Sunroom or Solarium

Adding a sunroom will make you and the cat happy

During the 1920s a common amenity in many new homes was a sunroom. It was thought that an airy, sunny room promoted health. Those early sun porches, sunrooms, or solariums are now extremely desirable; older homes with such features often command a hefty price because they add so much charm to a home.

Sunrooms, conservatories, and solariums

Most of us don't own vintage homes with neat old sun rooms, but there is no reason a sunroom or solarium can't be added to your existing home with all the advantages of air, light, and enhanced home value.

Like any other home improvement, start with a plan. Consider the following key points:

About the space

Do you want a traditional sunroom filled with white wicker porch furniture and cushions made from vintage tablecloths with your collectables scattered about? Maybe you crave an sunroom for your spa and tropical plants?

Everyone has a different idea of what a sunroom means. For some, a four-season sunroom is a pleasant place to relax. Others want an alternate entertainment space. A sunroom can be used as a conservatory green room for plants as diverse as tropicals or ferns. A sunroom patio enclosure might provide a condo with a little extra privacy. In the Sonoran Desert, sunrooms are often called Arizona rooms because they are used nine months of the year when it's NOT hot.

What you want from your sun room determines how you might orient it on your home. An eastern exposure, accessible from the kitchen, can make a lovely breakfast room. Most ferns and partial shade plants will thrive while being shaded during the warmest part of the day. A southeast or southern exposure designed for passive solar can not only be bright and cheerful during the colder months, but result in energy efficiency too. And though it's likely to be cooler and less conventional, a solarium with a northern exposure might be ideal as an art studio.

Planning a sunroom

There are lots of small details to consider. Think about the following questions:

Once you've decided what you want, you may want to consult with a designer, architect, or builder regarding access from existing rooms to the new space. They can help refine your ideas; often a little design input from a knowledgable professional can save you money by pointing out things to consider as well as making valuable suggestions that will make your space more usable.

Building a sunroom

Once you've created your plan based on what is feasible as well your desires and budget, then most of the decisions have been made. The hardest work is done.

If you're handy and motivated, a sun room addition can be easily achieved by a reasonably experienced do-it-yourselfer. You can work from a plan or purchase a sunroom or solarium kit.

If you just want the room, but not the work, hire a qualified contractor or remodeling pro who knows how to build a sunroom. An experienced builder may be able to do all the work including helping with your plan, or your designer may suggest contractors with whom they have worked before.

The contractor or builder you select should be able to provide the following:

Return on investment

Sunrooms, solariums, conservatories, and other additions of this type typically provide some return on investment depending on how well the project is executed and whether it contributes to the livability of the home without exceeding the value of comparable homes in the neighborhood.

The rule of thumb for improvements is don't over-improve unless you can afford to indulge your own idiosyncrasies and intend to remain in your house for a while. Stay consistent with the style of your home and when in doubt, hire an independent designer to help with plans.

The bottom line is that though improvements may enhance the value of your home, there is no guarantee that you'll be able to recoup your investment. However, if you take your ideal sunroom into consideration along with the available materials, technologies and kits available, you'll end up with a great space and a more enjoyable home and for many of us it's enough.


For help designing or constructing a solarium or sunroom, UpdateRenovate has qualified pros in your area who can get the job done right.

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