Choosing Your New Conservatory: Substance and Form

Cost is the overriding factor for most people when they decide what kind of conservatory they want. And that’s why most conservatories you see nowadays are made from PVC, because it is affordable to most people. Yet a conservatory is not like buying a new TV. Like a pet, it’s not just for Christmas – it’s forever, well a long time at least. This article will take a look at the different options available for your conservatory build that is the very substance of the build: from PVC to hardwood, asking what’s the difference?

PVC: PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. It is a type of plastic and is sometimes referred to as ‘uPVC’, with the ‘u’ standing for ‘unplasticized’. PVC provides a largely maintenance-free option in conservatory construction, which is more affordable than the alternatives and yet durable. Its advantage is that can be mass-produced and then adapted to a specific location; this reduces cost both in production and in minimising on build time. The disadvantages are that it is mass-produced, which means your conservatory will look much the same as a million others.

Even though PVC doesn’t need painting it can discolour over time and it does need a thorough cleaning on a regular basis. If you decide to go with the PVC option make sure it is of a high quality that will be less likely to discolour, and that each element of the build is from the same PVC so that different parts will not discolour at different rates cheapening the look of the build.

But perhaps the most important negative of PVC is its environmental impact. In countries such as Germany and the Netherlands the use of PVC in construction is discouraged because it’s often not recyclable and its production can have harmful effects on the environment.

Aluminium: Conservatories made from aluminium usually occupy the middle ground in terms of cost, between PVC and hardwood. Aluminium is recyclable and can be stronger than PVC. It can also be designed and constructed to have a similar appearance to hardwood. Aluminium can also provide better thermal insulation than PVC, another environmental benefit, but one that will save you money in the long-term – particularly as heating costs continue to rise steeply. There is a wide variety of colours possible with aluminium and like PVC it is also largely maintenance free.

Hardwood: Natural wood is still the most desirable material for the conservatory build. It is more expensive, but it also offers the possibility of individuality – breaking free from the mass-production of PVC builds. Hardwood makes an immediate statement of quality and taste, which will carry through to the sale of your property adding value that PVC cannot. Environmental concerns can (and should be) addressed by ensuring the wood is obtained from sustainable sources, and a reputable builder will be able to provide you evidence of this.

There are a variety of hardwoods available for conservatory builds, ranging in price and durability. Oak and mahogany are well-known, but there are also sapele, idigbo, utile, meranti and iroko. Your builder should be able to talk you through the differences in cost, durability and appearance so you can make the right choice for you. And this is perhaps the main advantage of hardwood in that it gives such a broad pallet for bespoke design possibility. Designers will talk about its ‘workability’, because it can be worked to fit specifically with the unique needs of your property, both in terms of look and structure.

Whilst hardwood does need maintenance in terms of treatment, with stains or paint, if a good quality wood is used this maintenance should be infrequent. This can be turned to a positive in that it provides the opportunity for a change in look. PVC is white and that is forever, whereas hardwood remains workable, allowing you to change its appearance with a different stain or paint.

A reputable builder will be able to offer any and all of these materials in the conservatory build, citing their relative costs and benefits, a less reputable builder will be more likely to only offer PVC and that in itself is a useful warning sign.