Should You Add a Sunroom to Your House?
Picture yourself on a bright, cheery morning. You’re sitting, enjoying the outdoor view. The sun is shining and nature is unfolding before your eyes. You sip your hot beverage and go back to your reading. In the background, soft music plays. The smell of fresh baking wafts in the air. Peace and tranquility surround.
But wait. Something’s missing. There’s no wind blowing papers off the table. No flies buzzing about, examining your food or landing in your hair. It might even be the middle of winter with newly-fallen snow on the branches or a cool spring day with flowers peeking out from thawing ground. Yet you’re warm, totally comfortable and entirely relaxed.
That’s because you’re sitting in your new sunroom and know it’s the best investment you’ve ever made in your home. Adding a sunroom to your house was always your dream, but it didn’t become a reality until you researched your options. Making an informed decision before investing in a sunroom addition took prudent due diligence but was well worth the time.
This picture could be you after looking at what’s available for building a sunroom. You’ll hear the terms “three-season sunroom” and “four-season sunroom” as well as “patio covers,” “screen rooms” and “conservatories.” You’ll wonder, “Should I add a sunroom to my house?” and “How much does it cost to add a sunroom to my house?”
The terms and questions are normal for industry professionals who build sunrooms. Adding a sunroom to your home is more than most do-it-yourselfers can take on, however, experienced sunroom craftspeople will make your sunroom addition as stress-free as when you’re finally sitting there enjoying it.
No doubt you’re thinking about the advantages and disadvantages if you add a sunroom to your house. Those are natural considerations. They follow even the most basic question and that’s “What is a sunroom for?” To help you make that informed decision, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of sunrooms as well as other things to consider.
What Is a Sunroom?
A sunroom is a special place in your home. It’s where you bring the outdoors inside yet control your environment by buffering you from nature’s elements. That includes heat, cold, rain, wind, snow and especially the bugs. Sunrooms are the perfect solution to enjoying your view of the outdoors while experience the comfort of inside.
Sunrooms are a structure surrounded by glass with screened openings that can be opened or closed depending on your choice. They’re often referred to as patio rooms, solariums, outdoor enclosures and, occasionally, as Florida rooms. Sunrooms feel completely different from the rest of your home. That’s because of the amount of glass that allows light to beam inside.
After the original house is built, homeowners often add sunrooms as an affordable interior living space that extends into nature. There are many different styles and configurations of sunrooms. The best designs work to blend in with your existing structure and appear part of your home, not something stuck on as an afterthought.
Openness and visibility are the two big benefits sunrooms deliver. They’re also affordable with most sunroom additions being less cost than conventional construction. Sunrooms often use existing bases like concrete patios or wooden decks and have opaque roofs as opposed to solid shingles.
Think of your sunroom as a modern-day porch. For years, American homes were built with front or back porches where families would gather or seniors would sit to enjoy the outdoors while being partly protected. That lasted only until the rain and wind or wasps and bees sent people scurrying inside to watch nature from the kitchen window.
Sunrooms evolved as conversions of porches and patios. As technology advanced, the materials available offered creative uses where outdoor spaces were captured and contained for multi-weather living. Patio or sunrooms are now built of lightweight and high-tech products like:
- Structural vinyl
- Engineered roof panels
- Insulated, thermally-broken glass
- Solar-treated, low emissivity (Low-E) glass
- Radiant heating and air conditioning devices
But what is a sunroom for exactly? Sunroom uses are as varied as their occupants. Besides the main spirit of naturally bringing the outdoors in and incorporating natural light, sunrooms add space and function for all kinds of activities. Some versatile uses are:
- Sitting and enjoying views while protected
- Relaxing in a spa-like retreat
- Quiet sanctuary for reflection and contemplation
- Enjoying afternoon tea or a good book
- A perfect home office
- Television or music rooms
- Children’s play area
- Cozy space for family gatherings
- Flex-space for multi-activities, games and crafts
- Exercise and workouts
- Greenspace for plants, birds and even fishponds
Sunrooms also evolved into many different designs and applications like three-season and four-season or year-round sunrooms. While not true sunrooms, other variations you might consider are patio covers and screen rooms and conservatories. Here are the main differences between your sunroom options.
Three-season sunrooms are designed and built to be occupied during the spring, summer, and fall. They normally use less-expensive and light-weight materials that work to let light in and keep out wind and rain. Three-season sunrooms also are designed to provide shade from the direct sun and offer some cooling during hot summer days.
Sunrooms built for three-season use aren’t normally insulated or provided with any auxiliary heat source. They might have fans to circulate air and provide a bit of relief from high temperatures. They may also use temporary space heaters to take the chill offspring mornings or the edge from fall nights.
Three-season sunrooms are economical alternatives to more robust additions made for year-round enjoyment. In warmer climates like Florida where the nickname arose, many three-season designs can be stretched into four. In cooler locations like south central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland, winter conditions prevent light, uninsulated sunrooms from being used from November through March.
If you live outside the sunbelt and want the soothing effects from your sunroom twelve months a year, then you should consider stepping up to a more expensive and thermally-protected addition like a four-season sunroom.
Just as the name sounds, these sunrooms are enjoyed year-round. Imagine setting up your Christmas tree and opening presents in your sunroom. There are no monthly barriers with four-season sunrooms, and that’s because they’re built to take nature’s full force all year long.
The main difference between three and four-season sunrooms is their thermal resistance or insulation capacity. These are stronger, heavy-duty additions that incorporate double pane glass that may have specialized treatments like inert, argon filling or low-emissivity coatings.
