Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.
The First Steps Toward Building a Conservatory
I’ve always promised my wife a conservatory, and when I took early retirement I decided it was time to deliver on that promise.
The decision we then needed to make was whether to:
- Buy an ‘off the shelf’ conservatory; readymade in kit form that only requires assembly on-site either by you, a contractor or builder.
- Have one professionally built.
- Design and build one myself.
It was a foregone conclusion that I would build the conservatory myself, but it is still prudent to look at the other options before making a final decision; and in doing so, apart from the costs the other factors which made them less appealing were:
- A readymade conservatory wouldn’t best utilise the available space, and wouldn’t necessarily suit our requirements e.g. a desire for the north-facing side to be a wall rather than glass.
- As regards to having a conservatory professionally built, unless I designed and project managed the build, hiring a local builder to do the actual build; a British builder would want to build the conservatory on top of cavity brick walls.
In Britain, it’s standard to build cavity walls, which these days are a clay brick outer wall and a breeze block (concrete) inner wall, separated by a 100mm (4 inch) gap filled with insulation.
Having carefully looked at all these options, the three cornerstones of Project Management that helped us to make our final decision were cost, quality and time.
The first two options would by far be the most expensive; while building it myself would cut out all the labour costs which would subsequently make it significantly cheaper.
Looking at the other two options:
- Although a readymade conservatory is made to the highest standard (these days uPVC units for windows, doors and roof), this wasn’t the overriding factor provided the final build was to an acceptable standard, aesthetically pleasing and to our taste.
- I’m sure a reputable builder would do a good job and could meet our aspirations, provided I designed and project managed the build, I felt confident that I could also deliver what we wanted to a high quality and build it a lot cheaper myself e.g. based on my previous experience of the brick-built garden sheds I constructed years earlier.
Time wasn’t a major factor, as we didn’t have a deadline other than a desire to have it built before winter.
Timber Frame vs Brick Built
Therefore, after considering all the options, our final decision was quite natural that I would design and build the conservatory myself (with help from a couple of friends).
We also decided that:
- The Conservatory would be a timber frame construction, rather than the usual brick; specifically because of the space restraint.
- I would start the build in early spring, with a target date for completion by the autumn; which (as it was only December at the time) gave me a few months to finalize the design and source, cost and order the materials.
The budget I set for the build was £5,000 ($6,500). After itemising and costing all the materials (including delivery costs) we were about £500 ($700) under budget which gave me the option to upgrade some of the materials in the design.
Specifically, I opted for:
- Cedarwood cladding, rather than the usual (and cheaper pine or spruce).
- Cedarwood tiles for the roof, rather than clay tiles or slate; which is the traditional roofing on domestic homes in the UK.
Later in the build, my wife decided she wanted a solid oak wooden floor, which added about an extra £500 ($700) to the cost; but I was able to claw that back by sourcing a large second hand double glazed window from a local reclamation yard for just £60 ($80), including delivery. The second-hand window saving the costs on the new window unit I had budgeted for.
So consequently, in spite of the upgrades to my original build specifications we still came in on budget; and on time, as the whole build only took four months. Plus, with the solid oak floor and Cedarwood cladding, rather than using cheaper wood, the final build exceeded our expectations (Quality).
Planning Consent and Building Regulations in the UK
I’m not sure how it works in America, but in the UK it’s advisable to check with the Local Authority (Local Government) on whether planning permission is required, or whether it comes under ‘permitted development’ and to fully comply with all Building Regulations relevant to the build.
For example, all conservatory built in the UK requires a properly laid foundation that meets the appropriate specifications laid under Building Regulations.
Although to simplify the Building Regulations which we needed to comply with we opted to replace our old teak wood French doors from our living room with new ‘external’ uPVC French doors; rather than having an internal door between the living room and conservatory. In this respect. If we had installed an internal door then under Planning Laws in the UK the conservatory would be classified as ‘living space’; and then the Building Regulations would become a lot more stringent e.g. a minimum of 200mm (8 inches) of insulation in the roof space. Whereas by keeping the conservatory separate from the house with an ‘external’ door between the two rooms (living room and conservatory) then under Building Regulations the conservatory (like a porch) is classified as ‘non-living space’.
Desires and Restraints
Obviously, our desire was to have the conservatory as big as possible, within any restraints. The minimum width I wanted was 2.7 metres (9 feet), and the ideal length of 3.6 metres (12 feet).
