When someone mentions the word ‘Orangery’ one conjures up a picture of a wealthy Victorian Gentleman or Lady spending their days pruning and pollinating exotic orchids, and citrus fruit trees, stopping every now and again to drink Earl Grey Tea and eat expensive pastries. That picture used to be quite accurate. In an era when you couldn’t just nip down to the local shop for a pineapple or a kilo of oranges, the only way to have exotic fruit was to grow it yourself. That involved having a specific room designed for plenty of light and to be kept warm all the year round. That meant the room needed lots of windows in the walls and in the roof and if possible some way of providing a warm humid environment. They often used steam pipes or hot water radiators heated by a furnace.
So what is the difference between an orangery and a conservatory? Both structures maintain many of the same elements. They both have a lot of glass in the walls and the roof and are both designed to let in as much light as possible. Hence the term “Sun Rooms” to describe both.
These days there are definite distinctions between orangeries and conservatories. The most obvious ones are that a conservatory:
- Does not normally need Planning Permission.
- Always has a sloped or pitched roof.
- Is almost like a greenhouse tacked onto the side of the house.
- Has a lockable exterior door between the main house and the conservatory.
- Looks like it is an afterthought to the rest of the house.
While an Orangery:
- Needs Planning Permission.
- Needs proper foundations.
- Has a flat roof with raised glazed lantern sections usually in the centre of the roof.
- Is more like an extension to the main house.
- Does not have a wall or lockable door between the house and the orangery.
- Is built using traditional building techniques with a dwarf wall or pillars with glass windows in between.
- Uses the same materials of construction as the main house.
Table of Contents
Why do you want an Orangery?
Why have an orangery rather than a conservatory? Apart from the obvious snob appeal that having an Orangery brings you, it is part of the house and shares in the heating and insulation system of the main house. It is a livable room all through the year, whereas a conservatory has no insulation so will be almost uninhabitable during the coldest winter months. The obvious reasons for having an orangery rather than a conservatory are, therefore:
- To provide much needed extra living space.
- Extending the living room or kitchen into the garden.
- Adding to the domestic heating system by using sunlight through glass.
- Produce a sunroom with the same style as the house.
What Size Should You Choose?
Orangeries work better and look far more stylish if you have plenty of room to build one. If your space is limited then a small conservatory costs a comparatively smaller amount of money and will give you extra living space as well. If your house is relatively small but you have plenty of building room, a large orangery can look out of place. The secret to making it look right isn’t that a large house needs an orangery and a small house needs a conservatory, it is all about style, proportions, balance and budget.
Building An Orangery Costs
The average cost of an orangery will depend a lot on the size, how deep the foundations need to be, the materials and many other factors.
A typical small orangery made from softwood, aluminium or uPVC will cost from about £15,000 up to £40,000. The cost of building an orangery made from hardwood will be from a minimum of about £50,000. Compare these prices with the average cost of a conservatory, which is about £4,000 up to £7,000 for a small one or up to about £25,000 for a large size.
When looking for a quotation to build an orangery extension onto your home, get at least three written estimates from local building firms or specialist conservatory installation companies. This will allow you to compare the prices and the packages offered by each of the proposers.
If you still haven’t decided which you would rather have, a conservatory or an orangery, it is worthwhile comparing those that are currently available on the market and looking at the average prices.
Remember that any figures given in this article are average and only indicative and will vary depending on the factors present in your particular circumstances.
- Lean-to conservatory. This is a structure with three sides, the fourth being the outside wall of the house. It has a single sloping roof that for budget conservatories will be made from lightweight polycarbonate sheets. More expensive versions will have glass fitted as a roof material, but remember that this will be much heavier so will require additional supports. There are also versions available using dwarf walls and part glazed panels, and fully glazed walls.
- Victorian conservatory. This style is more ornate than the lean-to. It has a vaulted pitched roof and has a faceted wall usually opposite the house wall. The faceting produces an effect something similar to a Bay Window.
- P, T & L Shaped conservatories. These styles get their name by the shape of the letter of the alphabet that they most closely resemble. As with all conservatories these can be constructed with either dwarf walls and partial glazing or full glazed walls. These are much more complicated to build and because they are usually larger than normal they often require Planning Permission. Some types can combine the designs of more than one type such as lean-to and Victorian, or Gable and Victorian.
- As stated elsewhere in this article, these designs combine traditional building materials like brick, block or timber frame as well as a traditional style unglazed flat roof with a raised, glazed lantern. These are substantial buildings that require proper foundations with brick pillars, dwarf walls and brick piers. They will require a full set of architectural drawings and will need Planning Permission and Building Control. Although you can buy cheaper glazing solutions for an orangery such as uPVC, the more expensive glazing frames are hardwood such as oak, or the less expensive iroko or idigbo.
