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Screen Porch vs. Sun Room: Pros, Cons & Other Options

Screen Porch vs. Sun Room: Pros, Cons & Other Options

Many people add a sun room to their home, or convert their screen porch into a sun room. When you have a great screened porch, you naturally want to use it more often. Many homeowners decide to convert their screened porch to a sunroom, 3-season room, or to find a way to temporarily enclose it. When converting a screened porch to a sunroom, your options are:

    1. Build an Addition. Some refer to their addition as a “sun room,” especially if it has many windows and is the sunniest in the house. For our purposes an “addition” is a room with tempered, insulated, UV-protected glass. Walls are insulated, so for all practical purposes it becomes additional living space in your home.
      • PROS
        • Gives you more living space year-round
        • You’ll have extra space in your home for entertaining
        • Properly constructed, attractive addition can add considerable value to your home
      • CONS
        • Most expensive option
        • Requires the necessary building permits for your area
        • You are now officially indoors; this area no longer functions as a porch
        • You won’t hear sounds of nature and you won’t feel the breeze
        • For true “outdoor” parties you’ll have to build another porch or patio

Porch Enclosure Systems clear vinyl & canvas roll-up curtains

    1. Build a Sun Room or 3-Season Room. A less expensive option is to replace screened areas on your porch with a single pane glass and screen system, or convert it into a 3-season room. A 3-season room …
      • PROS
        • You’ll have additional space in your home for 3-season living
        • Open for breezes on a nice day
        • Easy to open & close from indoors
        • More protection from outdoor elements than screen porch
        • Traps heat – warmer than your porch was on cool days
      • CONS
        • Requires the necessary building permits for your area
        • Limited – or expensive – climate control
        • When glass is down, you are not outside. Feels like any other room in your house
        • Traps heat – expensive to cool
        • Not insulated – expensive to heat in winter
        • Adds very little value to your home

Thanksgiving dinner on our customer’s porch with PES curtains down

  1. Enclose Your Screened Porch With Roll-Up Curtains. When your main interest is in spending time outdoors and protecting your furniture and belongings, you can keep your porch with roll-up curtains.
    • PROS
      • Least expensive option
      • Least permanent / less commitment
      • Easy to install
      • Use your screen porch longer
      • Protect your furniture and belongings from the elements
      • Makes your porch very low-maintenance
      • Keep your screen porch / outdoor living space
    • CONS
      • Must go outdoors to open and close porch curtains, or curtains are installed inside your porches framework exposing them to the elements.
      • Adds no additional value to your home

It seems like a no-brainer: you want more living space, or to enjoy your outdoor space longer. Many people “covert” their screened porch to a sun room, three-season room, Florida room or lanai. Others build on a sun room without ever considering a screen porch.  In many cases, it seems easy to convert your screened porch into a sun room by replacing the screen sections with sliding glass door panels (option 2).

a screen porch with Porch Enclosure Systems decked out for the holidays

If you are building a screen porch, your contractor may suggest building a sun room instead, with the promise that “you will get more use out of it,” the additional cost is not that great, and it will add value to your home in the long run.  The contractor’s salesman may suggest the room will be “like a screened porch” if you open up all the windows.

The Drawbacks of a 3-Season Room

People glass-in screened porches, then try to make them into living space. They quickly realize that the space is hot in the sun and cold at night or in cold weather. The logical next step is to add space heaters and an air conditioner. Suddenly, you have an inefficient room that is a utility bill nightmare to heat and cool.

They then move their furniture out into the sun room, leaving the living room or family room as an unused space between. Once you move the TV out to the sun room, the family room just becomes a hallway to the “main hangout room.”  When the sun room becomes the “main hangout room,” the family might start watching TV there during the day as well, when the light through all that glass reflects off the screen, making it hard to see. The logical next step is to add curtains or other window treatments to the sun room windows.

What Happened to My Screened Porch?

So, what started out as a nice spot to sit in the shade, out-of-doors, away from the bugs, ends up turning into a family room made of a conductive material, nearly impossible to heat or cool, and kept dark with window shades.

Why not let porches be porches? For those that love the great outdoors, the point of a porch is to be in the environment, listening to the birds, crickets or water, not in an enclosed space indoors.  Once you “glass in” a screened porch, it becomes something that is not a porch – and the room leading to it may also become useless.