The restrictions to width was not just the boundary (you can’t build on the boundary line in the UK without planning permission to do so) but also an air vent near the boundary on one side and drainage pipes on the other side. There was also an air vent between which I needed to ensure didn’t get blocked as part of the design-build.
When I made the precise measurements I had exactly 3 metres (10 feet) to play with. Taking into account the thickness of the walls, if I’d opted for a conventional brick build and insulation, the maximum interior width I could achieve would have been 2.4 metres (8 feet). Whereas, with a timber frame construction I would be able to achieve the full 2.7 metres (9 feet) I wanted.
This was the sole factor that determined our decision for it to be timber frame rather than brick.
As regards height; my concern was that by building so close to the neighbour’s boundary, which in our garden is north facing, there would be a real risk of cutting out light and overshadowing our neighbour’s garden. Therefore I wanted to keep the roofline as low as possible, while at the same time not compromising on our aspirations for the build.
In this respect, the sun doesn’t clear the houses until midday, at which point it's fairly high in the sky; which meant I could have the roofline at a reasonable height, with the shadow cast from the apex hitting the boundary wall and not causing any shadows in our neighbours garden.
Nevertheless, to be neighbourly, I opted for a hipped roof as visually this would be less overbearing for our neighbours; and I kept on good terms with my neighbour by informing them of my intentions in advance (giving them the full details) and seeking their consent before I started the build.
In my initial plan, I was planning to have no glass in the back wall as it's north-facing and therefore don’t get the sun; plus it faces onto a 1.5 metre (5 foot) boundary wall. However, just as I started the build a friend who was helping me spotted a pile of small rather attractive leaded coloured glass windows in a local reclamation yard for just £5 ($7) each. So I immediately went up there and bought the whole stock.
Having acquired a pile of rather attractive windows I immediately modified my plans to incorporate them along the top of the back wall.
As we opted for a tiled roof (rather than glass) to maximise on the light I sourced a couple of skylights to into the design; a large south-facing one, and a smaller west-facing skylight. Having skylights ruled out the option of a flat ceiling; not that we wanted one anyway.
Although we decided on a timber frame construction we still needed to build the structure on proper foundations in accordance with Building Regulations; for details in the UK you would need to consult with your Local Authority (local government). One requirement under ‘building regulations’ (which is standard in the UK) is the DPC (Damp Proof Course) has to be 150mm (6 inches) above ground level.
To achieve this it either means laying a concrete slab sub-floor or brick walls to this height. We opted for a brick wall, which would then be infilled with concrete laid on top of a damp proof membrane; with the sides of the membrane being pulled up around the bricks to lay under the DPC that’s placed on top of the bricks before the wooden structure is erected. In this way the whole base and the timber frame construction on top are isolated from penetrating and rising damp.
The first step towards this was to dig the foundation trench (to Building Regulations specifications) for the outer wall and fill it with concrete. Once the concrete was set we could then build the 150mm (6 inch) outer wall.
With the help of a friend, once we built the foundation wall and laid the damp proof membrane we got rid of all the rubble by putting it in the base of the footprint prior to filling the area with concrete.
Modification to the original plan
Originally I had planned to make the internal length of the conservatory 3.6 metres (12 feet), and had sourced a couple of new double glazed units for a local DIY store to fit into the design. However, just before we were ready to start I was able to pick up a large second-hand double glazed window from a local reclamation yard for just £60 ($80) including delivery. However, as it was larger than I’d planned for I had to extend the length of the conservatory to 4 metres (13 feet) to accommodate the window.
Rather than buying new bricks for the build I was able to source a supply of recycled bricks from our local builder’s merchant; which saved a little money on the budget. Normally they only sell new bricks, but when I popped in to place my order I spotted an assignment of high quality recycled bricks in one corner which they recently acquired from a local factory that had been demolished. Not only were the bricks cheaper, but having originally been used for the build of a heavy industrial factory they were denser and slightly larger than the conventional house brick.
Once the foundations were set (apart from a little plumbing job that needed doing) I was ready to start construction on the timber frame walls and roof. The walls were constructed as two panels (front and back walls) that were fixed in place to the house at one end and supported in place at the front by the roof plate.
