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1 Sunroom, Porch Cover, Patio Room, Patio Enclosure, Porch Enclosure, Sunspace. These are some of the many names that are used for an additional space that is full of windows and light and creates a retreat in your home. No matter what the name, a sunroom is one of the most popular additions that can be made to a home. This is for good reason, sunrooms are often the favorite room in the home. If done properly, a sunroom addition can be like having a retreat right in your home. When considering adding a sunroom, there is a long list of possible features, designs, and options that separate different contractors and sunroom products apart from one another. Before determining details such as the room style and glass specifications, it is important to consider some of the key factors that will determine not only the completed sunroom design, but the length of time you will have trouble free enjoyment and the amount of the year that the new space will be comfortable to be used. From reading the morning paper with a cup of warm coffee to a great place to unwind after a long day or watch the wildlife from a comfortable spot and enjoying the trill of a thunder or snow storm while warm, dry and comfortable, the use of a sunroom addition is as personal as the design and decorating. As in all good design, the end use is the major driving factor. Having a room that is too big or too small for your intended use can obviously ruin the entire project. Not as obvious could be having a space that doesn t suit your needs. Having a room with a loud metal roof may not be an enjoyable place to watch a rain storm or a room with windows that go to the floor may make it difficult to place your favorite sofa. The most

2 common mistake is misjudging the amount of time the sunroom will be used. Many people get a product that is designed for partial seasonal use, only to find that they wish they could use it more often than they originally thought. Keep in mind that a sunroom purchase doesn t happen in a vacuum. Whatever you decide to do will be permanently attached and forever alter your home in either a positive, or not so positive way. A wise choice will result in a lifetime of enjoyment and value. A poor choice will cost more than just the price of the sunroom; in dollars, frustrations, and aggravation. The only thing worse than wanting a sunroom and not having one is having one that you wish you didn t or wish you had done differently. HERE ARE SOME POINTS AND CONSIDERATIONS TO KEEP IN MIND WHILE PLANNING AND SHOPPING FOR YOUR SUNROOM PROJECT: 1) USE The ultimate guide for the sunroom will depend on your expected use. For example, If you plan to use the room for morning coffee, you want to locate it in a place that will have morning sun so that you can enjoy the warmth and beauty of the sunrise. If you want to feel like you are outside while having the comfort of being inside, you may want to consider floor to ceiling unobstructed picture windows. Knowing what you are hoping to use the room for is a fantastic way to drive the overall sunroom project. Keep in mind, however, that most people find the space so enjoyable that they use it for more things and more frequently than the initial intended use. Why do I want a sunroom? What do I plan to use it for most of the time? Is there anything I would like to be able to use it for from time to time? 2) SIZE Most people have a hard time estimating the size of a space when it isn t yet built and often make the space much too large or much too small for their intended use. The size of a proper sunroom is similar to the size of a car. If you drive most of the time by yourself, it doesn t make much sense to drive a huge truck, or if you have a family to transport, it can be difficult to do so in a sub compact car. In the same way, if you don t plan to host events in your new sunroom, a room 3X the size of your living room may be a bit of overkill. Using the size of a current room in your home as a guide is a great way to size up the sunroom you hope to have. What room do I currently use for what I want to use the sunroom for? What room would I use if I had the run of the house? Is this room the proper size? Is there a reason to make the sunroom a bit larger or smaller? 3) STYLE AND DESIGN Some sunrooms come in stock styles and sizes. This can work for some applications, but most people find that the added benefits of a fully custom sunroom design far outweigh the slight increase in price. Nearly all of the higher quality sunroom systems are fully custom, due to the varied applications they can be used for. The style of the room is typically determined by the roof style selected. Cathedral, gable, hip, studio, and shed are the most common roof styles for sunrooms. Due to the application on a particular home or any other requirement, these room styles can be combined or modified with a custom sunroom system. The style of the room needs to work both for the use of the space and to be in keeping with the architectural details and style of your home. If you are fortunate enough that several styles will look appropriate with the architecture of your home, consider your use and the size as the determining factors. If you want a smaller and cozy space to enjoy a cup of coffee, a studio style may be best. If you want a grand and open space, consider something more along the lines of a cathedral style. 4) MATERIALS A sunroom can be built from a vast variety of materials; all of which have their own unique benefits and issues. The primary material used in the construction of your sunroom will substantially affect most of the sunroom process. From the design and the cost, to the amount of the year it can be

