Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Sunrooms

Julia Pelly
Written by Julia Pelly
Updated April 8, 2022
Man sits in sunroom
Photo: By Soloviova Liudmyla / Adobe Stock

Sunrooms can bring light and life to a home no matter the time of year

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If you’re tired of dodging mosquitoes on hot summer days, a sunroom could be the perfect addition to your home. These light-filled spaces give you the ability to enjoy the outdoors without actually having to go outside. Whether you want to host an event in the sun or cozy up with a book and a full view of nature, sunrooms make it possible to do so without having to worry about a sudden downpour or an unexpected gust of wind. Use this guide to find out if a sunroom and all it has to offer is what’s been missing from your abode.

What Exactly Is a Sunroom and How Does It Work?

A sunroom is an extension of a home that’s walled off by either windows or screens and sometimes covered with a glass roof to create a never-ending stream of light. But not all sunrooms are equal. Versions that aren’t equipped with wiring and heat can only be used during certain seasons, depending on where you live. Others are ideal for year-long use, but also cost more to build.

What Are the Different Types of Sunrooms?

Sunrooms offer flexible indoor/outdoor space that can increase the square footage of your home and help you enjoy the sunshine throughout the year. In addition to creating a space that can be enjoyed for years to come, sunroom additions can increase the value of a home by up to half the cost of the addition.

Three-Season Sunroom

As the name suggests, a three-season sunroom is only usable for three seasons of the year unless you live in a more moderate climate. It’s physically separated from the rest of a house by a sliding glass or French door and isn’t ideal for the colder months because it’s not climate-controlled. Three-season sunrooms cost $10,000 to $40,000 on average to build. 

Four-Season Sunroom

Four-season sunrooms are equipped with heating and cooling capabilities and are built a little differently to accommodate these add-ons. They’re usually fitted with knee-high walls rather than floor-to-ceiling windows to allow for proper HVAC duct and wiring installation. Some may also rely on insulated windows to regulate the internal temperature. 

Four-season sunrooms are generally more expensive than three-season sunrooms due to the cost of adding HVAC, differing architecture and installation, and insulated windows. Four-season sunrooms cost $25,000 to $80,000 on average. 

Sun Porch

Sun porches or enclosed porches are among the most affordable sunroom options because they’re exclusively surrounded by screens rather than windows. If you’re trying to decide between a sunroom and an enclosed porch, know that transforming your pre-existing porch is a relatively easy project to do yourself. Sun porches cost $2,000 and $2,800 on average. 

Conservatory

Though many use the terms sunroom and conservatory interchangeably, there’s actually a difference between the two. Conservatories were originally intended to be used as greenhouses, and are covered with glass ceilings to let as much light and heat in as possible. They can also get a bit stuffy in the summer for this same reason—great for plants but not so much for people.

Conservatories can range in cost a great deal depending on size, architecture, and material choices. Conservatories cost between $5,000 and $80,000 on average.

How to Choose the Right Sunroom Style 

With all the sunroom styles available, it can be difficult to determine which is the best fit for you. As you consider your options, ask yourself the following questions.

What Is My Budget?

Budget typically plays a major role in determining what sort of project homeowners choose to complete. Sun porches are generally the lowest-cost option for a sunroom, while four-season rooms (or some high-end conservatories) are the most expensive. 

How Do I Plan to Use the Space?

It’s important to consider how you plan to use the space before you decide what style of sunroom is for you. If you plan to use the space year-round as an extra office space, playroom, or dining room, a four-seasons room is likely ideal. 

If you plan to use the space for entertaining or as a true bonus room and are comfortable using it less during the cooler months, a three-seasons room is likely a good option. If you’ll use the space for gardening, a conservatory is your best option. 

What Is the Climate Like?

The climate of your area will likely play a part in your decision of what style of sunroom is for you. If you live in an area with a long winter, you’ll likely want a four-season room, as a sun porch or three-seasons room won’t be able to be used for long stretches. If you live in a particularly hot or humid climate, a conservatory might get quite uncomfortable during the summer months. 

