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May 13, 2020

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, a three season room (also sometimes referenced by the number as a 3 season room), or a four season sunroom.

Screened In Porch

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 screened in porch’s position with 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 fortunate in Charlotte to have so many opportunities throughout the year to use our screened in porches instead of other areas of the country where temperatures are more extreme in winter and summer.

Regardless of the time of year, a screened in porch is a beautiful space to enjoy fresh air without the nuisance of insects or birds.


We used the same brick as the foundation for this screened in porch addition to create a seamless appearance between the new and existing structures.

A screened in porch is the least expensive to build of the three options, 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 for a screened in porch as it would for a three or four season room.

Three Season Sunrooms

Unlike screened-in porches, three season rooms 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 uses a lesser-grade variety of insulation. In either case, the room is unusable, primarily during the cooler winter months. You could use it year-round if we are experiencing one of our milder Charlotte winters.

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.

Four Season Sunrooms

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-in 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 be an excellent time for construction if you know you’re not going to want to be outside in the heat.

If adding a screened-in porch, the new space would be ready by the time milder fall weather comes along. If adding a three-season room 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.


This existing deck was too hot for comfort in the warmer months, so converting it to a screened-in porch meant this couple could use their outdoor space more comfortably.

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 area? 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 ConditionsCostAllergy ProtectionUseable Months
Screened In PorchComfortable 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.It keeps flying insects and birds out; will not prevent infiltration of pollen or dust.March-Nov. depending upon periods of extreme heat or cold.
Three Season Room or Four Season SunroomAll-weather conditions in a three season room and four season room depend upon the amount of insulation and the quality of windows.Three season rooms and four season rooms are costly to construct and maintain during times of extreme heat or cold.It 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 screened-in porch or three season room or four season 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 of 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 project