My Old Conservatory
Having moved into my house a year ago I have decided it is time to assess the state of my conservatory with an eye to getting it replaced or at least making it look more presentable! This blog discusses the issues I have with my conservatory, hopefully I am not alone and the following comments will be of interest to one and all.
My old Conservatory – June 2007
My conservatory blinds are useless, even worse than that they are old, slightly mouldy and pretty badly torn. Pulling a blind down is an adventure, who knows what will happen well I pull the cord. It make come down, fall off, tear in two, or just do nothing! The trouble is I have a South facing conservatory and it gets incrediably hot in the summer months in there. Conservatory blinds are supposedly an effective way of reducing the heat so it would be good if mine worked properly I definitely need new conservatory blinds, but should I stop there?
I have a relatively cheap lino floor in my conservatory and to be honest it doesn't look that great. But what other options are there? With the sun blazing in any carpet would quickly bleach under the intense rays. Would wooden flooring do the same? I would image cheap laminate flooring would end up drying out too much, crack and peel. A good quality solid wood floor, if properly maintained, would look and behave a lot better, but this would be an expensive addition to my conservatory.
The best option I think would be large ceramic tiles. They certainly wont be affected by the heat or the sunlight and are cheaper than solid wood flooring. A replacement lino would certainly be a cheap and easy option, it only costs around 70quid to buy enough lino to cover my conservatory, and being completely square it would be trivial to fit
Oh my goodness, do I have a conservatory or just a glass box stuck up with a few bits of wood?? I do wonder. Having tried to open one of the conservatory windows I am seriously concerned about the stability of it all. The window has clearly shifted downwards and jammed pretty badly, but what was more worrying was that pushing on it causes the entire conservatory wall to wobble and shift. This clearly was a cheap self build conservatory! I am seriously thinking about knocking the whole lot down and starting again.
The present conservatory has glass walls from floor to ceiling, with some kind of plastic/PVC roof. I think that the full length of glass is contributing to the heat in the summer (and spring!) months, as well as the lack of any ventilation in the ceiling. I knee high wall around the outside would cut down a bit of the light (i.e. heat) and also provide a decent ledge for my pot plants and other ornaments.
New Conservatory it is then!
With the damaged blinds, the horrible floor, the unstable walls, and no ventilation in the roof, I think I need a new conservatory! Watch this space for details of my hunt for a conservatory bargain:.
Talking to Salesmen - August 2007
Having decided to get a new conservatory, it is time to get some salespeople in to have a look around, get an idea of what sort of conservatory we are after, and what sort of conservatory we can afford. As an almost aside we have decided to get double glazing put in at the same time. We only need 4 windows double glazed, and figure we can use them as a ‘bargaining chip' for getting a better deal.
At this stage we only have a few ideas of what sort of conservatory to get, we know we want it a little bit bigger than the existing one, need to keep it a lot cooler, and also want to have a dwarf wall around the outside. The rest we figure the salesmen will be able to help us with.
We decide to choose 3 companies, and invite the conservatory salesmen around for a chat.
Salesman from Hell - August 1st 2007
The first conservatory salesman comes from one of the larger companies, I won't mention who they are, but we found them by doing a quick search on the internet and they start with the letter A. Let me tell you this, do not use this company if this salesman is anything to go by!! Let me tell the sorry story.
First of all we get a phone call 2 hours before he is due, quoting completely the wrong name, address and details. However that small administration error aside we still are happy to see the guy, and it ‘seems' that he has a long way to come, telling us that he has a two hour drive to get to our house... poor chap.
So he turns up, demands coffee (about 10 seconds before we offer it) and immediately launches into some random presentation with a flip chart, talking about the quality of the foundations, how the conservatory will improve the value of our house, how we need to pay for quality, and how he can offer us an amazing 40% off the quotation (not given yet) if we sign up today. After about an hour of this we are both feeling pretty tired and bored, and haven't even started to talk about what sort of conservatory WE would like.
After a while he really starts to irritate us - he tries to convince us that conservatories will improve the value of our home far more than anyone else, and tries to extract what our maximum budget will be. He still hasn't talked about the specifics of what they can actually offer, but we did at least persuade him (had to shout at one point) that we didn't want to use their company financing scheme to fund the purchase.
He finally finishes the presentation and we get to tell him that what we know we want, a bigger conservatory, dwarf wall, and to make sure the conservatory doesn't overheat in the summer sun.
Armed with this valuable information he lets us sit and watch a fascinating Conservatory DVD (complete with celebrity presenter) to work up the quote.
