Want to add a sunroom

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 it).
Thanks for any help you can give me in getting started.
MaryL
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wrote:

<snip>
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 the cost.
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wrote:

Hi Mary,
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 of it.)
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.
Good luck
Ken
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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.
MaryL
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I live in Florida and would like to replace the screened porch with a sunroom. My A/C person, said it would be best to just get a window type A/C for the sunroom. ~Jazzy~
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Mary,
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.
Regards,
Joe Morris
Please remove ZAP to email me.

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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.
MaryL

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Mary,
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.
Regards,
Joe Morris
Please remove ZAP to email me.

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wrote:

<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 re-development.
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 reasonable prices.
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?
Ken .
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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.

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MaryL wrote:

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.
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############## 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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