Screened In Porch vs. Three-or-Four Season Rooms: How to Choose
If you’ve decided to expand your living space and turn your deck or patio into additional living space in your home, there are three ways to approach it depending on your end goals: a screened-in porch or a three- or four-season sunroom.
The strict definition of a screened in porch is a roofed structure with a screened enclosure that makes it open to the elements. Depending on the position of it in relation to the rest of your home and the number of trees close by, you may be relatively protected from rain or snow except during extreme storms. We’re quite fortunate in Charlotte to have so many opportunities throughout the year to use our screened-in porches as opposed to other areas of the country where temperatures are more extreme in winter and summer. Regardless of the time of year, a screened porch is a wonderful space to enjoy fresh air without the nuisance of insects or birds.
Of the three options, a screened porch is the least expensive to build, especially if we’re building off an existing foundation or deck. We typically choose trim and railing details in keeping with the style of the existing structure to create continuity, but because there aren’t any walls that’s not as much of a concern as it would for a three or four-season room.
Unlike screened porches, three- and four-season rooms use glass, insulation, siding or brick, and HVAC, which increase the functionality of the space, but also come at a higher level of investment.
Windows in a three-season room are often single pane tempered glass with low energy efficiency. This type of addition generally does not have insulation or it uses a lesser-grade variety of insulation. In either case, the room is mostly unusable during the cooler winter months. If we are experiencing one of our milder Charlotte winters, you could use it year-round.
An HVAC unit in a three-season room can make it comfortable on a chilly day but generally cannot heat it during winter due to the lack of insulation. This might also mean closing the room off during the colder months to maintain energy efficiency and keep the rest of the house warm.
Since it’s meant to be used year-round, a four-season room requires high-performance energy-efficient windows to reduce heat loss in the winter and prevent heat build-up in the summer. High-grade insulation is used so the HVAC unit can effectively heat or cool the room as needed. Since a four-season room is just like any other room in your home, it’s the most expensive of the three spaces to build and maintain, but it can be a great way to increase your square footage.
When to Start a Screened Porch or Sunroom Addition
Charlotte’s geographical location lends itself to year-round construction, but given your goals, it may make more sense to start your particular project at a specific time of year. We talk about the general timeline for design and construction in this post. Exterior projects may vary from that timeline slightly, but generally speaking, plan on about four to six months for the design, planning, permitting, and construction process. There are fewer material decisions to be made compared to a kitchen project, but the HOA approval and permitting process may take a bit longer.
Winter is a great time to build a screened porch or sunroom addition. The painting will be finished before pollen season picks up and the new space will be ready for use as soon as you’re comfortable being outside again. Planning for winter construction needs to start late summer early fall. Summer can also a great time for construction if you know you’re not going to want to be outside in the heat. If adding a screened porch, the new space would be ready by the time milder fall weather comes along. If adding a three or four-season sunroom, many families prefer summer construction while the kids are out of school and so they can be more flexible in their day-to-day schedules. Late winter or early spring would be the time to start the design process for summer construction.
If you’re just ready to start your project regardless of the time of year, that’s great too! We are lucky to be able to do these kinds of remodels year-round. While rain in the spring can be problematic for additions where new footings are being poured, it’s not a deal-breaker. Just know to expect a few weather-related delays.
Here are some questions to consider which option is best for your needs:
- Do you want to be outside in the summer or inside in a bright sunny room?
- How many months of the year do you want to use your new space?
- What activities do you envision for the space? Reading, entertaining, dining, etc.
- Will the space house electronics such as a television or computer?
Here’s a quick overview of what each option can offer your family.
|Weather Conditions||Cost||Allergy Protection||Useable Months|
|Screened In Porch||Comfortable weather only, not too hot or too cold, and no slanted rain.||Lower material and building costs, lower maintenance costs, no heating or air conditioning costs.||Keeps flying insects and birds out; will not prevent infiltration of pollen or dust.||March-Nov. depending upon periods of extreme heat or cold.|
|3- or 4-Season Sunroom||All weather conditions depending upon amount of insulation and the quality of windows.||More costly to construct and maintain during times of extreme heat or cold.||Keeps insects and birds out and minimizes pollen and dust when windows are closed.||10 months to year round with high quality insulation and windows.|
If a screen porch or sunroom addition is something you’d like to create for your family, we’ve saved some ideas on Pinterest that may inspire your project.
Making the Choice
The final decision comes down to lifestyle. Once you have a better idea of how you want to use your new space and how often, you’ll get a sense as to whether a screened-in porch or sunroom makes the most sense for your family. Schedule a call or an online consultation to discuss your ideas with one of our project developers and we’ll help you determine which would suit your needs the best.
Visit Houzz to see more of our beautiful remodeling projects.