Enjoying the Seasons with a Sunroom

One of my favorite parts of the fall is the color of the changing leaves. They are absolutely beautiful. However, it is also the time of year that  the temperatures drop and we are often forced inside to warm up. Sunrooms are the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors all year round from the comfort of your home.

sunroom-builder-chapel-hillFrom escaping the summer heat to feeling as if you are in the middle of a winter wonderland  while the snow falls around you, sunrooms allow you to appreciate the outdoors 365 days a year. A room is considered a sunroom when the walls (usually 3 of the 4 walls in a typical square or rectangular room) are made up primarily of windows, allowing sunlight to come in easily. When considering a new outdoor living space, a sunroom is a great consideration.

Sunrooms increase the square footage of your home. From a dining space or family room to a playroom for the kids, sunrooms are versatile rooms in your home that you can use however you need. In my parent’s house, they use their sunroom as a place to have drinks and appetizers before moving indoors for dinner.

Patio, deck and sunroom comboAs opposed to decks, porches and patios, sunrooms can be used all year round if built with that intention. As you work with your sunroom contractor to design the space, make sure you can tell your designer that you want the space heated in the fall and winter. When the weather is nice, all the windows can be open to let the fresh air and breeze, but when it is cool outside, you may need a built-in heating option. Generally, sunrooms are energy efficient, heating up with the sun’s rays, but there will be times a heater is needed.

When my parents added their sunroom to the existing home, we were all surprised by how much it affected the rest of the home. It not only allowed more light to come into the general living space (which was a nice surprise), but it also made the layout of the house flow better.

Design is key when adding on to your home in any fashion. Pay particular attention to detail if making it look like it has always been there is important to you. For example, if you have crown molding and a certain type of window throughout your home, you may want to include it in your sunroom design. Mimicking the style and architecture of the home is one method to make sure everything works together.

If you have questions regarding sunrooms and sunroom design, please reach out to your local Archaeck Outdoor Living office.

Sunroom or Screened Porch? Why not have both?!

Deciding on a new outdoor living space is a big decision. There are so many options now, decks, patios, sunrooms, porches, outdoor kitchens and more, and they all have their own benefits. In preparing and budgeting for your projects, it’s important that you weigh what is most important to you. Is it size? Material? Budget? These are all questions that you should be able to tell your contractor when the time comes.

One question we at Archadeck Outdoor Living often hear is what’s best, a sunroom or a screened porch? In short, both are great outdoor living options that can add significant value to your home. But now, you don’t have to make the decision of sunroom or screened porch. You can have them both, in one project.

Our customers love sunrooms as they can use them all year round while still being surrounded (on three sides) by the outdoors. Those with screened porches love to sit in the shade and feel the breeze without being bothered by bugs. And then there are the lucky few that have both.

Sliding Window Panels Central Arkansas

PGT Eze-Breeze in use on an Archadeck of Central Arkansas project

Sliding and removable panels are becoming more popular in the outdoor living category because they provide customers with a variety of ways for their rooms to be used i.e. as both a sunroom AND a screened porch. PGT Eze-Breeze is a vertical sliding panel of vinyl windows that are backed with screens. When the weather is right, slide them down for a screened in porch, and pull them right back up when it’s raining! The panels are custom-made for your project and available in a variety of colors to make sure they complement your home perfectly. The vinyl window is lightweight to make the sliding easy and still provides the same view as regular glass.

Vinyl windows may not work for every location. Some homes need something more durable and insulating. For those customers, we have removable glass panels and windows. In the warmer months, the panels/windows can be removed so that the sides are just screened. And when it gets cold again, just put them right back into place. It’s all about options people!

Charlotte NC screened porch with outdoor fireplaceIf you are planning an outdoor living space and aren’t 100% sure what you want, it’s important to start asking yourself some questions, like how are you going to use the space? What views are important to you? The Archadeck Design Guide can help guide your thinking and prepare you for future meetings with contractors. And, as always, feel free to contact us, or your local Archadeck office for more information.

Don’t let the chill in the air discourage you from enjoying your outdoor living space

Arch. of maryland screened porch w skylights

This magnificent screened porch by Archadeck of Maryland uses skylights to add additional height to the vaulted ceiling, this result is open and airy.

