Here are the answers to the most common questions we’re asked.  For more information please contact us to discuss your individual requirements.

The Portland Observatory
The Treehouse Observatory
The Buttress Observatory
The Isle of Wight Observatory

We take security very seriously – after all, we want you to enjoy your observatory (and its contents) for a long time.  Our doors are high-density hardwood exterior firedoors faced with cladding to match the rest of the observatory.  In the door you’ll find a 5-lever insurance-rated lock as standard (a second 5-lever mortice deadlock is available if you require it).  All windows are designed to be secure from the outside, and are glazed with laminated or toughened glass.  Where UPVC or aluminium doors and windows are used, these meet the very latest PAS-24 security standards and usually come with Police ‘Secured by Design’ certification.

Our roofs are secured internally when closed with heavy-duty locking hasps.  In short, it is probably easier to break into your house than our observatories!

To be honest, there isn’t really a “best” time of year.  Some of our customers choose to install in the Summer/Autumn in order to avoid disrupting their observations during darker winter months – getting the kit ready for the new season – whereas some choose to install in Winter/Spring to avoid garden upheaval during the Summer months.  It depends on your priorities, but bear in mind that we take comprehensive steps to avoid damage to your garden/lawn so it shouldn’t need time to ‘recover’ after installation…. equally, the on-site part of installation is very quick, so you won’t be without your observing space for very long!

Our observatories are mostly very ‘light touch’ when it comes to groundworks.  We don’t generally require huge slabs of concrete thanks to our strong, frame-based designs.  As such, only a few small concrete pads are generally required and a foundation for the telescope pier or pillar.  It’s therefore quite easy for you to do the groundworks yourself.  If you’d prefer not to, we can do them (especially if you are local to us) or we can provide a comprehensive plan for a local contractor to work to (this is usually more cost-effective than us carrying out the work).

It depends on the project of course, but many of our simpler designs can be designed, costed, quoted, built and installed within a month.  More extensive projects can take longer and of course we aren’t afraid to work on projects where the decision process can take much longer, such as community observatories where it can take months or more to agree the design and obtain funding and permissions.  We won’t rush you – but equally it can sometimes take a little time to get things just right.

Of course!  The main cladding we use nowadays, James Hardie’s “HardiePlank” fibre-cement cladding comes pre-painted in a range of about 30 colours and has the appearance of painted cedar ‘featheredge’ cladding.  It has the very real advantage of dimensional stability: unlike wood products it doesn’t expand, warp or twist as the moisture level in the air changes.  If you’d prefer an unpainted finish though, we can use a wide range of timber cladding from inexpensive redwood pine featheredge to beautiful woods such as Siberian Larch, as seen on our Highland Observatory.  One thing we don’t install any longer is the timber shiplap cladding seen on many of the earlier observatories on our website; the product is no longer produced to sufficiently regularised dimensions to meet our tight tolerances.  If you’re looking for a finish we haven’t mentioned here, just ask!

We haven’t yet – but we’d never rule it out.  In particular there are a number of manufacturers of domes which can be integrated into our timber designs.  This is sometimes a good solution when the sheltering aspects of domes are needed (e.g. in areas with lots of artificial lights in view) but a timber building is required to provide the flexibility of (say) a warm room or multiple observing areas. To be honest, we’d LOVE to design a dome observatory, so if you would like to combine the advantages of both domes and timber observatories, please get in touch!

Generally speaking, we design our observatories to avoid any requirement for planning permission or building regulations approval – the height and floor-space etc. will generally come within the allowed limits.  However if you live in a National Park or a designated AONB, the regulations can differ.  We can provide some advice, but you should definitely consult your local authority if you are unsure.  We have produced plans for planning applications in the past where permission has been required. A much more comprehensive answer can be found in our article here.

Yes!  We have previously designed and built observatories for schools and community organisations in particular. We’ve even designed a whole village of observatory houses! Commercial settings generally require a particular combination of reliability, functionality and longevity…. all three are cornerstones of our design principles.  In fact we are just about the only specialist observatory builder in the UK that can confidently take on commercial and community projects.