After about 30mins where we nearly fall asleep on the sofa we finally get the quote. Its 14.2K if we sign up now. To this day I don't quite know what we were getting for that money, apparently it was a conservatory and some double glazing, but we were never explained the specifics. Apparently we had to take the deal now, or it would not be offered again. I was absolutely astounded! My exact words were "Are you telling me that if we want to get other quotes and/or think about it this quote will be withdrawn. If I phone you up in 1 week and say I want the conservatory you will not offer me this quote"
My question was never answered, instead I was barraged with accusations of time wasting (he had driven 2 hours remember), that I clearly had had other quotes (this really was our first one!), and that we would never get such a good deal anywhere else.
Despite both myself and my partner being pretty confident people we were a little shaken by all this, but we stood our ground and tried to draw the meeting to a close. We very very firm, we would not be buying a conservatory today and we were not interested in all of his arguments. We would think about it and call if we were interested.
We eventually persuaded the guy that the meeting was over and he started to pack to leave. Even then he had an interesting way of leaving. He would pack up his suitcase, take that to the front door, then walk back to the conservatory, pick up a few leaflets, to the front door, then back again for a few tools. All the time chat chat chatting away trying to somehow salvage the deal. Eventually I had enough, went into the conservatory, picked up all his remaining stuff (glasses, mobile phone and note book), took them to the door for him, picked up his briefcase, passed them all to him, and asked him to leave.
He did, but not with a final moan about how the next place he had to visit was 2 hours away. About the same time as our pointless meeting, so I hope he enjoys the drive.
Conservatory Salesman review
After this visit we both pretty shaken up by this guy, surprisingly so. We both felt we could handle that sort of aggressive sales tactic, and although we weren't going to give in for a moment for could see how people could be pressurised. If we had been a more vulnerable member of society, perhaps an old lady at home on her own, then we could easily see how people could be taken in.
And what about that 2 hour journey to get here? Well I am 100% convinced this was just a made up story, to make us feel sympathetic towards him before he even turns up. I felt a little bad, for a few minutes, that he had come so far. Luckily I wasn't taken in, and would not be contacting this particular company again.
Second Conservatory Salesman - August 3rd 2007
After the first salesman we were a little worried about the following 2 visits. We simply didn't have the time to deal with that sort of nonsense, and were determined not to let that sort of salesman in our house again for more than a few minutes.
The second conservatory salesman came from a smaller company, one based in Cambridge and only dealing with the Cambridgeshire area.
I had prepared a little speech to give to the guy about how we wont be buying today, how we don't want a long lecture on the number of awards they have and how we are just interested in getting an idea of what sort of conservatory design we wanted.
However I didn't need this speech as this guy was like a breath of fresh air! After about 3 minutes of "who we are", he launched in to trying to find out what sort of conservatory we wanted. How big did we want it, what sort of roof, what about the windows, what type of windows, even the exact method of opening the external wall. All the time he was taking notes, drawing out little sketches, and showing us photos of similar jobs that he had done in the past.
After about an hour or so we had a pretty good idea of the sort of conservatory we wanted, and after moving onto the double glazing for a few minutes we then got to the crunch point...The quotation.
Again this time was different, instead of trying to ply us with some random pricing based on what he thought we could afford and offering us "on the day" discounts, he simply instead said that he would get back to us once he had worked up some drawings and other details.
And that was that, a little bit of chat about other styles of conservatories, and little extras such as the electrics, roof vents, under floor heating etc and he left without a fuss. Around 1.5 hours in total.
3rd and Final Conservatory Salesman - 7th August.
We actually visited the 3rd salesman at their office initially. Took a look around some example conservatories and talked about what we wanted (most ideas eventually came from the previous salesman). All went pretty smoothly and we arranged for a house visit where they could view the property, measure up and discuss details.
The house visit went well, they did all the measurements and came up with a few new ideas, including building an entire wall on one side of the conservatory, the side that faced next doors fence. The level of pressure to buy was quite high, but none of the nasty tactics used by the first salesman.
Again they left to do drawings and work up a proper quote for us.
The Conservatory Quotes arrive - 14th August 2007
Okay ignoring the first quote that we got on the day, the other 2 arrived on the same day. One was for 12.6K and the other was for 16K. The choice seems pretty obvious but the higher quote did include a lot more extras, more windows, different brick walls, and the electronics and some additional guttering. So we weren't comparing apples with apples so to speak.
To give both companies a fair chance, I spoke to both of them on the phone, explaining the difference between the two quotes and asking them both to get back to me with a better deal.
These phone calls paid off pretty well, with the more expensive company coming down to 14K, and the cheaper company including a lot more extras and only increasing their price to 13.6K.
Choosing a company - 24th August 2007
After deciding to sit on it for a week, I made the decision to go with the cheaper company, conservatory salesman number 2. We had a good feel about this company, the guy seemed very genuine and they had offered a very good price. However I decided to make one final phone call saying that they had exceeded the budget I had initially set myself and could they reduce the price.
