Conservatory Materials

Recommended Materials in Conservatory Construction

After you decide on the function of the conservatory you would like to build, you need to make a few more decisions: foundation, flooring, finishing, glazing options, door and panel options, grid options, window options, and security. 

conservatory interior

Foundations and Flooring

Foundations

The following foundations are simply recommendations, so it is recommended that you consult your local building codes for more information on foundation requirements in your area.

Wood Foundations

Conservatories under 200 square feet are commonly referred to as “hobby-sized.” In these cases, pressure-treated lumber can be bolted together to form a foundation. Conservatories less than 6 by 8 feet can be constructed on a foundation of one tier of lumber, while a 10 by 12 foot structure will require two tiers of lumber to create a solid foundation. For added strength, 2-foot sections of rebar should be inserted into the ground and be fastened to the lumber base.

If you have questions about whether or not a wood foundation is right for you, make sure to contact a professional.

Concrete Foundations

With a conservatory larger than 200 square feet, a stronger foundation will be necessary. Options include a concrete slab, a continuous concrete footing around the perimeter, or a concrete block footing. The concrete slab can be reinforced with wire mesh and it is suggested the concrete floor be at least 4 inches thick and should be thicker around the perimeter to handle the load of the building. Footings should also extend below the frost line to prevent damage to the conservatory’s frame and glazing. If you are pouring concrete, the trench must be large enough to accommodate wooden forms. Remember to install necessary utility lines and be sure to excavate deep enough to bury plumbing and electrical conduits. A concrete block footing should extend a minimum of 6 inches above grade to form a knee wall. Tying a conservatory to a foundation or footing is crucial and achieved by embedding anchor bolts into concrete.

conservatory concrete foundation

Waterproofing can be achieved by coating the foundation in a waterproof compound or underlying the concrete slab with a polyethylene moisture barrier. Surrounding the foundation with insulation panels will aide in the retention of heat in the structure.

Learn how to properly waterproof your foundation at: ConcreteNetwork.com.

Knee Walls

conservatory knee walls

Knee walls—sometimes referred to as “base” or “pony” walls—are a common feature of conservatories. Incorporating a knee wall is typically a more cost-effective solution than extending glass walls entirely to the ground. By applying a stone or brick veneer directly to a concrete knee wall, you can achieve a classic aesthetic.

We also recommend insulating the knee wall to compliment heating and cooling systems. Knee walls are typically between 30 and 36 inches tall.

Flooring

The flooring you select for your conservatory is very important, as it needs to beappropriate for the room’s intended usage. Take each type of flooring into consideration before making your decision.

Carpet

conservatory carpet floor

Carpeting and area rugs can help warm a conservatory. This material is inviting and comfortable underfoot, but it is important to note that carpeting is not recommended in structures with high moisture, like greenhouses and pool enclosures.

Tile

conservatory tile floor

Tile is durable, easy to clean, and has nearly limitless options. A slip resistant or textured tile should be used in moist environments to help avoid slips and falls.

Cork

conservatory cork floor

Cork is a common conservatory flooring option. This soft material is an appropriate option for homes with children and for rooms where people may spend time sitting on the floor frequently. Cork flooring is relatively impact resistant and will resist scratching. In conservatories with heavy foot traffic—such as a kitchen—this flooring option provides comfort while standing because of its cushioning effect.

In addition, cork also comes in a variety of colors and numerous patterns. The bark from a cork tree can be repeatedly harvested every nine years and turned into flooring, making cork an environmentally conscious, sustainable option.

Hardwood

conservatory hardwood floor

Hardwood flooring is the traditional choice for conservatories. Hardwoods are available in many species and stain finishes, along with wide and narrow plank options. Some hardwoods have a uniform color while others are variegated to provide a “high impact” visual effect. Wood flooring may seem like a large initial investment, but it generally lasts longer when compared to a vinyl or laminate floor. Hardwood floors can also be refinished after years of use and appear brand new.

Stone

conservatory stone floor

Stone floors are hard underfoot but can act as thermal mass to store the day’s heat. As the sun shines onto the floors during the day, that heat is then radiated back into the structure at night. In addition, this flooring is durable and resists impact. Marble tile is a classic flooring option, adding sophistication to any conservatory, however, marble is porous and stains easily, so it should not be used in high traffic areas.

