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Often used as greenhouses and sunrooms, as well as for other common purposes, lean tos are one of the most practical and accessible types of conservatory. Recognised all over the world, the lean to is perhaps most associated with the Mediterranean region, where they are popular because their versatility and ability to maximise the available natural light.

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Thanks to their simple structure and straightforward design, the cost of a lean to conservatory is often less than for other types, which doesn’t mean that they don’t have just as much potential as their more expensive cousins. The beauty of a lean to conservatory is that it can be anything you want it to be, and it doesn’t take as much money or time to construct as other kinds of conservatory or orangeries. Here is our guide to this most promising of conservatory types. Image source:

What is a lean to conservatory?

upvc lean to conservatoryTypically a lean to conservatory is a rectangular or square shape. If rectangular, the longer side runs along the back of the house. It has a flat angled roof that slopes downwards, allowing for rainwater to run off, giving the structure the appearance of ‘leaning’ against the house, hence the name.

A standard lean to will have dwarf walls with glazing on all three sides, as well as a glazed roof. The height of lean tos is generally lower than other conservatory types that have apex roof designs, and so they are an excellent choice for those adding to a bungalow or other low-lying structure. Image Source:  

Lean to conservatory designs

There are many variables in lean to design, and this flexibility is part of what makes them such a popular choice with homeowners. The three parts of a lean to that have the most versatility in terms of design style are the base, the roof and the ventilation.

The options for the base of a lean to include whether to have dwarf walls – typically about 60 centimetres high – or full height glass panels. Another possibility is to have raised uPVC panels at the foot of the conservatory. This option is the least expensive.

aluminium lean to conservatory

With regards to the roof, it is possible to have a glass roof, or one made of polycarbonate. Glass will let in more light, but polycarbonate is cheaper and easier to maintain. Ventilation is an important element in lean to conservatories, and homeowners have a choice between manual or electronically operated roof vents. Most people on a budget will opt for a uPVC frame for their lean to conservatory, but timber designs are also available. Image Source:

The cost of a lean to conservatory

When it comes to conservatory prices, the amounts vary according to location and materials, of course, but on the whole a standard lean to is one of the cheapest conservatory options available. Small lean to conservatories, about 3 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep, will start from around £3,500. A larger design – perhaps 5 metres wide and 4 metres deep – will cost at least twice as much.

Timber and bespoke designs will be more expensive than standard ‘off the shelf’ designs. In terms of ongoing maintenance costs, uPVC framed conservatories tend to be easier, and therefore, cheaper to look after in the long run. Wooden conservatories require more care and attention, in the form of varnishing and so forth, and this can prove a little more expensive over time.

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Another expense to take into account is whether you will be hiring a company to erect the conservatory, or if you will be doing it yourself. It is possible to get a flat-pack lean to conservatory for you to assemble yourself, and this will be by far the cheapest option, but make sure you have the necessary skills and tools to take the job on.

Choosing a conservatory company

If you decide to choose a company to build your conservatory for you, you will need to find a competitive quote. Don’t accept the first price you are offered. Instead, do your research and get as many quotes from local firms as possible.

The more information you have, the better able you will be to make a good money-saving decision. If you have at least three quotes from reputable firms that have an established history and a good reputation, you will be well equipped to make an informed decision.

Conservatory planning laws

conservatory planning lawsA standard lean to conservatory that will go at the back of a house is extremely unlikely to require planning permission. There are exceptions, of course, and these mostly relate to properties which are on designated land (e.g. an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a National Park), or if the conservatory is going to take up more than 50% of the house’s curtilage or if it will be placed in front of the house and facing a highway. The chances are these restrictions will not apply to you, and you won’t need planning permission, but you should make sure that your plans conform with building regulations. Again, most lean to conservatory building jobs are likely to fall within building regulations, but it is essential you check beforehand. The government’s Planning Portal website has the most up to date information in this regard.

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How long does installation take?

installing a lean to conservatoryLean tos are arguably the most straightforward and hassle-free conservatory types to install. All going well, the installation of your lean to conservatory should take no more than a few weeks, and it is even possible to get the job done in a matter of days. However, builders tend to have other commitments going on at the same time, and it isn’t always possible to get them to devote their time exclusively to your conservatory.

If you are going to get a company to install your conservatory for you, make sure both parties understand, and agree to, the timescale and schedule for building. A good builder will be honest with you about when you can expect the job to be finished from the very beginning of the building process.