If your home doesn’t have a sun room, then I’ve got news for you: you’re missing out.
These were hugely popular in new colonial-era constructions, and now, they’re making a huge comeback for a host of reasons.
We’re going to break down why sunrooms are popular, what’s good about them, and everything you need to know if you want to take the journey into making your own sunroom in your home. This is your one-stop guide on sunrooms and all of their caveats.
- 1 What is a Sunroom?
- 2 How Much Does a Sunroom Cost?
- 3 Do You Need a Special Permit to Construct a Sunroom?
- 4 What Types of Windows Does a Sunroom Need?
- 5 Sun Room Furniture
- 6 Do Sunrooms Need Heating or Cooling?
- 7 The Best Addition to Your Home Yet
What is a Sunroom?
A sunroom is a current room in your home or extension of your home where one or more walls are made up almost entirely of glass window panes. This allows massive amounts of natural light to come in, hence the name sunroom.
It’s a way to spend time outside (or as close to outside as you can get) without worrying about pests, humidity, dirt, or the elements of the outdoors that are typically unappealing to a lot of us.
A sunroom may be a covered patio or porch, so long as there is a barrier between you and the outside word. If you have a covered porch, but it’s partially covered with mosquito nets as a barrier, then that is not a sunroom; it’s a covered porch.
As a way to get natural light, sunrooms were common in colonial homes because it allowed people to spend time in the sunlight during the dead of winter, but without the risk of freezing or fatigue that would come from constant contact with the cold.
Because humans require a certain amount of sunlight each day for vitamin D benefits, and we’re in a world where we spend more time indoors than ever, sunrooms have made a comeback as one of the most popular home additions out there today.
How Much Does a Sunroom Cost?
There are prices that range from $10,000 up to $65,000+, and some of the numbers you get are absolutely terrifying. The good news is, they’re not your only options.
These high prices that you can find from a quick Google search are from companies that are paying to be in front of you.
For the most part, they’re all good, solid companies, but they know what they’re worth. They’ll take care of everything from top to bottom, and you’ll be left with a mostly stress-free time, and a proper end result that you can be happy with.
But we’re talking about a ton of money here. It’s not chump change. You’re paying for all that labor for multiple people, as well as the materials, head contractor, and more. There are two other options you can take into consideration, which we’ll list down below.
For a basic sunroom of around 96” x 96” of livable space on the interior, you can get away with about $8,000, which is a much more attractive price tag than what I mentioned before. This is either taking the DIY or prefab route.
You can get larger sunrooms as well for around $15,000 that range about 144” x 144”, which is 50% more space than the $8K model we just talked about. Again, keep in mind these prices are not concrete, they’re just based off of averages.
If you take the DIY or prefab route, you’re going to spend considerably less money than if you hire a company or contractor to do it for you.
If you’re keen with construction and know you can build something that your family will be safe living under, then by all means go for it. There’s no reason not to give it a shot, just keep in mind that there are a lot of stresses that are going to come with it.
My recommendation to you, whether you go the DIY or prefab route, is to hire a professional home inspector to help guide you through the entire process. Have them inspect the ground and see if it’s ripe for a foundation. Get recommendations from them. Learn a bit about the project before you start.
Then, when all is said and done, hire them to come back out and inspect your job well done. This allows them to find structural damages, anchoring issues, improper balancing with support beams, and any other issue that could pose a serious threat.
Would it be a pain to bring down some of your creation just to put it back up again? Yeah, but it’s better than living under a roof that you know is unsafe.
DIY Sun Rooms
If you want to do this yourself, I wish you all the best. It’s doable, it’s just not going to be easy. You can find plenty of free blueprints online for others who made their own sunrooms, although they’re not guaranteed to be perfect, so take it with a grain of salt.
You’ll be sourcing your own wood, your own tools, glass, foundation, pulling your own permits, and making sure you have the know-how to build something sturdy and reliable for your family. This is a matter of safety, so take all the time you need to make a DIY sunroom.
Prefab Sun Rooms
You can buy prefab sunrooms, which are just basically kits that are shipped to your door. In these kits, you get glass panes, wooden paneling for the floors, metal roof sections—everything you need. It’s a DIY method, but with instructions.
These can still take two to four days to set up properly, especially as you anchor it to your home and build the wooden foundation for it. Not all kits come with wooden foundations, mind you.
There is nothing wrong with getting a prefab sunroom – many of them are built to last for fifty years or more. The glass is generally very high quality as well, so it’s rare to find serious lapses in coverage here.
No company wants to do a refund on something that costs nearly five figures; they do their best to get it right the first time.
Do You Need a Special Permit to Construct a Sunroom?
Yes, you absolutely do. There are some states where sunrooms are extremely uncommon, but even so, you still need a building permit of some sort. Your local government will have a page that tells you whether or not the required permit is specifically for sunrooms, or simply for home additions.
The most common state to have a sunroom is Florida, so much so that it’s referred to as “The Florida room” by some people, regardless of where they’re building one in the United States.
The state of Florida has very specific guidelines, so you or your contract will have to pull very particular permits to build a sunroom. There are certain state and county regulations for sunrooms.
Is a Sunroom Considered a Living Space?
This is a question that I love answering, because it can boost your property value by so much if you just do one thing slightly different than most people do. If you build a sunroom as an addition, and it’s part of your home, it’s still technically not a living space.
However, if you want to include it as part of your living space, you simply have to hook it up to your home’s HVAC/central AC system.
