I would like to add a sunroom to the back of my house (if I can afford it).
I have two sets of French doors that lead onto a patio with a brick wall
(including chimney) between them and one brick wall vertical to that edge of
the house. The fireplace was originally a wood-burning fireplace with gas
igniter but was converted to gas logs several years ago. I would like glass
all-around the two walls that will be added to create the room and possibly
a tile floor. I live in East Texas (where it gets very hot), and I want
this to be a comfortable room where I can watch the birds, look at my
garden, etc. This means that the air conditioner/heating system would need
to be extended to the sunroom unless the cost is prohibitive, and I would
need electrical and TV cable connections.
Whew! I am single (nearing retirement age) and know absolutely nothing
about construction. I will use professionals for all of the work, but can
anyone give me some ideas about how I should approach this? -- questions to
ask, potential problems to watch for, etc. Will I need an architect (which
would be very expensive), or is this type of project simple enough that the
contractor should be able to design it. I do want it to be well done -- I
have heard too many horror stories about leaking roofs, etc. to want take
chances even if it would save some money. In other words, I will probably
want it done "right" (if I can afford it) or not at all (if I can't afford
Thanks for any help you can give me in getting started.
I wanted to add a small sunroom to my house until I got an estimate
(over 25% of the total value of the house/property). I freaked out
with the cost of doing it and settled on a greenhouse at a fraction of
You probably don't need an architect .. most renovations contractors
can design something as simple as a sun room and have engineers to
double check their work.
I would suggest you seek out a couple of contractors who specialize in
additions/renovations. You may find them through the local
homebuilder's associations, through ads in renovations or community
magazines. You may even spot them just by driving around ... most of
us put signs on the lawns of projects we're doing.
The best is word of mouth ...
You're probably looking for a fellow, old enough to have a good track
record of successful additions/renovations.
I'd ask for advice on how it should be built, and on the likely costs.
Just a ballpark -- a detailed estimate takes time. (Once they see
you're serious and that you value their time, they'll give you more
Pay special attention of the AC plan and costs. With an idea of
what's being built and how, I'd ask the contractor to check with his
HVAC guys, or approach a couple of HVAC contractors yourself ... be
prepared to tell them what system you have now, the size of your
house, the size of the addition and the exposure (ie south). Ask
them what you need and what the ballpark costs are likely to be.
If it all seems workable, check references carefully, visit a couple
of previous jobs and visit current job sites (including unscheduled
driveby's) .. and of course, talk to the owner.
Your approach sounds upfront and reasonable ... and that's the kind of
contractor you'll probably attract.
Thanks very much. There is lots of helpful information here. Incidentally,
I have used the same person for AC service for 24 years (18 years in my
previous home and 6 years in this house). He is a gem, and I want his
services to be included in the contract.
Since our sunroon was about 360 sq. ft., the general contractor and HVAC
subcontractor both recommended going with a central unit. If your room is
not large, and if it is on the north side of the house, and if you live in
Minnesota, you might get by with a window AC. For my money, it is worth
something to make sure you have enough AC. If you have several people over,
the last thing you want is a marginal AC situation. Our central unit is in
the attic space above the room. The compressor sits outside beside the
other system's compressor on the same concrete pad. There is probably less
noise with the central unit. There may even be energy savings if you use
the room a lot.
Please remove ZAP to email me.
Thanks! I'll look into this ... I do like things cool, and the whole point
of a sunroom is to be able to spend time there looking at birds and
plants -- and enjoying it, which I can't do in the "real" outdoors because
it's too hot for me! Someone else mentioned a heat pump. I'll ask about
both of these possibilities. I really hadn't thought about a second AC or a
heat pump until I saw these messages. I had assumed that the AC/heating
ductwork from the house would have to be extended, and I knew that could be
a major problem. I also know just enough about sizing a unit to the area to
be heated and cooled to know that it often isn't feasible to just "add a
room" for a n existing unit to cool.
The HVAC unit we added contained a 2-ton AC unit to cool the 360 sq. ft
sunroom. Our main unit has a 4.5 tons of AC for about 2200 sq. ft. The
main unit was not big enough to handle an additional room of that size. One
rule of thumb I've read before on this ng is 1 ton per 600 sq. ft. Maybe
someone else can verify this.
Please remove ZAP to email me.
<grin> If he is a gem, you do want to give him all the work you can.
The contractor will be torn between the prospect of maybe adding
another reliable subtrade (your guy) to his phone book (most of us are
always looking for good people) and the risk of using an unknown (to
him). He/she may resist a little, at least at first.
Here's an experience I had in January on a major basement
The owner liked everything about my proposal ... but said he had an
electrician that he'd used many times in the past and would like to
give him the work if possible.
I said ...well, he must be licensed, he must work under permit, he
must be available when I want him, he must finish the job by the
deadline .. etc. etc. etc. Even so, I said, you're probably
better off using my electrician ... he's a master, he does neat,
clean work, I can count on him when I need him and he charges
Still, the owner persisted ... and I finally agreed to at least talk
to his man -- give me his name and phone number.
You've probably guessed it -- his electrician and my electrician
turned out to be the same guy!
I'm in a city of more than a million people ... what are the chances?
Go with a professional patio company. I went with Patio Enclosures, and am
extremely pleased. They had the fairest price out of 3 bidders, and the
best quality as well. Plus, their installers are full-time staff (as
opposed to contractors), so that made me feel even better about the quality
of the installation.
To give you an idea of price, mine was $12,000 for a 3-season room. A
4-season room like what you're wanting would have been about $19,000. Of
course all that depends on size, amenities, etc.
Something else to consider is that if your room has a conventional roof rather
than glass, you will be blocking a lot of light that used to enter the
french doors to the room with the fireplace. My Mom had one, sort of,
the walls were regular wood construction and roofing and was attached to
the wall of the house. The outer wall had 6 regular windows set about 6
inches apart. Two regular windows in one end and two windows and a door
with a large glass pannel in the other end opening to the deck. She
used a heat pump mounted in the wood under the end windows. Even
through I don't care much for a heat pump for heating, I must admit it
did a good job summer and winter. She had a couple of ceiling fans and
connections for phone and TV cable out there too. Her's was on the
north side of the house and we are in the East Texas Pineywoods. She
loved to sit out there and look out over a few acres and a small pond.
I added one to my house several years ago. I have one suggestion. Get them to
build a brick base wall around it. about 2 1/2 feet tall. it makes the room
more stable looking and in my opinion richer looking. I had to go though a few
companies before I could get one to agree to doing it my way. ( they all wanted
to sell me the cheap version) get a brick or cement block base. BG
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