You are free to choose the design and layout of your home’s sunroom. Your personal taste will largely determine the setting of the glass doors, skylights and windows. The sunroom builder will take your ideas and implement them using modern building methods and techniques.
The sunroom foundation is set according to the local building codes. Generally, it must be set deeper than the frost line. The depth is usually between 36 and 48 inches under the grade. The reason for this is to prevent movement as the soil contracts and expands as the seasons change from hot to cold.
A slab foundation is then built upon the grade. This works especially well when applying stone or tile flooring for your sunroom which is a popular option for Carolina rooms.
Plants are often a feature as part of sunroom decor. If you’re considering having indoor plants, the floors need to be slanted to drain away any water that might spill over when watering. The floors should therefore be slightly slanted towards a central drain. The drain should be designed to connect with your home’s main drainage or septic system.
The floor design can also be part of the sunroom heating system. Modern sunroom floors incorporate radiant heating systems. This works best if your sunroom floors aren’t built directly upon grade. Such flooring systems consist of a subfloor with a space between it and the grade. They are fairly inexpensive and straightforward to build. However, they must adhere to local building codes. The design includes a framed foundation that consists of several parts. These are concrete footings, exterior concrete foundation walls upon which a block of cement or wood is placed, and girders and joists frame which holds the subfloor. This leaves crawlspace under the subfloor which can be used for installation of cooling and heating pipes, wiring and plumbing systems.
Sunroom walls mainly consist of insulated glass windows and doors. Wood studs are the most common framing material as they are perfect insulators. Cheaper and highly efficient framing materials are also used. 2X6 studs offer the best insulation capability. If your sunroom has the standard 2X4 walls, R-value insulation is recommended. The glass used for the windows and doors in your sunroom should be carefully selected. The glass should allow in as much light as possible during winter months and prevent too much light from entering the room during hot summers. The glass should also prevent a lot of heat loss during cold days while still allow extra heat to escape during hotter days and nights.
The roof design typically includes a frame made of joists to support the roof. The joists can be made from wood or a cheaper yet efficient alternative Structural Insulated Panels (SIP). The roof design should focus more on providing sufficient insulation to retain heat especially during cold winters.
The roofing material consists of reinforced glass. The glass used should meet the safety building standards set by your local authority. In many cases, the glass for roofing sunrooms is laminated using high grade plastic, tempered or, treated using a metal gauze to make it stronger.
Compared to wood studs, SIPs are strong, energy efficient and cheaper materials for the sunroom frames. The structure consists of a rigid foal set between two panels of aluminum or oriented strand board. The structure is effective in preventing leakage and transfer or air between the two outer surfaces. The inner foam core has no air providing better insulation. This design is effective in preventing buildup of moisture which can cause mold growth and decay which is commonly associated with wood framing. It also minimized draft which is the main reason why wood framing isn’t considered the best for insulation.
Sunrooms can be prone to extreme heat conditions due to the extensive use of glass on its walls and roof. It therefore may be necessary that active and passive temperature control systems be put in place within the sunroom. Active temperature regulation involves the use of mechanized processes. Passing systems will make use of ventilation and shading to control the amount of natural light and air getting into the sunroom.
Additional temperature and air quality control systems
It’s advisable to add an air conditioner to your sunroom. There are many lightweight and highly portable air conditioning systems you can choose from. Most high quality air conditioners come with a built in thermostat and controls that allow you to set the desired temperature and air quality conditions within the sunroom. You should however be aware that running these appliances continuously can be expensive in terms of electricity bills. Before installing one, consult with a qualified electrician about the installation requirements.
Passive temperature regulation
The glass design featured on sunrooms is targeted at ensuring as much sunlight gets into the room as possible. Once the sun’s rays pass through the glass walls and roof, it turns into heat energy naturally warming the room. Glass is however not the best insulator but does a great job preventing a lot of heat from escaping from within the room to the outside.
To overcome the problem of heat loss through the glass walls and roof, modern sunroom glass is double insulated. This design allows in as much sunlight as possible and prevents heat loss through the glass.
Other than glass, another effective and affordable passive temperature control is the use of shades. They are excellent at preventing excess sunlight from getting into the room as well as heat from escaping from within. They also help in minimizing the need to use active temperature control systems such as air conditioners. The need for shades is usually influenced by the seasons. During hot summers, they can be drawn to prevent excess sunlight. They are kept open during winter to allow in as much sunlight as possible. Spring and fall are more challenging as the daily temperatures tend to fluctuate every hour.
Besides shades, blinds and curtains are used for passive temperature regulation within sunrooms. The choice of which to use largely depends on your personal preferences, interior decor and budget. Blinds come in a variety of designs which improves on their functionality. One design includes reflective surfaces. These reflect the sun’s rays outward before they get into the room. Some are built onto the door or window frames. This creates a dead-air region which acts as insulation. This design allows for easy control and addition of other window and door treatments such as curtains. Popular blinds designs include the horizontal and pleated blinds. If you prefer shades over curtains and blinds, you can choose from different designs. The roller shades are quite popular as they are easy to control and usually affordable.