Let Your Porch Be a Porch

A screened porch, on the other hand, is a quasi-outdoor space, used when the weather permits, and as such, does not end up dominating the home.  The living room remains the living room, and the porch remains a porch.

Laura Gourley, a homeowner in Stevensville, Maryland said she loves her porch and uses it often, but the weather in Maryland is hit or miss. “We really love our screened porch, but wanted more use of it year round. We had looked at making our porch a permanent enclosure [as a sunroom] but it is outrageously expensive to add glass, so the Porch Enclosure Systems product was a great  alternative.” PES offers all the same year round living advantages of a sunroom while maintaining the charm of the porch and connection to the outdoors.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all types, but the screened porch has a lot of advantages over the sun room:

1.  Cost-to-Build Comparison:  A screened room can be less than half the cost of a sun room, as screened panels are very cheap to make. Here’s a cost comparison:

18′ x 24′ sun room – $28,000 (double-insulated glass, a 6″ foam panel ceiling, and complete deck)

10′ x 15′ sun room – $10,000 (single-pane glass, a 3″ expanded paper panel roof, no foundation work)

15′ x 15′ screened porch – $6,000 (“pan” roof, screening, two doors, concrete and prep work)

2.  Permitting:  A sun room is living space, so you’ll need a permit to build one. You’ll need architectural drawings, the structure must be up to code, and your local permitting office will inspect the structure as you build. Be warned: the building permit process often triggers your home’s value to be re-assessed, so expect your property taxes to increase subsequently.

3.  Electric:  As living space, a sun room requires electrical outlets about every 6 feet on all walls. For exterior walls, this often means floor outlets. You also need lighting and a switch as you enter the room. Unless you can DIY electric, add the cost of an electrician to your total.

4.  HVAC:  Everyone wants to expand the season of a three-season or sun room by adding heat or AC – it’s your new family room and naturally, you want to be out there! For a glass-and-aluminum room though, this can be expensive. Sun room owners often choose strip heaters because they are comparatively easy to install – but the tradeoff is, they’re the most expensive way to heat. Depending on where you live, in winter heating  your sun room can cause the aluminum frame around the double-paned glass to collect significant ice, sometimes inches thick. Air conditioning creates similarly expensive cooling and moisture problems because most porches and sun rooms are just not built for efficient heating and cooling. Trying to make these types of rooms into year-round living space might be more expensive than simply building an addition on to your house.

5.  Little Increase in Resale Value:  The sun room builder or salesperson might argue that adding such a structure increases resale value of the home. This argument is most valid for stick-built sun rooms; they typically add about half the value of your sun room’s construction cost to your home.

More Expensive Does Not Always Mean More Enjoyable

Many of our Porch Enclosure System clients tell us, the cheaper the room, the more they enjoy it. Big expensive sun rooms are nice, but never a real living space, other than for occasional parties. Even with the windows open, they feel too “indoorsy” to act as a porch.

It is very easy to “over-improve” a home. Don’t think you will necessarily recover the cost of a sun room you build. If you add one to your home, you should think of it as something you will get value out of from pure use and enjoyment – not as an investment that you hope to recuperate at some point down the line.

We at Porch Enclosure Systems say, let porches be porches! The beauty and enjoyment of a screened porch is that it is not a three-season or all-weather enclosure, but rather a room for use when the weather is pleasant, and a way of enjoying the outdoors.

this PES customer’s porch contains a fireplace & overlooks a pool

The beauty of a Porch Enclosure System is that you can protect your porch and furnishings from the elements. You can also extend your enjoyment of the screened porch because the clear press polished vinyl sheet glass panes create a “greenhouse effect” when your Porch Enclosure System is deployed, warming your outside area and giving you a place to escape on a warm winter day. They also help our customers have happier outdoor parties in the summertime! Don’t cancel plans because of weather, simply deploy the Porch Enclosure System and keep the party going.

this customer’s screened porch remains an area that connects his family to the outdoors

Our screened porch & patio enclosures protect your home or business from snow, rain, pest, pollen, colder temperatures and even dust. When the weather turns, quickly convert your screened porch or patio for year round use.

Contact PES today for a free estimate, or with questions. We’re here to help you enjoy your outdoor space longer!

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