Everything You Need to Know Before You Build a Sunroom

Everything You Need to Know Before You Build a Sunroom

Sunrooms
Additions and Remodels
By Contractors.com Team June 14, 2021

Sunrooms are the combination of everything that makes the indoors and outdoors so comfortable. With the conveniences of indoor furniture, decor, and design features paired with the fresh air and sunlight of the outdoors, sunrooms, or solariums, make for one of the most relaxing spaces in the entire house.

This threshold between the outdoors and indoors is a perfect space for homeowners to get creative about building a sunroom. Imaginations can run wild with possibilities. From all-glass conservatory sunrooms filled with plant life and organic hues to more classical cathedral ceilings with rustic furniture, sun rooms bring together all kinds of elements to create a comforting and inviting living space.

Types of Sunrooms

Before planning or designing a sunroom, it’s worth glancing over the types of sunrooms there are. Sunrooms are seasonal rooms, so, naturally, there are variations of them that accommodate different functions, seasons, and activities.

Traditional Sunroom 

Adding On a Traditional Sunroom

Adding On a Traditional Sunroom

Also known as the 3 season room, the traditional sunroom is a glassed-in living space that allows you to enjoy the weather without having to leave the house. While there are detached variants of the sunroom, they are more often located within the main house. Since sunrooms aren’t normally a part of the home’s primary heating and ventilation systems, using the room during extreme weather conditions, like on a scorching summer day or a freezing winter night is not going to be the most comfortable of times. 

Four Seasons Room

A Four-Season Sunroom May Just Be What Your Home Is Missing

A Four-Season Sunroom May Just Be What Your Home Is Missing

Four-season sunrooms are similar to standard ones with the bonus of having heating and ventilation, allowing for the room to be usable in any climate or season — hence the name. Four-season sunrooms tend to have a larger area and come with more features, making for even greater comfort all year round.

Attached Greenhouse

A Greenhouse Sunroom Can Be A Place to Relax for You and Your Plants

A Greenhouse Sunroom Can Be A Place to Relax for You and Your Plants

Starting a garden sounds like a lot of fun, but not everyone is excited about working under the hot summer sun. Greenhouses are a great alternative to the traditional garden and with a greenhouse inside your home, you can garden in style and comfort. With enough sunlight coming through the numerous windows, which are an essential feature of any sunroom, you can create a luscious and fruitful garden.

Screen Room 

You Don't Need to Have Four Walls to Spare to Have a Sunroom

You Don't Need to Have Four Walls to Spare to Have a Sunroom

Unlike other sunrooms which have glass panes and solid walls, the screen room is essentially a sun porch with mesh-screen windows (or other less permanent barriers). This means you’ll be sitting out in the fresh air, minus the direct heat of the sun or the stinging of bugs. Considering how inexpensive window mesh screens are in comparison to glass and window frames, the screen room is a far more budget-friendly option. It is also very easy to install mesh screens around an existing porch and create an extra room for you and your loved ones to enjoy yourself during the warmer seasons.

Choosing the Windows for Your Sunroom

The Different Ways to Go for Sunroom Windows

The Different Ways to Go for Sunroom Windows

Sunroom windows are arguably the most important features to take into careful consideration when building the room. There are generally two types of window pane materials that sunrooms utilize: glass and polycarbonate. The latter is a light thermoplastic alternative to traditional glazing. Both of them have their own subcategories you should also know about, as this will allow you to finetune the qualities of your sunroom and how it functions. One very important factor to consider when choosing a windowpane is its U-value. This is a measurement of how much heat the pane can retain and how energy efficient it is. The lower the U level, the less heat that will escape the sunroom, making the room more energy-efficient.

Standard Double Glazed

Double-glazed windows have two panes of glass which makes them great insulators. These types of windows are quite common; more so than their single-glazed counterparts, which cannot retain as much heat. The U-value of a double-glazed window ranges from 3 to 2, depending on other coatings the glass panes may have. They are energy efficient, easy for glaziers to install, and are very practical.

Low-Emissivity Coating

For even greater energy efficiency, as well as protection from unwanted UV rays, you can choose a double-glazed glass window with a low-emissivity coating. Not only does the low-E (low-emissivity) coating allow them to retain more heat than standard double-glazed windows, but they are also a great choice for a sunroom if you plan on using the space during the summer. One of the biggest dangers of sunlight is exposure to potentially harmful UV rays. The low-E glass coating is the perfect solution to this problem, allowing you to enjoy your sunroom even on the brightest summer days. Low-E glass coated windows have a lower U value of around 1.7.

The Benefits of Low-Emissivity Coating Windows for a Sunroom

The Benefits of Low-Emissivity Coating Windows for a Sunroom

Argon Filling

The bar just keeps getting higher for energy efficiency and heat retention, and there are window options that are up to the task. If these two factors are your highest priority when building a sunroom, what you need is low-E coated double-glazed glass with argon filling (try saying that five times and fast). These panes offer the lowest U value among glass windows (around 1.5), making them the most heat-retaining panes you can buy. 

Polycarbonate Windows

Polycarbonate is not as energy efficient as glass, but the panes are easier to install and are much lighter. The thinner polycarbonate panes, which usually come at around 3mm, are very light, easy to install, and are much more cost-effective than anything else on the market. However, for more heat retention, thicker panels (20 to 25mm) can be used, especially when building the roof of the sunroom which needs to be more structurally sound.

The Exterior of Your Sunroom

Choosing How Your Sunroom Will Look from the Outside

Choosing How Your Sunroom Will Look from the Outside

Besides the windows, what is also very important in a functioning sunroom are the supports and frames in between the window panes. There are several for you to choose from and each one presents its own set of advantages.

