Replacement polycarbonate conservatory roof costs and benefits
For an average-sized lean-to conservatory, a replacement polycarbonate roof will cost somewhere between £2,500 and £3,500 – glazing alternatives would be around a minimum of another 30% on top of that baseline figure and tiled roofs even more expensive particularly because you may also need to upgrade the structure to take the additional weight.
Last Updated: October 2022
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There are lots of roof options available to you if you are thinking about upgrading your conservatory and replacing your old glazed roof with a new modern alternative.
Amongst new glazing options or solid tiled roof designs, polycarbonate roofing sits as one of the cheapest possible choices on the list. Low cost does not have to mean low quality. The fashion currently is to replace old glazed or polycarbonate roofs with solid, tiled or slate roofs but polycarbonate as a roofing material still has a lot to offer, particularly for those who want to keep that real conservatory feel.
What is a polycarbonate roof?
Polycarbonate is a type of plastic and it has come a long way from the rather crude, corrugated sheets that people remember from some years ago, hardly a feature on your new conservatory. Polycarbonate is a plastic polymer that is either transparent or opaque, usually described or cloudy, depending on your preference and style of conservatory. Polycarbonate can be used as a more durable alternative to a glass roof or in its opaque form, offers the privacy and advantages of a solid roof without the cost of an expensive upgrade or the loss of light.
What are the cost factors?
The two usual cost factors are the price of the materials and the size of the roof area that needs to be replaced. Polycarbonate as a base material is very economically priced but other factors can affect the final bill.
If the style of the roof is complicated or ornate then the price will be higher. A Victorian-style roof is going to cost more in terms of labour and time than a simple lean-to so if you are changing the design to something more complicated, then expect an uplift in the price.
Polycarbonate is a lightweight material so you won’t need to upgrade the frame of the existing structure which can be the case if you want a solid tiled roof – one cost you won’t have to worry about. However, your conservatory may require a new roof frame to hold the polycarbonate in place. This rather depends on what was there before and its condition.
A new frame can be made from a range of different materials – uPVC, aluminium or timber, all of which carry their own price tag. Aluminium is expensive but incredibly long-lasting and can be re-used again when you choose to replace the polycarbonate panels at the end of their life. It creates a really sleek contemporary look which is very popular for new properties. Timber is expensive but undeniably gives a lovely aesthetic particularly for older or period properties.
UPVC is a good combination of a low price and excellent performance – a uPVC frame is durable and secure but lacks the sleek lines and good looks of aluminium. However, you can choose uPVC with a wood grain finish and so replicate the timber effect which works very well with a wooden frame conservatory. You also don’t have the constant headache of an annual maintenance regime which is part of the package with a wooden roof frame.
You may wish to take this opportunity to upgrade the structure of the conservatory and also renew fittings like rainwater goods particularly if you are changing the style of the roof. These will all increase the cost.
There may be hire charges on the estimate for scaffolding, a skip or other machinery. Use our roof cost calculator to understand more about the price of your roofing project.
What do you get for your money?
The builder’s estimate will be split between labour and materials. The work will include removing the old conservatory roof and disposing of the waste materials. Any required or essential roof repair costs will be calculated and refurbishment to the main structure will be carried out at this stage before the new roof is fitted. Existing rainwater goods are replaced or renewed.
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Why would you want to replace your conservatory roof with a polycarbonate roof?
If your current conservatory roof is looking a little tired or has reached the end of its natural life then a new polycarbonate roof could be top of the list for your project. Polycarbonate has several advantages over a traditional glazed conservatory roof or the alternative of a solid tiled roof. Here are some of the reasons to choose polycarbonate for your new roof:-
- Polycarbonate is extremely resistant to impact so much so it is often used to make bullet-proof glass. This is a clear advantage over a traditional glazed roof which will be vulnerable to chips, dents, cracks and splits
- Polycarbonate can be transparent or opaque and offers a viable alternative to either a glazed or a tiled roof
- Polycarbonate despite its durability and toughness, is very light, ideal if your current conservatory won’t support a solid roof but you want to move away from glass. It will avoid the need to refurbish the existing structure and the additional cost
- You can opt for a more elaborate design without having to use heavier materials which your conservatory structure may not be able to support
- Polycarbonate is very low maintenance and easier to clean than a traditional tiled roof. It doesn’t accumulate or show dirt like glass, particularly the opaque version so you don’t need to clean it as often as glass and when you do, it is easier and quicker to do than a solid tiled roof
- A polycarbonate roof can help manage the problem of too much sun which can make the conservatory too bright and warm on hot sunny days. The translucence of the plastic filters the sunlight so you retain a good level of illumination but the conservatory is not quite so bright and hot
- Cloudy or opaque polycarbonate also controls light levels; by reflecting sunlight, less light will come into the conservatory, ideal if you have a south or south-west facing building which is a real suntrap
- If you are someone who really enjoys being in their conservatory at night or during the winter months, then cloudy polycarbonate will keep your conservatory very bright and well illuminated. This is because the light from your bulbs is reflected back into the room
- Opaque polycarbonate allows you the benefits of sunlight and brightness but also the privacy afforded by a solid tiled roof. Through the use of conservatory blinds on the windows, it means you can acquire a lot of seclusion in a setting which is overlooked by other houses without losing that high-ceiling conservatory feel
- Polycarbonate comes in a variety of shades and colours and also different UV Values
- Polycarbonate doesn’t offer the longevity of some other roofing alternatives but it is quick and inexpensive to replace meaning you can always keep your conservatory roof looking shiny and new
- Polycarbonate is the lowest cost of all the different roofing options available for your conservatory
What are your Polycarbonate roof options?