3 enjoyed and the long term durability. The most common materials used in sunroom construction today are: Wood Traditional kiln dried and pressure treated lumber fastened together in order to create a structure that becomes a sunroom. From enclosing a front porch, to building an addition full of windows, wood has been the staple of the residential construction industry for much of the country for hundreds of years. Pro: Wood is a common and relatively inexpensive material that is readily available and can be custom fit on site to create virtually any design. Con: Updated building codes have made it difficult to maintain large open, glass areas that use traditional wood framing. In order to be protected from the elements, all exposed wooded areas need to be clad in another material which increases costs and potential issues. Aluminum Aluminum became the most common sunroom material in the 60 s when folks living in mobile and modular homes were looking for inexpensive ways to add additional space. Since that time, aluminum has continued to dominate the sunroom industry primarily because it is cost effective and structurally sound. Most of the aluminum sunroom systems available today are still based on the designs of the 60 s and 70 s. Pro: Aluminum is strong, lightweight, resistant to any rot or weatherization, and inexpensive. It can be pre-finished in a way that can give a maintenance free weather resistant finish for years to come. It is easy to cut and customize on site and can be formed into different forms and shapes. Con: The exterior paint finish is often scratched during installation and use which can cause denting and oxidation. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of both electrical and temperature energy, making it difficult to properly insulate for anything other than seasonal use. Unless it is completely encapsulated with a superior thermally performing material, aluminum sunrooms systems should not be considered for heating and cooling applications. Vinyl (PVCu) Vinyl, also known as PVCu, has become the dominate material used in energy efficient building systems. Much like windows shifting from aluminum to vinyl in the 80 s and 90 s, the more energy efficient sunroom systems have also moved from aluminum to vinyl. Vinyl is fast becoming the most popular exterior residential building product. From windows and siding to trim boards and decks, vinyl is dominating the exterior markets. Pro: Vinyl is a cost effective, durable, and maintenance free exterior product that is not susceptible to any form of water damage or rot. If properly treated and formulated, vinyl can come in a variety of colors and finishes that will resist fading and weatherization for decades. Vinyl is an excellent insulator against both electrical and temperature energy, making it a superior choice for all season sunrooms. Con: Vinyl is not (nearly) as structurally strong as wood or aluminum and often requires an additional support material to ensure that it can be a sound structural system. Vinyl can also be formulated in an inexpensive manner that will cause issues when exposed to sunlight and weather. 5) GLASS AND GLAZING Glass has been in buildings and homes for hundreds of years. The need for natural daylight has always been balanced against the sub-par insulating values provided by glass. Glass has been used to allow daylight into a structure you can t see or get daylight through solid walls. Over the past ten years, the technological advancements in the glass and glazing industries are staggering. From variable tinting systems to Silver Oxide Low Emissivity coatings, the process of turning glass from a necessary evil to an energy efficient building product has arrived. Most home owners have no idea of the vast variety of systems and options are available other than what they are shown by a contractor