Only that it needs to be possible to build!  Seriously, our observatories are custom-designed for every customer – taking into account all aspects of its use, contents, location and owner.  If you want something that isn’t standard, you’ve come to the right place!  Why not take a look at our portfolio for some ideas – or send us your own and we’ll gladly assist!

Because we don’t have any ‘off-the-shelf’ designs, and thanks to recent volatility in timber prices, it’s impossible to give you a price list. However the price for our standard specification generally sits at around £140 (British Pounds) per square foot of floor space, excluding VAT. This guesstimate doesn’t include any required groundworks, pier or delivery costs, so the best way to get a clear answer on cost is to send your specification (size, roof style, whether you want a warm room) and your address to us for a quote – just email

When we provide you with a quote, our costs are based on a complex and very accurate calculation that prices all the materials, labour and transport/delivery required, so there are no nasty surprises for either side.

We can install observatories in the UK and most parts of Western Europe.  As our workshop is located in Surrey, England, please bear in mind that more distant jobs (either in the UK or abroad) will incur higher delivery costs, which also depend on the size (and overall weight) of the observatory itself.

For clients outside Europe, we also offer a design-only service.  Please contact us for further details.

Our designer, Neil Phillipson, is a fully City & Guilds qualified electrician (and an NICEIC-registered Domestic Installer). He is responsible for the design, installation and testing (and of course Part P certification) of all the electrics supplied with any of our structures. Whatever the project, we can install lights, sockets and heating as required – ensuring your comfort, safety and enjoyment. Lights and sockets are standard with our observatories of course!

These can vary for particular projects, but generally we require a deposit of 60% of the quoted price once you approve the plans, and the remaining 40% is payable on completion. Payment can be by bank transfer (preferably) or cheque.

Yes. We’ll need to use the toilet of course, unless you have an outside toilet. If you’d prefer that we have a portaloo delivered to site for the installation, please let us know. There will of course be a small additional cost to this, which is why we don’t do so as standard.

We’ll also need access to your home electrical consumer unit (fuse board), in order to make the final connections for the observatory. Finally, we’ll need a power socket and access to a tap whilst on-site (an outside socket and tap will be fine)

We’ll need access to your garden that is large enough for us to carry in an 8′ x 8′ panel of about 8 inches thickness. If your garden gate has a frame over, or if you don’t have external access to the garden, please let us know.

We’ll also need driveway parking for two vans and a long (20′ overall) trailer for the duration of the build. Please let us know if we’ll need to park further away from your house, as it will affect how we pack the van(s) before we come.

That’s a big subject, but one we pay close attention to. Our observatories are mostly timber, which we ensure is always purchased responsibly. All our carcassing timber is FSC-certified and so are our panel products. Our EPDM roofing has been subjected to a full lifecycle environmental assessment and is amongst the most environmentally responsible roofing types applicable to this type of project. We use class-leading insulation in our warm rooms to ensure minimal heat use and our double-glazed windows and doors (where applicable) are all A+ rated for energy efficiency. As a business we are constantly looking to improve our environmental footprint and have made significant investments in this area: most of our power is supplied from renewable sources, our waste is re-used or recycled locally, and we have recently invested in our second electric company vehicle.

Not at all.  As long as we have access to power and water (an outside tap is fine), we don’t need you to be around, and some of our previous clients have even been out of the country while we’ve built their observatories.  Whilst we’ll rarely refuse a piece of cake if offered, our staff always bring everything they need. However, we will need access to your house at the end the installation for the purposes of connecting the electricity supply to the observatory.

Usually, yes, we will order the pier on behalf of our customers. We have access to a range of piers from various suppliers, including Altair Astro, EMC and Pulsar. We’ll help you decide which is most appropriate for your needs and we’ll install it for you as part of the observatory commissioning.