Do It Yourself Sun Room Guide

For those who want to feel like they are outdoors from within their homes, building a sunroom is an ideal choice.

Occasionally, everyone feels the desire to be connected with nature again. As much as we enjoy our backyards, weather does not always permit us to spend time in them. The bitter cold of winter and the scorching heat of summer simply make strolling in the yard too uncomfortable. Luckily, there is a way to enjoy the great outdoors year-round while reveling in the comforts of home. You can build a sunroom off your home to extend your living space and increase the value of your home. Whether you are starting from scratch or have a porch that you wish to enclose, here are some tips to keep in mind. Complete instructions for building a sunroom are beyond the scope of this article, but you will find information on materials, styles, and energy conservation.

Before beginning your project, first create a rough sketch of what you hope for in the finished project. The size of the sunroom, as well as the materials that you choose, will dictate the difficulty, cost, and scope of the venture. Plot out the dimensions of the room, including windows, doors, and skylights in the sketch. Measure carefully, as this preliminary design will help you purchase sufficient materials later on. It is also important to consider the legal aspects of adding an addition to the outside of your home. Most states require building permits and subsequent inspections of these structures. If you are unsure of your ability to build a room that meets safety regulations, consider hiring a professional to do the construction. Several companies specialize in building sunrooms and will tailor designs to meet your needs and wishes. Alternately, you may purchase a building plan, either from one of these companies or a local construction store. It will offer step-by-step instructions on how to create a structure that meets your budget.

Once you have made these preliminary decisions, it is time to choose your building style. Depending on how elaborate your room design is, a sunroom can cost between $5,000 and $22,000 to build. This price is also influenced by how much labor you are capable of completing yourself. Although a traditional sunroom is built almost entirely out of glass, you have other options from which to choose. Glass sunrooms are more prone to temperature fluctuations year round, so they tend to be less energy efficient. On the other hand, a four-season room offers a view combined with heating and cooling capabilities. These structures are inhabitable in every type of weather and tend to have at least partially traditional roofing. If you intend to use the addition largely for housing plant life, consider building an attached greenhouse, which can be accessed without exiting the home but has a humid climate designed for the comfort of vegetation. Finally, you may wish to have an enclosed room solely for fair weather relaxing, in which case a screen room is your best choice. The walls of these additions are made out of mesh, so they keep out bugs but allow air to circulate freely.

The materials used for building a sunroom depend largely on your budget and the activities for which the area will be used. For instance, wood is ideal for building a screen room structure, as the barrier can be stapled directly into it. However, wood's insulating abilities are negligible. For a more constant room temperature, consider using vinyl. The most popular structural material, vinyl is inexpensive, low-maintenance, and provides excellent insulation. Having chosen among these options, consider which materials the walls will consist of, keeping in mind that they will work to insulate the area. Both glass and polycarbonate are used, varying in price depending on their U-value (the length to which they can block the external temperature). The lower the U-value of a material, the more energy efficient it will be. When choosing glass, look for tempered panes that are double-glazed with a "low-E" coating, which will help them resist glare, external temperatures, UV rays, and damage. If you opt for polycarbonate, a transparent plastic material, look for the thickest panes available -- up to 25 millimeters. For added protection, make sure that they are "twin walled" or double paned.

Depending on when you plan to use your sunroom, you may wish to add heating and cooling devices. The position of the room will largely dictate how comfortable its temperature is throughout the year. Homes in northern climates should have sunrooms with southern exposure to take advantage of as much sunlight as possible. On the other hand, people in southern climates should position sunrooms to receive northern exposure. This will keep the room in the shade the majority of the day, protecting it from the south's notoriously elevated heat. Beyond this, think about installing a gas heater in the room for particularly cold days, or for those with a greater budget, radiant floor heating. Use exterior shades and curtains to block out excess sunlight. Include windows, sliding doors, skylights, and ceiling fans to provide circulation. Consult a design expert for the best way to conserve energy in your sunroom, considering all of the options available. For instance, simply having a complete roof with a few skylights can greatly decrease temperature fluctuations. By alternating glass ceiling panels with insulated roof panels, you can maximize the amount of light in the room while ensuring that it remains comfortably warm or cool. You can also limit the amount of glass you use by building knee walls. These structures comprise the first three feet of the sunrooms walls, providing a sense of enclosure as well as a place to run electrical wires through. Although these heat conserving measures may seem costly, they will save you a great deal in utility bills over time.

There are numerous options available when choosing a sunroom for your home. Whether you use your new space for growing tropical plants or lounging in the hot tub, it will offer you unique comfort throughout the seasons. You may be an avid do-it-yourselfer or may just wish to have a hand in the design. Either way, your sunroom will offer a breathtaking view as well as a sense of pride. It may be one-hundred degrees outside or there may be snow on the ground, but you will always be comfortable in a sunroom.

© High Speed Ventures 2011