It has to have some form of temperature control that can help beat the outside weather conditions. If not, it’s basically like having a greenhouse on your property, which doesn’t count as living space.
If you build a 144 square foot sunroom and it’s attached to the door that used to take your from the kitchen to the backyard, all you have to do is make sure it has that central AC/HVAC connection for it to constitute as a living space.
It’s also a good idea to have 110V electric outlets attached to the sunroom so you can plug in basic extension cables. Depending on your city and state, this may be a requirement for it to conclude as a living space.
Adding this on as a living space can add $8,000 up to $25,000 onto your property value depending on the quality of the sunroom, the size, and if it’s optimized for enjoyment.
Can I Build a Sunroom Over my Patio or Deck?
I don’t mean to be vague, but it depends. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s not going to be as effective, and it might not be legal depending on your local laws. For example, in Madison, WI, it’s actually not legal to build a sunroom on a patio or a porch.
Unless your patio is just a level, concrete foundation that is attached to the home, and you still have two or more entrances/exits to the home after building a sunroom around that door.
The main problems come down to being on a raised platform. You can put a canvas canopy with mosquito netting on a deck, screw it into the boards, and call it a day. You can do that on a patio. But a sunroom is different. It needs to be stable and built as part of your home.
A sunroom is also called a four-seasons room because it’s meant to be used year-round. If you try to build a sunroom on a raised deck, you have nothing but heating and cooling issues as far as the eye can see.
Heat can travel through the wood and escape, and cold air can come in through the gaps between your floorboards and enter your sunroom. It’s just a heap of trouble.
If you do build your sunroom on your patio, it should be with the intention of anchoring it to your home like an extension. Otherwise, you just have an expensive-looking shed that you cannot include as living space later on down the line.
What Types of Windows Does a Sunroom Need?
This is going to be completely up to you, because during DIY construction or when you hire a contractor, costs are going to be pretty high.
When you go from single-pane to dual-page, the price jumps, and there’s more to talk about than that. These are the different types of windows you can get and their primary functions.
Sun Room Furniture
You’re not just going to put a leather couch in a sun room, you know?
It’s going to become burning hot in the daytime, and ice-cold to the touch at night. That’s not ideal. Instead, you need specific sunroom furniture to remain comfortable while you’re out there. This is what you need.
Wicker is fairly resistant to UV rays, and doesn’t get brittle just because it spends some time in the heat.
The main reason that wicker is a top choice for both sunroom and outdoor furniture is because it doesn’t garner mold or mildew from sunlight and/or moisture. If you leave your windows in your sunroom open and some rain gets in, you didn’t ruin anything.
These go on your wicker couch, chair, and anything else that you’re bringing into your sunroom. If you leave some hinge windows open because you wanted some fresh air, and then go to bed without closing the windows, you don’t want your upholstery to get ruined.
Moisture-resistant cushions can get wet, but they don’t hold onto moisture, so there’s no mold or gross fabric that develops an odor.
Many sunrooms have tile, ceramic, or even hardwood floors. But with the sun beating down, these can get hot to the point that it’s uncomfortable to walk on them.
Get an area rug to sit underneath the main furniture pieces in your sunroom, and you’ll be able to walk without feeling like your feet are burning
I know this is a sun room, but if you’re in here and trying to read during the day, then you might run into a hard time.
Depending on where sun glare is coming in through the panes, you might have a hard time working on that laptop, or reading that book. Curtains help to at least diminish direct sunlight when it’s being a bother, rather than when it’s being helpful.
Do Sunrooms Need Heating or Cooling?
Normally, a sunroom was an afterthought during construction. Sometimes it will be a few glass panels making up a 45° sloped roof and one wall, and in those instances you should have access to the central AC and heating system through ventilation shafts.
But if it’s a sunroom that’s been attached to the house, one with three walls of glass panes all looking outward, then it’s probably not connected to any central heating. This room is going to need some heating and cooling power.
During the day, the sunlight will magnify heat through the glass panes and warm up the area. However, this is only really present from about noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, which is the peak heat for most areas. After that, the temperature changes.
You can enjoy a sunroom at night and just look out into the darkness with a few lamps to guide your reading. It’s actually a very calming thing to do. But when night falls, so does the thermostat.
Glass is actually a bad conductor of heat, which helps you out. It doesn’t hold on to heat, but it does act as a semi-useful barrier against it. For this reason, you’ll find a lot of info pointing to using dual-pane windows and doors for your sunroom. This isn’t smoke in mirrors; there’s some science behind it.
Because glass doesn’t conduct heat well, it normally conducts cold a lot better. If your panes are cold and you’re throwing heat at it, the panes will favor the cold. But with dual-pane windows, there’s a thin layer in between two separate panes.
This means the outer pane hold onto the cold, and the inner pane is more reactive to the heat/insultes better because it’s not battling a drastically different temperature.
The point is, you still need cooling in the summer so the room doesn’t turn horribly hot, and heating for nights and in the winter.
Your sunroom is infinitely valuable in the winter to help keep those “winter blues” in check, but you don’t have to freeze your hindquarters off in the process. Space heaters and tower AC units should suffice for these areas.
The Best Addition to Your Home Yet
We don’t know how long quarantine life is going to continue for, but doesn’t it make you wish that you could have a little indoor-outdoor space to go and just soak up some vitamin D from the sun?
Sunrooms are making a comeback. They’re functional, great for reading, and just overall relaxing. It’s like being in the sun’s grace for a chunk of time every day, giving you peace of mind and meditation when you need it the most.