How Does a Conservatory Differ from a Sunroom?

I’m often asked the question, “How does a conservatory differ from a sunroom? A greenhouse? An atrium?
For a builder in this niche market, it’s like asking how a T-shirt differs from a dress shirt or how a sedan differs from a luxury car. Some things you just know. A car gets you there on 4 wheels, (well most of the time). A shirt covers your body, right?
A sunroom lets the sun in, right? So why is one a conservatory, the other a sunroom? Let’s explore.

Sunroom Quality
In general terms, quality and longevity make the difference. A sunroom is typically manufactured with lower quality materials than the house it is attached to. Stick built structures by quality carpenters do not fit this discussion, and can be of high quality. Is the roof solid or glass? Most mass-manufactured sunrooms are the quality level of a mobile home. Thin walls, screws exposed and right through the face surface of the structure (eventually rusting), low insulation level of the glass and walls. And, how much did it cost? About $35-40,000.00

Sunroom Longevity
How many years will the structure last? Without argument, a sunroom will not last as long as your home, so at some point, you will have to replace it. Ten, fifteen, maybe twenty years, but just like installing vinyl siding on your house; it will have to be replaced.
I will admit, some conservatories are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are made with uPVC and will never last as long as our mahogany or thermal-break aluminum structures.
The first conservatory I ever built was in 1988, 26 years ago. Still in great shape, still used every day by the homeowner. The longevity of a properly built conservatory should be the life of the home to which it is attached.
Sunroom Roofs
The roof, as you can imagine, differs greatly from a sunroom to a conservatory. We like to sit at night and watch the stars and moon. We enjoy watching the snow swirl around in the winter. We feel like we are inside a snow globe! People complain that their sunroom gets too hot. Well, when it’s -15 in MN and the sun is out, we flock to the conservatory and bask in 85 degrees. Ahh! It can’t be beat.
So, just because someone puts cresting on the ridge, does not mean it’s a conservatory.
Keep in mind 3 things:

  • Make sure you have glass with high insulation value.
  • Make sure there is no uPVC in the structure (plastic is plastic no matter what you call it).
  • Make sure it has proper engineering (many localities now require signed and stamped engineering).

Conservatory Craftsmen has never failed an engineering examination. We have met, or exceeded, every seismic (earthquake), hurricane (wind speed) and snow-load building code requirement in every location we have built a structure.
So what would a conservatory, measuring the same size as the sunroom, have cost? About $50,000.00. And that includes all materials, shipping, installation labor, and a 10-year warranty.

So wouldn’t you really rather own a conservatory?