A sunroom can enhance your enjoyment of your home and give you additional space for entertaining or just relaxing. However, the term “sunroom” can mean different things to different people. To some, a sunroom involves little more than adding walls and a roof to an existing patio to create an area that will be used only during warm weather. For others, a sunroom is fully climate-controlled to provide comfort year-round and must be built from the ground up. The amount of new construction required and the intended use of the sunroom are the two primary factors that determine the final cost.
Basic Construction Factors Impacting Costs
The first item on the list of construction elements that can affect cost is the foundation. If no foundation exists, the contractor must excavate the area, install forms, place rebar and pour concrete. A good foundation is essential to a sunroom that is to see year-round use. It is also a critical factor in determining how long the room will last without becoming destabilized by erosion; without a proper foundation, the room can “settle” or sink, causing cracks or gaps to form in the walls.
Sunrooms that are to provide comfort during all seasons will need to be insulated. The amount of insulation needed can affect the construction costs and depends a great deal on the local climate. Obviously, if you are building a sunroom in Boston, where the average temperature in January is 9.5 degrees Farenheit, you will need more insulation that you would to build one in Miami, which averages approximately 68 degrees during January.
Some costs are more reliant upon the intended use of the sunroom. If heating and air conditioning is desired, costs can be higher. An electrician will need to install the wiring for any outlets, lighting or ceiling fans if the sunroom is to double as another living area, such as a den or family room. Since sunrooms typically consist of lengthy expanses of glass, the quality of the windows selected can affect costs. Windows can be single- or double-paned, feature metal or wood frames, and be highly decorative or basic.
Additional Construction Factors
A sunroom can be basic or upscale. For example, a sunroom with a high cathedral ceiling will cost more than one with a low, plain ceiling. The wall adjoining the house can be finished with drywall or expensive wood paneling. Built-in entertainment centers or bookcases can also raise the cost. Floors can be exotic hardwood, vinyl tile, brick, stone or carpet. Roofing materials need to match the house, or at least blend in for a pleasing appearance, so whether the sunroom’s roof will be slate tiles, fiberglass shingles or wood shakes affects the cost.
Another element that can affect costs is the terrain on which the room is to be constructed. The foundation needs to be placed on level, well-drained soil. If the contractor must arrange for substantial leveling of the site or clear trees first, the costs can be affected. The same is true if the soil is of a type that is too unstable to yield good results and the contractor must excavate and replace existing soil.
Virtually all cities and towns require building permits for sunroom construction. However, the cost of permits varies widely. In some towns, a permit costs well under $100, but in some major cities, the same type of permit can cost several hundred dollars. In addition, local codes may restrict plumbing, electrical or masonry work to individuals holding advanced licenses, and this has the potential to affect final costs.
Typical Costs for Sunrooms
Assuming that you want to build a sunroom of approximately 200 square feet that can be used year-round. Nationally, the cost is between $45,889 and $55,813, with HomeAdvisor.com placing the average at $49,316. This number is for a nice — but not extravagant — sunroom that required a new slab foundation and basic insulation, wiring, flooring, windows, heating and cooling, roofing and finishing. Add a few upgrades or construction challenges, such as those mentioned earlier, and costs can rise substantially, often to as much as $72,000 or more.
On the other hand, if you want to just have a patio surround built, the national average for this type of sunroom is approximately. $22,400. This is assuming that the foundation is already in place and does not need extensive repairs or enlargement. However, because these rooms are not resting on a thick slab foundation, they are difficult to heat or cool, so such sunrooms are better suited to temperate climates. Also, wall insulation is normally not as thick, which can make the room unsuitable in areas that experience cold winters or very hot summers. In addition, the location, size and shape of the sunroom is dictated by the existing patio, which means that you could end up with a sunroom that is smaller than you would like or that does not have the proper exposure to catch the light well.
There are numerous options from which to choose when you decide to build a sunroom. The first step is to decide how you plan to use the room, where you will build it and how large you would like it to be. The second step is to contact a reputable contractor for a quote. Discuss your exact requirements, such as heating and air conditioning, interior and exterior finishing, wiring and upgrades, with the contractor. Make sure that all elements are covered in the bid, including options you have selected, who will bear the cost of permits and the completion time. With the proper planning and choice of contractor, you will be able to enjoy your new sunroom quickly, and for many years to come.