The Sky’s the Limit with Sunroom Designs Today’s styles and materials offer a seamless transition from house to yard
By Jennifer Miko
Just imagine lounging in your backyard without the threat of rain, heat or insects. Picture yourself cozy on a chilly evening looking at the stars, or sitting in the Texas sun without the harmful UV rays. No matter where you live, it’s hard to escape the outdoor elements. And depending on the season, you probably limit your outdoor exposure because it’s too hot or too cold.
To help bring the outdoors in, homeowners can select creative additions to their existing structure. One that adds inestimable value is a sunroom, sometimes called a Florida Room or Patio Room. It offers the comforts of the indoors with an outdoor living focus, and its uses are limitless.
A solarium is similar to a sunroom in that both are constructed of glass, adding more usable space to a home while providing comfort from the outdoors. The main difference is that solariums often have curved glass corners and glass roofs.
Patio or deck areas are already part of many floor plans, so enclosing them with a sunroom creates a natural extension of the home. Families can designate this addition as a workout room, office, dining area or quiet retreat. The possibilities are endless due to the improved construction available for newer sunrooms.
Many early sunrooms were described as an “add-on piece” or a “box on a house.” With new materials and styles, they now offer a seamless transition from the house to the yard. Homeowners can peruse catalogs from sunroom companies for wonderful design ideas. Some vendors sell sunroom kits with many design options, and ship them directly from the factory. Installation for most orders can be completed in as little as a few days to a couple of weeks.
National and local sunroom dealers offer competitive prices and sales incentives. Browse their catalogs and online showrooms to explore the vast options. Prices will fluctuate based on the size of the addition, and materials selected. Compared to adding a room with sheetrock and exterior finishes, such as Hardy Plank or brick, the overall cost of a sunroom is considerably less expensive.
Like any addition, blueprints can be drafted to create a unique sunroom. Lot size and the existing structure are two important influences on the design. The practical uses for the room depend on the permissible size and from where the sunroom extends from the home. Once the layout is determined, the sunroom can be designed to integrate the home’s architectural features.
SOUND OPTIONS FOR FOUNDATIONS
Some properties already have a concrete patio where the owner can construct the sunroom. If one doesn’t exist, a conventional framed foundation may be necessary depending on the climate and property grade. This traditional and cost-effective foundation is recommended for heavy use areas. It consists of concrete footings that must be deeper than the frost line – about three to four feet below the grade. This will prevent the foundation from moving when the soil expands and contracts with the changing temperature.
Another choice is a wood deck foundation. It’s constructed primarily with high grade lumber, which should be resistant to moisture and insects. Pressure treated lumber is the most economical and efficient. The main components of a wooden deck foundation include footer posts, beams and decking material. The deck material can be deck boards or exterior grade plywood, depending on the final flooring choice for the room.
When designing the foundation, consider the heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical wiring needs of the addition.
Another important element to consider is whether the sunroom’s roof will be constructed of glass, wood, aluminum or steel. Options for the addition could include matching the roofing to the home, and installing skylights. Conventional roof systems will cost more and may take a little longer to construct. They are framed with roof trusses or wooden beams. Then plywood sheathing is attached, and finally the shingles, or other matching roofing finish.
Some roof designs have sleek angles and dramatic pitches that add to the “wow” factor of the sunroom. Peaks draw the eye upward, increasing the illusion of grandness, while the windows extend the view to the horizon.
The roofing aesthetics are certainly important, but manufacturers also consider the maintenance and effects of the weather on the roofing choices for sunrooms. Interlocking roofing panels are also available from some distributors. They are extremely energy efficient and provide protection from the sun’s heat. Panels are coated with high quality baked enamel for a long-lasting, low maintenance finish.
High grade aluminum is another roofing alternative which is practically
maintenance free. It just requires an occasional power washing to rinse off dirt and debris. A less expensive option is to add glass walls to an existing structure to construct the sunroom.
Manufacturers offer unique options for glass roofing that complement the style of the home. A dramatic effect is created when the glass extends across the ceiling and down to the foundation. Beams of wood or aluminum reinforce the windows and add to the graceful outline of the room. Contemporary sunroom designs feature a curving symmetry in the glass, while a “straight eave” glass sunroom works well with any style home.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
With any installation, a contractor’s experience is crucial to the outcome of the project. Poor craftsmanship or cheap materials can cause dreaded leaks. Discuss important details such as insulation and gutters, and confirm that the contractor has addressed how the rainwater will flow off of the roof.
The wonderful new views of a sunroom bring with it an abundant amount of natural light. Fortunately, thermal engineering designs now help regulate the interior environment of the sunroom to keep it comfortable throughout the year. Respected sunroom manufacturers offer high performance, tempered glass for safety and strength. They are built to block summer heat and protect against UV penetration.
For convenience, sunroom windows can be equipped with security latches and additional child safety features. Many companies also sell windows that open inward for easy cleaning.
Some windows can be installed with screen options giving homeowners the option for a nice breeze. Most screens are self-healing and puncture-resistant, depending on the brand. Fiber mesh screens can also be added to block the sun’s heat and glare.
GREAT CHOICES UNDERFOOT
Designing a sunroom is an exciting adventure with so many possibilities. Once the primary structural elements have been completed, though, the focus turns to the interior. Flooring choices are not limited to tile anymore. Some types of treated wood flooring will withstand the bright light, and can tolerate heavy foot traffic. And area rugs add color and function throughout the room.
Walls of windows now replace sheetrock with the great outdoors. To add some softness to the room, window treatments such as blinds and shades can be added for privacy and protection from the direct sun. Remote devices can also control specially designed shades tracks on the windowed walls and even on the ceiling.
In a short time, a sunroom can be designed, constructed and decorated. It quickly adds a functional room to a home by extending the living space. This cost-effective addition adds value to the current living environment, as well as for generations to come.
A sunroom is an impressive architectural addition that more than increases the size of a home. New and improved materials assure comfort and safety, while manufacturing techniques offer endless design opportunities. The seasons are visibly extended and enjoyed with this addition. Now, families can reach for the sky with their versatile new sunroom.