The roofs, walls, and doors in four-season sunrooms also contain sufficient insulation and protection against the climate they’re installed in. Many year-round sunrooms appear as an extension of the main house. They incorporate the same roof with overhangs and use the same siding products.
Where four-season sunrooms differ from the main structure is the use of knee or low-height walls. Knee walls usually rise around two feet and allow space for electrical plugs and baseboard heaters. They also use as much continuous wrap-around glass as structurally possible. While most roofs are solid and not glass panels, often multiple skylights are strategic places to capture light.
The other main difference in four-season sunrooms is they have artificial heat for cold times. They might also be equipped with air conditioning for hotter days when sitting in a regular sunroom is unbearable. Heat and cooling sources may be hooked into your homes existing mechanical systems or they might be independent. A good sunroom supplier will know what HVAC systems are right for your location and application.
Although three and four-season sunrooms have many uses, it’s important to understand they’re not greenhouses. Sunrooms are designed to control sunlight where direct heat is shaded from the interior, not encouraged to be trapped for solar-gain like greenhouses. Greenhouses are different structures for entirely different purposes. However, house plants and herb planters do well in all sunrooms. So do seasonal flower boxes.
Seasonal use of your sunroom is the main consideration when weighing the pros and cons of each type. With so many obvious pros to every sunroom, it’s hard to find many cons. Here are a few small disadvantages to adding a sunroom to your house.
Cons of Sunrooms
The main concern many people have is whether adding a sunroom is worth the cost. There is no right answer to this other because it depends on the homeowner’s needs and budget. The personal enjoyment and lifestyle value you’ll get from a sunroom addition may be priceless. It’s impossible to put a cost figure to the peace and pleasure you’ll get from your sunroom.
Depending on where you live, there may be other cons to consider before adding a sunroom. Some other concerns regarding adding sunrooms may include:
- Possible increase in property taxes
- Potential adjustment to your insurance rate
- Extra utility expenses, especially if you add a four-season sunroom
- Limited privacy that may require drapes, blinds or other window coverings
For those concerned about increased property taxes, consider the flipside, which is an increase in home value. Many buyers in the Northeast and Midwest place high value on homes with sunrooms than purchasers in the south and west. Surveys by the U.S. News & World Report and the National Association of Remodelers place sunroom investment return between 51 and 92 percent.
Ask your sunroom provider about some of your concerns. They’ll be happy to help you with whatever cons you might see about adding a sunroom to your home. That includes answering your other questions like, “How much do four-season sunrooms cost?” and “How much does a three-season room cost?”
Costs of Sunrooms
The cost of your sunroom addition depends on what your intended use is, the amount of time you intend to spend in your sunroom and how you use it will dictate the size. Size, in construction, is a prime indicator of cost. So are the quality of materials you select and the level of craftsmanship you employ.
Cost also depends on such variables as:
- The area you reside. Some places like high-demand cities can be more expensive than rural areas with lower labor rates.
- The location of your sunroom. You may have difficult site preparation issues or challenges in tying into your existing structure. Demolition of old construction may also be costly.
- Energy efficiency. Many high-tech, energy-reducing products are available but increase in cost with sophistication.
- Finished surfaces. Elaborate millwork and stone flooring will drive up the price.
- Dependable sunroom contractor. Established companies carrying overheads may quote higher estimates than start-up or fly-by-night businesses. Choosing a contractor based on low price may be a higher cost in the end.
Choosing a Quality and Dependable Sunroom Contractor
Your choice of sunroom contractor may be your biggest consideration when planning this addition to your home. Quality, dependable contractors need to charge a fair price for their work and they earn it. Not all sunroom contractors are equal by any stretch. Make sure you check out a sunroom supplier as closely as you investigate the design and materials you’d like.
Some things to consider in a sunroom contractor are:
- How long they’ve been in business. Make sure your contractor has been operating for some time and plans to be around for a lot longer.
- Their specialization in sunroom design and installations. Sunroom specialists know the peculiarities of sunroom construction. It takes experience to build a leak and trouble-free structure.
- They’re customer-focused. Many companies talk about customer service but don’t deliver. Great companies have great people who look after their clients’ needs. Take a look behind the company scenes and listen to what previous customers have to say.
- They’re licensed and insured. Find out if they’re a member of a local homebuilder or renovation association. Check their record with the Better Business Bureau.
- They have examples of sunrooms they’ve built for others. Visit their showroom and inspect products for fit and finish. Your eye will tell you a lot.
- They handle all aspects of sunroom additions. This includes obtaining building permits and arranging inspections. A quality sunroom contractor will thoroughly handle your project from start to finish.
- They provide excellent warranties. All reputable sunroom contractors stand behind their work and back it up with a comprehensive warranty. They have strong relationships with their material suppliers and installation crews that minimize the chance or problems. However, when issues arise, they’ll take care of you.
- They avoid using prefabricated sunroom kits. They custom build your sunroom to blend into your home. Good contractors use individual components that specifically work for your job. They don’t work with kits or try making one-size-fit-all.
- They are easy to communicate with and don’t use high-pressure sales pitches. Quality sunroom contractors spend time giving you honest information and then step back. They let you make an informed decision about adding a sunroom to your home.
Garrety Glass takes pride in being a quality sunroom supplier to satisfied clients throughout South Central PA and Northern Maryland. Because our customers have such unique needs, we offer an extensive range of products for your sunroom addition.
Our Sunrooms come with a 50-Year Warranty and are backed by the Craft-Bilt Manufacturing Company, which has been an industry leader since 1946. We use a simple business formula: Quality Products + Fair Price + Best Installation & Service = Everybody Wins.
Learn more about what sets us apart from other York and Harrisburg sunroom companies when you visit our showroom. Request a free consultation with Garrety Glass today.