House & Home

Before Adding a Sunroom, Ask These 5 Questions

Posted May 28, 2015

Summertime's almost here and the livin' is easy. Part of your easy-living summer plans might be finally adding the sunroom you've dreamed of for years. Sunrooms are a delight, to be sure. They combine a delicious outdoorsy feeling with a certain amount of shelter from nature's less pleasant aspects -- such as rain and mosquitos. But before you get started hiring contractors and choosing wicker furniture, make sure you know what you are doing. Here are 5 must-ask questions to help you make informed decisions about a sunroom addition.

  1. Do you really, really want a sunroom? According to Remodeling Magazine's 2015 Cost vs. Value report, building a sunroom is a home improvement with one of the lowest ROIs. If you sell your house, you can expect to recoup only 48.5 percent of a mid-range sunroom addition's cost (that is, a return of just $36,704 on an investment of $75,726). However, the project may be well worth it if you are planning to stay in your current home for years to come and you and your family will use the sunroom regularly.
  2. How big should the sunroom be? It's tempting to answer, "As big as possible." However, extending your house's footprint with a home addition means calculating the amount of outdoor space you are willing to sacrifice. Local zoning regulations may limit how big your house can be and how close to the property line you are permitted to build. What's more, your property tax will increase according to the square footage of your sunroom addition, although it might be charged at a lower rate than the rest of your home.
  3. What exactly you will be using the sunroom for? This may sound like a strange question at first -- obviously, you'll be sitting there and soaking up the sunshine. But think about how else you might want to enjoy your new sunroom -- perhaps relaxing over a leisurely breakfast on weekends, entertaining friends, or keeping houseplants cozy in the winter, to name just a few possibilities. Your answers will play a major part in determining where to locate the sunroom and whether to install HVAC, for example.
  4. How will you control the sunroom temperature? On a sultry summer day, well-chosen blinds or curtains will enable you to block the sun's strong rays. Windows should be placed to allow for cooling cross breezes and made of reflective, low U-value glass to admit the smallest amount of heat. If you wish to make use of your sunroom in winter, a space heater or electric fireplace will help. (To avoid dangerous carbon monoxide buildup, make sure that any fuel-burning option is well vented and designed for indoor use.) Depending on the climate where you live, extending your home's ductwork into the sunroom so that you can use the existing HVAC system might be a good idea.
  5. Where would you like the sunroom to be built? A primary consideration is the exposure -- you want the room to get a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight daily. A south-facing location is ideal. Try to position the sunroom so it faces a gorgeous view; if that's not feasible, you can always create your own view with attractive landscaping. There are two practical considerations to take into account as well. First, constructing a sunroom off a house wall already fitted with a door or window will reduce your costs by as much as $8000. Second, you're likely to get much more use out of the sunroom when it is conveniently located. If it is intended primarily as a dining area, for instance, be sure to position it close to the kitchen.

Laura Firszt writes for

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