According to professional sunroom construction services, vinyl is by far the most popular material that is used for sunroom exteriors and frames. Vinyl is a great material because it’s lightweight, durable, and energy-efficient thanks to its heat retention. All kinds of building projects outside of solariums are created using vinyl. 

There is also aluminum, which is not as heat-retentive as vinyl but is still very durable. With this greater structural integrity homeowners are free to get more creative in the exterior designs of their sunrooms. The most pricey option from these materials is wood. However, most screen rooms, for example, do incorporate wood, as porches are almost always made of wood. Wood is generally found to be more convenient and flexible to stylize in comparison to other materials.

The Structure of Your Sunroom

Building materials aside, the shape and exterior design of sunrooms is also an important aspect of the sunroom’s exterior. After all, this is a place that can stand out, wow, or even bring the most joy in a house. Most architects work with the following designs, although there are many more to choose from.

A Straight-Eave Sunroom Design

A Straight-Eave Sunroom Design

When it comes to the exterior design or stylization of the sunroom, the straight-eave sunroom is among the most popular. It is a standard rectangular sunroom with a roof that is fully or partially tilted to one side, usually away from the house. 

Sunroom Shapes and Styles

Sunroom Shapes and Styles

Cathedral sunrooms have a peaked glass roof surrounded by drywall. Thanks to the limited glass ceiling, there is more control over how much sun and heat enters the sunroom, perfect for a cooler atmosphere on hot summer days.

When A Place to Unwind In Your House is Priority, Opt for a Cathedral Style Sunroom

When A Place to Unwind In Your House is Priority, Opt for a Cathedral Style Sunroom

Another very popular design for sunrooms is the conservatory variant. This is an all-glass type of sunroom that sports glass from walls to the roof and comes in varied shapes, not unlike cathedral sunrooms. Very extravagant in design, the conservatory sunrooms are a gorgeous addition to any home’s exterior (and interior).

Sunroom Flooring Ideas

Sunroom Flooring Options and Ideas

Sunroom Flooring Options and Ideas

The flooring in your sunroom can also play a significant role in the heat retention or cooling of the entire space. There are different kinds of flooring materials you can use for the sunroom, but among the most popular are wood, vinyl, ceramic tile, concrete, and stone. 

Many flooring specialists and contractors recommend vinyl, as it is very cost-effective, able to absorb heat, and easy to install and maintain. Vinyl is also waterproof, making it a very good option for those living in more humid climates. 

Sunroom Accessories that Will Make It An Extension of Your House

Sunroom Accessories that Will Make It An Extension of Your House

However, depending on the kind of sunroom you are using, the flooring will vary. For example, a screened porch will typically have wooden flooring, as porches tend to do. If the sunroom’s foundation is connected to the backyard patio, then the floor may be stone or concrete. It is up to you to pick out the flooring, but for the sake of being on the safe side, it’s always a good idea to consult with the many professionals you can easily find online on which flooring would be best for your sunroom.

Sunroom Furniture and Design

Furniture and Design Ideas for a Sunroom

Furniture and Design Ideas for a Sunroom

No sunroom is complete without some stylish furniture to go along with the interior. Sunroom designs are all about comfort and coziness, so the kind of furniture you choose has to account for this. Soft cushions, soft tones, can work beautifully to complement black window panes, rich colored or patterned floors, or dark wooden beams on the ceilings.

Outside of simple comfort, sunrooms make for a great place to work thanks to the clean air and serene atmosphere they provide. Working on soft furniture, while comfortable, may not be as productive as with more rigid, yet sleek and stylish furniture. Stools and an accompanying minimalist table can make for the perfect corner to sit down and work in while enjoying the fresh air and the gentle sunlight.

Achieve A Sleek Yet Comforting Workspace In Your Sunroom

Achieve A Sleek Yet Comforting Workspace In Your Sunroom

Even if you are not building a sunroom greenhouse, having a plant or two can be great for decoration. Plants are the perfect sunroom addition, as the space is ideal for them to grow in. They are partially outside in the fresh air and also get plenty of sunlight, which gives them a much livelier appearance than if they were grown inside the house. A few potted plants could go a long way in making your sunroom more biophilic, even if an attached greenhouse is not what you are looking for.

Heating Up or Cooling Down

How to Stay Cool In Your Sunroom

How to Stay Cool In Your Sunroom

If you are looking to build a sunroom that you wish to use as much as possible throughout the year, heating and cooling is crucial for its usability. Fortunately, there are several ways of keeping the sunroom warm in the winters and cool in the summers. 

  1. Windows that open up are a very easy way to keep the sunroom breezy and cool during the summer. Since there also have to be a number of fixed windows, you should consider which of the windows would maximize the airflow throughout the sunroof.

  2. Ceiling fans are also a great way to cool off a room on hot summer days. There are many unique ceiling fan styles and designs for you to choose from, including ones that are not passé at all. 

  3. Air conditioning would of course be the most efficient form of, well, air conditioning. Especially if your summers tend to get quite intense, there is no better way to chill in a sunroom.

  4. For heating in the cold months of winter, a small gas wall heater can be very practical. It takes up very little space on the wall but delivers enough heat to warm up the room even if the windows of the sunroom are not particularly heat-retentive.

  5. If the sunroom is connected to your home’s central heating, radiant floor heating is also a lovely luxury to have. No need to turn on gas or space heaters when the sunroom can get just as warm as the rest of the house.
CT

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team

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