Conservatory Roof Materials: Overview

Until relatively recently, options for conservatory roofing was somewhat limited. Permitted development regulations stated that at least 75 per cent of a conservatory roof had to be translucent, leaving homeowners with only a couple of permitted solutions. But in 2010, regulations changed, which now allow a much wider choice of roof materials for your conservatory; here’s what you need to know.

Solid or see through?

Now that we are allowed to build conservatories with solid roofs, there has been a huge increase in the number of conservatories being built in this manner. Conservatories are still much easier and cheaper to build than full blown extensions, and with a tiled, insulated roof, are being made more practical and functional than ever before.

When deciding if you want a solid or see through roof, it’s a good idea to consider the benefits and limitations of each:

Solid

Can be insulated, lower maintenance requirements, reduced heat loss. However, the materials and construction need to be carefully calculated, or they could cause serious issues and potentially a collapse due to the weight.

See through

Lightweight options like polycarbonate or glass are much easier to install and safer on larger roof areas. They let in lots of light, but are more expensive and require professional maintenance to keep clean. Susceptible to damage.

Once you’ve decided whether it’s more important to you to have a solid or a see through roof, you can start comparing materials to see what will be best for you.

Tiled roofs and the potential issues

If your conservatory is being built from scratch with the intent of supporting a tiled roof, you should have no problems installing your solid roof. However, if you are considering upgrading a glass or polycarbonate roof to tiled, you should be aware that you will need to obtain a certificate from your installer once the work is completed. Building control will want to see:

  • Evidence of structural integrity
  • Engineer report on structural loads imposed by roof on windows and doors
  • Soil test reports
  • Proof of weight support by the elevations
  • SAP report for heat loss calculations

If you do not obtain all the necessary paperwork, you could run into problems in selling your house later on. More information on this here.

Material Choice #1: Polycarbonate conservatory roofs

Polycarbonate is a good budget choice, letting plenty of light into the room but without the glare or intense heat which can be an issue with glass. Polycarbonate panels range in thickness from 16 to 35mm, with the thicker panels having better insulating properties. The very thickest panels can even match standard double glazing for insulation, but cannot compete with specialist glazed units. For more information, see our page on polycarbonate roofs for your conservatory.

Material Choice #2: Glass conservatory roof

Glass roofs are a popular choice for conservatories, despite the initially high cost of installation. The clarity of glass means more light is available, and the sky is clearly visible through the roof. Glass is also better at insulating than polycarbonate, and with lots of specialist glass types available, the amount of heat and light coming into your conservatory can be effectively controlled. Read our pages on glass conservatory roofs and choosing the right type of glass for conservatories for more information.

Glass roof conversions

There are no additional building regulation consents required if you want to upgrade a polycarbonate roof to a glass roof. However, it is important to have a qualified surveyor check out the integrity of your conservatory structure to ensure it can support the additional weight of the glass.

Insulating your existing roof

Because you no longer have to have a see through roof, some householders have attempted to insulate underneath their existing glass or polycarbonate roof using foil, fiberglass and plasterboard panels. While this is certainly a good idea on paper, in reality it tends to suffer with a multitude of unexpected problems.

Homeowners report hidden leaks and condensation forming on the underside of the roof panels, soaking the insulation and causing mould and irreparable damage to the plasterboard.

Conservatories tend to flex due to the huge changes in temperature in the room. Normal materials can accommodate these small movements with ease, but they tend to crack the plasterboard, spoiling the interior décor of the room.

Finally, the added weight of insulation materials can cause bowing in the conservatory roof. This can lead to water ingress and, in some rare cases, collapse, particularly if there is a snow load on the outside of the building to. In short, you need to be very careful about any activity which may add weight to your conservatory, and should not attempt to fix any insulation or other materials to the roof without professional input.