Fiona and I both love the sunshine, and it’s something you don’t necessarily get a lot of in Britain. We’ve often thought that if we had the money we’d love to add a conservatory (“sunroom” for you Americans) to the house — but we never have had the money and doubt we ever will. Plus who needs all the upheaval and disruption?
Then one day it occurred to us that a conservatory is basically just a greenhouse with a sofa in it — so why not get a greenhouse and put a sofa in it? And that is exactly what we’ve done. I woke on the morning of Saturday 24th April, looked at Facebook Marketplace, and found that someone was selling a greenhouse for £2 provided we could come and collect it that day. The listing said it was missing some panes of glass, but obviously it was bargain. So I woke Fiona up and we drove 30 miles to Cheltenham, thinking it would take half an hour or so to take the greenhouse apart and load it into the car.
Har har har. It was a long, hot day’s work — not helped by our not having the right kind of spanners for the nuts and bolts holding it together. But eventually it was done and we drove our prize home. Along the way a few more panes of glass got broken, but we unpacked everything that had survived onto the patio, and called it a day.
Over the next week or so, Fiona and I figured out how to reassemble the frame. I had to buy some replacement nuts and bolts because quite a few of the old ones sheared off as we were taking it apart. It was an interesting challenge, identifying what parts went where, made harder by my not having taken nearly enough photographs during the disassembly process.
But we got it sorted out.
Then we had to figure out where to put it. We needed a solid, level base, and we didn’t have one. So we had to build one. That was by far the biggest part of this job. I had to lift paving slabs from our poorly assembled patio, extract some others from elsewhere in the garden, dig out the area, build a containing frame from 4x2s and treat them with wood preserver, set the frame level, fill it first with hardcore, then with laying sand, level it off, and re-lay the slabs. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my youngest son, Jonno, who at age 18 is now far mightier than I am.
The next thing to do was build another frame of 4x2s, this one the same size as the greenhouse’s footprint, for the frame to sit on, and treat that with wood preserver. Then I attached a damp-course, and we placed it on the foundation, lifted the greenhouse onto it and attached it to the frame.
If a convervatory is a greenhouse with a sofa, we needed a sofa to convert our greenhouse into a conservatory. Once again, Facebook Marketplace came through with a perfect sofa for £30 within walking distance of home.
We removed one upright from the greenhouse frame to get the sofa inside, then replaced that upright so that the frame was once more complete.
Finally, it was time to clean and re-fit the glass. At this point it was apparent that some more of the panes had broken while they had been waiting, stacked on the patio. We should have taken more trouble to put them somewhere more completely flat. So we had to take a trip to the local builders’ merchant and buy replacement panes: 16 in standard sizes and one triangular one that had to be cut to shape.
And we were done!
We call it La Conservatoire.
Here’s how it looks in context (from an upstairs window of the house):
And I have to say, it’s working out really well. We love it: it warms up really quickly in the mornings and holds the heat well into the evenings. And the sofa is more like a bed with convenient arms: we’ve put cushions at each end of the matress, and spend plenty of time relaxing in there with a cup of tea and a book.
The total cost came to £237.60, made up as follows:
|Second-hand greenhouse (some panes missing)||2.00|
|Cropped-head bolts, 2 packs of 20||9.70|
|4×2 timber for foundation: 2x 224cm, 2x 304cm||30.55|
|4×2 timber for base: 2x 191cm, 2 x 245cm||32.33|
|Pack of 100 wood-screws, 10×4″||5.46|
|30m damp-proof course roll||7.99|
|Flooring sand, 1-ton sack (including delivery)||52.20|
|Second-hand conservatory sofa||30.00|
|Panes of glass: 7x big, 9x small, 1 corner||67.37|
It’s easily possible to spend £23,760 on a proper conservatory. This came out at 1% of that price, and was a lot less trouble, too. In conclusion, I highly recommend doing this if you have space.