As I wanted to incorporate skylights I placed the roof cross beams higher than they would normally go, but compensated for any potential bulge (where the roof pushed the wall out) with a couple of bracing beams; which would later become features as part of the design.
Because it was a conservatory e.g. predominantly glass, rather than just an extension that had one or two windows in it, although the roof plate would take the bulk of the roof weight, the windows and doors would add to the structural support.
Therefore, unlike an ordinary build where the roof is put on before installing the windows and doors, I had to do it the other way around. If I had opted for clay or slate tiles, as would be conventional in such a build in the UK, the roof would have been too heavy and I would have had to install steel beams to support it.
However, having opted for cedar wood tiles for the roof (which are much lighter) it doesn’t need a great deal of support in comparison to a conventional British roof. So the whole structure is a much lighter weight, and was a lot cheaper to build; more like building a garden shed from wood.
At the outset, it was obvious the waste pipe from the bath would be in the way of the build. Therefore, before I started constructing the timber frame I nipped down to one of the local DIY stores for some suitable push fit pipework and pipe adhesive, and then quickly re-routed the waste from the bath.
Windows and Doors
As part of the build design, we decided to replace our old French doors from the living room with new uPVC French doors. However, rather than just dump the old doors I decided to take the double glazed units out and recycle them by incorporating them into the design build of the conservatory; and store the teak wood from the old doors in my workshop for reuse in future DIY projects.
Modifications to the Design
I had to modify the design to the front wall to accommodate the recycled double glazed window, and the back wall for the pile of leaded coloured glass windows; all of which I picked up from a local reclamation yard.
Also, just after I started the build, one of the friends helping me offered to source some coloured glass for the front, next to the patio doors. Originally, I was planning to just clad that section in cedar wood cladding; but with a slight modification to the front frame section I was able to accommodate openings for the coloured glass.
Leaded Windows Restoration
Having purchased a pile of leaded glass windows for just £5 ($7) they needed restoration and trimming to size to fit into the top of the back wall of the conservatory.
The first concept, suggest by the friend who’d spotted them for me in the reclamation yard, was to remove the glass from the wooden frames and reframe them into one long window. It was an appealing idea, and I did try, but on my first attempt one of the glass panels cracked; fortunately I had a couple of spare windows so it wasn’t a major disaster.
Therefore, I settled instead on the more laborious route of cleaning up each window individually and trimming the sides so once they were butt joined together the wood between each window wouldn’t be ridiculously wide.
The gloss paint was old, and being exposed to the elements for years, was flaky and scrapped off quite easily. Once I’d got most of the paint off (all the loose stuff) I then got the rest of the paint off and got back to the bare wood with a belt sander; which I used rather gingerly as I didn’t want to crack another pane. Albeit the glass was solidly fixed in the frame and proved to be resilient to the vibrations from the sander, so my confidence grew as I proceeded with the restoration. Therefore, when it came to trimming the frames to size I was confident enough to use an electric saw rather than cut them all by hand.
Having trimmed them to size I then sanded down and trimmed the offcuts as battens to frame the front of the windows.
Once all the leaded glass windows, and the three sheets of 3mm (eighth of an inch) coloured glass were fitted in place in timber frame, I fixed laminated plate glass to the outside. Using beading to separate the plate glass from the window glass by about 12mm (half an inch); and securing the plate glass in place with glazing silicone. The laminated plate glass on the outside serves two purposes:
- Creates secondary glazing, which helps to keep the conservatory warmer during the winter.
- Gives excellent protection to the more delicate glass on the inside.
Installing the Double Glazed Units
The second-hand double glazed window we bought from the reclamation yard, and the new patio doors were mean beasts; because of their sheer weight I couldn’t have fitted them on my own. So with a help of a couple of friends, we removed the glass from the window and together lifted it into place. Then when levelled off with wedges underneath, spent about half an hour fitting all the glass back into the frame. Likewise, the patio doors required the three of us to manoeuver it in place; but once they looked grand. Then before proceeding with anything else we installed uPVC trim around the top and side edges (inside and out) to tidy it up and to provide a weatherproof seal; sticking the trim in place with silicone, holding it firmly in place with clamps where possible until the silicone had stuck fast.
OSB3 and Underfelt
Once the timber frame and roof structure were erected, with windows and doors (including the skylights) in place I was able to clad the outside with OSB3 board; OSB3 being suitable for exterior use.