Slate flooring is another option that is durable, withstands wear and tear, is resistant to stains, and has texture. Granite flooring is a popular option with similar properties to slate, but has more color options available.

Concrete

conservatory concrete floor

Concrete flooring is the most economical selection for conservatories and is growing in popularity. In addition to being durable and easy to clean, concrete can also be stained or painted in various patterns and colors to create a more attractive appearance. Concrete is often used in its raw form to provide a modern aesthetic, but it is best to discuss flooring options with your builder before the foundation is poured.

For an in-depth look at how to choose the proper flooring for your conservatory you may find this article on CUS.net helpful.

Conservatory Finishes

Standard Finish

A painted finish is suitable for residential jobs and light commercial projects. This type of finish will withstand exposure to the elements and resist dents and scratches. Custom colors can be created in a high-quality fluoropolymer paint finish.

Cladding

Cladding is often added to the exterior of a conservatory to increase aesthetic appeal. Copper cladding is a popular addition to historically styled conservatories, while stainless steel cladding is appropriate for a modern conservatory and coastal applications since it does not corrode. The cladding can encompass all framing or only specific areas.

Anodized

An anodized finish is best suited for commercial projects and those near salt water. Since these commercial applications can be prone to scratching and corrosion, the anodized finishes are designed to withstand that. To make the it even more durable, the anodized finish is also bonded into the frame. 

Wood Interior

conservatory wood interior

A properly incorporated wood interior creates a highly decorative aesthetic in line with that of classic English conservatories. Wood interior systems are composed of a solid wood or glulam interiors that are attached to a maintenance free aluminum exterior frame. Advanced weep systems carry water and condensation away from the wood and assures the structure’s longevity. These systems also tend to have higher thermal efficiency, allowing the room to maintain an even temperature throughout the year.

Typically, structures consist of solid mahogany or Spanish cedar, however, interior laminates are also available in western red cedar, southern yellow pine, and northern white pine (straight eave applications only) upon special request. Depending upon final engineering requirements, redwood or cherry may also be available for your application.

conservatory wood interior

Solid wood framing is typically utilized in smaller structures that have a span of 12 feet or less and should be sealed to maintain the wood’s integrity. If the wood interior will be painted, glulam is recommended. During this process, the first coat seals and protects the wood, while the second coat stains the wood, and the third layer acts as a finishing coat.

Rafter profiles can be custom designed to feature any shape desired and combined with moldings, wood panels, and trims to mimic existing architectural elements. Each rafter is finished by hand with either paint or stain to further enhance the conservatory and nearly any exterior color can be used to blend with a home’s existing facade or make it the focal point of the property.

Conservatory Glazing Options

U-Values

conservatory u-values

U-values indicate the amount of heat lost through glass; the lower the value, the better, considering it means less heat is being lost. Typical glass ranges begin around 6.0 with a single pane of glass and can reach amounts around .25 with Low-E coatings, insulated glass, stainless steel spacers, and argon filled. Low-E allows the sun’s rays to pass through the glass while reducing the amount of heat or cooling that is lost from the interior.

Learn more about U-values.

Laminated

Laminated glass is typically used on all conservatory roofs since most building codes require glass above 12 feet from a finished floor to be laminated. When laminated glass is broken, it cracks and holds in place as opposed to shattering; this is the same type of glass that is used in car windshields. The composition includes two pieces of glass which are bonded together with a PVB adhesive. Typically, the laminated glass is used in conjunction with an airspace and tempered glass on the exterior for added strength.

Tempered

conservatory tempered glass

Commonly called safety glass, tempered glass glazing is typically used in the walls of conservatories as it is the most durable type of glass. Household windows and doors also use tempered glass, which make it one of the most commonly used types on construction projects as well. The glass will withstand bumps and, should the glass break, it does so into small pieces without sharp edges.

Easy Clean

Becoming more popular in the United States, this specialty easy clean glass is aimed at reducing the time and frequency that glass requires cleaning. The pores in typical glass, while not visible to the naked eye, actually capture dirt; easy clean glass features a coating that fills these pores, minimizing dirt retention and is cleaned when it rains.

