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Bring the Outside In with a Sunroom or Patio Enclosure
A sunroom or enclosed patio can add a wealth of natural light and beauty to your home, as well as increase its resale value. Both can expand your living space, and provide a place to be with your family or entertain company while enjoying your home’s outside surroundings. To add a sunroom or patio enclosure to your home, you can opt to do it yourself, or use a little or a lot of outside help. This guide will fill you in on everything you need to know to achieve a sunroom or patio enclosure.
If you want to be relatively hands-on with the project but are not interested in planning every detail, you can purchase a pre-designed kit that provides the directions and materials to build the sunroom or enclosed patio yourself.
If you want a sunroom or patio enclosure but do not want to do it yourself from scratch, you have a couple of options. If you want to be relatively hands-on with the project but are not interested in planning every detail, you can purchase a pre-designed kit that provides the directions and materials to build the sunroom or enclosed patio yourself. If you want to leave the project to the professionals, you can hire a contractor to build your sunroom or patio enclosure from the ground up, or you can purchase the structure from a manufacturer who will provide the labor to construct it.
If you are an experienced DIYer, or you simply have a lot of ambition and faith in your ability, you can build your sunroom or patio enclosure on your own.
Planning and Designing
The first step in this from-scratch method is designing the structure. Browse magazines, websites, and manufacturer catalogs to get an idea of what you want your sunroom or patio enclosure to look like. Make sure you know what your design options are before choosing one, because the architecture styles and possibilities are endless. Also consider how you want to use the room, whether it is more of a protective indoor space for plants, a place where your whole family will get together, or a relaxing retreat.
Harness the Sun
Your sunroom or patio enclosure should have optimal sun access to garner as much natural heat during the winter as possible. To achieve this, its main windows should face what is called the "solar south." The solar south is not the same as the compass south, so find out from the local weather service which direction is the solar south in your area. It is also acceptable for your sunroom or patio enclosure to face within 15 degrees of the compass south.
Sunrooms and patio enclosures typically are not exceedingly energy efficient. To improve your structure’s efficiency, use stone, brick, or concrete for its floor. These thermal materials conduct energy (cold and heat) and release it as needed. Water is the ideal thermal material, so water gardens are an excellent feature to incorporate into your sunroom if possible. You can also paint your sunroom or patio enclosure’s roof and walls a light color to increase efficiency.
Sunrooms and patio enclosures are usually built on a foundation that is a slab—ideally of stone or concrete. If you are building your structure out of wood, opt for pressure treated wood to compensate for variations in temperature. Each piece of wood should be stained or painted. You can also build your sunroom or patio enclosure out of aluminum.
The ideal windows to insulate and reduce glare in your structure are double-glazed. You should also op to windows with the lowest U-value possible—lower U-value windows allow less heat penetration.