Is it Cheaper to Turn a Porch Into a Sunroom or Enclose It?

by Lisa Carlson, Demand Media
    Getting creative with your living space can run from a simple enclosed porch to an opulent sunroom.

    Getting creative with your living space can run from a simple enclosed porch to an opulent sunroom.

    Making improvements on your home is one way to increase the value of your property and make it a more valuable investment for the future. Curb appeal and spacious backyards are major attractions to prospective homebuyers, and upgrading your porch to become a sunroom or enclosing it will increase the value of your home. But which route gives you the best bang for your buck, and which will pay off more in the long run?

    Sunrooms

    In addition to increasing the value of your home, turning a porch into a sunroom adds living space and square footage to the property. However, there are several steps you need to take to make sure you properly construct the sunroom. Depending on the area you live in, you may need to apply for a building permit. Contact your local building department to find out if this stipulation is mandated in your area. If you add lights, you'll need an electrical permit, and if you add plumbing for an extra air conditioning unit, that will most likely require a specific permit as well. You'll need to hire someone to determine if your foundation is sound enough to serve as a living area and to check the viability of the roof and gutters. Because sunrooms by definition have several windows, you'll need to make sure rainwater is diverted away from the house. If the floors in your porch slope, you'll need to decide whether you're going to keep the slope or raise the floor joists.

    Enclosed Porches

    Although a sunroom is essentially a high-caliber enclosed porch, you can still turn your open porch into an enclosed setting and create an additional space that doesn't depend on the weather. Depending on how elaborate you want to make the enclosed porch, you can get away with doing most, if not all, the labor yourself. Because you are not turning the porch into a living addition, there's no need to fix any slope, add plumbing or create walls with drywall and paint. You may have some electrician work if you plan on putting in lights, which can be a functional addition. You may have to apply for a building permit, and again, check with your city's building department for exact regulations.
    Screening your porch in is one of the most inexpensive routes to enclosing it, and you can purchase large rolls of screen at home improvement stores. Staple these to the existing openings and then secure pieces of trim over the edges.

    Cost Analysis

    With a sunroom, most of your budget is going to be spent on windows. Costs vary and are widely dependent on the size and quality of windows, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $2,000 per opening, according to the website constructionmaterials.com. Because sunrooms adjoin to existing structures and involve several aspects of construction, including plumbing and electrical work, this is not usually a DIY project that can be undertaken solely by homeowners. According to fixr.com, the average cost of converting a sunroom, including the poured slab, post and beam construction, and the creation of a four-season room, is around $72,000 or $360 per square foot. This estimate includes an average of $70 per hour for carpentry work and $65 to $85 an hour for electrician work. Additionally, painters charge between $25 and $35 per hour.
    Enclosing a porch costs far less than going for a sunroom. Costs can depend widely depending on what kind of enclosed porch you want. Screened porches are the most inexpensive and require the least work. Costs go up from there, with addition of doors, windows or more substantial coverings, and any framing work. The same carpentry, electrician and painting labor estimates apply in this scenario as they do with sunrooms.

    Value in the Long Run

    Sunrooms will hold around a 72 percent return in resale value, according to fixr.com. This means that for the $72,000 sunroom example, a homeowner will be able to add on $51,840 to the price of their home when they sell.
    Enclosed porches can also retain their value, especially if you do most of the work yourself. The major difference between the two is the benefit of putting some sweat equity into your project and saving some money in the short run. It's debatable whether a sunroom is more valuable in the long run than an enclosed porch, but sunrooms add living space that can actually be counted as extra square feet. However, it's possible to over-improve your home and price yourself out of the market. Do your research and analyze the costs, the value of the construction in the long run, and your family's needs.

    About the Author

    Lisa Carlson works as an associate director of recruitment and graduate programs at a public university, and has experience in management, marketing, personal finance and nonprofit organizations. She is a peer-reviewed author on publications for higher education recruiting and holds a B.S. in marketing and a M.B.A.

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