If you are wondering “what is a sunroom,” then you have likely heard this space referred to by one of its other interchangeable names.
A sunroom is a glass- or screen-enclosed space with a lot of natural sunlight and direct outdoor access. It is designed to be a transitional space for use during milder weather, allowing you to enjoy both the indoors and the outdoors simultaneously. This living space is often referred to as a patio enclosure, a Florida room (at least in one state), a solarium, a screen room, or a sun porch.
It allows you to enjoy the outdoors without all of nature’s elements, like bad weather and critters. In addition, it is often constructed with a large amount of space dedicated to glass, which gives you an unobstructed view of the outdoors from the comfort of your home.
It is not required to have electricity or heating and cooling, although it will likely require building permits before it can be added on to a house. This building codes factor is what makes it more cost-effective than a room addition might be.
There are a few basic types of sunrooms:
- Three-season rooms: sometimes referred to as sunrooms, Florida rooms, or patio enclosures. This room is designed to be used as an additional living space during mild weather. It usually has several windows and patio doors that connect directly outside.
- Four-season room: This room is very similar to the three-season one, but it is designed to be enjoyed year-round. It is connected to the heating and air conditioning for comfort in any weather.
- Solarium or Conservatory: This type of room is very similar to the three-season room but with a lot more glass. It is a room constructed of all-around glass walls and a glass roof that is accessible from indoors. Its greenhouse design is perfect for growing plants or soaking up the sun.
- Screen room: This room is enclosed with screen windows and walls rather than glass. Its mesh screens keep the bugs out while giving the outdoors access. Like the sunrooms, these mesh patio enclosures are only useable during mild weather.
There are two options for constructing patio enclosures: prefabricated and stick-built addition. Prefabricated sunrooms are manufactured kits with everything necessary to assemble the sunroom, including the framework pieces and glass panels. Stick-built additions are custom-built sunrooms designed to your specifications.
Considerations for Adding a Sunroom
Patio enclosures or sunrooms can add value to your home and your enjoyment of it. However, there are some things to be considered before adding a sunroom. It is also vital to consider whether you want a sunroom or an actual room addition.
Heating and Cooling
Sunrooms are not required to have central heating and cooling like a room addition would. Sometimes heating is built-in when constructing a custom-built sunroom, but not usually cooling.
As technology has advanced over the years, heating is often added with electric baseboards, fireplaces, or portable heaters. Unfortunately, cooling is not as simple unless it is hooked up to the HVAC system. Opening up the glass panels, using fans, or plugging in a portable air-conditioner are usually the only forms for cooling.
Its lack of cooling could make the room uncomfortable for year-round use during the hot summer days. But, of course, this is often determined by your location as well – someone living in Southern California will have different weather than someone in South Central PA (1).
Unlike a true room addition, sunrooms are not required to have electricity wired in. It is more common to include when building a new one, but it is not required. If you are building a custom-built sunroom or even a prefabricated one, wiring for electricity will likely be added.
Note: wiring your sunroom with electricity does increase the construction cost, but it also increases the added value.
Construction costs for a sunroom generally tend be lower than a regular room addition. In most communities, it does not have the same building codes.
The cost per square foot will vary depending on quite a few factors, like whether it is a custom-built or pre-fabricated sunroom, three- or four-season room, built-in heating/cooling, etc. However, costs can add up quickly when you start to consider things like the energy efficiency of the glass and the design of the sliding patio doors.
There is also the benefit of having the additional flexible room in your home. It does not have a defined use like the rooms in the rest of your house might have. Its bright and airy features make it a great reading room, exercise room, office, or sitting room. It can be used however you want.
What is a sunroom FAQ
What’s the purpose of a sunroom?
A sunroom is designed to be an additional living area used in mild weather. It is a transitional space that connects your home to the outside.
Although it is commonly used as an extra sitting room, it can be considered a bonus room. Therefore, its purpose can be whatever you need it to be.
What is the difference between a sunroom and a sun porch?
There is no difference between a sunroom and a sun porch. Both are rooms enclosed with screen or glass and a roof that extends the indoor space outside. Therefore, sun porch is just another term for a sunroom.
What is the difference between a sunroom and a patio room?
A patio room is another term for a sunroom. The term patio is often used interchangeably with porch or room when referring to a sunroom addition specifically. The only time it differs is when you refer to patio enclosures, enclosed spaces built over an existing patio or paved area near or adjacent to the house.