Polycarbonate can be used to fit a new or existing conservatory and is an option for several different roof styles:-
Lean-to – simple and quick to fit, this is the most basic design, just a sloping roof, smart for a long wraparound conservatory and can create a real colonial verandah type feel
Victorian – a more complicated design particularly where the roof sits over the bay window - triangular panels are cut to fit the curved facets of the window. This will take longer to fit than a simpler style and will be more expensive
Edwardian – this design has a double-hipped pitched roof. There is room to play with the angle of the pitch to create more roof height
Gable roof – two simple slopes that meet together to form the highest point. This design can be embellished with a sunburst pattern or kept plain with straightforward vertical panels
Shaped conservatory – sometimes conservatories are designed in a ‘T’ shape and this gives you the option to have two different roof styles combined
Because polycarbonate is such a workable and inexpensive base material, you could use your budget to stretch to a new design which will completely transform your old conservatory.
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Pros of a polycarbonate roof
The two key advantages with a polycarbonate roofing choice are the ability to control light and the hugely competitive price tag.
Polycarbonate means you can stay with that traditional conservatory look and feel whilst allowing you to manage the amount of light coming into the conservatory. Using clear polycarbonate, you can filter the sunlight or with the opaque or cloudy version, have even less sunlight coming through but a brighter room at night. New modern materials will provide a smart, neat finish, quick and easy to install and polycarbonate remains the lowest cost option of all the different roofing choices.
Cons of a polycarbonate roof
The drawback of a polycarbonate roof is that they do require more frequent replacement so if you average the cost over the longer-term, then the price doesn’t look quite so attractive. One of the reasons you might opt to replace the roof more frequently is because polycarbonate scratches easily; it might be resistant to impact and dents but it does mark quickly and this can quickly spoil the appearance of the roof. It is also not a good choice for conservatories where there are trees nearby for this very reason.
Polycarbonate roofs are also quite noisy when it rains, the multiple layers in the construction of the plastic amplify the noise of the raindrops hitting the surface so it can feel rather like you are sitting inside a drum. In hot weather, polycarbonate is quite good at retaining the warmth of the sunlight so it can keep the conservatory very hot, not so much of a problem in the winter but it could make the room just too warm during the summer months.
Some people feel that polycarbonate is the worst of all worlds. It lacks the style and permanency of a solid, tiled roof but doesn’t offer you the look and styling of a traditional glazed roof.
Many people when they are re-roofing their conservatory will often take that opportunity to carry out repairs and upgrades to the main structure. It is also an occasion to alter the design of your conservatory by changing the style of the roof; this can create a completely new look and feel.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need planning permission for a new polycarbonate roof?
The planning rules surrounding conservatory design were relaxed in 2010, in particular, the requirement to have a roof which is 75% translucent. It is unlikely you will require planning permission to upgrade your conservatory roof to polycarbonate because it will fall within what is classified as, ‘Permitted Development’ or PD. You can check this out with your local planning authority. If your home is listed or situated in a conservation area or both then you will need to apply for planning permission.
How do you maintain a polycarbonate roof?
Maintenance is pretty minimal. Polycarbonate doesn’t show dirt in the same way that a glazed roof will and when you do need to clean it, it is easier and quicker than a tiled version. However, if you have chosen a timber frame for the roof then you will need an annual maintenance programme to treat and protect the wood otherwise it will quickly fall victim to the weather and start to warp and rot.
An annual clean of the roof is usually sufficient although some people will do it twice a year as this is a good time to check for any damage or leaking points, so in the spring after the bad winter weather and then again in the autumn to check the condition before the winter. Remove any debris like sticks and small twigs and then check that the guttering is clear before washing the roof with a mild, soapy solution and warm water. Do not use harsh chemical cleaners as this can damage the polycarbonate. Use a soft sponge or 100% cotton cloth and rinse and change the water regularly. Do not scrub marks as this will erode the surface of the polycarbonate and damage it.
How long does it take to replace a polycarbonate roof on a conservatory?
Unless you require any refurbishment or upgrades to the conservatory frame or you are taking this opportunity to do other works, the new roof should be able to be fitted within the course of one day. A big or more complicated roof will take longer, up to three days.
Are polycarbonate roofs better than tiled roofs?
Each conservatory roofing option has advantages and disadvantages. The right roof for your conservatory is the one that best suits the design of the building and your budget. Polycarbonate roofs are perfect for a quick and inexpensive replacement or if you want to keep the conservatory look but opt for a cloudy roof because you want less sun or more privacy.
How long does a polycarbonate roof last?
A polycarbonate conservatory roof will last anywhere between 10 and 20 years. Some of the new polycarbonate products to the market are being offered with guarantees of 20 years and some even for the lifetime of the home.
Is polycarbonate conservatory roof fireproof?
Polycarbonate is treated so it is flame retardant which means it prevents or inhibits the outbreak of fire.
Is polycarbonate roofing recyclable?
Polycarbonate roofing materials are fully recyclable.
Does Polycarbonate roofing come in different colours?
Polycarbonate roofing is available in the colours grey, bronze, opal, white, black and clear.
Polycarbonate sheets come in different thicknesses, what is the recommended thickness for a conservatory roof?
Polycarbonate sheets have four main thicknesses – 4mm, 10mm, 16mm and 25mm – a thickness of 25m is recommended for a conservatory roof.
Can you install a polycarbonate conservatory roof yourself?
A competent DIY enthusiast may be able to re-roof a simple conservatory building themselves using polycarbonate sheets. Remember that you will need to install the sheets in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines so as not to invalidate their guarantee or any warranty. Polycarbonate roofing sheets are only UV protected on one side so make sure you know which side is which before you fit them.