Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sunroom Progress Report #1

Before: June 11, before any work was done to enclose our front porch.


These are exciting times around here, not just because it's summer and lots of flowers are blooming, but also largely because there has been rapid progress in enclosing my front porch into a sunroom where I can enjoy plants and flowers during our long, cold winters here in Iowa.

I have long desired a classic, glassed-in conservatory of the kind that are common in England, but the cost of constructing and then heating such a room is prohibitive here. Here in the US, with our extremes of heat and cold, a sunroom with a solid roof is much more practical.

We have a porch with a roof and floor already (it was enclosed with screens when we bought our house eight years ago, and we had those removed and ended up having to totally re-build the rotting columns and floor five years ago, so it's pretty solid). So I decided that the easiest and most affordable thing was to simply enclose our existing porch with walls and windows. (Here is my post last winter when I desperately longed for greenery amidst our snow-covered landscape, and considered the sunroom idea.)

I was somewhat concerned that I might ruin the look of our 1924 farmhouse (and I still remain concerned about that issue), but my winter desperation greatly outweighs those concerns. So after my very generous dad offered to help us with the cost, I called my builder this spring and we got started planning, and, finally, building!

The scene in the photo above was taken on June 11, a couple of days before construction began two and a half weeks ago. We invited some friends over and had a "porch farewell" party that evening, as that was the last time we would be able to enjoy our open porch (it was a bit sad thinking about it, but it was also about 95°F that day and almost every day since, which illustrates why we hardly ever actually sat on our porch: too hot, too cold, too windy, too snowy, too buggy, too humid, or simply too busy to sit outside at all).

Anyway, here is a progress report in photos, taken over the past two and a half weeks:

June 16: Little Kitty cutely reclining against the bottom sill. Top and bottom sills have been sealed against the existing porch with foam tape to keep out drafts, and insulation has been blown into the hollow porch columns through those holes that are visible in the columns.


June 21: The walls have been framed in to hold the windows (our builder used 2x6 construction to support the weight of the heavy double-window units. The ceiling has been framed down so that it can be insulated.

June 22: The next day, after the electricians have installed the rough electrical wiring. they'll come back to install the fixtures and baseboard heaters after the interior has been finished.

June 27: The spray foam insulation guys used tarps to enclose the porch and then spray 3-4" of closed cell spray foam in the ceiling, under the floor and in the wall space under the windows.

June 28: Yesterday, the biggest change of all: the windows were delivered and installed! Now the space feels like it's Inside, not Outside. The sliding glass door will be installed at the forefront of the photo after more of the interior finish work is done.


Still to be done:

  1. installing the dropped ceiling 
  2. finishing the interior with beadboard and wood trim (which I will then paint)
  3. installing the electrical fixtures: lights, fan, baseboard heaters, etc. 
  4. finishing the exterior with siding and exterior trim, which the builder will paint
  5. I will then paint the floor -- I'm thinking perhaps of a light gray and white stenciled design of some kind, but I'm open to suggestions....




The exterior.

As I mentioned, I'm still worried that I might be ruining the look of our old-fashioned farmhouse. Now that the windows are installed, they look absolutely huge to me, out of scale with the rest of our house. I had originally envisioned seven windows across the front (odd numbers being visually more pleasing), but my builder convinced me that three units of two windows mulled together would look less busy and give me more uninterrupted glass (which is good in a sunroom for functional reasons, obviously). And he is right that fewer windows are a simpler, more classic look, but I really am worried that the windows are just too large, especially because they are right out front and therefore look even bigger and more prominent.

Of course, there's nothing to do about it at this point, as $4,000 of special-order windows are already framed in and installed. I guess they do look like a similar size with our existing front door, which with its sidelight windows is even larger, and maybe after they are framed and sided in, they will look better.... Perhaps I'm simply suffering from a common case of "buyer's remorse" or second-guessing my own decisions.

And I really haven't permanently ruined our old house; no historic elements have been removed and if a future owner of our house doesn't like the sunroom, it can easily be entirely removed, leaving virtually no traces on the original design of the porch (which again, we already had restored to its original design five years ago even though it cost more to do it that way -- did I mention that the 90-year-old front header beam under the porch roof was sagging dangerously and we replaced it with an 28-foot-long, engineered-laminate support header beam, rather than change the original design of the porch by adding center supports?). I think we've been pretty sensitive to the historic elements of this house.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the fun parts of this project: choosing some comfy wicker furniture, accessorizing with colorful pillows and an outdoor rug, and of course, filling the new space with lush, green and flowering plants that make me feel like I'm on a tropical vacation every time I enter the room.

When winter comes from now on, instead of this...


I'll have something more like this! No, my ceilings won't be high enough for
giant palms, but I'll still be able to have some pretty large plants in my own
bright and cheerful sunroom. (Pinterest)


I'll post another update on my sunroom project as we make more progress. Thanks for reading! -Beth

21 comments:

  1. I think it will be a lovely spot in winter. But how are you going to cool it in summer? I just love porches as places to hide from the heat, but they need to be open to breezes. Can you tell it never goes below freezing where I live? What a funny world!

