In many peoples minds the idea of a sunroom or room addition on their house meshes with how they can use the room. Will it be used only in mild weather, or will it be most valuable to them if it will be used in all seasons and all temperatures? At some point the idea of a sunroom may cross over into a full room addition with multiple functionality. If a homeowner wants all season/all-weather use of the new room addition, then energy efficiency in design and in construction come into the equation very quickly. Wall thickness, insulation type, window type & design, roof overhangs, floor insulation, and remote heating and cooling all interact to impact comfort levels and energy usage. Even if the consumer is not focused on energy efficiency, wide temperature swings impact comfort levels and can make a room less comfortable. In many cases it is difficult and expensive to extend the houses existing hvac ducts to the new room. Even in the case where there is ready access to the existing heating system there is a potential issue if the existing system is adequate to heat and cool the new room. In many cases a remote mounted dedicated hvac unit is the best alternative. Fortunately great improvements have been made in the design of these units in the last decade. Everyone is familiar with the wall mounted air conditioner that is so loud it interrupts your sleep in a hotel or motel. Today similar units combine heating and cooling, are very quiet, and use digital thermostats to allow dedicated temperature control of a room addition or sunroom. This dedicated unit can offer many advantages, not the least of which is the ability to regulate the room temperature independent of the existing home. In addition when the room is not in use it is possible to conserve energy by setting the thermostat to the best temperature for energy efficiency. In many cases the installation cost of such a dedicated unit will be less than extending the existing duct work, and it will work better. If energy efficiency is taken in to account in designing the room, it is possible for the new room to be more energy efficient and comfortable than the rest of the house.
We frequently get a call from a prospective client asking us about adding windowed room for their back yard. In many cases the client is interested in a sunroom that will expand their living space and be usable for 8-12 months out of the year. There are, of course many ways to expand living space on a home, but a sunroom is one of the most popular. Frequently the homeowner would like to put this on an existing deck area. Unfortunately, this strategy can lead to all kinds of future problems. Very few decks have been built strongly enough to support a full room and roof weight. We have seen rooms built on existing decks that created innumerable problems with the existing house and the new room. These problems can include sagging, settling of flooring, roof leaks, and jammed doors and windows. In some cases the existing deck can be braced or supported to carry the extra weight of the new room, but in other cases the cost of the bracing, and the difficulty of installing it can exceed the cost of building a new support structure from scratch, especially if the old deck has any rot or structural problems. Since a properly designed and built sunroom enhances a homes value and usability, as well as expanding living space, it is always a good long-term investment to get an expert involved in the structural design, even if you are building it yourself. If you are planning on building it yourself or with a friend, you may want to enlist the help of an architect or licensed engineer to design the structural support. Different types of structural design and support may apply based on conditions such as height, size and shape of room, roof type, and type of house. All of these situations and more need to be taken into account in the load calculations for the room. If you are dealing with a design professional or a licensed and accredited builder, the structural design and support are some of the things you should ask specifically about. If your builder has the proper experience, background, and training in room design he/she should be able to assist you with a permanent, usable solution that will enhance the value and features of your home.