Enclosed porches and sunrooms

Enclosed porches and sunrooms share many similarities. These structures are designed to be attached to the home for enjoyment even when weather conditions may be less than desirable. Homeowners will find these spaces are designed with windows and doors that can allow for easy access to fresh air, natural sunlight and picturesque views of the outdoors.

Both enclosed porches and sunrooms can be constructed in areas where there may be existing structures. However, these pre-existing spaces are not necessary for construction purposes though. Beyond these amenities enclosed porches and sunrooms differ greatly.

Enclosed porches feature designs which allow them to be utilized throughout the different seasons of the year. For this reason they are commonly referred to as three- or four-season rooms. These structures feature fully insulated walls, ceilings, windows and doors. HVAC systems including heat and air conditioning are sometimes installed in enclosed porches for comfortable temperature capabilities. Homeowners can control these systems with independent thermostats.

Sunrooms generally do not have heating and air conditioning installed. Instead these structures are heated by the sun, which shines in through multiple windows and doors featured in the structure’s design. Sunrooms are also known as solar rooms and three-season rooms because of the amount of time during the year in which they can be utilized.

enclosed porch

Enclosed porches or sunrooms can be utilized throughout the year. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List members Julie and Joe W.)

Converting a pre-existing space

There are many options available for individuals that want to convert their existing porch, deck or patio into a three-season or four-season room. These options include installing a prefabricated structure, having a custom built structure built or installing their own structure. The right option depends on the specific results the homeowner is hoping to obtain.

Open-air porches that have a roof overhang are the easiest and most economical structures to convert. Homeowners can purchase the materials necessary to build a simple enclosure to surround their porch, including lumber and windows. If access is desired to the exterior of the home through these structures, then a door must also be included in the materials list.

If year-round use is desired, heating and air conditioning vents can be installed with ease through the overhang without major complications. This is an ideal solution for homeowners who want the benefits of a three-season or four-season room without spending a great deal of money.

Decks and patios can be transformed into sunrooms, but it is crucial to ensure that a proper foundation is in place before construction on the sunroom can begin. Prefabricated sunrooms can be affixed to the home in the same area where the deck or patio was originally placed.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of prefabricated sunrooms is the cost. They can range from $18,000 to $50,000, depending on the size and design. If choosing a prefabricated model, be sure to ask if labor and the cost of the foundation slab is included.

Hiring a contractor to complete custom-built, enclosed porches and sunrooms is another option. While custom-built structures can be costly, the contractor will obtain the necessary building permits and ensure that proper inspections are completed without the homeowner having to perform these tasks on their own.

Professional contractors have a full understanding of the specific building regulations in their areas, which can provide homeowners with more confidence on the quality and safety of their structure. Custom-built enclosed porches and sunrooms are among the most luxurious and beneficial, as they are built in accordance with the homeowner’s specific requests.

This option is the most time consuming; however, most companies can have the structure completed within a week’s time.

Patios

A well-constructed patio can transform part of a grassy yard into an inviting extention of your living room. On pleasant afternoons and evenings, family and friends can relax, cook out, visit and play on a patio that flows naturally into your yard.

Patios work best on flatter terrain because you need a minimal amount of structural engineering to put them in. That's not to say that you can't install a patio on a hilly yard; it's just that the cost of building retaining walls and paying to bring in fill dirt to level out the site can increase the project cost.

When considering a patio project, you'll want to consider some factors and options:

• Look at the way weather affects your property and determine whether the way snow and ice build up could create a slippery hazard on a patio.

• Whether you use concrete, stamped concrete, pavers, stone or slate, great ideas can fit most budgets.

• If you want to use your outside space as a second dining room, you might consider adding a grill built in to the structure.

• How about a fire pit for those crisp fall evenings?

• If you're thinking about adding a hot tub or spa, a patio can usually hold more weight than a deck.

Patios can either be inexpensive or costly additions to your home, depending on your design tastes and the materials you use. A slate patio with a built-in fireplace can create a stunning addition to your yard, but a simple concrete patio can prove a more economical choice. Or, you can split the difference with stamped concrete. Hiring a contractor for the project will certainly cost more than doing the job yourself, but if you're not adept at home improvement, you might want to leave the work to a pro.

Patios require varying degrees of maintenance depending on the building materials. Certain patios may require weeding between paving stones, filling in cracks and sealing, as in the case of concrete slabs.

stamped concrete patio

The new patio provides plenty of space to enjoy the great outdoors with guests. (Photo courtesy of Choice Home Improvement)

Factors to consider

As with any building or home improvement project, it is important to consider many factors before beginning these projects. Here are some considerations that should be taken when planning the installation of an enclosed porch or sunroom.

Intended purposes of the structure. Depending on what you intend to utilize the structure for will play a big role in the best option for your needs. Homeowners who want to add on to the overall living space of their home, want to entertain guests or plan to have hot tubs incorporated into their design will want a bigger space that can be utilized throughout the entire year.

For these individuals, having a large, four-season room installed onto the back of their home will prove to be the most rewarding. However, for people who want a place to enjoy a quiet meal or relaxation, a three-season room should be sufficient.

Available budget planning. Having an established budget for constructing an enclosed porch or sunroom is important. Costs for creating a solid foundation, building permits, inspections, furnishings and other unexpected expenses should be figured into this budget. Let your contractor know upfront what your budget is. If he/she is not able or willing to honor your budget, find one who is.

Desired benefits. Both sunrooms and enclosed porches offer many benefits to homeowners. Some of the benefits include added value to the home, increased visual appearance for the property as a whole and additional living space. Determining these benefits will help to make the process much easier.

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