Some years ago I lived in Minneapolis, and as a Southern California transplant, I had the notion that sun equates to warmth. Many a day I would gaze outside at the beautiful, wintry sun and think, “Well! It looks nice enough to BBQ.” That is, if you literally wanted to freeze to death since a sunny 10-degree day is both sunny and, well, 10 degrees. But what a shame to not enjoy that sun, I thought, even if you wouldn’t want to experience the frigid outside air itself, not to mention the ensuing frostbite.
And then came actual warm weather and with it mosquitoes the size of a small bird. Again, I felt cheated that I couldn’t sit outside to enjoy the lovely weather I’d been anticipating.
Based on this experience, you might say that the concept of a sunroom was designed with the Minnesota climate in mind. Do you live in an area with similar weather patterns? If so, you might be considering adding a sunroom. Here’s what you need to know.
Two Different Types of Sunrooms
Also known as a solarium or conservatory, a sunroom expands your home’s usefulness during the less seasonable months of the year. If you’ve decided that it’s for you, then you’ll need to decide between a three-season and four-season porch.
A three-season porch is most typically used in milder weather — spring, summer and fall — while a four-season porch is designed to be heated and cooled so you can enjoy the room even on those freezing winter days or summer scorchers.
“The value in the warmer months is clear, but a glass-enclosed space can also help combat cabin fever in the winter,” said Eric Pickell, sales and marketing manager for Orren Pickell Building Group near Chicago.
The decision on which choice is best for you depends on your budget, time frame and how often you believe you will use the sunroom. Let’s explore each in depth.
Comparing Costs and Building Materials
Your costs will vary primarily because of the building materials you use and the complexity of the project. “A four-season room is designed to essentially become part of the home and therefore is meant to blend into the existing residence,” said Nick Derus, owner of Derus Home Improvement, near Milwaukee. That means a four-season sunroom typically is built with the same building materials as your home, including a foundation, footers and insulation.
“Heated concrete or stone floors are especially popular in four-season rooms, and choosing the right windows can help bring the outdoors in without driving up heating and cooling costs,” Pickell noted.
Of course, the cost of a sunroom can vary widely, based on the features you choose to include, but Derus estimates a traditional four-season room starts in the $60,000 range.
By contrast, a three-season room is typically built from aluminum with a concrete floor and starts in the $30,000 range.
Costs will also vary based on whether you add electrical wiring, which windows and roof you choose, the size, interior finishing and other features.
Length of Construction Time
Building time varies as well due to the difference in structures. Derus says that building a three-season room can be done quickly, as in a few weeks, so you can begin to enjoy it right away. “A four-season room is more complex by design, needing heat, and insulation taking about two months,” he said.
For a more complex type of the four-season room — complete with natural stone flooring, cedar ceilings and board and batten walls — Pickell estimates it can take six or seven months.
The Sunroom That’s Right for You
The best way to decide whether a three-season or four-season sunroom is the better option for you is to not only look at your budget and timeline, but also investigate your lifestyle. If you live in a climate with wild temperate swings and envision yourself wanting to use the room consistently throughout different weather conditions, a four-season sunroom might be right for you.
HomeAdvisor estimates a sunroom can recoup about half its cost in the return on investment, but that’s not the only factor to consider. In addition to potentially adding future value to your home, a sunroom is an upgrade that can vastly improve the quality of your life year-round.
Have you added a sunroom? We’d love to hear the features that were important to you!
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