Five “No-Fail” Tricks For Cleaning Glass Ceilings

Most people want to ask that question because it crosses your mind at one point or another. I am a bit of a glass fanatic myself. Having been in this industry for 25 years, I like my glass clean and do not feel good about seeing dirty glass.

Here are a few ‘tricks’ to take care of the glass ceiling in a conservatory and keep it looking good.


Viewing autumn through the roof of a 5 bay Conservatory Craftsmen

First trick: not something I thought of. Something the clever Victorians thought of. That lovely cresting that we put on top of the roof? Well it’s not just a decoration. It keeps the birds off the roof, and it does work! The birds do not like to sit on the fleur-de-lis design and if they are not on the roof, you have fewer annoying bird droppings

Second trick: self-cleaning glass! There actually is a readily available glass option surface that is self-cleaning.
Self cleaning glass is a bit like a permanent Rain-ex coating on the glass. You know, Rain-ex? The stuff you clean your windshield so that glass beads up and rolls off. It does this by establishing a surface ‘grain’ to the glass that all sheds one way. In addition to this coating, there is a chemical put into the coating that actually reacts with organic material to dissolve it to dust and it blows or washes away. So, every time it rains, or you squirt the roof with a hose, it cleans the roof.

As you can well imagine, self-cleaning glass is expensive. Not only from the perspective of the manufacturing of the glass, but also the handling of the glass. We can only handle the glass with special gloves on and we cannot touch the glass. When hoisting a 120 pound unit of glass to your roof, that becomes a challenge!
In conclusion, let me just say, it does work.

Third trick: tools. The great tools used by professional glass cleaners are not expensive. Go to That is where I go to buy poles, squeegees, cleaner, etc. You will find a whole lot of cool stuff to use that you don’t find at the store. I love their products for getting the film off the shower glass.

Fourth trick: see my blog on The Art of Washing Windows The Norwex rag set is the easiest thing you will ever use in the whole house for quickly and thoroughly cleaning glass…everywhere in the house.
I honestly clean the inside ‘ceiling’ of the conservatory once a year. It does not really need more. The exterior, the rain usually takes care of, but when I want it really clean (I love spring) then its time to get out the garden hose and go at it.

Fifth trick: many people hire a service to clean the glass. Our conservatory roofs are stronger than many other companies, and we can put ‘one, two, three men’ on one piece of roof glass. Why not four? Well, if we fit, we could! So if your glass cleaner has a ‘cup’ a sucker cup as the British call them, they can stand on any roof we make.

Make sure not to use abrasive materials to clean glass. Kitchen scrubbers can scratch glass in a jiffy and are not to be used on your glass. Please do your homework before using scrubbers on the glass.

If you have mild lime stains on the glass, try some vinegar and if that does not do it, go to J Racenstein for tools and cleaners that will clean lime stains from any glass you have.

I enjoy cleaning glass, but I understand that most people do not. I hope these few thoughts will give you the courage to take on the roof and keep it as clean as the day we leave the job.

Happy cleaning!

What Does a Conservatory Cost?

At Conservatory Craftsmen we are contacted frequently by curious homeowners that want to know; how much? That’s a fair question to ask. How many people do you know that have even been in a conservatory, let alone have purchased one. If you live in England, you might stop at your neighbor’s home, take tea in their conservatory and chat about the company that supplied and installed their room. Not the case here in America.

So let’s talk about your expectations and what it might cost. I usually use the analogy of a luxury car. As we all know, all cars (well most) have 4 wheels, a motor, a steering wheel and can get you where you want to go. Conservatories have windows, doors, and a glass roof. A luxury car may cost $30,000.00 or it may cost $100,000.00 (or more). That is about the same budget range for most all conservatories.

Frequently, people ask me “how much per square foot”? That is almost as difficult to answer as saying how much a car costs per pound. All structures are different. The level of detail in each is different. Today, I had a phone call from a lovely lady who was quite discouraged because a conservatory company she had called told her to start her budget at $500.00 per square foot! I would be discouraged too! We have recently constructed a beautiful, roomy conservatory in New York for about $125.00 per square foot, plus shipping and installation. This conservatory was even fitted with special, high performance insulated glass.

Not all conservatories will be this reasonable. Mahogany conservatories will cost a bit more. Muntins in the glass may raise the cost. Many factors will drive cost. The best thing to do is to share your expectations with us when you contact us. How large is the room you plan and what is the budget you would like to stay within.

How to control the budget of a conservatory. There are items that are certainly worth a bit more, and items that put cost over the top.

When designing a conservatory, we try to start with the basics and then provide you with the options (again, like the luxury car!).

The roof might be polycarbonate or glass. Let me say this: Polycarbonate is very energy efficient. It is also very strong. Did you know that bullet proof glassis made by laminating polycarbonate between two layers of glass? It can be light filtering and this is a fine quality.

However, polycarbonate does not give you a clear view of the sky. It is a diffused view. It is very very noisy when it rains, and it moves. It has a ‘shrink/swell’ and large spans of polycarbonate can be difficult to control. A polycarbonate roof could save you $10,000.00 on your project. In our case (not other companies) we can take off the polycarbonate in a few years and install glass, if you want.