Can a sunroom be a bedroom?
A sunroom is not designed to be a livable bedroom space. The room is often oddly-shaped, designed to allow in a lot of natural light, and usually not insulated adequately for bedroom use. It can be feasible for many homeowners looking to add square footage.
Still, some accommodations would need to be made first, specifically figuring out how to manage the light/privacy and make temperature accommodations for the weather.
Can you use a sunroom in the winter?
Not all sunrooms are considered four-season sunrooms. Its design is for an additional in-between space that allows enjoyment most of the year. This is especially true if you live somewhere with all four seasons and your room addition is a three-season sunroom. It is not designed for winter weather.
In order to keep using three-season sunrooms year-round, there are a few options that could be applied to keep the sunroom warm:
- insulate the walls/ceiling and install weather stripping
- apply tinting to the windows
- use drapes for insulation
- install a separate or extend the ductwork for HVAC systems
- use a portable space heater or electric fireplace
- baseboard heaters
Do you need a foundation for a sunroom?
Sunroom construction requirements vary from community to community. A sunroom addition will generally need a proper building foundation, although some lightweight kits can be built onto an existing patio or porch.
How do you keep a sunroom warm at night?
It sounds simple enough, but the best way to keep your sunroom warm at night is to stop the heat from escaping in the first place. Similar to keeping a three-season room warm in winter, this can be accomplished in a few different ways:
- insulate the walls and ceiling
- add weather stripping around the windows
- apply window tinting to prevent the solar energy from escaping
- use insulated drapes to cover the drapes
- use a portable space heater
- replace glass with double-pane glass that has specialized treatments (argon filling or coating) to prevent UV rays from escaping
The most efficient way is that you will want the sun to shine inside and warm the room during the day but close everything up to keep the heat in at night.
Can a sunroom be a living room?
Yes. One of the best features of patio rooms is the additional, versatile living space it provides your home. Using your sunroom as a living room has a lot of advantages as well:
- glass windows allow lots of natural light
- usually tucked away on the side of the main house
- able to enjoy the benefits of outdoor spaces while inside, including fresh air and nature
A three- or four-season room can be the perfect solution for an additional living room or just a new space to host guests.
Can I put a regular couch in a sunroom?
You technically can put a regular couch or furniture in three or four-season sunrooms, but there are a few things to consider if you do. A regular couch is designed for indoor use and is expected to be rarely exposed to direct sunlight. Although it would not be damaged by the cold or any other outside elements, the constant direct light will cause fading or sun damage.
Outdoor furniture is the usual recommendation for sunrooms, but finding a way to shade or cover traditional furniture could also be an option.
Can you put wood furniture in a sunroom?
Using wood furniture in your sunroom gives the space an outdoor feeling without limiting yourself to only outdoor furniture. Wood furniture requires a bit of maintenance to prevent damage and keep the pieces looking good over time:
- shield the wood from fading by using teak or mineral oil
- keep the humidity levels even
- refinish the furniture if it is faded or scratched up to prevent further damage
Do sunrooms add home value?
Yes, really well-made sunrooms can add value to your house, typically around 4-6%.
While porches or screen rooms specifically do not add any liveable spaces to the home, it is possible for a three- or four-season sunroom to add living space and increase the overall square footage. In addition, the natural brightness of the sunroom is an attractive feature to many. Plus, there’s the added value of an additional room for you to enjoy in your home.
Are sunrooms worth it?
There are definite pros and cons to sunroom additions that might make it worth it for your house.
There is, of course, the cost factor – it is generally more budget-friendly when compared to room additions since it does not require the same necessities, but it still has a cost. If you add a sunroom, it could eventually pay for itself in property value, although this increases property taxes (2).
On the other hand, sunroom additions provide versatile spaces between the indoors and outdoors that can be used in a variety of weather. It can be used for a sitting room, an exercise room, an office, or almost anything you might think of. However, the room is used, enjoying it and your family’s combined experience is what adds to your home.
This answer will vary from person to person.
Considering a room addition for your home, you will need to consider your vision. For example, a sunroom is a tempting option if you are looking for a bright and airy space that easily transitions from the indoors of your home to outside.
It might even be the perfect choice if you are looking for flexibility in how the room is used. Maybe it is a room to rest and relax in now, but changed to a greenhouse or workout room in a few years.
(1) – https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/states/southern-california/
(2) – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/millrate.asp