New Roofs for Old Glass

In this month's newsletter we discussed changes in the home improvement market in our lead article and here is a prime example of what we mean. A new market sector has risen dramatically over the last two years following some product innovations by various manufacturers. There is now a veritable boom in glazed extensions and the replacement of glass or polycarbonate conservatory roofs with solid coverings.

Over 3m conservatories have been sold in the UK over the last quarter of a century but sales had certainly started to drop off in the last few years. The infamous white glass box – too hot in the summer and freezing in the winter – seemed to have had its day. However, the cost of moving house and the desire for more flexible living space prompted manufacturers and installers to look at a very different proposition.

The term glazed extension is very new. The idea is simple – use glass to create light and space in a home extension, but do not build a conservatory. Less glass, replaced by energy efficient panels or corner-posts and a largely solid roof allowed for cost-effective temperature control and delivered an extension which could become a proper part of the house.

Thanks to all the house make over shows on TV, people take design very seriously these days and the notion of a glazed extension has captured imaginations. By using roof lights or glazed panels in mainly solid roofs and adding more structure to walls, as well as transformational products like bi-fold doors, the idea of building an orangery rather than a conservatory really took off. Installers have seen their average sale value go up because they are delivering a more ‘up market’ product, but their customers are delighted with the result. A fantastic good news story about product innovation taking the industry in a different direction.

However, this is not the end of the story. Go back to those 3m white boxes all over suburbia and think about them for a moment. Many are looking quite tired these days and home owners are open to the idea of transforming their old conservatories into something new and more useable. The bases are already in place and now there are a number of products that allow considerable improvements to be made without replacing the whole construction. Lightweight solid roofs and new ‘A’ rated windows can be slotted in, often using the same foundations without increasing the footprint, and the happy owners suddenly have a room they can really live in.

There are some important technical constraints to be considered. There have already been instances of cowboys putting new frames and a roof on without bothering to check whether the structure or base could take the increased weight. But 3m is a very big number. There is a lot of work to be won helping homeowners make the most of what they already have.