which is the best conservatory roof option for your home?
In either situation, having a new conservatory installed or refurbishing an existing one, the conservatory roof design is going to have a big impact. Not only on the overall cost, but in a lot of circumstances, it can also dictate how much you and your family enjoy the room.
For those homeowners who are considering installing a new conservatory, you can simply select a conservatory roof design that you like at outset. But for those of you who want to replace the existing structure, there are more things to think about.
But, in whichever situation, a badly fitted, badly insulated, cheap conservatory roof will make your conservatory unusable by being either too hot or too cold – and will therefore be a major waste of your hard earned money (and potentially even a health hazard).
In this article we look at options for:
- Polycarbonate Conservatory Roof.
- Glass Conservatory Roof.
- Tiled Conservatory Roof.
- Conservatory Roof Designs.
- Replacing an Existing Conservatory Roof.
Polycarbonate Conservatory Roof.
As the “default” type of conservatory roof, you may very often find that online conservatory prices are based on using this type of design.
Polycarbonate sheets are clear, easy to make, and are over 200 x more break resistant than a single sheet of glass. Although it is tough against impact, it does scratch quite easily. It is also about 50% of the weight of glass.
The low cost compared to glass & tiles, combined with those properties above, has made polycarbonate quite a popular option over the years.
For use in a conservatory roof, the polycarbonate sheets need to be at least “twin walled” or “triple walled” multi-chambered products for added strength and insulation.
Typical usage examples for Polycarbonate roofing.
- 4mm: Green-house or garden shed.
- 10mm: Car ports or canopy roofing.
- 16mm: Car ports, Pergola or canopy roofing.
- 25mm: Canopies, small garden rooms & Pergolas, some conservatories.
- 32mm: Suitable for a Conservatory roof.
- 35mm: Suitable for a Conservatory roof.
The advantages of using a polycarbonate conservatory roof design are the relatively low cost, when compared to glass or solid conservatory roof designs, and the lightweight structure.
Also, in the event a panel does get broken, it is quite easy to replace and quite cheap to do so. However, there are some downsides to using polycarbonate.
Many owners complain, that when it’s raining, the noise from the rain hitting the roof can be quite intolerable (we get a lot of rain in the UK!). Alongside this, many complain about condensation forming on the underside of the panels and that leads to mildew or mold. Glare is also another reported issue.
You should also be mindful of what type of cleaner you use on a Polycarbonate sheet. Don’t use solvent based cleaners (like acetone or benzene). Use an alkaline based general purpose cleaner.
But the evidence is there to show that, over the longer term, many homeowners become dissatisfied and want to replace it with something else (we have never had an enquiry for someone who wants to replace a double glazed or tiled conservatory roof with a polycarbonate one).
Glass Conservatory roof.
Glass conservatory roofs should, at the very least, be double glazed.
Without doubt, a single glazed glass conservatory roof will turn your room into a furnace or a fridge, dependent on the prevailing weather conditions. Compared to polycarbonate, glass conservatory roofs are more complex and heavier. Therefore, it’s not unexpected that they are costlier to install.
The gap between the inner & outer glass panes, and what is contained inside that gap, will be a major factor in governing the energy efficiency of the double glazed unit as a whole. The gap between the panes of glass typically runs from 6mm to 20mm. Standard double glazed units may have a gap of around 14mm to 16 mm.
To add an extra element of energy efficiency, heavy inert gasses such as Argon, Xenon or Krypton can be used. Argon only transmits about 60% of the amount of heat that air does.
Glass conservatory roofs can also be fitted with some very useful features (or extra’s):
- Triple glazing: an extra layer of glass with 2 air-gaps. More sound insulation as well as improved heat control. Comes at an increased price.
- Solar glass: Microscopically thin Low emissivity coatings, which are basically metal oxide based, can be added to give even more protection from UV & IR light. The benefit of the costings is that it “bounces” the heat off. This is great during cold weather as it keeps your heat in, whilst in sunny weather it keeps heat out.
- Toughened and laminated glass: A double glazed unit with ordinary 4mm thick float glass is quite resilient to knocks and bangs, however, having toughened glass in the roof adds an extra level of both security and safety. Laminated glass can be used, but will significantly increase the cost of a conservatory roof.
- Self-cleaning glass: This is clever. A glass roof can get quite grimy during a long spell of bad weather; dust & grit can build up on the surface. Getting on top of your conservatory to safely clean it can be a real pain. A coating applied to the glass uses sunlight to breakdown the dirt and then it gets washed away by the rain. Comes at a price, but in our opinion, it’s a great idea.
Whilst there are clearly a lot of folks who are moving towards some type of solid conservatory roof, we feel that a “proper” conservatory is one that has a glass roof.
The advantages of having a glass conservatory roof are that you can enjoy loads of natural sunlight. The disadvantage, to some, is having too much natural sunlight. The “natural light overdose”, however, can be simply resolved by fitting roof blinds.