The next phase was to then wrap the whole structure in underfelt (a breathable waterproof membrane). In the past it would have just been felt, but felt isn’t breathable and there’s always a risk of moisture or condensation building up on the underside causing damp and rot. Whereas with the modern materials, any moisture in the wood, or condensation can now escape through the membrane, while at the same time the membrane (being waterproof) prevents water from penetrating the structure.
After fitting the OSB3 boards and underfelt to the walls and roof I could then add the skylights and clad the exterior with the cedar wood cladding to the walls and cedar wood tiles on the roof.
I had enough room on the south facing roof to fit two standard skylights, but when I was resourcing them I came across a double width skylight, 1.2 metres (4 feet) wide, which didn’t just work out cheaper than buying two 600mm (2 feet) skylights, but was ideal as it would be one big roof window right in the middle.
As regards the west facing roof, because of its shape and size e.g. hipped roof, there was limited space; too small to fit a standard skylight. However, I did manage to source a tiny one that just fits into the space available.
Before installing the skylights (once the timber frame was built) I had to first clad the roof with OSB3 boards and then felt the boards with breathable membrane. Then during the installation, tuck the collar for the big window (which came as an accessory) under the breathable membrane to safely drain off any water that might penetrate below the roof tiles. For the smaller skylight, I had to improvise and make my own collar using silicone.
The frame for the large skylight was secured to the roof beams and then the glazed unit slotted in place afterwards. Fitting the large skylight required two people, because like the double glazed window, the window itself was just too heavy for one person to lift and hold in place while engaging it into the frame.
Once that was done I could then fit the flashing in place around the skylights; the flashing’s function being to channel rain water around the skylights and back onto the roof.
One tip I did follow, that comes in the installation instruction with the skylights (which most professional builders ignore) was to angle the window surround on the inside specifically to spread daylight to a wider area of the room; rather than funnel it.
Cedar Wood Cladding
Having opted for a timber frame because of the width restriction, I didn’t relish the thought of all the care and maintenance that comes with conventional cladding in the UK; nor did I want it to look like an ordinary garden shed.
Typically in Britain, because houses are generally brick built, and cladding is usually only used for garden sheds, the most common cladding available tends to be just pine or spruce; two soft woods that rots easily and requires regular maintenance.
So after doing research on the subject I concluded that cedar wood (although a lot more expensive) would be a good alternative due to the natural oils in the wood that gives it good preservations property. Because of the natural oils, cedar wood is resilient to both fungi and insects, and can last for sixty years or longer.
Therefore, after checking the websites of all the local suppliers I found a local a timber merchant who does cedar wood cladding; and after calculating my requirements ordered a supply from them, along with suitable high quality (but expensive) rustproof nails.
Once I had the cladding it was easy and quick to fix in place; and when the job was completed gave the conservatory that ‘wow’ factor that I was hoping for.
Cedar Wood Roof
Ideally I would have preferred to roof the conservatory with clay or slate tiles (preferably slate); which are the standard roofing materials for the UK. The advantage over other roofing materials is their durability; once installed a clay tile or slate roof can last centuries without minimal of maintenance.
However, such roofing materials are heavy, and to have used them in my construction would have required installing steel beams to take the weight. Therefore, during the design stage I looked at the alternatives, including felt shingles (which is often used on American homes). However, in the UK felt shingles are only used on shed roofs, and consequently would look a bit naff on a conservatory roof in Britain; plus the issue that they’re not as durable as I would like.
Therefore, during my research, I got rather excited when I started to read about cedar wood tiles; the more I looked into it the more excited I got, as it’s a material that:
- Can last up to 60 years because of the preservation properties due to its natural oil.
- Looks really grand; and in line with the visual effect I was after.
- A very light material, which adds little weight to the roof.
The only downside is that the tiles are extremely expensive; but well worth every penny.
The next thing I had to learn was how to fix cedar wood tiles on a roof; which is quite different to laying clay or slate tiles. So during the planning stage I spent hours reading up on it and watching numerous videos on YouTube.
Then once I was confident on what to do I had to source a supplier. Fortunately, the same local timber merchant where I sourced the cedar wood cladding also supplies the cedar wood tiles; Grade A, which they import from Canada.
