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Virtual Sunroom Tours: The E-Z Way to Buy

By Brad Fandel

Sunrooms, also known as solariums, allow homeowners to enjoy the outdoors without facing fluctuating or inclement weather conditions. Sunrooms are much more than screened-in porches, as most of them feature advanced roofing and window systems, increasing your home’s energy efficiency while creating a space filled with light and warmth, even during cold winters.

More and more, companies that design and construct sunrooms offer virtual tours and photo galleries of their work on the Internet. When visiting these websites, keep the following questions in mind as you determine which type of sunroom is right for you, your family, and your home.

How do I plan to use the sunroom?

Sunrooms can be used for a variety of purposes. You can use a sunroom as a study or home office or as a space to allow pets to enjoy the sunlight while still remaining protected in your home. Perhaps you want to add a spa to your home but would rather keep it indoors so that you can enjoy it during cold weather. Your sunroom can also be a place for you to grow dozens of plants, even during harsh winters. The possibilities are endless. For more ideas, visit the online galleries and virtual tours offered by sunroom manufacturers.

What feel do I want the sunroom to have?

Sunrooms come in a wide range of styles, from traditional to contemporary to rustic. A small studio sunroom can provide you with a cozy "getaway” space where you can read or take a nap. A sunroom with a vaulted ceiling can increase the openness of a home, making it feel airier and lighter. You can choose a sunroom that matches the exact style and building materials of your home, or you can go for something more offbeat, such as a sunroom with a modern, split-level roof, or a Victorian-style sunroom with a large bay window.

How energy efficient do I want the sunroom to be?

Many sunroom manufacturers create their products with energy efficiency in mind. Therefore, the glass used in sunrooms is often tempered, making it up to four times stronger than standard window glass. Often you can choose from either single- or double-paned glass, depending on your budget and how energy-efficient you’d like your sunroom to be. As an added bonus, many sunroom manufacturers use glass that protects homeowners from harmful ultraviolet rays. Before investing thousands of dollars in a sunroom, always ask the manufacturer whether the glass that will be used offers UV protection.

What is my budget?

Your budget will not only determine the size of your sunroom but also its various features, including its ventilation system, the materials used (including thermal wall panels and roof coating), and whether you choose to have a skylight installed. While most sunroom manufacturers don’t publish square-footage prices on their websites, usually you’ll be able to get a custom quote after a representative visits your home. The manufacturer’s website, however, may first ask you to fill out a form and answer a few questions about your project. These questions may include:

1.What is the approximate square footage of the sunroom you’d like to add to your home?

2.What type of sunroom are you interested in? (Usually you’ll be given a choice of available product lines and styles offered by the manufacturer; these product lines will often be displayed in photo galleries on the company’s website.)

3.What type of ceiling would you like? Vaulted? Flat? Cathedral?

4.Are there any custom elements you would like added? (for example, a skylight, decorative glass, or a custom entry door)

5.How soon would you like the project completed? Within 30 days? One to three months? Three to six months? Six months or later?

6.Are you interested in financing the sunroom?

Even if the website does not ask for some of this information, it’s a good idea to answer these questions for yourself, before a representative visits your home. Many salesmen try to convince customers to purchase more than they originally intended, but if you answer the above questions for yourself first, you’ll be more likely not to be swayed by a high-pressure sales rep. Of course, an honest sales representative will help you make choices that are right for you, your home, and your family, and may even show you some innovative ideas for your sunroom that transform your entire home, making it more relaxing, comfortable, and personalized.