If you are dreaming of a gorgeous new conservatory for your home but the price is out of your reach, you may be thinking about building one yourself to save on the cost of labour. Fitting by a professional company will start at around £500 per square metre of floor space, making conservatories one of the highest value things you’ll ever buy.
There are ways to reduce the cost of a conservatory, for example by choosing lower specification glass or by keeping the design simple, but it’s unlikely any of these things will take your expenses below the £500/sq. m. threshold. The only way to really reduce this cost significantly is by building your own DIY conservatory using a self-build kit.
However, this is no set of IKEA drawers you’re dealing with here. Conservatories are buildings just like any other, and require a certain level of proficiency in specific skills if you are going to get this done safely and effectively. Here’s what you ned to know.
What to expect from your kit?
DIY conservatory kits tend to be of a very standard size, making them cheaper to buy because they are mass manufactured. It’s harder to find something that will fit with your house if your building is an awkward shape.
Kits are DIY friendly in that most of the holes are pre-drilled for your convenience and all the fixtures and fittings are included. Don’t go for the very cheapest kits on the market as they may be substandard, and could end up actually detracting from your home rather than adding value to it.
What skills will you need?
Standard conservatories involve attaching a uPVC or timber frame to a dwarf wall or directly to a base. However, some DIY kits will bolt straight onto the floor, so check the specifications to
make sure the kit you are buying is suitable for the installation you have planned. Your kit should contain a to-do list of works, which will roughly comprise of:
Building a wall and / or base
This is skilled work, and probably best left to a builder unless you are very experienced and confident.
Assemble the frame
Most of the framework should be easy to assemble as it should come cut to size and pre-drilled, but be prepared to do a little drilling or cutting yourself to get the perfect fit. These panels will be very heavy once assembled, so it’s best to work in a team of at least two people.
Working at height
Assembling the frame will involve working at height, so you’ll need good ladders and enough manpower to manoeuvre things into place safely.
Sealing the conservatory
You will probably need to seal certain parts of the framework to make it watertight once assembled.
For lighting, fans and outlets, you’ll need an electrician to take care of connections to the conservatory.
Choose from a carpet, laminate flooring, vinyl or tiles, but you’ll need to be confident in the fitting of them and have the tools to make your job easier.
Probably the simplest of all the jobs here, you’ll need to finish the walls with plasterboard and / or paint and put the finishing touches to your room.
Sounds easy, right? Well, probably not, which is why not many people actually build their own conservatory from scratch. You’ll need some professional support along the way, even if you do a number of these steps yourself.
Where you’ll need a pro
Some elements of self build conservatories just can’t be done by an unqualified layperson. For example:
You’ll almost certainly need power to your conservatory, and under January 2005 guidelines this will need to be done by a professional electrician.
If you are planning to put a radiator or underfloor heating in the conservatory, this should only be done by a professional.
Unless you are experienced in ground works, setting a base for your conservatory is a job best left to the experts.
Again, unless you have specific skills and experience in this, it is doubtful you’ll be able to do a good job, so call in the professionals for your wall.
If you’re a keen DIY’er and want to ‘have a go’, there’s no harm in trying to learn new skills through the building of your own conservatory. However, do make sure that important things like electrical connections and structural integrity are at least checked by a professional before you start using the room.
The more complicated your conservatory, the longer it will take. A good estimation is around four to six days, but take your time and measure twice, cut once. How much is your time worth?
Cost of self build conservatories
By choosing to erect your conservatory yourself, you can expect a good discount on the price per square metre. As with all conservatories, the larger and more complex the design, the higher the cost. To give you some idea, you can expect a 3m square lean-to to cost around £225 per square meter, whereas a similar sized Victorian would cost around £300 per square meter. This page has some useful information on the cost of self build kits that will help you compare different designs and sizes.
So, is it worth it?
If you’re a keen DIY’er with a good stash of tools and a bit of time on your hands, plus a mate or two to lend a hand, chances are you could do a great job of building your own conservatory. However, if you have a day job and limited knowledge of building processes, a professional is going to get the job done a lot faster and easier than you can. Consider buying a self-build kit and then employing a local builder to erect it for you to save on the cost of a fitted conservatory from a large firm.