Brighten Your Home with a Sunroom

Imagine enjoying the sun’s warmth, surrounded by lush green plants on a cold winter’s day. Imagine fresh spring breezes and long summer evenings while protected from insects. A sunroom conjures up images of tranquility, relaxed living and a green outdoor environment indoors.

Whatever your dreams are for a sunroom, there are a number of things you need to consider.

What is the main purpose of your sunroom? Will it be an extension of your family’s living area, or do you seek a private space for reading and quiet contemplation? Will you want an eating area for leisurely weekend breakfasts or space for entertaining? Do you plan to do extensive gardening or other hobbies?

Do you want to use it all year ’round or for only part of the year? A four-season sunroom is built on a foundation and is heated and fully insulated. A three-season sunroom should be wind and waterproof, while a two-season sunroom may be no more than a deck or porch with a roof and screens.

Will it be part of the house or a separate area? A sunroom can take many forms. It may be a sunny breakfast nook integrated into the kitchen or family room, a glassed-in front porch, or it can be a separate structure that is added to your home. It can be an all-glass solarium, which may be purchased as a complete package ready for installation, a classical conservatory, or it can be constructed as a traditional addition, but with more windows, glass doors and skylights.

Think about cooling. The most common problem that homeowners experience with sunrooms is overheating. Professional renovators advise this problem can be largely avoided by proper window selection. There is a wide range of windows available designed for year-round comfort. To begin with, choose ones that open for good cross-ventilation in the summer time. The type of glass is equally important. Look for glazing with reflective film which will keep some of the sun’s rays out and thereby reduce heat gains. Use venting (opening) skylights, and consider built-in blinds for windows, skylights or an all-glass roof. Whether the sunroom faces south, east or west is also an important factor.

Consider heating. With a large glass surface area, you can expect greater heat losses in the cool seasons. Energy-efficient windows can help keep the heat in. When you are planning an all-season sunroom, your renovator will also look at your heating system to assess if it can handle the additional heating requirements. The renovator may recommend expanding your system to ensure that your sunroom is warm and comfortable on even the coldest days, or possibly a separate heating and ventilation system if the room is large and constructed primarily with glass.

A good foundation is a must. According to experienced renovators, all-season sunrooms or solariums should sit on a proper foundation that extends below the frost line. Otherwise, you may have excessive movement due to settling or frost heave, which can result in broken windows.

Trim nearby trees. Deciduous trees can provide shade in the summer time. However, if you have a glass roof, watch out for overhanging trees with branches that could break and fall on the roof. Make sure that tree branches cannot damage the windows in a storm. If the foundation excavation damages the roots of a nearby tree, prune the roots properly to prevent further damage. Building codes require tempered or laminated glass for the roof to avoid dangerous shattering in case something does fall on it.