The chill in the air is beginning to become more noticeable all around the country. It signifies the end of summer splendor and its long balmy days spent enjoying your deck. Just because summer has ended doesn’t mean you have to cuddle up inside to keep warm and miss mother nature’s splendor that is still unfolding all around you. Many homeowners are considering the ever-popular option of closing in their existing deck, or a portion of their deck and creating a three or four season room  or other outdoor structure that can extend your outdoor living enjoyment into and beyond the cooler months of the year. In order to determine if closing in to create an extended season outdoor living structure would be right for you there are several considerations that have to be bought to the forefront.

The first consideration that has to be addressed is the structural integrity of your existing deck. In order to accommodate the weight of a roofed structure. Many decks are not built to withstand the weight of adding a roof. In order for a deck to be able to withstand the weight of a roof. The foundation of the deck will have to extend all the way to the corners of the structure. In cases where the foundation does not extend to the corners, changes must be made to have the foundation extended and new footers will have to be added in order to safely support and hold the weight. Determining whether or not your deck fits conversion criteria can be answered from a quick inspection by a professional outdoor structure builder, and  depending on their findings will let you know how you wish to proceed with getting the deck structurally compatible to withstand a conversion such as a three or four season room, a screened porch or even a sunroom.

Cedar screened porch in Ankeny Iowa

Cedar screened porch in Ankeny Iowa

Once the issue of foundation reinforcements has been addressed, the next step is to decide which type of conversion would best suit your individual needs. Screen porches are very popular and can be enjoyed late into the fall in many areas around the country, but this all depends on your geographical location and whether the area you live in experiences mild autumns or more harsh, cold autumns. Making the decision to convert your deck or a section of your deck into a screened porch will have benefits even in the warm summer months by keeping insects at bay and protecting you from the sun. Screen porches can be in use even during inclement weather since they are roofed. This means that the backyard dinner you had planned won’t be put on hold with a little rain because you  would have a roofed screen porch to utilize. Many homeowners also opt to use a sliding window panel system to make use of their screened porch later into the year. A convertible windows like the EZE breeze sliding panel system and the Artistic Enclosures Screen Plus System offer you the ability to convert your screened porch into a three season room on demand. These convertibility systems use sliding glass panels that mimic the function of a sliding door and can be set into place very easily and quickly. By adding a space heater to the structure you can utilize the space for longer periods through even the chilliest season. By using a convertible system on your screened porch you can still feel the warm breezes of summer, and when the temperature drops you have the peace of mind  knowing that your screened porch also offers more function with added cold weather protection as well.

Archadeck of Chester County sunroom and deck

This design by Archadeck of Chester County includes a deck and a custom sunroom.

Another viable option when making the decision to enclose a deck or portion thereof, is a four season room or a sunroom. These type of structures function as an extension of your homes living area as well as an extension of your outdoor living area.  Four season rooms, as well as sunrooms give you an unobscured view of nature by the use of  numerous windows that sometimes even feel as though they are window walls. These structures can be used year round, snow or sleet because sunrooms and four season rooms require a HVAC system, or instill the use of a wall mounted electric inversion  heating and cooling system that offer individual room control  like those offered by Mitsubishi electric. In essence the presence of HVAC, or heating and cooling system creates a dynamic where you actually are getting a room addition when you choose to convert to a four season room or sunroom.

Here is an example of a sunroom that makes beautiful music with Velux skylights.

The world is your oyster in terms of design,when you choose to transform your deck into a four season room or sunroom.

Another benefit of converting your deck into a sunroom or four season room is the freedom of material choices that can be used within  it and to finish out your structure. A whole new set of design choices open up to sunroom and four season room owners. All of the same materials that can be used safely within an interior room inside your home can become finish options for your sunroom or four season room. These include sheetrocked walls, carpet, hardwoods and a myriad of other design choices. An added benefit is that the furniture used within your structure won’t have to be weatherproof when considering using it on your sunroom or four season room. The world is truly your oyster.

If you are on the fence about considering an enclosure or conversion of your deck, or a part of you deck into a screened porch or three season room or even a sunroom or four season room Archadeck can make it happen. Contact us today to learn more about improving the lifestyle you lead on your deck.

To learn more and find an Archadeck in your area, see our locations list located on our website.

You can also get more ideas and design inspirations by visiting our screened porch gallery, sunroom gallery, and our three and four season room gallery, also located on our website.

Do you want the unexpected when you’re hiring a custom builder?

Well, sort yes and sorta no.

Hmmm. That’s not a good answer. When you’re hiring a custom builder to build a large project for your home like a custom outdoor living area, you want to make sure that:

  1. you know exactly what you’re going to get so there are no surprises
  2. you get exactly what they promised

And, in a perfect world, you want a cherry on top. So what is the cherry on top of a custom build? The cherry on top can be getting the unexpected in the design process. In the design and consultation process, a good builder listens well and interprets your needs and desires into functional architecture. But a great builder will also suggest ways that you can build what you want that lead to better use or greater enjoyment of that structure.

