Florida room, greenhouse, solarium, atrium, conservatory, patio room, and three season and four season sunrooms—these are some of the common terms widely used in the sunroom industry. When potential clients first establish contact with Sierra Sunrooms, usually either in our showroom or with a home visit, and express an interest in adding a sunroom, our first question is often, what do they see as a sunroom? Often the term “sunroom” is used to describe a room that consists of a conventionally framed addition with one or two patio doors and an ample distribution of operating and fixed windows. To others, the term “sunroom” is reserved for glass roof additions. To help avoid confusion, Sierra Sunrooms uses the following terminology to help clarify sometimes significant and sometimes subtle distinctions between the different types of sunrooms, and their purpose.
1. Greenhouse: A room that usually, but not always, includes a glass roof and side walls built mostly from glass and designed primarily for the growing of plants. They are usually built with low performance single glaze glass or a plastic/acrylic material with minimal insulation performance and little protection against the heat of the sun. They can be built as a lean-to off an existing house or as a stand alone unit.
2. Three Season Sunrooms: Much the same as a greenhouse, these rooms are usually built without the benefit of added insulation, no or minimal installed heating, low performance glass, and with either a glass, a styrofoam/aluminum skin core, or an un-insulated framed and shingled roof. Their main function is to provide bug-free and rain-protected additional living space during the summer and shoulder months without having to commit to the full expense of an all year sunroom.
3. Patio Rooms: Patio rooms have experienced significant growth in the US and Canadian markets over the past 15 years. These rooms, manufactured and sold in kit form by several companies, are usually built with 3 to 7 inch insulating styrofoam panels sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum. Vertical walls generally include operating aluminum sliding windows and patio doors. While these rooms are generally designed to function as three season rooms, they can with some modification, be built as all-year living space. Upgrades to achieve reasonable winter performance would include high performance glass rather than single glaze, thicker foam insulation (e.g. 7 inches in the roof panel), thermal breaks separating the inside metal from outside metal, and an insulated platform. Three season patio rooms are very popular in the southern US where winter is either short or less harsh than we are accustomed to in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, and where summer shade provided by the opaque roof is at a premium.
4. Conventional Shingle Roof Sunroom: Basically this is your standard home addition with fixed or operating windows or doors usually on all three sides with a conventional shingled roof. One or more skylights are often added to provide additional lighting. These rooms are almost always built for all year use and are often designed to become part and parcel of the existing house.
5. Glass Roof Sunroom: Thanks to the many technological improvements over the past decade, glass roof sunrooms are rapidly increasing in popularity. But as with sunrooms in general, there are many variations. Sierra Sunrooms uses the term “glass roof sunroom” to describe rooms that are designed to be bright and cheery, with proper heating and cooling, and to be comfortable 12 months of the year. Built with high performance glass, these rooms are often integrated right into the home by removing the wall between the existing house and the new sunroom. The structural frames for these rooms can be built using aluminum, aluminum with PVC cladding, or wood.
6. Conservatories: a term previously used to describe traditional glass and iron frame rooms that were popular for growing plants and flowers in Europe during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. They are especially popular in England where they continue to expand in popularity, often as unheated space. Conservatories are usually constructed in a Victorian or Georgian design with considerable attention paid to cresting, the finial, and other decorative features. Modified with North American building methods and materials in order to stand up to our more rugged climate, English style conservatories are now experiencing increasing popularity in the North American market.
7. Solariums: This term is generally, but not exclusively, restricted to glass roof additions and is used to describe both glass roof greenhouses as well as all-season glass roof sunrooms.
8. Atrium: Widely used, this term refers primarily to two storey (or higher) glass roof courts and entrances to larger buildings.
9. Passive Solar Heater: A glass or shingled roof sunroom that is designed to permit entry and then capture of the sun’s infrared solar heat, rather than to deter its entry.