A guide to conservatory roof designs
You may be treating your family to a brand new room, or maybe you “inherited” an existing conservatory when you bought the house. But whichever it is, a major aspect of conservatory design is the conservatory roof itself.
If you are just about to install a new conservatory, then it’s really just a matter of deciding which type of conservatory roof system suits your circumstances. However, it is a little more complex when you are looking at replacing the existing structure for a new roof.
Our guide to conservatory roofing will cover:
- Assessing your requirements
- Different types of roofing in the market
- Features & benefits of each conservatory roofing system
- Conservatory roof prices guide
What type of conservatory roof is best for me?
The circumstances under which you are likely to want to make the choice about which is the best roof for you (either getting a new or replacement) can have some impact on the outcome.
With a new installation, the supporting frames will be purpose built to accept the roof. But in a situation where you are doing a replacement, you will need to take into account the strength of the supporting structure. Especially if you are moving from a lightweight poly-carbonate to a fully tiled roof. In this case you may need to compromise on one aspect or another.
Assessing your requirements
There are quite a few conservatory owners who complain bitterly that they can’t use the room either during a hot summer or a cold winter – and that has a lot to do with the type of roof the conservatory has.
Without doubt, the 2 biggest offenders in this situation are single glazed & cheap quality poly-carbonate installations. They just do not offer any protection against heat or cold.
Solid or Clear – that is the question
Solid roofing, such as tiles, will eliminate overhead glare & heat build-up caused by the sun, but you lose a lot of natural lighting.
Translucent or full glass roofs offer great natural light. But if they are not effective in managing glare & heat transfer, you will find the room becoming uncomfortable at times.
So, if you are the type of person who wants lots of natural light, clear roofing is the best for you. If you want maximum protection and are willing to lose some natural light, then solid roofing could be best for you.
You will notice that there is also a difference in cost – generally, you will find that a solid tiled conservatory roof will be costlier than a full glass conservatory roof. Both of these will definitely be more expensive than a poly-carbonate installation (more about cost here).
Considerations for a replacement
As well as the above, you need to asses to what degree the roof elements need to be replaced. Is it just a simple leak that can be fixed with a new set of seals or flashing, can just the glazed panels be replaced or does the whole thing need to be taken off and a new roof installed?
It could be possible just to have the glazing elements removed & replaced with new ones, but they will need to be carefully measured and then built to order.
The most important aspect, if you are replacing the whole roof, is that your existing side frames are structurally sound and can properly support the weight & stresses of the replacement. As mentioned before, this is critical when you are adding a significantly higher load stress to the frame – going from glazed to solid. Get a professional survey!
Conservatory roof systems – what are your options?
Basically, you are going to be faced with four options.
- Glass – double or triple glazed
- Tiled / slated
- Solid Panels – such as composite or uPVC
But within these four options, you could also “mix & match” by having part of the roof solid & part clear. For example, you could “section” the roof into 3 parts, with the 2 outer sections solid and the centre section glazed.
This would give decent levels of natural light and also allow for some nicely shaded areas within the conservatory.
Roof frame options
For the supporting structure, the roof frames, it is usual to match the existing material on the main conservatory (uPVC, Timber, Aluminium), but that is not to say you can’t look at using a different one.
As a very fancy, and pricey, alternative to the above roofing material there are some very nice “period” orangeries with full lead roofs.
Features & benefits of each conservatory roofing system
This is a thermoplastic polymer, offers protection from UV rays and is a very lightweight, low cost solution for using as a material for a conservatory roof. A lot of conservatories make use of poly-carbonate because of this.
There are a number of different specifications for poly-carbonate sheets such as follows, listed by thickness and recommend use:
- 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 / Conservatories roofing.
- 35mm / Conservatories roofing.
A 35mm thick 1.2 x 2.0 metre individual sheet can cost from between £50 to £70 (depending on the supplier). The sheets also come in Twin-wall, Triple wall or Multi-wall profiles (sometimes the word “wall” is substituted with “chambered”, it means the same thing here).
The most frequently used colours are clear, bronze or opal.
Some drawbacks to this material is that it can be sensitive to scratches and abrasions, so you could mark or dent it during heavy cleaning and you should not use them around solvents (like acetone or benzene) or use an alkaline based cleaner (typically an “all-purpose” cleaner).
However, probably the most frequent complaints are heat build-up inside the extension and the noise that poly-carbonate panels make during heavy rain.
Glass – double or triple glazed
Glazing Technology has made double glazed conservatory roofing very attractive and improved its’ energy efficiency dramatically. The use of oxide coatings in low emissivity units alongside Argon gas filled sealed units cuts down heat transfer greatly.
Broadly, you should be looking to install glazing that has superior thermal properties. This means that, for conservatory roof glazing, you aim to go for the lowest U-value in your price range.
If you can add some element of “solar-control” then it’s possible to cut down heat or energy transfer by over 80% – this is usually achieved by some element of microscopic metallic coating (1,000 times thinner than a piece of paper) having been applied to the glass at manufacture.
