Is a Sunroom a DIY Project?

Posted On Thursday, Aug. 7th, 2014


Seaway Manufacturing is a proud and active member of the National Sunroom Association.  Below is an article we developed for the NSA regarding do-it-yourself construction of sunrooms.

The explosive popularity of remodeling reality shows on TV combined with the advent of the “big box” home improvement store has led to a boom in do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.  Homeowners feel better equipped and informed to tackle more projects themselves than ever before.  But what about a sunroom?

Although there may be exceptions, most commonly, sunrooms are not a DIY project.  There are “sunroom” products with a wide variety of materials, intended uses, project complexities, and required skill levels for installation. There is a big difference, however, between installing screens between the posts of an existing covered porch or deck and the construction of an entire sunroom.

In general, an average homeowner will not have the necessary construction background or training to install a sunroom properly for long term success, performance, and enjoyment. Some of the important aspects of sunroom construction include skill level, understanding of building codes, ability to tie in to existing construction, selecting and preparing the building surface as required, and overall safety, none of which are best left to the inexperienced renovator.

With regard to skill level, depending on the product being constructed, there are many elements of a sunroom that require more than just a cursory knowledge or understanding of general construction. Besides the need to choose the most appropriate materials and products for the desired use, there can be foundation preparation (or construction if none exists); the actual construction of the sunroom (whether conventional wood frame or a pre-engineered system); structural connections of the sunroom roof, walls, and other key elements to the existing structure/foundation or to each other; the proper flashing of key areas for weather protection; reading & understanding engineering blueprints to ensure all components, fasteners, and structural elements are correctly used; and proper wiring (if electrifying the sunroom).

Another vital consideration is an understanding of the governing building, energy and electrical codes, as well as any special building requirements for your local municipality.  Sunrooms will require a building permit in most jurisdictions, so the DIY’er will need to be familiar with what is required, acceptable, and good practice in that municipality in order to get a permit approved, and to secure a successful final inspection where required.  If you think building a sunroom is a challenge, try doing it twice because the first effort didn’t meet local codes.

Finally, consider your overall safety during the project, as well as the durability and safety of the completed structure.  If you are not comfortable using power tools, climbing on roofs, working on a ladder, or you don’t have people to help you, you could very easily be a danger to your own personal safety.  Likewise, an under-designed, or improperly constructed/installed sunroom can be dangerous to the occupants. The money saved up front in construction may be far outweighed by the liability, property or personal damage, and rework costs that result from less than expert construction at the outset, and a project done unprofessionally could have a very negative impact on the value of the home and property.

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Can a Sunroom Be Used Year Round?

Posted On Thursday, Jul. 24th, 2014


Seaway Manufacturing is a proud and active member of the National Sunroom Association.  Below is an article we developed for the NSA regarding the seasonal use of sunrooms.

Some sunrooms are designed to be used year round and some are not. Several items factor to into this answer such as: climate conditions, planned usage and expectations for the sunroom, and the energy requirements of the state/municipality (where applicable).  Here’s a more detailed explanation of sunroom categories and their uses.

One of the collaborative initiatives in which the National Sunroom Association is involved is AAMA/NSA/NPEA 2100, a guide to sunrooms developed by the industry. The sunroom industry is comprised of products with a wide range materials & intended uses, and this initiative clearly divides general sunroom construction into five categories, to provide clarification of intended use for the building inspector, and to guide sunroom customers in choosing a design that will fit their expectations and their municipality’s regulatory requirements.

Typically, any sunroom is assumed to be suitable for enjoyment throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall, the question being whether or not it can be used during the winter months as well. In a climate that has relatively moderate winters, or if only limited winter use is planned, comfortable use of the sunroom year round can most likely be achieved with a category 2 or 3 sunroom without a mechanical heating source, by relying simply on the room being warmed by the sun, or passive solar heat gain.

A Category 5 Sunroom

However, if the intention is to heat the sunroom for more continuous usage throughout the colder months, or where air conditioning is desired during the warmer months, a minimum category 4 sunroom will be required to meet the state/municipality’s energy code requirements.  The key differentiating factor between a category 3 & 4 sunroom occurs when the sunroom is conditioned, either by heating and/or cooling. A category 4 sunroom is specifically designed to be more energy efficient and capable of meeting the prescriptive energy codes for sunrooms.

Finally, all the sunrooms described thus far assume that the sunroom has its own prescriptive energy requirements, and is “isolated” from the rest of the house by some sort of exterior-grade wall and/or door.  If the plan is to make the sunroom an open extension of the home, then a category 5 sunroom will be required.  In this case the sunroom is considered additional living space of the home, and would have to meet the same conditioning & energy requirements as the rest of the house. This would most likely require some sort of energy analysis to verify compliance.

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Ready for Our Close-Up: Seaway on TV!

Posted On Tuesday, Jun. 17th, 2014


We’re on television! Seaway Manufacturing is proud to have been featured on the “Made in America” feature on Jet 24 TV and YourErie.com.

Watch the feature here.

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