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Planning a Winter Garden: Location, Material, Glazing and Costs

  1. Advantages: Why a winter garden is worthwhile
  2. Cold winter garden or all-glass winter garden
  3. Partly insulated winter garden
  4. Warm winter garden or glazed living space
  5. The right location for your winter garden
  6. The right material for your winter garden
  7. The right glazing for your winter garden
  8. Don't forget sun protection!
  9. Also think about the indoor climate
  10. Make your life easier
  11. Light in the winter garden
  12. Do you need a building permit?
  13. Winter garden in condominium ownership
  14. How much does a winter garden cost?

Have you enjoyed the hot summer days and the balmy summer evenings in the garden? Wouldn't it be wonderful to extend the summer just like that? With a winter garden (or glazed balcony) you can enjoy the sun, nature and tranquillity in a relaxed way, even in the colder half of the year, without freezing or getting wet. What should you look out for and how much should you expect to pay?

Advantages: Why a winter garden is worthwhile

With a winter garden, you enlarge your house by more than just a room. In winter, you can sit outside, soak up the sun and read, drink, work or do nothing in the natural light. In summer, a winter garden balances out the temperature in the adjoining rooms and ensures lower temperatures throughout the house. It also protects the house façade from the weather and improves the energy balance of older houses as additional thermal insulation.

Cold winter garden or all-glass winter garden

A cold winter garden appears particularly light and transparent thanks to its frameless and mobile glass walls with aluminium profiles that are not thermally separated. It protects you from wind and weather in summer, but is not heated. That's why you can only use it in winter as long as the sun shines longer and the air in the winter garden heats up to room temperature. You cannot use it as an additional living space all year round. However, you can safely overwinter your frost-sensitive garden plants or potted plants in your winter garden.

All-glass winter garden
Frost-sensitive garden plants or pot plants overwinter safely in the winter garden.

Partly insulated winter garden

Most partially insulated winter gardens today have framed sliding or folding wall sashes with profiles that are slightly thermally separated and can be opened over a large area. You sit as if you were outside when the sun shines and you open the glass wings, but you are safe from rain and storms as soon as the weather turns. The partially insulated winter garden is heated to a maximum of 10 degrees. This is enough for it to warm up to room temperature as soon as the sun shines in winter. Because the winter garden is only lightly heated, you do not have to comply with any additional thermal insulation regulations.

Warm winter garden or glazed living space

A warm winter garden is additional living space. It is heated to 15 to 20 degrees in winter, often with underfloor heating, so that you can use it as a dining room, home office or living room all year round. Because the room is heated, the winter garden must meet higher standards for glazing and sealing. Triple glazing with a thermal insulation value of 0.4 to 0.8 W/m²K and fully insulated profiles for living room glazing make sense. In addition, ground work and a foundation are often necessary. This is why warm winter gardens are more expensive than other winter gardens.

Houzy Advice

Good to know

The Swiss Federal Office of Energy SFOE advises against heating winter gardens. This is the only way to stabilise or even reduce the energy consumption of a house with passively generated solar energy. This works from spring to autumn, but in winter it gets too cold in an unheated winter garden.

Winter garden from the inside
A warm winter garden is a glazed living space that you can use all year round.

The right location for your winter garden

Especially in winter, the orientation is crucial. For optimal sunlight, the winter garden should face south. If it faces east, you will enjoy the sun and its warmth in the morning, and if it faces west, you will enjoy it in the evening. If you orient the winter garden to the south because you want to store solar heat, you need sufficient storage mass in the winter garden. For example, solid walls or natural stone or ceramic floors that are directly irradiated by the sun, warm up and store the sun's heat.

The right material for your winter garden

  • Glulam is usually used for winter gardens made of wood. The beams glued together from three boards are more resilient, heat-resistant and load-bearing than wooden beams. Wood insulates heat well and is environmentally friendly, but it is more expensive than plastic and sensitive to moisture. That is why wood must be regularly maintained.
  • Plastic is particularly suitable for small winter gardens because it loses stability with size, and is cheaper than all other materials. In addition, plastic is low-maintenance and easy to clean. Because the material can expand in the heat, a plastic winter garden should be checked regularly.
  • Aluminium is weatherproof and very stable and is therefore also suitable for large winter gardens. In addition, aluminium is easy to clean and requires little maintenance. On the other hand, it costs more than other materials. Aluminium is sometimes combined with wood because wood insulates better.
  • Steel is very durable and is sometimes used as an alternative to matt aluminium. Steel is cheaper than aluminium, but must first be hot-dip galvanised or electroplated because of its susceptibility to corrosion. Steel does not insulate and settles condensation. That is why it is mainly used for greenhouses.
Winter garden - metalworkers

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The right glazing for your winter garden

