The Pros and Cons of Double Glazed versus Solid Roof Conservatories
Homeowners in Britain can be exasperated by badly designed and specified existing conservatories, often complaining they are simply too hot in summer and too cold in winter. It is therefore important that if a double glazed glass conservatory your preferred option due to the better views and light these offer, that it is expertly designed and installed by well-established conservatory experts so it can be used all year round thanks to heat reflective glass, an insulated base, a roof vent to release any heat build-up, plenty of ventilation and a high quality double glazing specification that keeps the cold out and warmth in.
The alternative to a glass or polycarbonate roof, is an “insulated warm roof”, better known as solid roofs with tiles. There is the traditional full blown extension option with either a flat roof or a timber pitched roof with heavy slate roof tiles, or nowadays there are several lightweight, yet incredibly robust aluminium solid roof options that each offers even better insulation than traditional roofs, plus with some systems there is a choice of attractive lightweight tiles in both aluminium and UPVC (the latter are more expensive, but aesthetically look like traditional slate tiles).
Just like double glazed glass roofs, solid roofs can be installed on conservatories in a matter of days, as long as the existing base, windows and doors are structurally sound enough to take the heavier weight of an insulated solid roof. By opting for a solid roof, rather than a standard glass one, you will significantly improve thermal and acoustic insulation. However, you do lose the natural daylight afforded by glass roofs, whilst gaining a structure that is more akin to an extension, hence why solid roof conservatories fall under the England and Wales Building Regulations. Both aluminium tiled and UPVC tiled solid roofs can be built in many conservatory styles including: Edwardian, Victorian, Lean-To or Bespoke conservatories to name but a few.
The whole point of buying any modern conservatory is that you should be able to use it as and when you like. It can be incredibly annoying if it was not designed for everyday, all year round, and thanks to not having enough ventilation, an insulated base or heat reflective glass, or is cold during the winter as the double glazing fitted was not of a sufficiently high specification. A solid “warm” roof offers even better roof insulation, primarily because it contains insulated plywood and rigid insulation board.
Any loss of natural sunlight as a consequence of opting for a Warm Roof can be off-set by the inclusion of one or more double glazed Velux style roof windows or on some system, large double glazed fixed roof lights. These sloping roof windows keep you in close contact with the outside and afford views of the sky above. The Velux opening roof windows will also help ventilate the space which you will be particularly thankful for on hot summer days.
If you already have a conservatory that is nowhere near as comfortable as you want it to be, then in all likelihood you’ll need to replace the entire structure (apart from the base and any walls) with one that has a Warm Roof or high specification double glazed roof, windows and doors. It simply is not sensible to put a highly thermally efficient new roof on top of non-thermally broken products, as all your heat will literally go out the window.
If you do choose a solid roof instead of a double glazed one, you will possibly need Planning Permission, so make sure you check what permissions you are legally obligated to obtain (and how much they each will cost) before ordering a solid roof conservatory.
If building a new solid roof conservatory onto a new foundation, you may not need planning if you are adding a warm roof structure under Permitted Development Rights, assuming a) these P.D. rights have not been withdrawn, and/or b) there are sufficient P.D. rights left to build the solid roof conservatory to the size you’d like it to be. If your dwelling is a “new build” developers sometimes place restrictions on them, so you would be wise to check your particular situation out.
Solid Roof Conservatories are in the eyes of the law an extension, so Building Regulations Approval is required, whether you are building a new one, or having a glass roof replaced with a solid one. In the latter case, if your conservatory was built under planning permission, you will need to re-apply for planning, as you are changing from an exempt structure (i.e. a conservatory with a glass roof) to a non-exempt extension.
In terms of which is the best option for your own property, this is entirely up to you, as you will need to weigh up the more attractive external views at a significantly reduced cost and less red tape of a conservatory with a double glazed roof, versus the greater thermal efficiency of a more expensive solid roof conservatory with less daylight, but the option of adding reccessed lighting into the sloping plastered ceilings.