Thus, when it’s very sunny you can partly of fully close them, but when you have a dull day (and there are lots of dull days to be had from the Great British weather), you can have them open to maximise the lighting.
A solid roofed conservatory will be relatively dark inside on a dull day, and could require you to switch on the lights. Thereby consuming electricity and costing you money.
Solid or Tiled Conservatory Roof.
The third option, and one that seems to be growing in popularity of late is to fit a solid or tiled conservatory roof.
Fitting a tiled conservatory roof will, inevitably, make the cost of a conservatory relatively higher. Which is a major consideration for someone who is on a tight budget.
There are quite a few options when it comes to the type of tiles available, such as:
- Natural Slate: Expensive, but can last a lifetime or more. Quarried slate is just such a classic roof tile that brings so much character to a home extension such as a conservatory.
- Concrete tiles: Pretty much using the same type of tiles that you can find on any house roof. Concrete tiles come in loads of different designs, have a colour choice and are readily available in the market.
- Synthetic roof tiles: Made from things like recyclable plastic, rubber, mineral dust, limestone or cellulose fibres, they are injection moulded into different tile designs. A wide colour choice, lightweight and they last a long time.
- Metal roof tiles: It may sound a bit strange, but modern metal roof tiles are extremely difficult to tell apart from “the real-thing”. Again, this tile is a lightweight option with a long lifespan and a good range of colours.
- Composite Panels: Technically, I suppose this is not a tile, but it is slowly gaining favour. Very useful to mix and match with glass panels to create a unique hybrid appearance of a part glazed / part solid conservatory roof.
There are many advantages to fitting a tiled conservatory roof. Firstly, you eliminate overhead glare from the sun. It’s also a lot easier to keep the room cool because there is less heating from direct sunlight. A tiled roof is a much better insulator than glass or polycarbonate.
To compensate somewhat for the reduction in natural light, it’s very common to see skylights or Velux windows fitted. They also help to ventilate the room. (https://www.velux.co.uk/)
Conservatory Roof Designs.
Conservatory Roof Linings
One option that we have not looked at so far, is where an internal solid lining is fitted to the underside of a translucent roof.
This is a far less drastic solution than to remove the whole roof and fit a new one, but it does come with some potential pitfalls that need to be borne in mind:
- Condensation & damp: If you fit a lining to the underside of a glass or polycarbonate conservatory roof, you need to ensure that the space between the lining and the roof is well ventilated. If not, condensation can build up on the glass or polycarbonate panels in the roof and subsequently cause damp patches, mould, mildew and all sort of nasty stuff.
- Leaks: You won’t easily be able to see the source of a leak if one occurs. If you have electrical wiring running around in the lining, as you may realise, that could cause an additional problem. It could be that you have to remove the complete lining in order to find and repair the leak.
Conservatory Roof Frames
It doesn’t matter what type of roof you choose, polycarbonate, glass or tile, they all have to be supported by a frame. Generally, you are looking at UPVC, Aluminium or Timber.
In the case of a UPVC conservatory roof, the trusses will usually have internal galvanised steel reinforcing to help with load bearing. Timber roof trusses have virtually been around forever and are tried and tested. Aluminium conservatory roof frames are light and strong.
Which conservatory roof design is best?
I suppose there may be two aspects to the question. Firstly, what is the best material to use and secondly which is the best visually?
The choice between a solid roof or a clear roof is sometimes just a matter of personal preference. If you want a tiled roof, then the fact that a polycarbonate one is a lot cheaper is not going to influence you much, if at all.
The same goes for fans of clear roofing, the better heat management and insulation properties of a tiled roof are not going to sway them either.
There are pro’s and con’s to each of them, Polycarbonate is cheap, but annoying in many ways. Glass is cheaper than tiles, but can irritate some owners by letting in too much light. Tiled conservatory roofs are super energy efficient and can look great, but they cost a lot more than glass or polycarbonate.
- So, if you want cheap, go for polycarbonate
- If you want lots of natural light, go for glass
- If you want more permanent looking room, are not worried about the loss of light and have the budget, then go for a tiled conservatory roof.
Replacing an Existing Conservatory Roof.
At the same time as thinking about which type of roof design to use as a replacement for your existing one, you should also be considering the overall scope of the work required.
There is no better example to look at than where a polycarbonate roof is being replaced with a tiled conservatory roof.
Your existing conservatory was designed and built specifically to carry a lightweight roof. Tiled roofing is considerable heavier, even the lightweight systems like Guardian, Eurocell or Supalite will bring a decent level of load increase.
This means that you have to get an assessment by a professional about whether your existing conservatory is more than able to support the new loading – otherwise you could be heading for a disaster in waiting.
What you should be looking for, is a new roof that comes with LABC certification. That will ensure everything has been checked properly, the conservatory can support the roof and it was installed professionally.
Local Authority Building Control (LABC) require certification for all types replacement conservatory roofs. Some installers are approved to certify your roof for you. Otherwise it could cost around £500 to process it yourself.