To make the join between the house wall and the conservatory roof waterproof I needed to install step flashing. Ideally I would have liked to have used lead; and I was tempted to buy it. However, in sourcing materials I found a modern lead substitute which is very much like lead (feels and look like lead, and just as heavy) but half the price.
Having decided on the material to use the next step was to prepare the house wall to fit the step flashing once the roof tiles were installed. For this I needed to work out exactly where to cut the grooves in the mortar to slip the flashing into.
Jig for the Flashing
Not having done step flashing before, it was another new skill for me to learn. In this respect, after reading various DIY articles and watching YouTube videos I decided to make my own jig (based on the tool showcased in the video below) that served several functions:
- Gives a line to mark out on the wall for cutting the slit to fit the flashing in.
- Gives the corresponding line on the flashing, for cutting to shape.
- Used to bend the edge of the flashing to fit into the wall.
Using Jig For Marking Out, Cutting and Fitting Step Flashing
The Jig I made from scrap wood is the same height (and general size) of the house bricks, so that it lines up with the mortar. Instead of using the actual flashing itself pressed against the wall, as demonstrated in the above video, I cut a sheet of cardboard to the same size as the flashing and used that to make a template. While on the roof marking out the cardboard (as if it was the flashing) I also used the Jig I made to mark the corresponding lines on the mortar (with a thick nib felt-tip pen). By marking out where to cut the slots in the mortar before fitting the tiles, I was aware that the added thickness of the tiles would raise the roof height by about an inch. This would push the position of the flashing up and to one side by a corresponding amount. Therefore, while marking out, I extended the mark line on the mortar horizontally in both directions to give a generous allowance for the eventual fit of the flashing.
Having marked everything out I then used the angle grinder to cut one inch deep grooves along the marked lines in the mortar. Then back in the workshop I cut the marked cardboard to shape and used that as a template to mark out and cut the flashing. I could have marked out the flashing itself, while on the roof (as in the video); but I found it easier to use just cardboard simply because it wasn’t as heavy.
Laying the Tiles
Unlike clay and slate tiles which are staggered to overlap each other at the joins, effectively creating a double layer of tiling e.g. only the bottom half of each tile is visible, the cedar wood are triple layered so only the bottom third (about 5 inches) is visible.
Watching the videos, most common technique seems to be to string a line across the roof as an accurate guide for positioning each row of tiles. This would certainly give a neat finish, but seems rather laborious having to reposition the guideline for each new row, as you work your way up the roof.
My preference was to make a simple jig from scrap wood where the bottom edge would push up against the bottom of the tiles in the previous row and provide a leading edge for the tiles in the next row. Using this method it’s easy for the row to start drifting away from true horizontal. So it’s important a visual eye on the rows and periodically double check with a spirit level; so if your rows do start drifting away from the horizontal you can quickly and easily compensate in the next row.
Western Red Cedar: Info and Installation Instructions
I’m not too worried about heights but I do like to feel secure, so I always use ladders with caution and, I’m never too happy about scrambling around on roofs. Cedar wood roofs are quite slipper, and the underfelt the cedar wood is being laid on even more so. Therefore, in laying the tiles I laid the bottom half from a ladder and the tiles on the top half of the roof by sitting on the roof ridge and just leaning down slightly.
For securing the tiles to the roof I used special stainless steel nails, specifically designed to be used with cedar wood tiles, and which (unlike ordinary nails) will not rust; a lot more expensive than ordinary nails, but brilliant.
How to Install Cedar Shingle
The procedure for laying the tiles:
- Work from the bottom up, so the overlaps allow for rain runoff.
- Never butt the tiles together; always leave a generous quarter of an inch gap between each tile.
- Leave a generous overhang of about one and a half inches at the eaves; to allow for rainwater runoff into the gutter.
- Double layer the first row, staggering the top layer to cover up all the gaps between the tiles in the first layer.
- As the tiles are about 16 inches long and you need to triple layer the tiles, lay the next row just 5 inches up.
- Always stagger the joins so the tiles on the next row overlap any join by at least 2 inches.
- Then continue laying each subsequent row 5 inches higher.
- For the last couple of rows, shorten the length of each tile so that it meets at the ridge.
- Cap the ridge off with cedar wood ridge tiles.
