An Industry Classic

Ultraframe Marketing Director, Alex Hewitt, takes a look back over the lifetime of the industry’s original conservatory roof system – The Classic Roof System.

“Ultraframe was founded as a small local window company back in 1983 by Clitheroe’s John Lancaster. At this time, anyone who was getting involved in the emerging conservatory market was making their own roofs from window frames – but with his technical mind and business aptitude, John Lancaster soon saw the need for a systemised roof and in 1988 our Classic Roof system was born.

The UK’s love of conservatories took off quickly and demand at Ultraframe’s Clitheroe HQ grew and grew until 1994, when production of the Classic Roof was licenced out to a number of fabricators across the UK.

As the success of Ultraframe and its fabricators continued to grow, John Lancaster continued to invest in the system and a need was identified for an accreditation that would demonstrate the quality of the product. In 1996 the Classic System was the first conservatory roof to gain third party accreditation from the British Board of Agrement – an accreditation we are extremely proud to still hold today!

Over the years that followed, Ultraframe and the Classic Roof system became synonymous with innovation, and a stream of exciting enhancements to the Classic system came thick and fast, including a new name in 2000, when the system was renamed as Classic, in place of its original moniker - the Victorian System.

In 2001, the Conservaglass range of dedicated roof glass was launched, followed by a patented Speedlock in 2002 which reduced fitting time and ensured that bars at the ridge end were securely held in place. In 2004, we launched the Ultra Installer Scheme – a way to help homeowners looking for a conservatory installer to find a reputable Ultraframe installer. This was a huge step forward for the conservatory sector as it was the first scheme of its type. Several years later in 2006, Classic was further enhanced with the addition of patented Chambered Top Cappings which help to reduce torsional movement as well making the roof more thermally efficient and secure.

By 2006, such was the popularity of the Classic Roof within the booming conservatory sector, that Ultraframe launched the Certificate of Authenticity. This document, which is still used today, gives homeowners reassurance that they have indeed received a Classic Roof, and not one of the many imitators which are often passed off as the Classic System. In the same year, the Tie Bar Replacement Kit was offered for the first time. This was another landmark enhancement due to clever engineering which meant that the tie bars which were disliked by many homeowners, were no longer needed on some roof designs. Twin Bolts were the next product enhancement to the Classic System which ensure that every glazing bar is securely locked in place to eliminate glass slippage.

By 2009, the market for colour was taking off, with many homeowners choosing wood-toned hues such as mahogany and rosewood for their windows and doors, and so our first range of coloured foils was launched so that conservatories could be colour-matched too. Over the next few years, a stream of clever widgets and features were added to the Classic Roof, including Anchor Clips and Conservaflash, but the next big change for the system came in 2011 when we launched the Classic Aluminium system in a nod to the emerging trend for slimline aluminum aesthetics for modern home improvements.

The years that followed saw a further stream of big changes to the system, which were the beginning of the Classic system moving from being a traditional conservatory roof, to a system that could also be used to give a more extension-like look for the modern conservatory designs that are still popular today. These large-scale launches included the Internal Pelmet in 2010 (which was called Livinroom at the time). This variable-sized pelmet enhances the warmth of a conservatory and gives a more ‘room-like’ feel to the interior. This was followed by the Loggia launch in 2012 which incorporated Super-Insulated Columns into a Classic conservatory to enhance the warmth and give a more substantial, stylish look from the exterior.

Along the way, there have been many more tweaks, enhancements and support for Classic users – it is a huge task to try and recount all of the history of our Classic System but also something that is fantastic to look back on and proudly recall all of the hard work and design passion that has been poured into Classic since 1983.

While our R&D Team have undoubtedly been extremely busy with Classic over the years, the product itself is not the only thing to have evolved– we have always prided ourselves on offering superb support to Classic users too. Early initiatives include our original paper-based Structural Design Guide, the Classic installation guide (which became the ‘bible’ for fitters across the UK), and the very first conservatory retail brochure overprints – closely followed by our magazine-style retail publication ‘The Essential Guide to Conservatories’. In addition to our ever-evolving marketing support for Classic users, thousands of them have been trained on how to survey, sell and install the industry’s original conservatory roof at our Training School of Excellence over the years, by well-known Training Manager Phil Wharf who has recently celebrated 25 years at Ultraframe.

As with anything at Ultraframe, things never stand still for too long and our most recent enhancements for Classic (which have been available since January 2021) include a Chambered Box Gutter, which means that that gallows brackets will no longer be needed for spans up to 4M, a Slimline Ridge, which is perfect for any contemporary conservatory, and a new suite of bolstered eaves profiles for use on large conservatories to increase the spanning capabilities of the system. The Bi-Fold Support Beam and Super-Bolster mean that Classic is now perfectly engineered to create the large spans demanded by modern conservatory designs and coupled with a 30% price reduction on the Classic Aluminium exterior option, mean that Classic is now an ideal choice for contemporary extensions. Finally, our trusty paper-based Structural Design Guide which was created all those years ago has been replaced by our new Enhanced Structural Design Guide (eSDG). This valuable digital tool allows Classic Roof customers to determine how big openings for doors can be in order for the roof to be structurally sound and is situated within our existing Udesign conservatory software.

It’s amazing to look back and see how our Classic System has evolved since 1983 – and I’m also very excited to see where it will take us over the years ahead.”


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