Easy clean glass is affordable, but multiple coatings may need to be placed on a glass unit. You can place an easy clean coating and Low-E coating on the glass even if the unit is tempered or laminated.

Low-E Coatings

LoE 340

conservatory LoE 304

This glass type is used when the conservatory needs to be shaded from intense direct sunlight. A coating is applied to clear glass, which blocks the sun and causes a soft blue tint. Low-E 340 insulated glass has a U-value of 0.25, an R-value of 4.0, a visible light transmittance of 39 percent, and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.18.

LoE 272

conservatory LoE 272

LoE 272 provides a very slight green tint and assists in regulating the conservatory’s temperature, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This is the most commonly used Low-E glass. The insulated double pane version has a U-value of 0.25, an R-value of 4.0, a visible light transmittance of 71 percent, and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.27.

LoE 366

conservatory LoE 366

LoE 366 provides the best insulation values. It helps retain the conservatory’s heat in the winter and blocks the heat in the summer. LoE 366 blocks 95 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays, which will help preserve the color and composition of furnishings, draperies, and wall treatments. This insulated double pane product has a U-value of 0.24, an R-value of 4.13, a visible light transmittance of 71 percent, and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.27.

LoE i89

conservatory LoE i89

LoE i89 is used in conjunction with other Low-E coatings to provide better energy performance. It is ideal for higher altitudes and colder climates. A double pane LoE i89 unit delivers better thermal performance than a clear triple pane unit when combined with LoE 366. An insulated pane with i89, when combined with LoE 366, has a U-value of 0.20, a visible light transmittance of 63 percent, and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.27.

Privacy

While it provides spectacular views to the outdoors, a full glass conservatory may also be cause for privacy concerns. Conveniently, there are several options to combat these issues. One option is to use a textured glass like English Reeded or Rain—this allows natural light to still enter the room, but vision is obstructed for your privacy. Another option is Solera glass, which is white in color and offers thermal properties that reduce glare and achieve up to an R-20 depending upon glass selection. The glass is always a solid white and completely blocks vision from inside out and vice versa.

Decorative Glazing

Historically accurate conservatories often featured leaded glass or stained-glass windows with leaded grids.

In the past, lead was melted and formed into a grid pattern, then individual pieces of glass were poured into the grid. Today, faux grid designs are still used on traditional, historically accurate conservatories while modern leaded windows use a lead grid applied to the surface of the glass. No matter the project, virtually any pattern can be created.

Pattern glass is created by a process called acid etching, which adds a pattern to the glass making it appear frosted or fogged. Available patterns include Pattern 62, Rain, Single Chip, and English Reeded.

conservatory conservatory conservatory conservatory conservatory

Dynamic Glazing

Electrochromic (ECM) Glass

Electrochromic glass is an energy efficient glazing selection which utilizes advanced technology. Using building management systems, this type of glass can be tinted to provide glare and heat control while offering unobstructed views of your surroundings.

There are several manufacturers of “tintable” glass and many of them are able to provide several predetermined tint levels which can be automatic or manual. For electrochromic glass, zones can be created by grouping windows together for simultaneous tinting.

Thermochromic Glass

Pleotint offers a thermochromic glass called Suntuitive as another tinting glass option. This type of glass tints without the use of electricity and lightens and darkens automatically based on the ambient temperature of the glass’s surface increased by sunlight. Suntuitive provides clear views, saves energy, and reduces interior glare without the use of additional wiring or electricity.

Door and Panel Options

Terrace and French Door

conservatory terrace door

Terrace doors are single swing door units, while French doors are a set of double doors. Door height can be adjusted to accommodate large plants or equipment and units can be hinged left or right and swing in or out. Sizes and operation are custom designed to suit the needs of your structure. The doors are constructed out of aluminum with insulated double pane glass.

Stacking Doors

conservatory stacking door

stacking wall is a door option which allows two or three sides of a structure to open without any posts obstructing the view. Individual door panels operate on a track and can make turns if necessary. The panels then stack into a recess or against a wall to create an opening.

