John Teeple, a general contractor with over three decades of experience, has noticed something different the past 10 years: a 75% increase in requests to turn a three-season porch into a four-season room.
It’s “a growing trend,” says Teeple, who is based in Covington, Pennsylvania. “People are trying to turn around as much space as they can and use it more often.” He adds that converting a porch will also increase your home’s value.
But the extra space and higher property value aren’t the only drivers behind the growth. Americans are embracing a trend of creating open floor plans for their homes.
“Most people are trying to open up their floor plan as much as they can,” Teeple says. “They want the porch to be part of their house.”
Homeowners often start converting the space after three to five years of using a three-season porch, says Tim Ellis, who chairs the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers.
“It’s the ability to make the room like a kitchen or dining room bigger with an open floor plan so everyone can be part of that family activity,” says Ellis, who is a contractor in Maryland. “In an open floor plan, you see a lot more interactions because there’s room to maneuver.”
Other things to consider when converting your porch:
Discuss a budget with your contractor
The complexities involved in converting a three-season porch to a year-round room mean homeowners usually need to work with a contractor.
“It’s definitely not a DIY,” Ellis says. “You already got some investment in a three-season room. You need to look at that and ask, ‘What are we going to do in the space? Is there going to be a TV out there? Are we going to have a bunch of windows or a sliding door?’”
Conversion could cost $25,000 to $75,000 and take four to six weeks to complete, Ellis says, adding that homeowners also need a building permit, which their contractors can assist with.
Labor and materials each typically represent half of the cost, Teeple says.
Teeple says that converting to a basic four-season room could cost just $12,000. “It’s mostly about the materials you use,” he says, but warns that with cheaper materials, “you are going to run into a problem down the road.”
His clients usually spend about $35,000 to convert a 12-by-12 square-foot space.
How to heat, cool and light the space
Homeowners also need to think about insulating, heating and cooling the space because three-season screened porches aren’t weatherproof, Ellis says.
He recommends using a standalone HVAC (heating, ventilation, and AC) unit instead of tapping into the home’s heating and cooling system.
“Tapping off the existing house system sometimes could create an imbalance,” Ellis says.
Homeowners also will benefit by using energy-efficient windows, Teeple says.
“You want to insulate the ceiling and walls as much as you can and get as much light in the room as possible so it still looks like a porch but it’s a living space,” he says.
Adding electric wiring and an outlet is another must-do, Teeple says.
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What’s your taste?
Besides nailing the basics to make the space weatherproof and livable, homeowners need to give some thought to the style and design touches they like based on their budget.
Do they want a laminated, tile, carpeted or hardwood floor? Do they want windows from floor to ceiling or a combination of half walls and windows, or accordion glass doors that open to the outside?
“You are basically building a small home,” Ellis says. “You have to sit down with your architect or builder or contractor to discuss how you envision the space.”