Eaves are another passive temperature regulation method used in sunrooms. Since they overhung the sunroom, they provide an effective barrier preventing the penetration of sun rays during hot summer days. During colder winters, the eves will allow maximum sunlight penetration helping to keep the sunroom warm.
Plants are another effective passive temperature regulation technique you can use within the sunroom. Deciduous trees are the perfect plant for the job. The leaves are a great barrier that blocks the sun’s rays. Besides blocking the ray’s they will absorb heat as well as condition indoor air naturally. During fall and winter when the temperatures are lower, the trees will shed their leaves. This removes the protective barrier allowing as much sunlight as possible into the room and ensuring that heat generated within the sunroom is retained.
The sunroom can become completely hot during summer days. Ventilation helps to keep the room cool. Natural ventilation makes use of the simple principle that hot air rises displacing cool air. Therefore, to ensure that the air conditions within the sunroom remain cool even in the hottest summer days, adding vents at low and high points within the rooms is necessary. The high vents will draw hot air out while the low vents allow in cool air. Natural ventilation works best in sunrooms with high or vaulted ceilings.
Natural ventilation within the sunroom can be achieved through the use of windows and skylights. Keeping low double-hang windows open will allow cool air to move in. At the same time, keeping the skylight open will allow hot air to move out of the room. In some instances, you might want to keep the sunroom temperatures within an optimum range.
For example, if you’re growing plants and don’t want the temperatures to get too high. In such instances, it’s recommended that you install a thermostat controlled fan. This will only turn on if the temperatures within the room exceed a specific limit. Once the ideal temperatures are reached, the fan automatically shuts off.
The radiant heating system
One of the popular additions to the sunroom design is the radiant heating system. These provide heating for both the air within the room and the floor. The direct heat delivered to the feet provides comfort and warmth. One benefit of radiant heating systems is that the heat produced is easily controlled using a thermostat. This reduces energy wastage as is seen in forced-heat control systems. Also, they don’t rely heavily in mechanical controls such as ventilation meaning the interior design of the sunroom isn’t greatly affected.
Glass is the primary material used in the design of the sunroof windows and doors. Most manufacturers provide unlimited designs, shapes and sizes to choose from. This makes it easier to design the sunroom of your dreams.
The glass that’s frequently used to design sunroom windows, doors and walls is double pane glass that’s hermetically sealed. The panes feature a dead-air insulation layer between them. This is the industry standard and allows up to 85% visibility and light penetration. It also offers moderate insulation capability and is best suited for regions without extreme weather conditions such as Myrtle Beach.
Other than air, argon is also used as the insulator that’s placed between the glass panes. It’s a lightweight, odorless gas that provides better insulation compared to air.
Besides ordinary window glass, Low Emissivity (low-E) glass is also used as glazing for sunrooms. This is a special type of glass that contains a metal oxide coating. It allows visible light to penetrate through but prevents heat from being lost. It’s also quite effective in blocking ultraviolet and infrared sun radiation which causes fading of fabric colors.
Another popular type of glazing is sun glazing. This is commonly used in homes in the Southwest were extremely hot sunny conditions are common. This type of glazing features a reflective coating which prevents up to 60% of visible light from penetrating into the sunroom.
Before installing glazing in your sunroom, ensure that all glass additions adhere to the safety building codes set by the local authority. Most require safety glass to be used instead of ordinary glass which is prone to easy breakage.
Skylights are designed to allow in as much sunlight as possible. They can allow in up to 85% more sunlight into the room compared to windows and doors which contributes to the heat gain experienced within the sunroom. To easily regulate the amount of light getting into the room through the skylights, it’s recommended that you install blinds or shades on them. The glass used for skylights is similar to that used for windows and doors. It should however be tempered or laminated with plastic to increase strength. You can also opt for tints or low-E glass to reduce the amount of sunlight that penetrates through the skylights.
Types of skylights
1. Fixed skylights
These cannot be opened and the most affordable type. They come in a variety of designs. The dome shaped fixed skylight is the most popular as it requires little maintenance and is effective in draining rainwater away.
2. Fixed vented skylights
These are fixed in nature but contain a vent that can be opened to allow for air circulation.
3. Vented skylights
These open fully to allow maximum sunlight penetration and air circulation. Opening and closing can be manual using rods or a hand crank. It can also be electronic using a remote control. They are the most expensive to install and usually require additional insect screens to keep pests out.
The size, design and number of vents installed on the skylight is a matter of personal choice. You can also choose from a variety of designs, glazing options and opening and closing controls. Most skylight manufacturers also provide a range of add-ons including blinds and shades for their skylights.
The type of floor you install in your sunroom will largely depend on a number of factors like budget, and what the sunroom will be used for. When choosing the flooring materials, you should consider factors like ability to withstand the sun’s rays and heat, resistance to scratching and wearing and aesthetics. You can choose from a wide range of flooring materials including stone, marble, concrete, wood, tile and carpets.
A sunroom can make a great addition for any home. It can be expensive but well worth it. Make sure to prepare a budget and check out the different design options available. Once you’re done, build your dream sunroom and enjoy the space.