Building and buying

Building a winter garden: why it’s worthwhile for you

Thomas Bott

Relax and admire nature in winter, enjoy the warmth of the sun in summer, even indoors. Provide your plants with ideal conditions all year round or sit cozily indoors at night and watch the stars: all this is possible in a winter garden. We give you tips for planning and construction and explain how you can benefit from subsidies to finance your own.

A woman stands on the threshold between her winter garden and garden.
© Getty Images

In this article

The advantages of a winter garden

A winter garden offers multiple advantages. Firstly, for your plants: in a winter garden the non-winterproof varieties will survive throughout the cold season. In summer, on the other hand, it acts like a greenhouse and helps plants that would not normally grow, or would have difficulty growing, under normal outdoor conditions in Switzerland.

Not only gardeners benefit from a winter garden, but also every homeowner who wants a little more space for themselves. A winter garden equipped with a heating system can even be used when the temperatures drop below zero. When correctly built, it therefore extends the living space of the house. And the value of the house increases at the same time.

The differences between cold and warm winter gardens

Winter gardens can be divided into two categories: cold winter gardens and living or warm winter gardens.

The cold winter garden

A cold winter garden is not heated, so it cools down much more when the outside temperature drops. Its main function is to protect against the weather, i.e. snow, wind and rain. In a similar way to a greenhouse, it is therefore extremely suitable for plants of all kinds. They survive under the improved conditions, even in winter.
In summer, it creates a climate in which exotic plants or cacti feel at home. At least up to a certain temperature, the human inhabitants also feel very comfortable in this type of winter garden. In spring or fall, the warmth of the sun penetrates through the glass roofing even more. Another advantage of the design is that allergy sufferers can enjoy the sun in the summer without suffering respiratory problems.

Plants in a winter garden.

In a cold winter garden, plants feel at home in all weather conditions.

The warm winter garden

A warm winter garden can also be used as living space all year round. This is ensured by direct heating and good insulation. The winter garden therefore becomes a fully-fledged extension of the house. Some builders use their winter garden as a place to relax, others as a playroom – for example with a billiard table or table football. And these are just two ideas for how to use a warm winter garden.

Building your own winter garden: is it worthwhile?

Should I build my winter garden myself or should I hire a specialist to take care of it? Of course this usually depends on the size and specifications of your project, but the type of winter garden also makes a big difference: it’s possible to build a cold winter garden on your own. Specialists offer kits to make the work a little easier.

If you opt for a warm winter garden, it’s vital to involve a construction company, if only to lay the foundations. This is because the construction of the foundation is very complex and some of the work can only be done with special machines. We also recommend hiring a specialist to install the heating system.

What you need to consider when building a winter garden

It’s particularly important to take your canton’s building regulations into account – as these can vary greatly depending on where you live. In most cases, however, all extensions that are directly connected to the ground require permission. This means that a building permit is mandatory in most cases. Your plans should also take into account the distances to the adjacent plots of land. Otherwise, conflicts can quickly arise with the neighbors.

Once the bureaucracy has been taken care of, the next step is to select your materials. They determine the statics, price and energy efficiency of the winter garden, i.e. key points of the building project. Wood, plastic, aluminum and steel all have their advantages and disadvantages. Wood has particularly good insulating properties, is very durable and ecological – but is also difficult to maintain and sometimes expensive. Aluminum is better able to withstand the weather, as well as being load resistant. It is also lightweight in relation to wood. However, there are also disadvantages, such as high costs and poor insulation. Plastic is inexpensive and easy to maintain but is less durable and does not always look as if it is of high quality. Steel is the exact opposite and very robust but can rust over time.

The roof and outer walls of the winter garden are mostly made of glass. But here too there are differences in the construction. Simple glazing is hardly worthwhile: too much cold air penetrates the interior in winter, and too much heat in summer. This means that there should be at least two layers of glass. And for a warm winter garden, three layers of glass are even advisable, because the heat is then retained much more effectively in the room.

In a cold winter garden, the insulation between the winter garden and the house is very important, as otherwise its energy efficiency will deteriorate significantly. You should also pay attention to the door leading from the living room to the winter garden and, if planned, to the door to the outside area, as well as to built-in windows. Even if it is often possible to integrate these aspects at a later date, you should consider sun protection and shading for your winter garden during the planning stage. Electric sun blinds are particularly convenient. Blinds on the outer walls protect against the sun.

View of a residential winter garden in the snow.

When fitted with a heating system, good insulation and furniture, a winter garden can be used as an additional room even when there is snow and ice outside.

The cost of a winter garden

The price of a winter garden depends on the type, size and the materials used. The starting price for a simple plastic kit is around 3,000 francs. If you are planning a warm winter garden that extends over several square meters and has extras such as underfloor heating and shading, you are more likely to be in the five-figure range.

Winter garden funding

In most cases a winter garden is an extension to an existing building. In order to receive subsidies for this type of project in Switzerland, it must involve modernization. The problem, however, is that each canton has defined its own requirements. You can find out more about the procedure in your region at

Even an existing winter garden can be eligible for funding. To qualify, the energy efficiency of the house needs to be improved by renovating the winter garden. Contributions of this kind can reduce the price of the winter garden and make your project more economical.

The most important questions and answers at a glance

What are the advantages of a wintergarden?

A wintergarden can serve several purposes. It offers sensitive plants protection from snow and frost or, if appropriately furnished, can serve as a living room close to the garden for spending cozy hours in the colder months of the year.

What is a cold wintergarden?

A cold wintergarden is characterized by the fact that it doesn’t have a permanently installed heating system. Its main function is to protect against the weather. It can therefore be used to temporarily store plants or equipment.

What is a warm wintergarden?

A warm wintergarden has a permanently installed heating system and good insulation. It is designed to be a place you can spend time in all year round. In other words, it represents additional living space.

Can I build my own wintergarden?

Building your own cold wintergarden is quite feasible. Especially if you use a specialist kit. Building a warm wintergarden is very difficult, above all because it requires the installation of a heating system. It’s advisable to consult a specialist.

Is a permit needed for building a wintergarden?

In Switzerland, a wintergarden is regarded as an extension – and always requires a permit. Please contact your local building authority for information on the exact procedure.

Which materials are suitable for building a wintergarden?

The choice of material depends first and foremost on your taste. Wood has good insulating properties but needs more maintenance. Aluminum and steel are very robust, but quite expensive. Plastic is inexpensive but can give the impression of being of low quality. The roofs of most wintergardens are made of glass.

How much does it cost to build a wintergarden?

Costs range from 3,000 francs for a simple plastic kit to five-figure sums for larger warm wintergardens.

Conclusion: there are many arguments in favor of creating a winter garden

More space for you, a better climate for your plants, added value for the property – and perhaps even cantonal subsidies. If you have always dreamed of having a winter garden, you may be able to realize your dream thanks to our tips. Have fun designing your project!

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