A couple of days later I had a call back saying they could reduce it to 13.2K. This I felt was reasonable and I took the deal. We now have to exchange paperwork and then it should be another 6 weeks until completion. Watch this space for progress!!
Having agreed the price for the Conservatory, we paid the deposit (25%) and then waited for the building work to begin. Which is where it all started to go wrong.
It all started so well, with the builders turning up on time and quickly dismantling the old wreck of a conservatory and starting to dig the footings to a reassuring depth (looked liked at least 600mm to me). On the second day I returned from work to find that they had even poured all the Conservatory concrete footings.
I was a bit puzzled by these footings. I knew that with the double skinned dwarf wall the wall of the conservatory would be make the room a little smaller on the inside, but it looked like the conservatory was going to be a lot smaller than I had imagined.
After pacing up and down outside for a while, I decided the only way to check this was to get a tape measure out and check the dimensions. So one tape measure later, and a quick check of the drawings later, I was on the phone to the builders.
They had dug the footings to 2.3m long, not 3.2m!
I was not pleased.
This ‘minor' hiccup was quickly corrected by digging a lot more footing and by laying a lot more concrete down. One thing for sure, my Conservatory wasn't going to float off anywhere!
Of course all this additional digging meant that the skip that had been hired ended up completely full far earlier than originally predicted. A new one was ordered, but didn't turn up for a couple of days, during which time no more work could be done (apparently) as there was nowhere to put the rubbish.
With the footings dry enough to lay bricks on, the bricklayers got to work. Well first of all they needed to find the brick that matched the house. Unfortunately it appears they had stopped making that exact brick. You would have thought they could check this BEFORE they started on the Conservatory. We ended up with a choice of two bricks, one that matched the texture of the house brickwork, and one that matched the colour. After a lot of discussion we went for the brick that matched the texture. Probably a mistake thinking back, as the other was not only a better colour, it also had a more polished finish to it which would have looked better on the interior. Oh well....
They finish the brickwork without too much hassle, and then pour the concrete flooring. All looks good and I was impressed with how level they managed to get it. However fate was not smiling on us and no sooner was the concrete laid than it started to rain, and rain, and rain.
The builders hadn't bothered to cover the concrete floor with tarpaulin and so the water just built up and up on the new floor. Eventually you could see tracks and channels where the water had eroded some of the fresh concrete away.
This left us with an uneven floor, that could not be corrected until much later....
Another delay. This time the conservatory windows were delayed and weren't going to turn up for another week. Just sitting and waiting then. In the mean time the double glazing windows were put in the house, 4 windows to replace. Should have been an afternoon job, but took 2 says in total. And that isn't including the fact that they put the kitchen window in the spare room and vice-versa. That took another day to fix.
Eventually the windows turn up, and they start fitting. Things go very quickly, for a few days at least, and all looks well. Except that they had failed to fit the Conservatory roof vent, oh, and that the glass was the wrong type (non toughened) and the windows opened the wrong way around. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
1 angry phone call to make then....
The new windows turn up, the ones that actually open the right way around, and they swapped out the glass for the right type, and installed the roof vent as well. Now just need them to level that floor, once the concrete had dried out fully from the rainwater that it had soaked up. It takes a long time for that to happen, especially when it's the middle of winter.
The floor is finally dry enough to lay a latex concrete screed over the top of the concrete floor. This stuff was pretty impressive, it is poured as a pretty runny liquid, and then just levels itself. Course the first time they didn't actually lay enough latex down on the floor, so they ended up levelling the middle of the floor, but the edges were still uneven.
The come back and have a second go at levelling the floor. Better this time
The Latex screed is now dry enough and the floor fitter comes around to put down the hardwood flooring.
It starts to rain, and guess what? The conservatory leaks!! It pours in from the roof vent that they first forgot to install, and then installed so badly that it leaked absolutely everywhere.
You will not believe how angry a phone call was made
They came around, squirted a load of silicon over the roof vent, and actually managed to fix the leak!
The conservatory seems to be finished. All looks good, and it is a lovely place to sit and eat in. Even in the middle of winter it is pretty warm in there, and in the summer I'm sure that we will be able to keep it cool by opening the windows and the (non leaking) roof vent.
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"should have gone with anglian seems salesman had price about right and you would not have ended up with cowboys small local companies always use sub contractors many of these are picked up from the pub lol by the way i sell conservatorys for a living and do not work for anglian"
"This was not only very helpful (im in the quote stages of having my own conservatory built) but incredibly well written, made me giggle more than once as well as feeling horror at the first salesman you encountered, You should right a book :)"
"07/04/08 So far so good, no leaks and no other problems (apart from my neighbor throwing a cigarette butt onto the roof which melted the plastic a bit). The conservatory is even warm enough to sit in the the day time now and great for evening meals if a portable electric radiator is used for about an hour beforehand"
"what happened next?"