4 or sales representative. Without trying to turn you into a Fenestration Engineer (one specializing in the design of windows and other exterior openings of a building), let s take a look at some of the available glass and glazing options for sunrooms. Plastic (Acrylic or Vinyl) Glazing Plastic glazing is typically used in the lowest end sunroom products. Plastic glazing systems offer an inexpensive upgrade to a screen room and essentially perform as a basic wind break allowing the room to be used on windy days. This type of glazing offers little or no insulating value and is best reserved for non-conditioned single season use. Single Sheet Glass A single piece of glass offers a slight improvement over plastic style glazing and screen enclosures. A single piece of glass has little or no insulating value but can be improved to have some solar heat gain reflectance and UV protection thru the addition of a hard coat Pyrolitic Low E coating. Single sheet glass is typically found in one and two season sunroom systems that are not thermally improved or conditioned. If considering a single sheet glass sunroom system, it is important that all of the glass is fully tempered for additional protection and safety. Thermal Pane / Insulated Glass Most sunrooms designed for more than occasional fair weather use have some form of insulated glass system. Insulated glass is made by combining two or more pieces of glass with a spacer and sealing them all together to create a dead air space between the glass pieces which acts as a clear insulation barrier. Keep in mind that all insulated glass is not created equal, as a matter of fact, it is far from it. The variables used in insulated glass designs make all the difference in the overall sunroom performance and comfortable use. Factors to consider in insulated glass units: The Glass This may seem obvious, but the actual pieces of glass used to make up the thermal pane unit have a huge effect on the performance and longevity of the units. Glass for insulated units is available in a variety of high performance coatings and tints that can increase the energy efficiency, change the color and light transmission and even make the glass self cleaning. The glass that is used will ultimately determine the overall performance of the unit. The Insulating Space The dead air or gas between the two pieces of glass is what acts as the insulation. Insulated glass units can range from 3/8 to 1 3/8 in overall thickness. The thicker units typically contain thicker and stronger glass and a larger insulating space between the glass. In addition to more space the thicker units have more insulating value. Some of the highest performing insulated glass units available exchange the air between the glass panes for a more dense inert gas, like Argon, which substantially increases the insulating value for the same amount of space. The Spacer The spacer is the material that is placed around the edges of the glass to keep the two pieces separated and creates the insulating space. This often overlooked component plays a critical role in both the insulating value and the life expectancy of the unit before seal failure (the accumulation of moisture dust and dirt between the glass panes that signals the loss of the insulating value). The insulating value of the spacer is primarily determined by the material the spacer is made of. The most common material is aluminum. Aluminum is a great conductor of heat and cold and when used as a spacer, it conducts the heat and cold thru the edges of the glass units. Stainless steel is a major improvement in spacer technology. Stainless steel is incredibly strong, resists corrosion and oxidation, and is hundreds of times less thermally conductive than aluminum. It is, however, substantially more expensive than aluminum. Some of the best insulated glass units combine stainless steel spacer systems with silicone seals that separate the glass from the steel, providing both an insulating value and a cushion to protect the glass. 6) CATEGORIES AND BUILDING CODES There are several generalized categories of sunroom systems used by different organizations. These categories are used by construction and building code professionals

5 to determine the applicable code requirements for proper construction and can become quite confusing for most home owners as they try to determine what they want or need for their particular project. It is important to get an idea of how the contractor is going to permit the project. This will determine the code requirements for the sunroom and it will forever carry this label with the building department. For example, if your are intending to use your sunroom as an addition to your living space, it would not be wise to make a purchase that will be permitted as a patio cover. The National Sunroom Association has a 5 segment division of sunrooms that is difficult for even sunroom companies to disseminate. Category I A roof or a covering of an outdoor space. The openings shall be enclosed with insect screening or 0.5 mm (20 mil) maximum thickness plastic film. The space is defined as non-habitable and unconditioned. Category II A roof or a covering of an outdoor space with enclosed walls. The openings are permitted to be enclosed with translucent or transparent plastic or glass. The space is defined as a non- habitable and unconditioned. Category III A roof or a covering of an outdoor space with enclosed walls. The openings are permitted to be enclosed with translucent or transparent plastic or glass. The sunroom complies with the additional requirements for air infiltration resistance, water penetration resistance, and the structural requirements. The space is defined as a nonconditioned sunroom. Category IV A roof or a covering of an outdoor space with enclosed