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27 Dec

Why engineered timber is the future

uPVC Conservatories may have suffered a bit of a reputational crisis over the past few decades, but beautiful timber glazed extensions are very much the height of fashion… so long as you use the right kind of timber, of course…

An extension is a practical way to upgrade the space and style of a home without the hassle of moving to a new house. Unfortunately, lingering memories of late 20th Century uPVC conservatories put homeowners off the idea of a glazed extension, with their poor quality and unappealing designs.  But, a timber glazed extension such as a garden room or orangery, can be a thing of beauty, providing it has been designed and built in a way that complements the property. 

Here at Westbury Garden Rooms, we are dedicated to delivering glazed timber extensions that not only look good, but they are also of the highest specification. At the core of our work is our expert hand-craftmanship and more fundamentally, we use only the very best materials, including engineered timber. 

In this article, we explain why engineered timber is the future for glazed extensions:

The rise and fall of timber glazed extensions

Orangeries have existed since the 16th and 17th centuries when they were adored by the highest of society. Originally, they were separate buildings used to conserve plants over winter, and later to cultivate exotic citrus plants brought to Britain from the Mediterranean. As such, they were symbols of extreme wealth.  

Having existed for around three centuries previously, the popularity of the glazed room only really exploded in the Victorian era. The aristocracy added sunrooms to their grand residences, and majestic public conservatories such as the Great Palm House at Kew Gardens and the Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition of 1851 became iconic buildings of the time. 

After the Second World War, there followed a period of indifference towards building these structures in Britain. For a bankrupt post-war country, the addition of a sunroom or a room to grow exotic plants was an extravagance, to say the least! But in the 1970s, builders keen to recreate the trend and style of the past reintroduced the idea. However, this time the structures were small and could be added to most houses if they had the garden space. 

Homeowners began to realise that a glazed extension has lots of benefits. For a growing family or just those who needed more space, an extension is a convenient way of doing just that. Being glazed, they flood your home with light. If well designed and constructed, an extension can add substantial value to your home while also improving your way of life. However, to provide the homeowners with all the benefits, an extension needs to be made from the right materials. Today, uPVC conservatories might not add to the value of your property in spite of the extra space and light – in fact, having one on your property can actually dissuade buyers. 

“Conservatories will add value to a home, but they need to be made with quality materials and provide a lot of light in order for the value to be significant,” says Mark Hayward from the National Association of Estate Agents

Using a revolutionary engineered timber

Westbury Garden Rooms only build garden rooms and orangeries using materials of superior quality. For us, there’s no other better material than engineered timber made from layers of Accoya and redwood. Accoya is a revolutionary timber material made from fast-growing Radiata Pine, which undergoes a process that compresses and bonds laminates (thin slices) of the pinewood, rotating the grain by 90˚ each layer. 

This cross-lamination gives Accoya improved dimensional stability of up to 75% over solid hardwoods. Furthermore, the Accoya timber undergoes a process called acetylation, which re-plumps the cells of the cut lumber. This process makes the timber harder, as well as termite resistant. These qualities make Accoya the perfect external layer for our timber frames. Such is the material performance of Accoya, that it has a guaranteed lifetime of 50 years. This is especially true when Accoya is coupled with Teknos, a water-based paint explicitly formulated for external use on timber. Teknos makes an exceptional layer that protects the external timber, being resistant to bacteria, mould, and UV attack. 

Outperforming uPVC on every level

Accoya’s lifespan far exceeds the amount of time a uPVC conservatory is likely to last. Contrary to popular belief, uPVC does not degrade, but it reacts to UV radiation from the sun and will, over time, become shabby and discoloured. In comparison, Accoya will maintain its exceptional finish providing you look after it, which sounds like a lot of work, but being specifically engineered to withstand the elements, it really isn’t. All that’s required is a simple wash down, twice a year. For Westbury customers, we offer a care and maintenance service which makes this process even easier.

Our eco-conscious customers adore the fact that Accoya is CO2 neutral throughout its lifecycle and 100% biodegradable. Additionally, all the engineering that goes into improving the timber’s performance is non-toxic. The same cannot be said for uPVC, whose manufacturing is up to 9 times more energy-intensive than that of timber, and will become landfill once discarded (or even worse, burnt, which releases toxic fumes). In this age when sustainability is a significant concern, environmentally friendly engineered timbers such as Accoya are notable for being an eco-friendly choice, as well as functional by design. 

An additional reason why uPVC conservatories have not aged well is because the look of the material fits with very few architectural styles. Timber, on the other hand, is timeless. Accoya timber has been used the world over, on projects from as diverse as Georgian Orangeries to contemporary Scandinavian hutter (cabins). The wood is beautiful in itself, but when combined with the super-paint Teknos, which can deliver extraordinary vibrant hues thanks to the high pigment content, the two materials create a truly stunning glazed extension. 

Whatever way you rate it; by looks, efficiency, guaranteed lifespan, maintenance requirements or its aesthetics, no one can doubt that engineered wood is really the future for sustainable glazed extensions.