Customizing Your Conservatory: Where You Can Save

Two colors. Because of our unique ability to provide you with any color you want on the inside and any color you want on the outside, we surpass any company in our ability to service our public. Just be mindful, this adds to the cost of the project.

Single door or double door? Well, a single door cost half the price of a double door, so decide accordingly.

Opening windows: how many windows do you want to open? It adds about $1000 to the project for each operating window, with ClearView retractable screen. Do you plan to open windows? Where is the best airflow?

Roof vents. Sound like and good idea and they are. However, most of our customers seldom use them. We can automate them, and then they are used frequently, but this will add about $1500.00 to each roof vent. Consider this wisely. Is there another way to evacuate hot air from the roof? I use a fan in the attic that pulls air from the room and puts it out the roof of the house. Cheap to install and very effective.

Muntins: All those pretty shapes in the windows. The colonial bars (we call them Georgian), half round hoops. We even do custom leaded windows with bevels and colors. If you have an older home, we can match other window details in the house. Its all available, but it does cost money.

SDL glass. In this case SDL stands for simulated divided lite. It means that when we put the muntin on the window, it is applied outside and inside. In addition, there is a spacer bar inside the insulated glass that matches the muntin on the glass, so the window appears to have truly divided glass, but it is simulated. More on that later.

We will help guide each and every inquiry we receive down the path to a new conservatory for your home. We are budget conscious. Though others may feel that a conservatory needs to be a very expensive addition, we do not. We feel that at some level, everyone should be able to afford the luxury of adding more light and pleasure to your home.

Your Flight and Hotel on Us!

No one will argue that a conservatory is about the most beautiful addition that can be built on a home.

A conservatory is also a significant investment and one that is not taken lightly. The cost of a conservatory compares to the cost of a luxury car, which means time and research is required for a knowledgeable purchase. Today’s savvy shopper always researches every purchase, and a conservatory is no different.

One option for conservatory shoppers is to go to
This helpful site will share with you what others have to say about their experiences with Conservatory Craftsmen.

Another option, which is completely unique to Conservatory Craftsmen is: we would like to invite you to fly to Minneapolis and visit our display model conservatory.
Here is the best part: we will pay for your flight and hotel, if you purchase your conservatory project from us. This is just a final assurance that you have made the right choice and we are happy to stand behind our product so faithfully.

Join myself and my family at my home office conservatory. Have a hot cup of tea with us in our warm and inviting conservatory, even in the coldest months.

Consider this terrific offer and then contact me, Jim Hewitt at

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?

Professional Conservatory Builders

Here at Conservatory Craftsmen we are often asked:
Is this product a kit? Or, can I do the conservatory installation myself?
In short, the answer is no and here are the top reasons why:
1) The conservatory market in the United States in a niche market, actually it is almost a niche within a niche. That is how specialized the product is and how serious we take it. So when the crate that contains your conservatory shows up at your house, we can guarantee that there will be pieces and parts that even the most seasoned carpenter has never seen before, instructions not included. Attempting to install the conservatory on your own could be disastrous. We are frequently requested across the country to for conservatory repairs due to improper installation. This is timely, frustrating and expensive to homeowners.
2) Warranty. The main components of a conservatory are a wood or aluminum frame and glass. What attracted you in the first place is the conservatories glass roof and that’s your downfall if you try to install yourself. If you attempt to install a Conservatory Craftsmen conservatory on your own you will void the warranty. When our professional team of installers begins work at your home we warranty everything from the glass on down!

3) Our name is on the product. We pride ourselves in supplying the most superior product to the market. If installed improperly the room will fail and leak. We spend a massive amount of time on the front end of the project. Meaning we design, engineer and re-design (if necessary) to assure that when on-site our time is spent as efficiently as possible. A typical jobs site-time is about three days. Our customers are floored to see just how fast we can install a conservatory flawlessly. Left to the untrained installation could take weeks or months and could possibly lead to unwanted leaks if rushed.

Trust Conservatory Craftsmen, we are professional conservatory builders and have designed and built conservatories in the USA for over 25 years.
We are here to work with you in every way possible!

Fairy Gardens: A Conservatory Lover’s Obsession

img_0381The driving passion of most conservatory owners (or those who are dreaming of owning one) is their tropical plants. Be these orchids, fruits, herbs, flowering or herbaceous, a plant lover will put an entire addition onto her house just to spend winter with these joyful green friends. We are no different except my family has picked up a new obsession over the last year, fairy gardens. This is the hottest new gardening trend and the little people in my life are looking somewhere to ‘winter’ their fairies. The conservatory is the obvious answer to them. My beloved grandchildren now beg to join me in a trip to the garden center to look, observe and gather ideas to take home.

This is the original fairy garden from early spring. The pot seemed too confined for children’s imagination. The fairy gardens began to go ‘rogue’!


Over the summer, fairy gardens were appearing literately everywhere. Watching the children use their imaginations and become exposed to the world of plants is priceless to this plant lover.