walls. The sunroom is designed to be heated and/or cooled by a separate temperature controlled system and is thermally isolated from the primary structure. The sunroom complies with additional requirements for air infiltration resistance, water penetration resistance, and the structural requirements. The space is defined as a habitable and conditioned sunroom. Category V A roof or a covering of an outdoor space with enclosed walls. The sunroom is designed to be heated and/or cooled and is open to the main structure. The sunroom complies with additional requirements for air infiltration resistance, water penetration resistance, and the structural requirements. The space is defined as habitable and conditioned. The Residential Building Code has 3 separate definitions that apply to sunrooms and how the code is applied to their construction. Patio Covers A non-habitable one-story structure not exceeding 12 feet in height. Enclosure walls shall be permitted to be of any configuration, provided the open or glazed area of the longer wall and one additional wall is equal to at least 65 percent of the area below a minimum of 6 feet 8 inches of each wall, measured from the floor. Openings shall be permitted to be enclosed with (1) insect screening, (2) approved translucent or transparent plastic not more than inch (3.2 mm) in thickness, (3) glass conforming to the provisions of Section R308, or (4) any combination of the foregoing. Thermally Isolated Sunroom A one-story structure attached to a dwelling with a glazing area in excess of 40 percent of the gross area of the structure s exterior walls and roof that includes a new or existing wall(s) separating the sunroom from the rest of the home. Any new walls shall meet the building thermal envelope requirements. The sunroom must also be equipped with a separate heating or cooling system or thermostatically controlled as a separate zone, if conditioned. Non-Thermally Isolated Sunroom Addition A one-story structure attached to a dwelling with a glazing area in excess of 40 percent of the gross area of the structure s exterior walls and roof. The sunroom addition

6 may have an open wall space between the sunroom and the rest of the home and can be combined to use the same heating and cooling system as the rest of the home. The most common and easy to understand terms are related to the amount of the year that the room can be comfortably used. Seasonal / Screen Room: Used only on nice days 2 Season: Basic glazing that works as a wind break for extended use 3 Season: Insulated windows and walls to provide use much of the year 4 Season: Insulated windows and doors that allow for year round use 4 Season PLUS: Insulated windows and doors that are fully code compliant to be open to the rest of the home and allow for comfortable year round use * NOTE your contractor or sales representative may refer to your sunroom as a 4 season, but unless the product performance and permitting process match these claims, you may be getting something less. 7) FOUNDATION Whether building on an existing deck, concrete slab, or a new foundation, it is important that any sunroom needs to be placed on a proper foundation in order to be a safe and secure place to relax and enjoy. Because all sunrooms are attached to your home or property, they will all require a proper foundation and footing system as determined by the local building code. Foundation systems can range from a concrete slab to a high performance insulated decking system. The selection of the foundation will depend on your budget and intended use. Keep in mind that anything built on a poor foundation will not last long and may not be safe. 8) ROOF TIE-IN Similar to the foundation, just about every sunroom will need to be tied to your home in some way. The point at which this tie in occurs needs to be both structurally sound and weather tight. Even the least expensive screen enclosure can cause major damage to your home if the roof tie in is not done properly. Whether you are going to use an aluminum skin roof system or a full shingled roof design, make sure that the roof tie-in will never be a point of leaking or damage. 9) SUPPLEMENTAL HEATING AND COOLING In order to get the maximum use of your sunroom, consider having supplemental heating and cooling installed when you have your sunroom built. There are many low cost and high performance systems available that are nonintrusive and cost effective making your sunroom a year round retreat. Even if you don t expect to need it when you are designing your sunroom, most people end up using the sunroom much more than they expected and often wish they had designed with heating and cooling from the beginning. If you do move forward without heating and cooling, it is a good idea to have a place so you can add it in the future. Thank you for considering Elements Sunrooms as part of your upcoming house addition. We d love to schedule a schedule a FREE no obligation design consultation from one of our local partners. CALL US AT OR REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT ONLINE

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