Custom-Built vs Pre-Fab Sunrooms

Sunroom in luxury home with patterned tile

There are a number of construction options when it comes to adding a sunroom to your home.

DIY Kits

These are designed with a simple, modular construction, and are shipped to you to assemble. Kits generally include components such as windows, screens, doors, and roof panels along with some instructions.  You’ll have to check with the provider to see what items you’ll need that aren’t included in the kit such as eavestroughs, foundation fasteners, and others. You may have to make some on-site modifications to some of the components that are included. 

With this type of sunroom, your designs options are very limited.

Before you decide to tackle a sunroom kit yourself, it’s important that you have do-it-yourself skills and have done your homework. Make sure you have the proper tools and materials. You’ll also need to check your local zoning by-laws and building codes to ensure you meet all requirements and have all the necessary permits to extend your home.  Compliance with local building codes may require you to hire licensed professionals such as electricians to work with you.

Pre-Fab Sunrooms

Pre-fab sunrooms (also called manufactured sunrooms) are constructed from kits that contain framework pieces, usually aluminum or vinyl, along with the panels for the roof and walls. The components are manufactured in factories, shipped to the homeowner in pieces, and often assembled by a contractor affiliated with the manufacturer.

While manufactured sunrooms are usually less expensive than custom-built sunrooms, they have significant down sides.  You’ll find that there is a limited choice of designs, colors and other customization features. You also may not have styles and options available to complement the rest of your house.  If you have a vision of how you want your sunroom to look, and it doesn’t fit any of the available pre-fab designs, you’ll have to compromise.

Custom-Built Sunrooms

To get the most in design flexibility and options, your best bet is to work with a reputable contractor to design and bring to life your custom-built sunroom. 

Before meeting with a sunroom contractor, it’s best to make some key decisions. For example, decide on your purpose for building a sunroom. Perhaps you want an entertainment room for family and friends, or an extension of the kitchen for serving meals. Or maybe you want a place to relax and read during the day while enjoying the sunshine.

Next, decide where to locate the sunroom. This is determined by a few factors, such as: your preferred view, the type of sun exposure you want, and privacy requirements.

And lastly, decide on a budget you and your family will be comfortable with.

The next step would be to meet with a sunroom contractor to help you with the rest of the planning process. He’ll be able to advise you on a style of sunroom that matches your purpose, and the suitability of your chosen location for tying into your existing house structure. He’ll also provide an estimate based on his discussion with you, which will take into account your budget.

Your choices for different sunroom styles include:

Three-season sunrooms are used during the spring, summer, and fall.  The windows typically have single pane tempered glass, which offer minimal energy efficiency. 

Four-season sunrooms can be used year-round. Superior insulated glass reduces the loss of radiant heat in the winter and admits less heat and ultraviolet rays in the summer. The additional insulation found in the walls, roof and floor help to keep the heat in during the winter months, extending the usability of the sunroom. Four-season sunrooms appear much like a regular home design, often with lots of windows and skylights.

Glass-roofed sunrooms come in different configurations, such as flat roofs, straight eaves, cathedral arches, and curved tops. Heat-reflective glass is also a choice.

Solid-roofed sunrooms can also be used in combination with glass walls. Skylights can be installed to allow in more natural light.

Conservatories are all-glass and can have different roof styles to match the design of your home.

Your contractor will be very familiar with the local building code and zoning by-laws and can take care of the building permits for the sunroom, plus arrange inspections on your behalf. He can also draw up plans, specifying dimensions and materials. These are needed to get the building permits.

All sunrooms must be built with a foundation. Support for your new sunroom depends on its location and weight. Experienced contractors are knowledgeable in foundation requirements.

There are many other advantages to working with a contractor for a site-built sunroom. Your sunroom contractor will have the skills not only to draw up blueprints, but also to prepare the site, install flooring, run electric and plumbing lines, frame the room, install insulation, cut, frame and order windows and doors, apply inside and exterior siding and finishes, and build the roof.

As a result, you have ideal design flexibility — you can create the layout and size of sunroom you want, plus the door and window configuration that suits your home. The exterior wall finish can either be the same material as the rest of the house, or it can be something that complements it. You also have many options for colors, lighting, flooring, heating, fireplaces, wood stoves, air conditioning, and other extras for a tailor-made sunroom. Whatever you choose, the contractor can build something that matches the architecture of your home.

The sunroom contractor will also provide a contract that lays out the exact materials specified, his responsibilities, your responsibilities, payment amounts and schedules, change order provisions, and the project time frame. As well, all reputable sunroom contractors back up their work with a comprehensive warranty. They work well with their material suppliers and installation crews to minimize the chance of problems. However, if any issues do arise, they’ll take care of you before, during, and after construction.

When you’re looking for a premier contractor to bring your beautiful new sunroom to life, look no further than Sunshine Sunrooms. For the very best in sunroom design and construction, call us at (972) 243-5390 or request a quote here.

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