Sunroom Additions: A Cozy Luxury
A sunroom is a place where the indoors meet the outdoors and the cozy comforts of the home merge with the organic freedom of nature – that romantic spot where sunny days are great for watching blooming flowers and beautiful sunsets and rainy days make for cozying up with a favorite book. The spot may not be a necessity, but with its glass windows revealing an expansive sky above or another gorgeous view, a sunroom is a beautiful luxury worth exploring for your home.
Sunrooms vs. Conservatories
To the purist, a sunroom might be defined as a conservatory, a small greenhouse or glass-enclosed room in which plants are grown and displayed, and often known as an orangery. Renaissance Conservatories is a great resource for inspiration, and we often specify them for custom skylights.
To the less formal, the glassed-in room meant for year-round use is referred to as a sunroom. The more casual sunroom will typically have less glass and less ornamentation, but can serve much of the same functions as a conservatory. A cost-effective sunroom is often custom-designed and constructed like a traditional home addition, but embellished with more windows and skylights.
Sunroom Design & Style
Sunrooms can range from extravagant to simple, from romantic to more practical. Because a sunroom is a space just for you, it can be custom tailored to match your tastes and lifestyle.
A sunroom can range from a high style, gothic-like glassed-in greenhouse with arched windows, finials and roof cresting to a simple, box-like addition with a shed roof punctuated by skylights and casement windows. No matter your preference, we recommend your sunroom addition be designed to harmonize and complement your current home. It should have a roof style, scale, mass and fenestration designed in a way that is sympathetic to the existing house. Thoughtful design will provide you with the most resale value and is the best long-term investment.
But it is also possible, with the right design, to indulge your personal whimsy and passions with unique design details and flourishes – remember, a sunroom can be one of the most customizable and picturesque parts of your home. Although it may appear aesthetically extravagant on the surface, it can function in a very practical way.
What to Consider Before Building a Sunroom
It is imperative your architect or design-build team considers ventilation when designing your sunroom addition. If your intent is to use the sunroom for growing and displaying plants, it’s important to plan for proper ventilation. Awning-style, hopper, casement or double hung windows can be integrated into the walls of the new room. Additionally, operable skylights (manual or motorized operation) would be a prudent investment for the roof. If your sunroom is intended more as a greenhouse, it’s critical to engage a greenhouse specialist to consult on ventilation, heating and cooling. For a room intended mostly for additional living space, it can be designed with traditional architectural services.
Heating & Cooling Sunrooms
A glassed-in room will have significantly more demands for heating and cooling than a normal sunroom addition. And the exposure of the room will play a big role in the heating and cooling requirements. The answers to the following questions may impact the design, as well as heating/cooling solutions:
- Does the room face south where it will get an abundance of heat gain from the sun?
- Does the room face north where it will get less sun and be colder in the winter?
The climatic exposure must be considered in the design phase. The function of the sunroom will also impact the design decisions – will it be used truly as a conservatory for plants, or as additional living space?
There are many options available when considering heating and cooling, but when planning for a sunroom, the heating and cooling needs to be an individual system on its own zone, with its own thermostat. As the heating and cooling requirements will differ greatly from other portions of the house, the sunroom’s heating/cooling system must be planned in advance.
In our twenty plus years of experience as sunroom builders in Maryland, Washington, DC and Northern Virginia, we have seen a wide variety of sunrooms. Unfortunately, the poorly designed and built ones often get torn down, removed and disposed of (a huge waste of resources!). It truly pays to design your sunroom properly from the outset.
Homeowners frequently comment that their sunrooms “do not work” for them or “it’s too cold, hot, drafty or ugly.” Homeowners are especially negative about what they refer to as the “Wendy’s style greenhouse,” modeled after the Wendy’s restaurant chain. The curved glass roof greenhouse design has a lot of glass and can be either too cold and drafty or too hot and humid. While this greenhouse type of addition has become an iconic image for commercial restaurants, it’s not optimal for residential design (it might work well for modern houses, but it’s rare!). All in all, you should consider the ramifications before construction.
Well-Designed Sunroom Additions
The foundation for your sunroom needs to be designed to accommodate the purposes it is intended for. Because a sunroom has an abundance of glass, it is best to avoid a cold floor. Ideally the room should not be constructed on piers, with the underside of the floor exposed to the weather – it will be much colder. Preferably the foundation will be a proper continuous masonry – one with an insulated crawl space. If you intend to display plants in the room, it is wise to have an insulated concrete slab that allows for damp conditions and floor drains. A proper foundation with an insulated crawl space will also work best if the room is used as living space.
Your design team must also consider floor, ceiling and wall finishes. Moisture can damage wood so be sure to use materials that are in sync with the function of the sunroom/conservatory. Easy to clean, durable, cost-effective porcelain floor tile is ideal for wet floor conditions.
A sunroom can be luxurious, yet practical and surprisingly useful. Whether you want it as a quiet retreat from a busy day or as a place to nurture a green thumb, a qualified design-build team can work through the various sunroom options to find one that works best for you and your home. To discuss your own sunroom addition, contact Wentworth today!