  • Single glazing is a layer of glass and hardly insulates at all. That is why it is only suitable for simple winter gardens that protect you from wind and weather in summer. When you heat your winter garden, most of the heat is lost. Furthermore, single glazing breaks quickly with sharp breakage edges.
  • Insulating glazing is several panes of glass. The 20 to 30 millimetre wide space between them is filled with air and sealed so that the glass insulates heat and protects against sound. Today, there are similar but more efficient technologies, which is why insulating glass is hardly used any more.
  • Thermal insulation glazing is two or three panes of glass. The space between them is filled with krypton or argon and sealed. In addition, at least one pane is coated with metal oxide, which minimises heat loss. Inert gas and metal oxide combined insulate well.
  • Triple glazing is three panes of glass. All gaps are filled with inert gas, as in thermal glazing, and two panes are coated with metal oxide. This minimises heat loss, insulates the heat excellently and prevents the air in the winter garden from heating up in summer. Triple glazing is the current technological standard.

Glazing Use for winter gardens Insulation performance Insulation value*
Single glazing rare very bad greater than 5 W/m²K
Insulating glazing rare bad 2.5 to 3 W/m²K
Thermal insulation glazing frequent good 1.1 to 1.3 W/m²K
Triple glazing frequent very good 0.4 to 0.8 W/m²K

*The lower the insulation value or U-value, the better the thermal insulation of the glazing.

Houzy Advice

Good to know

Triple glazing is ideal for warm winter gardens that are heated in winter. The panes are very heavy, which must be taken into account in the design.

Don't forget sun protection!

In summer, it can get hot in the winter garden. A winter garden needs sun protection, which is sensibly installed in front of the glass. For example, blinds or sun blinds. Or trees and shrubs that provide natural shade. Inside, you can additionally shade a winter garden with slat blinds, light roller blinds or fabric curtains. If you want to glaze the roof, it is worth considering solar control glass, which slows down the temperature rise in summer. On the other hand, it takes longer in winter for the winter garden to be comfortably warm. That's why it makes sense to at least partially cover the roof with other building materials that insulate well.

Winter garden with awnings
Without sun protection, it gets extremely hot in the winter garden in summer

Also think about the indoor climate

Heat accumulates in a winter garden. This can lead to condensation that damages the floor, the construction, the furniture or the plants. That's why you need a ventilation concept. The winter garden should be able to be opened extensively on two or preferably more sides. With flaps in the glass roof, ventilation slides in the side walls or a gap and frame ventilation, you ensure a regular exchange of air and a pleasant indoor climate in the winter garden.

Make your life easier

An electric motor for the sun protection is particularly useful for larger winter gardens. Today, there are controls that, for example, extend and retract the blinds or awnings depending on the brightness and temperature, retract them immediately in the event of strong wind or optimally adjust the slat angle depending on the incidence of light. Many of these functions can be easily programmed and automated with scenarios or controlled via a smartphone app, even remotely.

Light in the winter garden

LED spotlights have proven their worth as lighting. Lamps made of robust and brushed aluminium that you can swivel and, if necessary, also dim make sense. LED spots are energy-efficient, in contrast to low-voltage tension systems, which are also often used in winter gardens, because they are light and easier to install. If you want to light your winter garden with floor lamps, you should think about the placement of the sockets when planning.

Do you need a building permit?

All structures that are firmly connected to the ground require a permit. You therefore need a building permit for your winter garden. You must also take into account the border distances and building line distances. The best thing to do is to ask at the building authority of the municipality whether a simplified procedure is possible without public notice and display. For this, you usually need a written declaration of consent from the neighbours.

Houzy Advice

Good to know

If you connect the winter garden to the house's heating system, it counts as living space and is counted towards the use figure. Remember this if you have already used up the maximum possible living space for your plot.

Winter garden in condominium ownership

Do you own a condominium and want to build a winter garden in the garden or glaze your balcony? You need the agreement of the condominium owners' association because a winter garden or glazed balcony changes the overall appearance of the house and therefore affects the interests of the other co-owners. You must submit a motion to the condominium owners' meeting.

How much does a winter garden cost?

The costs depend on size, material and finishing. For most winter gardens you need a foundation, glazing, at least one sliding door, a sunshade and, if necessary, a railing. A small winter garden without extras costs at least CHF 20,000. The foundation alone for a 15 square metre area costs plus/minus 6,000 francs. Per square metre of glass area you should reckon with 1200 francs or more. In addition, there are costs for the sliding door(s), the sun protection and the control system. The price scale is open at the top.

Houzy Hint


Also consider the ancillary costs. These include the costs for operation, heating and maintenance. The heating costs depend on the size and the energy upgrade.

You can buy a winter garden from a DIY store and, if you are handy, assemble it yourself. If not, it makes more sense to hire a professional. He will advise you, lay a solid foundation, build a stable winter garden and install the perfect sun protection. Request a free, no-obligation quote from up to three winter garden experts in your region with just one click.

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