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Let the Sun Shine In – Sunrooms

Sunrooms are a wonderful addition to your home.  They bring the beauty of nature and sunlight into your home while keeping out the cold, and the heat and bugs.

The reasons vary for either adding a sunroom to your existing home, or to including it in the plans for the construction of your new dream home.

For some, it is a way to add more space for their family and entertaining.  While for others, a sunroom allows them to enjoy the beauty of their gardens all year round, no matter the weather, keeping the temperature and humidity constant.  A sunroom also adds visible light to your home.  Traditionally, sunrooms have been used as a family room or dining room space but, in recent years, that has been expanded to include kitchens, dens, bedrooms and even bathrooms or spas.

One of the things to consider when planning a sunroom is the location. Your sunroom should be facing south with a roof and walls of glass to capitalize on as much sun and heat as possible.

If you live in a climate where there is a lot of snow, it can certainly affect the weight that the roof can hold.  Talk with your architect, designer or window professional to determine whether a glass roof is suitable for your area.

While a sunroom is primarily a glass constructed room, they come in many shapes and sizes as well as are built with different types of materials. While a sunroom can come in any size, based on your site and budget, there are five (5) basic types or styles of sunrooms.

Straight style sunroom – This design has straight sides and a flat roof.  The windows are all the same size and the roof is made of either glass or a cloudy material which prevents you from achieving the full effects of the sun.

Cathedral style sunroom – This sunroom has a vaulted roof which makes it look larger than it really is.  This type of roof provides a better means for the rain and snow to run off that the traditional style.  A Cathedral sunroom usually features a peak wall that will let in light and extend the outdoor view, while giving the room and aerie feeling

california-sunroomCalifornia style sunroom – This style has a roof that has different heights, giving it a split level effect.  One half of the roof angles up and is joined by the second section, but at not such a sharp angle.  The style brings in the sun while making the room unique.

Solarium style sunroom – This style has both the walls and roof in glass, with the roof curved giving you a beautiful view of the sky at night and better lighting during the day.

Conservatory style sunroom – This style is reminiscent of a vintage look from Edwardian or Victorian times.  While they come in different shapes, the conservatory sunroom has a peaked roof made of glass and the walls are frequently rounded in shape with decorative touches for a more classical architectural style.

Your sunroom could be framed in aluminum, vinyl or wood.  While aluminum is the most economical to construct, it will not insulate as well as vinyl or wood.  Wood is the most expensive framing material for your sunroom, both to construct and maintain, but looks wonderful with other natural materials found in sunrooms such as rattan and wicker.

Glass or Glazing

All the glass in your home is referred to as “Glazing”. This includes the glass in windows, sliding doors, French doors, skylights, as well as the glass in your sunroom. The methods (both cosmetic and structural) used to secure glazing in place, are called “Glazing Systems”.

Two of the most important decisions you will make when adding a sunroom to your home, will be selecting the glass and choosing the glazing system. It is extremely important to the longevity of the room, that the glass and glazing system compliment each other. The glazing system is an important component, because it not only anchors the glazing to the structure, but usually provides the only protection against weather (water, air, dirt) penetration at this critical point. Additionally, some glazing units can suffer irreparable damage if installed incorrectly, exposing the edge seals continuously to UV radiation and water.

The two most common types of glazing systems found in sunroom construction fall into two general categories: “Weep” (or “Wet”) Systems and “Dry” Systems. The primary difference between the two is that the “Weep” System assumes that a certain amount of water will get past the outer seal and provides a method for that water to flow back outside the structure. In contrast, the Dry System uses extra precaution to prevent water from getting past its outer seal. Both types have advantages and disadvantages, depending on their applications. The main thing to remember is to choose a glazing system that is compatible with your selected glazing, or glass.

There are many options for the glazing, or glass, in your sunroom walls and roof.  You want the glass to filter the sunlight as it comes into the room, creating a soft appearance, not stark white.  The glazing comes in many types.

Low emissivity glass – Also referred to as low-E glass, this glass has an imperceptibly thin metallic film which is applied to one of the glass surfaces, or is suspended in between the panes.  This lets light in, but prevents some solar rays from being transmitted into your home.  This keeps your sunroom cooler on a hot day by not letting the heat in, and prevents the heat from escaping on a cold day.  The coatings also block ultraviolet rays, reducing the fading of floors, floor coverings, drapes and upholstery.

Tinted glass – Using a bronze or gray cast, tinted glass cuts the glare and heat from the sun, but only slightly reduces the amount of light let into your sunroom.

Double or triple glazed – This insulating glazing typically has two or three panes of glass sealed together in one section.  Between these panes either air or argon gas is trapped to act as an insulator.

Ventilation

With a sunroom, you will need airflow to maintain a reasonable internal temperature. Ventilation is designed to move air through your sunroom while keeping it cool and refreshing.  To ventilate your sunroom, you can have windows that open or install vents or ceiling fans, but best solution would be to install exhaust fans to blow the heat out. This will give you more control over the temperature in your sunroom.

A sunroom is a wonderful enhancement to your home. It will provide you and your family with a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors throughout the year.

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