Once the roof was complete I could then install the facia boards, soffit, and guttering. When I ordered the cedar wood cladding I ordered extra specifically to use for facia boards. Also, when previously, we had the facia boards and soffit upgraded to uPVC on our house the builders left a sheet of soffit in our back garden. I had used most of it to upgrade the soffit on our main garden shed (my workshop and our food store), but I had enough left over to do the front and south facing side of the conservatory. For the back I used a wide piece of 90mm x 6mm uPVC trim left over from a previous project; which worked just as well as the proper stuff, and looks just as good.
For the guttering, although more expensive than just standard profile, we chose Ogee as it fitted well with the style we were looking for. The rainwater drain for the house was just a couple of feet away from the conservatory, but with the soil pipe in the way I had to route the outlet pipe from the guttering along the ground just in front of the soil pipe. Then later in the build, that was then hidden with decking that served a triple task of:
- Hiding the drain and drainpipes.
- Planter platform.
- Step for the cat flap.
Having completed the main structure on the outside, and with the conservatory waterproof from the elements, I could then pay attention to the interior; the main sequence of events being:
- Wiring for the electrics
- Plaster boarding the walls and ceiling
- Laying the oak floor
- Fitting the skirting
- Adding the floor air vent (imported from the USA)
- Final fit for the electrics
- Painting and decorating
- Start moving some of the furniture in
- Installing the new cat tree and highway
- Adding a radiator for heating during the winter
Having used 50mm x 100mm (2 inch by 4 inch) timber for the walls I had a 4 inch gap which for the insulation; and similarly for the roof I used 4 inch.
Although I could do the electrics myself, under UK law I had to get the work inspected and signed off by a qualified electrician before it was connected to the mains supply.
We just added a few sockets around the walls, a switch for the ceiling lights and another switch for an outside light.
Plastering isn’t my forte, but plaster boarding is. The plasterboard has two sides, grey and white. The grey side is if you intend plastering over the plasterboard; as professionals would normally do; and the white side is if you just intend wallpapering and or just emulsion paint over the plasterboard.
I opted for the latter (the white side) as I would only be painting and decorating the plasterboard and not adding a skim of plaster over it first.
Oak Floor and Skirting
Prior to installing the oak floor I laid the usual unfloor membrane and green insulation sheets designed specifically to lay under a wooden floating floor. Then I laid the oak floorboards, gluing them together but leaving the required half inch gap around the edges for expansion; the gap being hidden when I fitted the skirting board in place. Normally I would have used pine for the skirting board, but I had one piece of cedar wood cladding leftover, which when cut in half lengthways and profiled with the belt sander, was ideal.
Once the floor was laid I could then fit the floor vent. The floor vent was my solutions for not blocking the subfloor air vent from the house. In Britain, under Building Regulations, there has to be adequate subfloor ventilation below the DPC (Damp Proof Course) to keep the space under the house (below the floor) ventilated to prevent damp.
My initial option was to channel the air vent from the house underneath the conservatory floor to the outside. However, I opted to just have the opening in floor of the conservatory, and put an air vent over the top of it.
The bonus is that it gives additional ventilation to the conservatory during the summer, but the downside is that (without the option to close it off) it can make the conservatory cold and draughty during the winter. To resolve this problem I wanted an air vent that was attractive, solid (strong) and with a grill that could be opened or closed. When I was sourcing this, I couldn’t find anything in the UK that met my requirements e.g. we don’t have air conditioning in British homes. Therefore I looked further afield and found in the USA what the Americans call a ‘Register’. I’m not quite sure what it’s intended purpose is but it was just ideal for what I wanted, so I ordered it from America, and after being held up in ‘Customs’ for a few weeks, eventually arrived.
Painting and Decorating
With the major build works finished it was then just a case of painting and decorating before fitting the light and moving the furniture in:
- I used white emulsion on the ceiling.
- Emulsion paint on the walls.
- Painted the two cross beams a matt black.
- Rubbed teak oil into the cedar wood skirting.
- Wood stained the rest of the wood, which I then polished with bees wax.
Cat Tree and Highway
Once everything else was complete inside, I then built a new cat tree and cat highway, strong enough to support the weight of our Maine Coon cat; which is described in full details in a previous article.
Finally, I added a radiator in the conservatory for heating during the winter months, conveniently fitted just below the cats’ highway; which they love.
To get the radiator plumbed into the central heating the steps I took was to:
- Pull up the appropriate floorboards in the living room to gain access to the water pipes.
