Building a Sunroom: Structure and Surprises
October 27, 2020
After some virus-related delays in getting our sunroom construction started, I was so excited to finally begin seeing some progress. However, the saga seems to find new twists and turns. We built the structure, but then ran into some bigger issues. Here’s an update, the good and bad, on how we are doing with building a sunroom.
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Planning our Sunroom
Since the day we moved into the house, I knew that the first big project I wanted to complete was building our sunroom. It was a bit much for us to take on by ourselves, so we never even considered going the DIY route with this. Instead we started by meeting with a few companies to compare quotes.
There was a little sticker shock with the first quote we received. But after we had a couple, it was an easy choice as to which direction we’d be going. And honestly, after the drama began to unfold on our home’s situation, we were really glad to have made the decision we did.
From the outside, it was clear that we had an obvious location for where we wanted to place the sunroom: using the existing deck structure as a floor, and building on top. But that’s where we hit our first snag. If we used the entire deck as the footprint, the wall would hit our house right in the middle of a window.
Instead, we decided to have a bit of the deck remain as a border around the structure. This also helped with our second concern, which was the second-floor window above the deck. Having the structure be a bit narrower meant we could have a lower roof, and not get in the way of that window at all.
Preparing the Deck
Then we hit another delay when we went to find the permit filed for the original deck construction. It turns out that the original owners of the house built it as a DIY project, so there was nothing on file. Before our crew could even begin building, they instead needed to take apart the current deck to check the foundation.
Since it wasn’t up to code, it caused another delay. We had to have a team come out and dig holes for the footings below the frost line, and then fill them with concrete. It took some time for that to cure, and then finally they could begin the main construction.
Building a Sunroom
We were so excited when we started seeing some real progress that I began purchasing decorations like pillow covers, and planning out the furniture arrangement. We’ve had some pieces sitting in the garage for months, waiting patiently for their new home.
The contractors first marked the locations for the walls and installed a base where the frame pieces would anchor. This gave us a nice idea of the footprint of the space. Previously we had tried to visualize it, but actually seeing the shape made it so much easier.
Next, they added in the framing pieces for the walls. We decided to include two doors, one on each side, and then not have a door along the back wall. The framing pieces came with the transoms already built in, and it created a really nice horizontal line around the top of the entire structure.
Next, they added the wood beam across the top and in the middle of the wall. This is to hold up the roofing pieces. My office window is just to the upper left of the sunroom, so I was able to watch each step of the construction up until this point. But then they added the roof, and I lost my view.
Luckily, there wasn’t much left to see. They popped in the screens all around, and then finally added in the windows. These are really cool windows: they are made of tinted vinyl, and you can open them from either the top or the bottom, and stack the panels. That means when the weather is nice, it can be almost entirely screen. Or if we prefer, we can be more sealed in.
One of the final steps of the main construction was to wire the electricity. We have an overhead light and ceiling fan, plus outdoor lanterns next to each of the doors. We’ll also have plenty of electrical outlets, so we can add more lighting, a heater, or more realistically, plug in my computer to lounge out there and blog!
So Close, and Then…
Things were starting to look almost done on my birthday, when we learned about the biggest issue yet: the foundation under the current sliding door and bay window was completely rotted! The contractors discovered this when they replaced our sliding door. It turns out the old one didn’t work partly because of the structural issues.
We learned that in order to fix it, we’d have to lose the bay window feature in our kitchen. When we first moved in, we loved all the light that came through this window, and I spent a lot of time decorating the space with a wooden pedestal table and gorgeous upholstered chairs.
It was a tough loss to swallow at first. But it was worth it to remove all of the rotted and damaged wood. Also, it meant that we’d actually be gaining space in the sunroom instead. They were able to build the new wall flush with the rest of the room, and in the end it will look intentional.
We are lucky they found this problem and were able to fix it, even if it meant changing part of our house forever. We are also lucky that we have the original paint color of the rest of the wall, so it will be easy to match. Now, we are just waiting on some finishing touches, like extending the crown molding.
Once the contractors finish the construction, there will be a few small things we will take care of on our own. We’ll need to paint the interior wall, and either lift or move the light that used to hang over the kitchen table.
We are also considering what to do about the floor. Since they were unable to match our decking exactly, we had them install plywood as a temporary solution. We are thinking throw rugs for the short term (we ordered this large one to cover the plywood), and interlocking vinyl tiles later on.
I’m ready to be almost done with this project, especially since it felt more like a saga during some parts. I’ll be happy to have quiet dogs, who don’t jump and bark at every sound of drilling and hammering. Plus, I’m going to love decorating! Check out my mood board and wish list to see the inspiration. I’m excited to show you the finished room soon!