What to Know Before Adding a Sunroom or a Solarium
A sunroom, also called a solarium, is a glass-enclosed living area usually attached to the house, accessible from inside. It’s designed to function as an additional living room during mild temperatures but might be too hot or cold in the middle of summer or winter.
Plan your sunroom budget in advance
Before beginning any work on your sunroom, make sure the renovation project is feasible. Awaiting the city’s approval and construction permits can be stressful, but it’ll be well worth it. Don’t begin getting work done if you weren’t permitted to do so in the first place. That’ll definitely create stressful situations you could’ve avoided in the first place.
Of course, you’ll need to know what budget to have in mind before even taking the time to get in touch with the city for approval and permits.
So, what is the cost of a typical sunroom or solarium?
Of course, prices will vary depending on design, materials, region, and more. However, depending on where you live, the average cost of a sunroom is between $312/sq.ft. and $408/sq.ft for Toronto or $258/sq.ft and $336/sq.ft for Montreal.
From what we see with our customers, an average sized sunroom will cost about $43,200 in the Greater Montreal Area, whereas it’ll cost as much as $52,800 in the Greater Toronto Area.
Keep in mind that depending on whether your sunroom is four-season room, three-season room, a simple screened porch, or any other kind, prices will also vary.
Looking for a room for all year round?
A four-season room, similar to a sunroom, is designed to be cooled and heated but is generally more expensive due to the materials and the HVAC requirements. It’s the best option if you want a great view of the outdoors and makes a wonderful home office space! It’s also a great home addition option.
Share the room with your flora in a greenhouse
Featuring the same basic structure and construction as a solarium or four-season room, an attached greenhouse structure offers light, heat, and humidity levels that are ideal for plants to flourish.
A more economical solution to getting a sunroom or solarium
A screened porch has walls constructed with mesh rather than glass, which offers the benefit of fresh air without the detriment of insects. Like a sunroom, it’s only fit to live in during milder weather.
Consider the direction of the sun while planning
Deciding on the best location for your room is the first critical step when planning a glass or screen addition. In Canada, a southern exposure is best because it’ll receive the most light every day. But depending on how far south you live, a southern exposure may require additional cooling, which may be costly.
Eastern exposure will ease cooling needs by providing sun in the morning and shade the rest of the day but isn’t the best on the colder days or for after work enjoyment.
For a western exposure, however, the opposite happens – exposing the room to stronger sun rays in the afternoon, resulting in a need for shading.
A northern exposure will provide less light and partial shade most of the day. This will save cooling costs in the summer, but might not be as temporally comfortable.
Choose the right materials
Understanding a sunroom’s components will help you achieve the room you want at the right price.
Vinyl is the most popular material as it costs the least, requires minimal upkeep, and offers the best overall strength and insulation. It’s mainly available in white – leaving those wanting colour with minimal choice. Also, most vinyl supports have an internal reinforcement of either aluminum or galvanized steel (i.e. they are “multiwalled”).
Aluminum doesn’t insulate as well as vinyl and is usually more expensive. However, many rooms that use vinyl-coated vertical supports for aesthetics or added insulation use aluminum for the roof structure for added strength.
Wood is typically the most expensive choice of structural material but is also a more appropriate choice for screen rooms, easily allowing you to attach the screen mesh to it. Note that a screen room will involve extending the existing roof over the room and that wood requires periodic maintenance.
Make sure your porch is watertight
Sunrooms, four-season rooms and greenhouses have glass walls and are roofed with glass or polycarbonate (a tough, transparent thermoplastic). A glass roof is noticeably more expensive but provides the most clarity. When shopping for your solarium, look for the U-value of the glass or polycarbonate. It is a measure of how much heat the material conducts. The lower the number, the less heat passes through. Choosing the lowest possible U-Value will ensure a more energy-efficient space.
Glass walls should be silicone double-sealed, A-rated and labelled “tempered safety” to meet building code requirements. These are the best choices:
- Double-glazed glass. It offers durability, insulation and glare reduction. This material’s typical U-value ranges between 2 and 2.5. Common glazing includes clear, solar bronze and opal (from most to least efficient).
- Double-glazed glass with a low-emissive coating. Glass with a “low-E” coating helps it reflect heat and ultraviolet rays. The coating reduces the U-value to around 1.7, consequently improving energy efficiency.
- Double-glazed glass with argon filling and low-E coating. Argon (an inert gas) can be added to further reduce the U-value to about 1.48.
For polycarbonate components, these are the best options:
- 6-millimetre twin-wall polycarbonate. This is the most popular glazing option in conservatory roofs today. This material has a U-value of 2.3.
- 20-millimetre and 25-millimetre twin-wall polycarbonate. For a strong and better-insulated roof, these thicknesses are great choices to create an effective all-seasons room. The typical U-value is 1.6.
Ensure your sunroom maintains a comfortable temperature
If you are unable to choose the optimum location to control excessive heat loss or gain, or you simply want to extend the hours you can comfortably inhabit your all-season room, consider these options:
- Build walls that have several windows that can open. Choose those that will work together to allow optimum airflow.
- Opt for window treatments that can be fully raised and lowered along the most troublesome wall areas.
- Add operative skylights that will act as heat dumps when the room gets too warm.
- Install exterior roof shade tracks that hold rigid exterior sunscreens.
- Intersperse prefabricated insulating roof panels among the glass roof panels. Look for R-factors of R-16, R-24, or R-32 (the higher the number, the better the insulation quality).
- Install ceiling fans to aid air circulation. Go for models with forward and reverse speeds for summer or winter use.
- Install a small gas wall heater in the area you will use most often during the colder months. For a more luxurious touch, install radiant floor heating.
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