A sunroom is a structure which is constructed onto the side of a house, usually, to allow enjoyment of the surrounding landscape while being sheltered from adverse weather conditions such as rain and wind. The concept is popular in the United States, Europe, Canada, Northern Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
In Great Britain, it is normally described as a conservatory, although the room may not contain plants. However a British sunroom has a solid opaque roof whereas a conservatory has a transparent or semi-transparent roof.
The structure is often referred to as a patio room, solarium, conservatory, patio enclosure or Florida Room. It can be constructed of brick, breeze block, wood, glass or PVC. The brick or wood base makes up the main support for the PVC, referred to as the "knee wall", which is attached to the top of it. The glass panels are large and often clear instead of frosted. The roof may be of glass panels but is more usually of a plastic material which lets in sunlight. Some sunrooms are designed for scenic view, while others are designed to collect sunlight for warmth and light. These, usually called solariums, are found in Northern (low sun angle) or cold (high altitude) locations. Solariums have walls made up of glass (or plastic), often curved joining windows, and glass roofs. Sunrooms tend to have conventional roofs.
Newer rooms are typically constructed of aluminum framing with tempered glass as the primary structure. The room system is normally constructed of aluminum insulated panels or glass for the "high end" options. Skylights may be included in the insulated panels. The outside of the roof is normally constructed with a shingled roofing material.
Whereas the majority of florida rooms or sunrooms of the past appeared to be disassociated with the home, newer public taste places a great deal of emphasis in blending the sunroom into the architecture of the home.
With the latest technologies of glass and heat resistant technology, sunrooms are now able to be used as efficiently in the southern states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona as is possible in the colder, northern states.
Farmhouses and urban row homes featured a covered porch as a place for the user to sit and relax. With the suburbanization of America, families increasingly used their back patios and gardens for this purpose. However, weather conditions often made patios unusable at times, providing an incentive for families to cover and screen in their patios for privacy and for shelter.
As this trend evolved, so did improvements in glass manufacture, making it possible to attach storm windows together to enclose a patio space.
During the 1960s, professional re-modelling companies developed affordable systems to enclose a patio or deck, offering design, installation, and full service warranties. Patio rooms featured lightweight, engineered roof panels, single pane glass, and aluminium construction. These versatile patio rooms extended the outdoor season, provided protection from rain, wind and insects, and gave homeowners extra space. The interior of a sun room warms quickly in sunlight, even on cold days, and may provide a means of heating the part of the main house into which the sun room or conservatory opens. Furniture and plants located in a sun room/conservatory should be resistant to temperature change.
As customers became more energy conscious and building technology aware, patio and sunrooms became available with insulated glass, vinyl and vinyl-wood composite framework, and more elaborate designs. Many American companies also began to offer greenhouses and conservatories, which were popular in Europe.
European companies discovered a niche market where customers wanted extra privacy. This meant that blinds and curtains were specially developed to be fitted into the sunroom without damaging the stability of the structure. This has proved a profitable industry where blinds can now be controlled from electronic hand-held devices.
Another market is for specialised flooring in sunrooms. In earlier sunrooms, floors were often tiled because of the possibility of roof leaks, and cold air entering resulted in the room becoming chilly. Floors with heated pipe and insulation are now available. Types of flooring are available in a wide variety of materials and forms and customers are no longer restricted to tiles. Older sunrooms which are not structurally sound may be prone to leaks and draughts, so traditional tiled floors are still in demand.
Newer pre-engineered sunroom designs must meet strict criteria to obtain building permits and product approvals through various agencies. Certain features such as thermal breaks and glass that is designed to meet the high demands of a sunroom will greatly aid in the utilization of the sunroom in a manner that will prevent leakage and allow for full year 'round usage.
Price range and specificationEdit
Prices vary widely according to 1.) location, 2.) builder, 3.) size and 4.) specification. "Contemporary" sunrooms are often the most affordable option, while more elaborate designs cost more.
- Location: The most affordable option, in terms of location is to place the building on a level, easily accessible site. A site requiring extensive ground preparation or with a difficult access route will increase the cost to the consumer. Generally speaking, a local manufacturer of a sun room will incur least expense when delivering the flat pack panels. Whereas a distant company will have to consider haulage costs and pass them on to the consumer.
- Builder: A garden room, garden studio or sun room specialist company.
- Size: Any size is possible, but an attached sun room will have a maximum allowable size before planning approval is required. As planning regulations vary from region to region, always check with your local office.
- Specification: Sustainable and carbon responsible building focuses on energy efficiency and thermal efficiency. Structural insulated panels (SIPS) offer a high level of thermal efficiency when compared to conventional timber-framed structures. There are two main categories of SIPS: EPS - the lesser expanded polystyrene foam panel and XPS - the better extruded polyurethane foam panel. XPS rates as almost twice as thermally efficient as the EPS therefore will require less energy in heating and cooling the building. To be more precise, a 100 mm thick EPS panel is far less efficient than a 100 mm thick XPS panel.
A solarium is similar to a sunroom in that both are glass structures designed for people to enjoy the sun without being directly touched by the rays of the sun. The chief difference is that solariums often have curved glass corners and glass roofs.
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