- Drill an 18mm hole through the adjoining brick wall between the living room and conservatory; using a long masonry drill bit because the house wall is 300mm (1 foot) thick. The pipes are 15mm but I wanted to use 18mm to give plenty of clearance when feeding the copper pipes through the brickwork.
- Run feeds from the hot ‘out’ flow and ‘cool’ return pipes, and fed them through the brick wall into the conservatory.
- Mount the radiator to the wall.
- Connect the radiator to the copper pipes, adding a drain tap at the same time.
And Bells and Whistles
With the conservatory completed inside and out, all that remained to finish the finish the project was the decking, and a few bells and whistles, including the outside light, and a small iron cast bell which we picked up from a reclamation yard while on holiday; the details of which I covered in previous articles.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Where did you obtain your cedar shiplap cladding? I live in the London area, but am unable to find anyone local who sells cedar shiplap cladding. Also, what size cladding boards did you use?
Answer: The shiplap cladding I used was Western Red Cedar, wood that is sustainably harvested from Canada, and imported by Bendrey Bros. Sawmill and Timber Retailer in Warmley, Bristol. Their phone number is 0117 9674382. The size I used was 25mm x 150mm (about 3m lengths), currently priced at £7.12 per metre. They also do tongue and groove at the same size and price.
A friend of mine living in Portsmouth had a similar problem regarding a specific cladding that he couldn’t get locally, so after talking to them over the phone, he hired a white van for the weekend and drove to Bristol to pick up the wood himself directly from the Timber Yard.
Question: You've produced a really impressive end result here, I really like it. I have a question in relation to whether you felt confident in whether the structure is still not subject to building regulations like a conservatory would be as it doesn't fully meet the criteria of being a conservatory as it doesn't have a mainly glazed roof?
Answer: You should always check with your ‘Local Authority’ (Local Government) prior to any proposed building works, as in the UK they are the ones who approve Building Regulations and grant Planning Permission.
However, in answer to your specific question, in accordance with advice given on the UK’s Planning Portal, the conservatory is a generic term to describe traditional conservatories, orangeries and glazed extensions; and the Portal goes onto explain that the modern trend is to replace paneled roofs with solid roofs to provide more usable space all year round.
The conservatory we’ve built is strictly an orangery e.g. less glazing on the walls and roof than a traditional conservatory e.g. a solid roof with skylights.
The UK Planning Portal is an Official website that works with all Local Authorities across the UK to help simply Planning Advice and the Planning Process for the public: https://www.planningportal.co.uk/
Question: Is the exterior surface of the wall below your leaded light windows just OSB3 without any other cladding?
Answer: No, all the exterior walls, including the wall below the leaded light windows, are finished off with a breathable waterproof membrane over the top of the OSB3 boards, and then cladded with cedar wood shiplap cladding.
This is a ‘belt and braces’ approach where three layers protect against the elements, e.g., in the event of any water ingress through the cedar wood cladding the breathable membrane should drain the water off safely and protect the interior of the conservatory. But in the unlikely event that water finds a way through the breathable membrane, then the OSB3 should give protection and drain the water away.
Also, both the OSB3 boards and the cedar wood cladding are adding a little extra insulation which, in addition to insulating the walls, will help to keep the conservatory that little bit warmer during the winter months and cooler in the summer.
Question: Did you fit your cladding directly to your membrane or did you use batons to fit too?
Answer: Batons would certainly work and have the added advantage of airflow (ventilation) which is always a good thing. But for this build, I fitted the cladding directly to the membrane, which has worked just as well. So as the cladding does a good job of keeping the elements out, and the membrane is just a precaution in the event that the cladding is breached in any way e.g. splitting or warping of the wood; then the use of batons isn't essential, and would be just an additional barrier (extra precaution). Therefore, whether you go that step further, and use batons would be a personal choice.
Question: Great article. How did you join the timber frame walls to the existing building and ensure that it was watertight?
Answer: I used frame fixing screws, the same as you would for fixing a wooden door frame to a brick wall e.g. long, heavy-duty screws that come with their own Rawlplugs (wall plugs). Then used a window and door external frame sealant to make it water tight. The sealants come in tubes and are squeezed out using a sealant gun; all readily available from any DIY store. One tip, once you’ve applied the sealant into the gap is to dip your finger into some warm water and gently run your finger down the surface of the sealant to help cure it. It gives a more professional finish and helps to ensure a good seal between wood and brick.