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    1. Hi Jane, At this point, we're not going to install A/C, but the windows on the far end and the sliding glass door both can open, and on our breezy hill that west-east wind is usually pretty active. There was a nice breeze going through it when we opened the windows after they were installed (and the deep roof overhang prevents any sun from coming in during summertime, except in early morning and evening). I'm hoping it will be OK in summer without adding A/C ducts, but we can always add them later if it isn't tolerable. Yes, I'm sure porches serve a different function in hot climates like in California -- thanks for reading, Jane! -Beth

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  2. It looks really nice, Beth! You and your family will enjoy it so much in winters to come. You have done beautiful things with your home (and gardens too!) Thanks for sharing your pictures with us. I look forward to the final reveal. :)

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    1. Hi Beth, Thanks for stopping by, and for your nice words -- I'm so glad you think it will be a good addition! -Beth

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  3. What a beautiful room you are going to have! I think the scale is fine and the custom windows are beautiful! Don't second guess yourself it's already awesome and it's not even done yet! Can't wait to see the finished room..how fun it will be to decorate!

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    1. Hi Sonia, I'm so glad you think it looks OK -- I'm not sure why I'm so worried, but your opinion certainly helps. Thanks! :-) -Beth

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  4. Very nice.... I'm sure this change will bring great pleasure in the cold of winter especially.... I used to have an 18' lean-to green house that was open into the house.... it was wonderful to have all those blooming orchids and warmth as well as the scent of the soil when it was zero degrees outside!

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    1. Hi Larry, I don't know how you could ever have gotten rid of such a lovely winter space -- did it cost too much to heat? Thanks for reading, -Beth

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  5. Amazing transformation, Beth! I love it and to me the windows look perfect with your house. We have a teeny little porch on the front of our house and though it's screened in, we rarely sit out there. We just don't have the time and in the winter, well, just like yours, we'd have to shovel the snow out. I've always wanted a mudroom and the most logical choice for us would be to enclose the porch. After seeing your transformation, this will definitely be in the plans for me when we're ready for remodeling. I can't wait to see your final touches and the greenery in the winter!

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    1. Hi Karen, I'm so glad you like the way it looks, and I hope you will be able to have a sunny enclosed room too when you do your construction. Thanks for reading! -Beth

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  6. Wow, what a great project ! I know how it feels worrying about such fundamental changes, but the new look is very beautiful and I think it is harmonic with the old house. I like the big windows very much, it gives the building a light look - I can't really describe what I mean in english, I'm sorry...

    It will be a lovely place to be in winter an on rainy summer days. I'm sure you will enjoy it.

    Greetings from Birgit

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    1. Hello, Birgit, I'm so happy that you think the windows look nice with the house. Now that I have gotten used to them a bit more, they don't seem perhaps so out of place. Thanks for your encouraging words! -Beth

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  7. I think it looks great! I'm so excited for you!! I understand that winter desperation :) I know you will enjoy your sunroom so very much. Keep us updated - I'm excited to see the final result!

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    1. Hi Indie, I knew a fellow cold winter resident would understand my desperation for sunlight and greenery in the snowy months -- thanks for stopping by! -Beth

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  8. I think it's beautiful but here's a suggestion: extend the front beds several feet and add round flowing shrubs such abelia to mirror the scale of the windows. It's not that the windows don't match the house, but that the scale is off. I think the windows are cool. :o)

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    1. Hi Casa, Yes, I have been thinking about what to do with the landscaping outside, and your suggestion to add medium-sized shrubs in front is a good one. Abelia is not hardy here, but I'm sure there are other similar evergreen shrubs that would work here. My own go-to shrub is boxwood, although the 'Green Velvet' that does so well here is not as large as abelia. Thanks for your suggestion! -Beth

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  9. You are going to get such pleasure from this room!

    The window style makes it very special and pleasing to the eye. Although there is a lot of window, I believe it is the newness to your eye that is throwing you off. If you had chosen smaller windows I believe you would have been sorely disappointed with the result...which is beautiful. I like the tip above regarding the flower beds. It will enhance the new room and be fun to do to boot!

    Makes you wish for winter!

    Linda

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    1. Hi Linda, I'm not sure I would go so far as to long for winter yet :-) but yes, looking forward to having the sunroom does make the idea less horrible.... I'm so glad you like the windows, and I'm certain you're right that I'm just not used to them yet (their appearance and size are growing on me already...). I'm so glad you stopped by! -Beth

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  10. This will be WONDERFUL! And won't you enjoy it??!!! It was fun "getting in on the details" and I hope you post again soon. (I wonder if you're at the painting stages??) Happy times! SG

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  11. Hi Beth! Apologies for not having been over sooner...construction at our house too and I have been running in circles. I was SO excited to see that you had started on a porch makeover. I know you had posted about it before so it's lovely to see it come to fruition! I think it is just beautiful and fits perfectly with the house too....so you don't need to worry about ruining the architecture...far from it! How fantastic this is going to be in the colder weather and you will have so much fun decorating it and planning your indoor landscape. Can't wait to see when it is all done!
    - Kate xx

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