Awake your inner Fairy! Tinkerbell is not dead! Plan your conservatory and decorate for Thanksgiving and Christmas in this miniature home for the fairy and gnome! Hundreds of photos are now online, every garden center has plenty of options to choose from and I guarantee, the wee ones will start to enjoy gardening as much as you do.

Featured Conservatory

One of our conservatories was featured on Click these images to read more.

The Art of Window Washing

So, the conservatory got a bit dirty over the winter, did it? Things a bit drab and dusty?

This is the time of year when one looks outside and says ‘I will never get it all done!” Leaves just popping out, the kid’s toys in the yard, the dog, oh my! And look at all the dead spots in the yard.

Then, without the courtesy of even waiting until you can get winter put away, the dandelions poke through and begin their yellow fashion parade.

Windows can be such a challenge, so we’ve decided to address this common problem by giving you a few industry secrets on the art of window washing.

The first trick is proper supplies. My daughter-in-law, Danielle, who cleans houses, came over with these miracle cloths called Norwex cloths which you can find on Amazon or Ebay. I have been window washing for 50 years, and believe me, I will tell you these things really work.

Dampen one cloth, and clean the window. Take the polishing cloth, wipe the window and you are done. It’s in the fibers of this Norwegian cloth, no chemicals.

I have long known that most conventional window cleaning chemicals use cleaners that adhere to the glass and actually can cause more dirt to attract to the window. This cloth is a real winner.

You can order them from us if you are trying to find them. I suggest you watch the YouTube video here.

OK, this is fine for inside, but what about the roof. Can you reach the roof if you are on a step ladder? If so, you are in luck.

I order my window cleaning supplies from J. Racenstein. This is the company that all professional window cleaners buy their supplies from, at wholesale pricing. Very good service and tons of great tools of the trade.

I suggest you order an extension pole. They will stretch out about 12’ and are very light weight.

The ‘kits’ they make are very good. I suggest the Unger pro kit for under $100.00. It has all suitable tools required. Get some cleaner and maybe even their book on how to wash windows like a pro. Remember, it’s not how much water you get on the window that makes it clean.

You will become a pro in no time and like me, enjoy the chore of washing windows. I can get around my whole house and the conservatory in less than 2 hours.

Has the Winter Damaged Your Conservatory?

There is no need to rehash the difficulties this winter has wrought on all of us in this country. Our building systems have been taxed to the maximum with cold, snow and ice.

Many homes have conservatories that have been slightly to severely damaged by the winter weather. Leaks in roofs, displaced materials, and damaged windows have occurred as we have had calls on all of these maladies from all over the country.

In some cases, conservatories with improper support have shifted and some even have had roof glazing collapse.

What to do if you have damage that needs repairs?

  1. Take lots of photos and document the damage
  2. Report the damage to your insurance company
  3. Contact us to discuss the damage. We will help you assess your needs.

In most cases, easy repairs can be done on a short visit by our repair crew. In some cases, replacement materials have to be ordered and received.

Unfortunately, many of the uPVC companies that did business from the UK in the USA are no longer in business, or doing business in this country.

If the company is still in business, our relationship in the industry allows us to call on operating businesses and obtain replacement materials.

Extrusions can be a different entity. Often, these companies will replace an extrusion with an improved extrusion and dump all of the old inventory. We keep a supply of replacement parts in our warehouse, so in many cases, we are able to source many parts that may no longer be available.

We take into account what material your conservatory is made of. If it is wood, we can shape and duplicate any wood member on the spot, so you are a bit more lucky if repairs are required.

One way or the other, we are the one stop company for repairs, as needed so keep us in mind and set up a visit today.

New York Botanical Gardens Butterfly Exhibit

Orchids at the New York Botanical Conservatory have been getting a lot of attention lately on These botanic wonders are the pinnacle of cultivation in the conservatory as we know from our many customers whose favorite pastime is the culture of orchids.

However, one would be reticent not to mention the conservatory show also going on in NYC at the Museum of Natural History. The second-floor show there consists of moving colors and blooms of such magnificent colors it causes pause.

A butterfly show is the most thrilling and captivating way to spend a bit of time while in the Big Apple. These butterflies that have experienced metamorphosis from chrysalis at the Conservatory exhibit are truly amazing in color and diversity.

The exhibit has a healthy cross section of botanical options for the winged flowers that fill the air with fluttering and neon. And take enjoyment in the little buggers as they land on your head or arm to see if you might pass the sweetness test for which they crave.

Although you can’t take the butterflies home with you. There is an airlock at entry and exit to make sure no hitchhikers try to sneak and escape, you can in other ways take them home with you.

If your conservatory dream is for butterflies or orchids, we are also botanists who specialize in specialty conservatories. Butterfly conservatories, once only popular in Cornwall, are spreading in popularity all over the world.

Pupae, available in Florida and Costa Rica can be purchased and raised in your conservatory to create a one of a kind environment unparalleled in home projects today.

Conservatory Craftsmen is uniquely ready to help you achieve this many other goals you have for your own Conservatory. Contact us today.