- There are accessories that can be alternatives to an existing design. Accessories such as French Doors, polycarbonate roofing and a steel base for full glazed walls. Many other additions that can be added to your orangery include underfloor heating, folding doors, ceiling fans, glass roof vents and ceiling blinds (the vents and blinds can be electrically operated or manual, depending on your preference).
|Type||Supply only cost||Fully fitted cost||Notes|
|Lean-to Conservatory||£2,500 minimum||£4,000 minimum||Small, uPVC, full glazed walls, polycarbonate roof, 1 Pair French doors, 2 opening windows.|
|Victorian style (uPVC))||£3,000 to £4,500||£7,500 minimum||uPVC, fully glazed walls, polycarbonate roofing. Approx 3m x 3.6m area.|
|Victorian style (Hardwood)||N/A||£10,000 minimum||Hardwood framing, small size (3m x 3m)|
|P, T, L Shaped||£5,000 to £6,500||£10,000 minimum||Dependant on design and size.|
|Orangery||£10,000 minimum||£15,000 to £40,000||Softwood, uPVC, aluminium|
|Orangery||£30,000 minimum||£50,000 minimum||Hardwood. Depending on the design and size of the room|
|Steel Base||N/A||£1,500 minimum||Approx 3m x 3m|
|Polycarbonate Roof||N/A||£500 minimum||Approx 3m x 3m|
|French Doors||N/A||£500 minimum||Standard sized|
What are the Features & Benefits of an Orangery?
We have seen that the average price of a conservatory can be less than half the cost of a small orangery extension so what are the benefits of choosing an orangery when compared to a conservatory? The biggest benefit is that the homeowner will have far more use and functionality out of an orangery. They are made from traditional building materials such as brick or block and have a far more substantial roof. Because they are subject to the same regulations as a house, they will have the same energy efficiency which means they can be used in the middle of winter whereas with a conservatory it would be like living in the Antarctic. A conservatory is only really habitable when the weather is warm, otherwise, its only purpose will be to keep the frost from tender plants. An orangery however because it is part of the house, will be more suited to being:
- Additional living room.
- Home office.
- Spare bedroom.
- Kids playroom.
- Home gym.
- Hobby room.
- Art and craft studio.
- Reading room.
Because it shares the same heat envelope as the house, it is possible to use it as a living area even in the depths of winter. It is a fact though that with advances in modern glass technology and energy efficiency, the uses of a conservatory are becoming more and more similar to an orangery.
What is the best type of roof covering for an orangery?
The roof of the typical orangery is a flat roof constructed using the building materials specified by your local authority. A few years ago, flat roofs tended to be made with bitumen felt and pitch onto a plywood substrate. They were very prone to cracks, rot and leaks and did not have a good reputation with planning authorities, who eventually almost refused to pass plans that included flat roofs. Roofing technology has improved in recent years and there are now epoxy and fibreglass chemicals that are able to construct completely waterproof and rot-resistant flat roofs. The surfaces are so strong that they can even be used as floors for upper floor balconies.
The other roof materials that need to be talked about are glass and polycarbonate roofing. Both these materials have their place but it is vital to know when to use them and when not to. The answer to the problem basically boils down to the style of your home, your personal preferences and your budget. If you have gone to the trouble and the expense of buying a £50,000 orangery, then it would be silly to put a cheap polycarbonate lantern on top of the roof. The obvious answer, in this case, is double or triple glazed glass panels. Similarly, if you have just bought a simple 3m x 3m lean-to conservatory you wouldn’t bother to install tinted, triple glazed safety glass on the roof, would you?
Let’s have a proper look at the difference between polycarbonate and glass and actually see which one is the best.
- Roofing panels made from this, work very well as a less expensive and lightweight roofing material. They have been really popular over the past 35 years as a cheap alternative to glass that doesn’t need strong roofing supports and won’t bend the upright members of your sunroom. They are very lightweight but they have their disadvantages such as poor energy efficiency, low sound insulation and the cavity between the polycarbonate layers tends to become a nesting site for just about any insect you can think of, even if you cap the ends. They also suffer from the condensation of water vapour between the layers.
- Glass panels. As long as the roof is constructed with double glazed panels, you will have good energy efficiency and sound insulation too. They tend to produce a heavyweight roof so you cannot just swap out the polycarbonate on your existing conservatory roof and insert glass panels. The entire cross section of the roof rafters, as well as the upright members, need to be scaled up enough to provide a strong supporting structure that will hold the heavy glass without bending and collapsing. Glass can be a very dangerous construction material and certain Building Regulations control its use when it is installed in doors, in glazed walls lower than 1500mm from the floor and in roofs. In these situations, special laminated safety glass must be installed to prevent injury and perhaps a fatality. If you want glass panels as a roofing material it is vital that the timber or uPVC framework is designed to carry the weight.
Although at first glance an orangery and a conservatory may seem to be the same, there are definite distinctions that separate one from the other. Generally, an orangery is a sunroom extension to the house and is part of its thermal envelope with no barrier between the two. A conservatory is a sunroom that has been added onto the side of the house but is separated by an external wall or door and is not part of the house’s thermal envelope. Generally, an orangery costs more to build than a conservatory.