The first question is, what is a conservatory?
There is no standard definition of what constitutes a conservatory (apart from “greenhouse”). This is one reason why quotes vary so widely.
The conservatory industry itself does not have a consistent approach. So, the only way out of this is to be specific about your requirements. *Don’t be afraid to ask questions if the sales rep or designer’s comments don’t make sense*.
If you want it to last and keep looking good, buy the best one in the most expensive material your budget allows. The cheapest supplier rarely supplies the best product or the best service. Do not try to beat the price down too much. Less professional suppliers will agree to it, but sell you short later. Get the best you can afford. Allow 10% for ‘extras’ or additions you may make later to the order.
A 10% deposit is normal. A larger one is appropriate only if the work is ‘bespoke’. Try to pay in stages according as the work in completed, and withhold the final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
Inform your insurance company; your home policy may need amending.
Contact your local planning office early in the design process. You need planning permission for a conservatory.
Check out different designs on the internet. Send off for brochures. Make your conservatory as big as your budget or actual floor space will allow. Stake out the dimensions of the conservatory on the ground with pegs.
Decide if you want a conservatory with glass full height or one with dwarf walls.
Consider your neighbours; will the conservatory affect their enjoyment of their sunlight, their garden? You can avoid legal action!
When you build a conservatory in the UK it should ideally face towards the south and should not be overshadowed.
Materials: Aluminium is strong, with a small risk of condensation when humidity is high. Hardwoods look good but can be difficult and expensive to mantain. Double-glazed, white uPVC is inexpensive, popular, heat conserving, easy to maintain and long-lasting.
Suppliers: Don’t rely on the Yellow Pages or advertisements as proof of proficiency. Anyone can place an advert, join a trade body, or display badges they’re not entitled to. Always use a reputable company that you have had independently checked out.
Don’t rely on the fact that you have heard of them, as even some of the biggest advertisers may have had several incarnations. It’s very easy in Britain to shut down one company and open up again under a similar name. Always pay deposits by credit card, as this will afford you some level of protection under the Consumer Credit Act. If the company will accept credit cards for the whole job then that is even better. You have 30 days to make a claim with your credit-card company. You have to show how you were given bad goods or workmanship i.e. they contracted to give you X and gave you Y instead.
Also ask them how long the delivery will be. Have this stated in the contract. Additionally ask for an estimate of how long the work will take to finish once they are on-site.
Check, double check and get independent advice on the contract before you sign, as some contracts are considerably more onerous than others.
The best way to avoid salesmen’s traps is to be sure of what you want before the salesman arrives in order to present him with your requirements and use that as your bargaining chip.
Getting a specific quote against a specific set of requirements is the only way you can be certain of getting like for like quotations and getting the best prices to compare at your leisure.