Folding Doors

conservatory folding door

Folding walls—also known as accordion or bi-fold door—allow unobstructed openings. When fully open, doors stack against each other, perpendicular to the wall and screens can also be incorporated. Doors can fold in or out with the option of individual swing doors.

Sliding Doors

conservatory sliding door

Sliding doors, or patio doors as they are sometimes called, are a common feature of conservatories. The doors slide on a track and stack behind a fixed panel. Sliding doors are also the most cost-effective option. When fully open, a 3 to 4 foot panel remains in view.

All Glass Option

conservatory all glass option

This configuration utilizes a full glass panel, allowing the maximum amount of light available into the room. This design accentuates modern, simplistic, and contemporary styles.

Full Grids Option

conservatory full grid option

This option consists of grids spread throughout the entire door panel. Muntins (grids between glass) make the doors easy to clean, while SDLS (exterior and exterior) provide visual depth.

Grid and Base Panel Option

conservatory grid and base panel option

This set-up provides a very traditional door appearance. A raised base panel is located on the bottom of the door, typically 36 inches tall. Above the panel are grids which are available in patterns shown.

Dutch Doors 

conservatory dutch door

A Dutch door consists of two individual panels stacked atop one another, with each panel operating independently. In addition, the bottom panel can be closed while the top opens, which allows for ventilation while preventing children and pets from exiting.

Arch Top Door

conservatory arch top door

An arch top door features a rounded frame that is entirely operable. The majority of door manufacturers offer a square door with an arched transom that does not open.

Conservatory Grid Options

Radius

conservatory radius

A radius configuration is characterized by a half round grid that is located in the upper third of the window. The diameter of the radius will change based on window size.

Double Gothic

conservatory double gothic

Double Gothic grids are very decorative and the design is reminiscent of Gothic cathedrals. Single Gothic arches are also available.

English Grid

conservatory english grid

The English grid design features two horizontal and two vertical grids at off center positions. This design complements arts and craft homes as well as contemporary styled structures.

Traditional

conservatory traditional

A traditional grid consists of multiple horizontal and vertical divisions. The number of lights typically runs between three to five both vertically and horizontally.

Cross Grid

conservatory cross grid

Cross grids create a vertical and a horizontal grid with the vertical grid typically placed in the upper third of the window. This simple grid style complements a variety of designs.

Window Options

Awning Window

conservatory awning window

An awning window is a common form of ventilation that is hinged at the top, cranks out, and can be left open during light rain showers. Any water that falls on the glass runs down the glass but does not enter the conservatory.

Pivot Window

conservatory pivot

Pivot windows project to the exterior and interior of a room, but require less space in one direction, allowing for large, open spaces. Pivot windows can pivot from the left, right, or center and can feature decorative interior and exterior grids.

Hopper Window

conservatory hopper window

A hopper window is typically used above a door or window. A transom can operate as a hopper window, as it tilts inward and is hinged at the bottom. This window brings ventilation into the conservatory.

Casement Window

conservatory casement window

A casement window hinges on the left or right and moves outward with a crank handle. Casements typically provide superior ventilation compared to awnings.

Tilt Turn Window

conservatory tilt turn

A tilt turn window has a “dual action” operation; the unit opens outward, like a casement, and tilts inward at the top, like a hopper. This window style is ideal for second floor applications where cleaning windows from the outside presents a challenge.

Transom Window

conservatory transom window

A transom window is located above a door or window. Transoms are typically fixed, but can include operable sections in some cases. Grids are often added to the transom for a decorative appearance or the glass can be etched with a pattern.

Conservatory Security

We recognize that security is a high priority when purchasing a conservatory. Our products have specialized features to create a more secure glazed structure.

conservatory security

The use of tempered glass is a conservatory’s main security feature; intruders cannot simply break a window with a blunt object. The weak points of the glass are at the non-accessible edges, which are hidden by silicone and behind a metal cap. Glass does not shatter when struck with a rock, brick, or baseball bat; an average person cannot produce enough force on their own to break tempered glass.

Doors feature semi-concealed hinges that cannot be removed from the exterior. All components are located on the interior of the conservatory, preventing any unwanted guests from removing the door hinges to invade your home.