So enough speaking in generalities. Here’s an example. When Harold Cross was fist contacted by this West Des Moines IA homeowner, they wanted to turn their existing 2nd story deck into a sunroom. They already had met with and received a plan and quote from another reputable builder. But they had also heard a lot about Harold at Archadeck of Des Moines and gave him a call for a design consultation so they could gain an understanding of what Archadeck might provide as a solution for their needs.

Before I continue, I want to show you the before and after so you have a picture in your head of what their old deck looked like.

Des Moines 2nd story deck conversion into sunroom

Des Moines 2nd story deck conversion into sunroom

Let’s look at a couple of things in these pictures. First, let’s look at the stairs. The old stairs emptied out into the side yard just near the playset and the fence. Likely the playset was there because of the orientation of the stairs. The other builder’s plan retained the stairs in the same location and did not provide outdoor grilling space other than by re-locating the grilling area to the lower patio area.  Harold saw this as creating a traffic pattern that did not facilitate ease of cooking with the 2nd story kitchen location. The existing (and other builder’s proposed) staircase location also created a bit of an eyesore.

In Harold’s plan, the stairs would have a landing and point the owners over to the area where they wanted to spend time on their lower outdoor living level. When Harold listens to what homeowners want, he also hears the feedback he’s had over the years from the owner’s he has built with. So many times something as simple as creating a staircase with a landing is something that makes such a huge difference in their quality and ease of living. It’s the sort of thing that homeowners mention again and again as a detail that made all the difference in the world.

The second thing you’ll notice about the picture above are the deck supports. There are two problems with these supports. First, they totally obstruct the homeowner’s ability to put any furniture on their lower patio and secondly, they create a virtual maze on the lower patio level. But, what Harold noticed was a third and much more serious issue. The old supports were not sufficient to hold the additional load of a room on the 2nd level. Although the other builder may have added this to his plans, Harold specifically communicated the need for structural enhancements for the roof load to the homeowner while the other builder had not.  This left the homeowner wondering what other critical architectural issues might be left unattended to in the other plans

Grilling deck next to outdoor sunroom in West Des Moines Iowa

Grilling deck next to outdoor sunroom in West Des Moines Iowa

When I mentioned before that the family would be grilling on the lower patio, this probably set off bells in your head thinking about the fire hazard or where they would put an unsightly outdoor grill in their backyard. The new design integrated an outdoor grilling area right outside the new sunroom. This accomplished a couple things. First, when the family wanted grilled-out food but wanted to eat inside, the grill was very easily accessible to the 2nd floor kitchen. The grill was also easily accessible to the lower level patio. But, it created a designated space for the grill that was not at all unsightly. Let’s face it, grills are unsightly. That’s one of the reasons outdoor kitchens are becoming so popular. People don’t want to see their large grill plunked out in the backyard or taking up room in their eating area. You’ll see from the picture above that there was a perfect amount of space to create a small outdoor grilling area and to leave the view from that window completely unobstructed.

Oh, another thing I forgot to mention was the placement of the stairs as it related to the new outdoor room. Had the stairs been left where they were, the traffic pattern from the house to outside would have been straight through the middle of the room every time. With the alternate door and stairs placement, the chef could easily get to the grilling and outdoor area without creating a traffic pattern through the middle of the room. Note: good for carpet wear too:).

Sunroom West Des Moines Iowa with Jeld-Wen windows

Sunroom West Des Moines Iowa with Jeld-Wen windows

Ok, enough about stairs and traffic patterns. Let’s talk about the new room! The new room is technically considered a 3-season room. It has heat through the baseboard heating and gets air conditioning from the house when the door is left open from the house in the summer. It includes insulated Jeld-Wen windows that crank out. The roof design is a collared gable roof.

Here’s a video tour of the all-new room.

Here is the rendering Harold provided to his client which included both a design rendering and an architectural drawing.

Sunroom West Des Moines Rendering and Architectural Drawing

Sunroom West Des Moines Rendering and Architectural Drawing

So, you definitely want the expected but is sure is nice to get a great unexpected too.

Here’s how to reach Harold Cross of Archadeck of Des Moines Iowa.

Phone: (515) 266 – 8844
Email: centraliowa@archadeck.net

Archadeck of Central Iowa blog: http://archadeckcentraliowa.wordpress.com/