Question: Hi. How did you get around the problem of damp creeping in from external brickwork into brickwork inside conservatory? I'm looking to build my own but am wondering if I should install a vertical damp course to stop moisture ingress from walls.
Answer: If you are building a timber frame clad in brick or a double brick thick wall, then yes you will need to waterproof the inside of the brick wall (in a way that complies with Building Regulations).
If on the other hand, your wall is a cavity wall e.g. a 3 inch (75mm) gap between the external and internal brick walls, then the gap stops moisture ingress. If you build a cavity wall then the two walls need to be tied together and you would need to fill the gap with suitable insulation to comply with Building Regulations.
Also, as long as the floor level is protected from the ground damp by using DPC (Damp Proof Course) for the walls, and a Damp Proof Membrane is properly laid for solid floors, and provided the roofline of the conservatory is protected by flashing tied into the main house wall, there shouldn’t be a problem. In the UK the DPC (which should be below floor level of your construction) needs to be at least 150mm (6 inches) above ground level.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on August 08, 2020:
It’s a good question Nilanj. Provided it’s built properly e.g. the structure is sound, then both brick and timber are strong. But if poorly built, then both brick and wooden structures can be dangerous.
So provided your construction is structurally sound, and weathered proofed properly e.g. by following building regulations, and built by a professional if you don’t feel competent enough to do the work yourself, then whether you use wood or brick is a matter of personal choice.
Nilanj Desai on August 07, 2020:
Congratulations on the results. Looks impressive. I have the same issue - space with timber walls or lose space with brick one. You think, in terms of the strength of structure, it is any different i.e. brick wall vs timber?
Denver on March 30, 2018:
Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 26, 2017:
Thanks for the feedback Jo. What you describe as a sun room isn’t very popular in the UK because of the unpredictability of the British weather. The nearest we have to a sun room in the UK are ‘summer houses’; which are small wooden sheds at the end of the garden with lots of windows, large glass doors and a veranda.
We also like to be closer to nature, but in Britain you don’t know when it’s going to rain (the weather can be very unpredictable and changeable). So as a compromise I installed patio doors in the conservatory (that goes almost the full width), which we can open when the weather’s nice. Also, the French doors into the conservatory from our living room lines up with the patio doors so we get a view of the garden from our sofa; which makes it quite tranquil when both sets of doors are open.
Yes, our conservatory can also get very hot in the summer, but when we open all the windows and doors throughout the house and in the conservatory; the threw draft throughout the whole house helps to keep it cool e.g. the temperature differences in different parts of the house helps to crate air flow, which helps to keep the house and conservatory cooler; even when there’s no breeze outside.
And of course in the winter, with our conservatory being enclosed and insulated, and with the central heating radiator, we can carry on making use of it. My wife tends to use it as a sewing room in the winter, which on a cold but sunny winter’s day gives a very relaxing tranquil view of our back garden.
Thanks for your compliment. I learnt the basics of woodwork at school, but didn’t really start doing DIY until I married; at that time my tools and skills were very limited. My steady progression to my current skills was:-
• Initially teaching myself what I needed to know from library books.
• Having a supportive wife who has always encouraged me.
• Picking up tips from the professionals when we’ve had work done.
• Exchanging skills and knowledge from friends who also do DIY
• Learning Project Management at work, which I’ve found to be an invaluable tool in planning and following through a DIY Project.
• And in more recent years, using the extensive knowledge base on the Internet.
Above all, the three prime factors has been the encouragement from others (particular my wife), the Project Management skills, and having the right mind set e.g. splitting the job into bite size steps, having lots of patience, and reviewing each step before and after completion (usually with a cup of coffee,) before I proceed to the next step. The last point is particularly useful in the event that you make an error or overlook something; as it’s much easier to correct or accommodate into the final build at an early stage.
Jo Miller from Tennessee on April 26, 2017:
We call these sun rooms here in the States. We have a screened porch rather than enclosed sun room. We like to be closer to nature, but that limits it's use in winter time. Sun rooms get very hot in summer here.
Where did you pick up all of your skills. You're very good at this type of activity.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 23, 2017:
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on April 23, 2017:
You always have the coolest ideas!