Mention the word sunroom and most people instantly picture a room filled with plenty of glass.
In fact, the windows sometimes can make or break the overall sunroom experience. Whether you plan to use the sunroom only in warm weather or year-round, the windows will have a big effect on your comfort.
A sunroom with too many windows can become a virtual sauna in the summer, melting everything from you to the kid's crayons. Such a design also raises privacy issues, particularly if your house is a little close to your neighbor's.
Conversely, sunrooms with too few windows tend to project a closed-in feeling. Psychologically, you expect a sunroom to be warm and open. If it's not, the room just doesn't create that warm, cozy environment.
The solution is to strike a comfortable balance between open and closed. This can be achieved with the style and number of windows you select.
If privacy is a concern, for example, you may want more transom windows placed high on the wall. They typically don't open, but are highly decorative and let in plenty of light.
There also are window options that can block the sun's damaging rays. And, window coverings can help you manage the sun's effects.
When selecting sunroom windows, think about what style blends with your home and your lifestyle. The options are varied, from large picture frame type windows that don't open to those that open vertically or horizontally to allow air circulation.
"The sky is the limit in terms of windows in a sunroom," said Marla Zenger, an owner of Autumn Homes Inc., which is building homes in Ashwood Creek and other subdivisions in Naperville. "We put them as high as we can and there's usually very little wall space."
For many home buyers who want operable windows, the style choice comes down to double-hung or casement windows. Double-hung windows have an upper and lower section, and each slides vertically to open and close. This is a traditional style often found in older homes.
If a buyer selects double-hung windows in the rest of the house, they often keep the same style in the sunroom. They may modify the style a bit, however.
"They'll have window grids in the rest of the house and take them out in the sunroom because it blocks the view," Zenger said.
Others, however, opt for a casement window that is hinged on one side and cranks outward.
While casement windows are considered more contemporary in style, they have a wider area that can be opened.
"With casement you're letting more air in," Zenger said.
When buying casement windows, buyers should think carefully about their location. They often are installed on each end of a bank of windows, for example. The middle windows may be inoperable while the casements are used to add air flow on each end of the wall.
Since the windows swing outward, however, home buyers should think about what might be in their path.
Avoid placing a casement window so that it might swing across the path to the garden or back door, for example. Otherwise, guests may get an unwelcome tap on the head as the window is opened.
There also are "venting picture windows" that combine the look of a picture window with the ventilation options of other window styles.
"The window's sash projects out 2 1/4 inches (horizontally) and allows you to ventilate the room, but you don't have to look through the screen as you would with a double-hung window," said John Kirchner, a spokesman for Marvin Windows and Doors, which makes that design.
When selecting sunroom windows, buyers should focus on the planned view from the windows, said Barry McMahon, vice president with KLM Builders.
Sunrooms often are built along the back or side of a house and should be designed to capture not only sun, but also the view of a forest preserve, pond or a future flower garden.
Those who plan to use the sunroom as an adjunct breakfast room might want it oriented toward morning sun. Those who prefer to sit and relax after dinner might want to see a sunset on the horizon.
When capturing views, this might mean adding a large picture window in the center of the room or floor-to-ceiling glass in another part of the room. It is best to balance the amount of glass with issues such as sun control and furniture placement, however.
Depending on the development and site plan, a builder might be able to offer a few options for sunroom placement.
Allison E. Beatty is a Chicago-area freelance writer. If you have questions or information to share regarding new home buyers' product and design choices, write to Choices c/o Chicago Tribune, New Homes Section, 435 N. Michigan Ave., 4th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611. Or, e-mail:email@example.com
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