What Style Matches Your Existing Home Design?

If you’re adding a sunroom onto your home, you’ll likely want to think about what style matches well with your existing home design. A lower cost sun porch likely won’t look natural when added to a high-end custom home, while a conservatory won’t make visual sense in a new-build neighborhood with limited backyard privacy. 

Custom Sunroom Features 

In addition to being available in a range of styles, sunrooms can be customized to add a variety of features that tailor the space to your exact taste and needs. 

Fireplaces

Adding a fireplace to your sunroom build can help the space feel cozy and comfortable all year long. A wood-burning fireplace will work to heat your room during the winter months as well as provide ambiance when the view outside is gray or dreary. Gas fireplaces don’t usually produce as much heat but are often sleek and ideal for smaller spaces. 

Wetbar 

A wet bar can elevate your sunroom and make entertaining easy. A wet bar takes up minimal square footage and has the power to add style and class to your space as well as make it easier to serve guests (or enjoy the space yourself) without ever stepping foot outside of your sunroom. 

Privacy Shades

Privacy shades can be helpful on particularly sunny days when you want to keep the sun out of your eyes or if you live in a more populated area and want to be sure you have the option to shade yourself from your neighbors’ view. Privacy shades vary in style and price point, from custom full panel curtains to automatic smart shades that can be set to raise and lower at different points during the day. 

A Built-in Entertainment System 

Adding a mounted television or smart speaker system to your sunroom is a common, relatively simple customization that can help set the tone for using the space in a variety of ways. Smart speaker entertainment systems can be added when you build your sunroom or later as a simple add-on. 

What’s the Average Cost to Build a Sunroom?

Sunroom with vaulted glass ceiling
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Can I DIY a Sunroom or Should I Hire a Pro?

Whether or not it’s a good idea to do a project like this all on your own will depend on how much work is involved. If you need to build a complete structure from the ground up, recruiting a pro will ensure the job is completed properly. 

On the other hand, experienced DIYers may be able to assemble a prefabricated kit for as little as $500 in tools and supplies—much less than the $5,000 to $25,000 it’ll cost to hire a local contractor. At the end of the day, adding screens to a pre-existing porch will be the least-expensive and easiest option for most homeowners.

Is a Sunroom a Good Fit for Me?

A sunroom can be an excellent choice if you’re interested in adding flexible space to your home. 

Sunrooms are a good fit for homeowners who:

  • Appreciate light, airy space

  • Have a budget that allows for the type of sunroom they’re interested in

  • Live in a neighborhood that does not have an HOA or that has an HOA that allows sunroom additions

  • Enjoys spending time in indoor/outdoor spaces year-round

Additional Sunroom Considerations

If you’re considering building a sunroom, you’ll want to design a room that meets your exact needs. 

As you work with your builder or architect, consider the following:

  • How many electric outlets will you want and where will you place them

  • What sort of light fixtures and fan do you want?

  • Are there any custom features that will allow you to use the space exactly as you desire?

  • Do you plan to incorporate living plants into your design?

  • Does your architect or builder have the expertise to create the sunroom you want?

Sunroom Location

There is no right or wrong location to build a sunroom, though you’ll want to be thoughtful about how you plan to use the space. However, a westward-facing sunroom is likely the least common. If you’re a morning person, a sunroom built on the eastward-facing side of the home will allow you to enjoy the morning light each day. 

A sunroom placed on the south- or north-facing side of the home avoids direct sun exposure throughout the day, but will generally be light and bright throughout the day. Sunrooms built on the west-facing side of the home may have nice golden light during the afternoon and sunset hours but will not have the traditionally bright and sunny feel of a sunroom throughout the day. 

Because sunrooms are built with lots of windows, privacy is often a concern for homeowners and many prefer to build their sunroom on the back of the home rather than on the sides or front.

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