For the actual double glazed roof panels, you may see mention of some numbers, such as “4-16-4” or similar. These numbers refer to the glass thickness and the cavity width between the double glazed panels. In this particular case it would mean 4mm glass, then a 16mm gap, then another sheet of 4mm glass.
Self-cleaning glass is the “best thing since sliced bread” for keeping your glass conservatory roof in good condition. One of the best known products would be Pilkington Activ™ which actually makes use of daylight (not just sunlight) to dissolve dirt and has a coating that makes rain “sheet-off” the glass in order to wash away the dissolved dirt. Costlier that standard glass, but well worth it in our opinion.
Whichever specification / combination you finally choose, make sure that you are definitely using toughened or tempered glass in the roof sections.
Triple glazed conservatory roofing is obviously one step up from double glazing, however, the cost also steps up. Whilst triple glazing offers upgrades in noise insulation and thermal properties, you may find that the additional performance cost does not justify the additional cost in your circumstances.
Tiles & slates
With the relaxation of some of the rules surrounding solid conservatory roofs, tiles or slates are becoming more and more popular.
Not only are standard concrete tiles or classic quarried slates being used, but specialised synthetic and lightweight slate systems are being marketed by many companies.
Traditional concrete tiles
You can see these tiles on homes all over the UK, they can be flat and smooth or rough with contoured surfaces. They represent a readily available resource that, due to their popularity, are not that expensive for a roof tile.
Whilst cost may be an attraction, there are some issues when using them for conservatories. Firstly, they are heavy, and that means the roof supporting structure will need to be robust. Secondly, they also absorb water so that during prolonged rainy weather concrete tiles will become even heavier. Thirdly, for something made of concrete, they break quite easily.
The need for a costlier, stronger supporting structure could offset the savings made by the tiles being cheap.
Lightweight tiling products
There are more specialised roof tiles appearing in them market every year, so now you have a decent choice of product.
Synthetic tiles or slates can be made from materials such as recyclable plastic, rubber, mineral dust, limestone or cellulose fibers and usually created using injection molding processes.
The advantages of synthetic tiles or slates are that they are usually very light, strong and fade resistant. Many products also have high levels of fire resistance built-in.
Their appearance can mimic real quarried (grey) slate, wood shingles, clay tiles and come in a diverse range of other designs and colours, allowing you to match or contrast your existing property appearance.
The difficulty with synthetic roof tiles for a conservatory, is actually to find a significant disadvantage or downside. They really are a very good option to use.
This is a beautiful classic finish for any property. If you have a natural slate roof, then you know it can last for decades, no problem. Not as heavy as concrete and can be used with lower angles of slope, a natural slate conservatory roof, in our opinion is just class. However, natural slate is not cheap!
Side by side – a quick conservatory roof comparison
|DOUBLE GLAZED||POLY-CARBONATE||SOLID TILED|
|reduce heat loss||yes||neutral||yes|
|reduce sun glare||yes||if tinted||yes|
|reduce heat build-up||yes||no||yes|
|better privacy||if tinted||if tinted||yes|
|suits all types||yes||no||not for small rooms|
|choice of design||good||poor||good|
|time to install||2 to 5 days||2 to 5 days||3 to 7 days|
|lead time||4 to 6 weeks||4 to 6 weeks||installer dependent|
|price point||medium to high||low to medium||medium to high|
|energy efficiency||high||low to medium||high|
|loss of natural light||almost nil||almost nil||significant|
Average Conservatory Roof Prices Guide
As you might expect, because there are so many design options, it’s going to be difficult to be very accurate in terms of what any particular type of conservatory roof may cost.
In respect of a “new-build” the cost of the roof won’t be a separate item, but will be included in the overall finished price. The way to get an idea of the price difference is to get quotes for the same exact room with both solid and glass roof options and then compare the difference between the two options.
What type of things affect the price?
Typically, the factors with the biggest impact on costing are:
- The actual finished construction design – (a lean-to roof is likely to be cheaper than a Victorian of the same size)
- How big the roof is going to be.
- What type of materials you use.
- How much work is needed to remove the old roof.
- How much work is needed to fit the new one.
- Do you need to strengthen the existing frames?
- Planning permission if required.
Changing any type of clear roof to a solid roof will necessitate compliance with building regulations.
Our recommendation is to get at least 3 or 4 separate independent quotes from a range of professional installers.
How much does a conservatory roof cost?
Prices for a conservatory roof are extremely hard to find online and therefore we don’t have a large number of examples to offer. The most common response we received from suppliers when we inquired about average tiled roof conservatories prices, was that there was so many differences in materials, styling and labour costs that it’s impossible to give an average price.
However, from what we have gathered you could expect to find prices anywhere between £4,500 to £8,000 for the cost of a replacement tiled conservatory roof depending on the size and £3000 to £4,000 for a double glazed conservatory roof sized approximately 2,5m x 3.0m
- You can see more information about prices on this page: conservatory-roof-prices