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Sunroom Buyer's Guide

What is a Sunroom?

A sunroom is a glass and screen outdoor living room installed on a wood or concrete foundation. It is also referred to as a patio room, solarium, patio enclosure or Florida room. Walls of glass bring in sunlight, and protect you from wind, bugs, rain, and chill. Composed primarily of single or double pane glass, sunrooms should be designed to fit the style and look of your home. Sunroom additions are a popular means of home improvement. They are an affordable way of adding space to your home. Sunrooms let you enjoy the outdoors in comfort. Depending on the style you choose, your sunroom can be a 3-season or year round room, increasing the enjoyment and resale value of your home.

The Evolution and History of Sunrooms

Think of a sunroom as a modern-day front porch! Farmhouses and urban row homes featured a covered porch as a place to sit and relax at the end of the day. With the retreat to the suburbs, families moved to their back patios for their rest and relaxation. But rain made patios un-usable, and bothersome bugs sent people running for cover. This motivated many families to cover and screen in their patio.

As the window industry evolved, it became possible to purchase storm windows and attach them together to enclose a patio, getting even more use from the outdoor space. In response to homeowners' desire for a better looking, more functional outdoor room, the patio room industry was born.

During the 1960's, professional re-modeling companies developed affordable systems to enclose a patio or deck, offering design, installation, and full service warranties. Patio rooms featured lightweight, engineered roof panels, single pane glass, and aluminum construction.

These versatile patio rooms extended the outdoor season, provided protection from rain and bugs, and gave homeowners extra space. As consumers became more energy conscious and building technology advanced, patio and sunrooms became available with insulated glass, vinyl framework, and more elaborate designs. Many companies also began to offer Greenhouses and Conservatories, which were popular in Europe.

How to Choose a Sunroom

When choosing a patio or sunroom you want to consider the best choice to meet your needs. How you plan to use the room should determine your choice of materials and size. Choose a sunroom style that is versatile and matches the architecture of your home.

Quality is a critical aspect to consider when choosing a sunroom. Seek a contractor who can demonstrate that they will use quality materials to construct your project. After all, a sunroom is an extension of your biggest investment - your home! Be sure it will provide many years of trouble free use.

Common Uses for a Sunroom

Sunrooms are the perfect way to use your deck without interference from the weather.
Other Sunroom uses:

  • Add extra space to your home
  • Bring the outdoors inside
  • Keep bugs out
  • A place to relax; enjoy the garden
  • Dining area
  • Breakfast room
  • TV / Music Room
  • Family Room
  • Game/Spa room
  • Place for pets or plants
  • Smoking /Cigar Lounge
  • Playroom for children, grandchildren
  • Hobby, Crafting or Exercise room
  • Place to read, relax, retreat and nap
  • Place to work
  • Entertainment area for special occasions, birthday parties or holidays

Size and Location of a Sunroom

First think about how you will use your new sunroom. Then, decide on the best location. Finally, decide on a size that will best fit your needs. Developing a budget may you help answer these questions.

Deciding the optimum location for your sunroom depends on how your sunroom will be used, and on your regional area. Sunlight exposure varies throughout the day and directional orientations will yield different effects. However, most homeowners install their sunrooms to the back of their homes.

Most people use sunrooms for leisure, relaxation, and casual dining. Many sunrooms are built off the kitchen or family room because these are the most often used rooms in the house. Consider the traffic flow of your home when deciding where to position a sunroom.

Vinyl (Insulated) or Aluminum (3 Season)?

Understanding the materials that go into a sunroom can help you select the product that is right for you. While aluminum patio and sunrooms have been on the market for decades, vinyl sunrooms have been introduced more recently and tend to cost more.

Think about how your family will use the room, and the climate in which you live. If you plan to heat or cool your sunroom during extreme temperatures, vinyl may be the better choice. Vinyl is strong, durable and thermally efficient offering double pane glass for the best insulation for year-round use. Vinyl extrusions require aluminum inserts to provide strength and rigidity in the posts and beams.

Aluminum provides structural support, is cost-efficient, strong, and light-weight. Aluminum patio rooms utilize single or double pane glass and are commonly used as 3-season rooms. Aluminum is a strong material and can stand on its own.

Choosing a Sunroom Company

One of the best ways to find a reputable company is to seek referrals from people who recently had sunrooms installed. Interview and meet with the recommended contractors to discuss your plans and ideas. Ask them for references and see the work they have done. Check their references but realize that contractors usually provide a list of their most satisfied customers.

Focus on quality and trust when you meet with a contractor instead of budget and timeline. It is important to trust the contractor who will be working on your home - your largest investment. Be cautious of lowball bids. When considering quality, you get what you pay for.
Make sure that the contractor is licensed and insured with a reputable firm. Ask if they are a member of local or national homebuilder's and remodeling associations. Ask how long a company has been in business. Choose an established company who will be around to provide you with assistance should a future problem arise.

Make sure the company answers all of your questions to give you enough information to make an educated buying decision. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints on file - and whether those complaints were resolved.

If the contractor has a showroom, check out their workmanship and the quality of their materials. The company should provide you with accurate to-the-penny pricing, without any hidden costs. Be careful about estimates or bids - they are often unreliable and you may find yourself paying more for the project than you were led to believe.

The company should use their own crews to install the room. The contractor/foreman should supervise the project with regular on site visits. The company should have a process to immediately notify you of changes or delays in the schedule. The company should take care of obtaining the building permit and arrange for the final inspection. Make sure that the company does in fact pull a permit; this is their responsibility. Without a valid permit and certificate of occupancy, you might not be able to sell your home with the sunroom in place.

Making Sunrooms Affordable

Your sunroom should be custom-built for your home. Choose a company who can manufacture a variety of styles and any size sunroom to complement your home and suit your needs. Look for a dealer who can provide you with financing options to work within your budget.

Sunrooms increase the resale value of your home. Homeowners who sell their homes say their sunroom helped their home sell quickly.

Avoiding Installation and Service Nightmares

A good sunroom company will educate you about the process they will follow in building your sunroom. This begins with a careful measure and site inspection by the company's technical staff, to check for concerns that might have an impact on the installation.

Your sunroom company should prepare the engineering documents and permit applications and submit them to the local building department, and arrange for the necessary inspections during the installation process.

The installation crew should be well mannered, hardworking, and considerate of your home and property. A lead installer or foreman should visit the job site every day.

Manufacturer and Service Warranties

Make sure the sunroom dealer offers a Manufacturer's Warranty and a Service Warranty. A warranty should cover the parts used in the installation for several years. Labor guarantees should cover at least the first year. A manufacturer's warranty may be separate from the dealer's service warranty.

Look for a company who stands behind their products and installations. Choose a dealer who uses their own crews of factory trained employees and not subcontractors. Be sure there is a parts warranty that is backed by a reputable manufacturer.

A Warranty You Can Count On

A warranty is only as good as the company who stands behind it. You need to be able to count on the manufacturer to be in business if you ever need warranty service on your sunroom. Visit the manufacturer's website to find out how long they have been in business, and whether they have a long-term, exclusive agreement with the dealer in your area. A good strong relationship between the manufacturer and the company who installs your sunroom usually means better service and installation.

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