Tips for Beautiful Patios and Sunrooms

Patio and sunroom

Patios and sunrooms, while they are very different structures, are both excellent ways to expand your living space and take advantage of the beauty and relaxation of the outdoors. Adding, building or remodeling a patio or sunroom is a great project, but there are some common mistakes which many homeowners make during the process. In addition to costing you time and money, these mistakes can also make your outdoor space less enjoyable.

Thankfully, these mistakes are easily avoided. Here, we'll review some of the most common errors, as well as ways to make sure you avoid them. In addition, we'll give you a quick review of just what patios and sunrooms are.

The Basics

Sunrooms, also often called enclosed porches or three-season porches, are structures built onto your home. They're usually in the front, although you can place yours wherever you most enjoy the view. A sunroom is simply a semi-outdoor room, enclosed on all sides but not fully insulated like the rest of your home. Large windows let homeowners take advantage of natural heat and light (hence the name).

Patios are, traditionally, outdoor living spaces. They're usually found just outside a back or side door, and most often consist of a concrete slab "floor" and a few decorations. You can make your patio as simple or elaborate as you like; many homeowners turn this living space into a fully furnished outdoor room for relaxing and entertaining. A patio is not enclosed, although you have the option of using trellis fencing or a large awning to create overhead shelter from the elements.

Common Sunroom Mistakes

A few mistakes are so common to sunroom construction and decoration that builders and designers almost expect them when called in on a repair job. However, you can avoid these costly and unsightly mistakes by following some common sense guidelines and thinking your decisions through carefully.

Failure to Account for Weather

A sunroom is an outdoor living space. Therefore, it's a must to consider your local climate before building. If you live in an area which experiences very cold winters, for example, you may want to insulate your sunroom, at least partially. This will let your household enjoy it for as much of the year as possible. Likewise, a sunroom in an extremely hot and humid climate will benefit greatly from fully operational windows. Some warm-climate homeowners even install a cooling system, either as part of their home's cooling, as a stand-alone air conditioner or even some large fans. Whatever your climate or budget, keep in mind that a sunroom is a big investment, and you don't want the weather to keep you from enjoying your new living space.

Inappropriate Furnishings

Since your new sunroom will be part of your home, you'll naturally want to decorate it as such. However, be careful to avoid the common mistake of using inappropriate furniture and floor coverings.

A sunroom is enclosed, but the vast majority have very large windows, often floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow bright sunlight to stream inside on a regular basis. Sunlight fades anything it touches, given enough time. Many homeowners have beautifully decorated their sunrooms with expensive, indoor furniture, only to find that gorgeous upholstery bleached and faded in just a few years. The same principle applies to floor coverings. 521

Avoiding this mistake, thankfully, is simple. If you want to use indoor furniture, you have two options. You can design an area in your sunroom with plenty of shade and place your furniture there. Alternately, you can purchase furniture made from special UV-resistant fabrics. These are available in a wide range of colors and designs, many of which look nothing like traditional outdoor furniture.

Sun resistant floor coverings are also available. In the case of a hardwood floor, ask your contractor about special UV-blocking sealants and finishes, which filter out the rays which cause fading. Rugs and carpeting are available which have been designed for use in bright sunlight.

Your other option is to use outdoor furniture to decorate your sunroom. If you haven't shopped for outdoor furnishings lately, you're in for a treat. There are more choices than you can imagine, in every style and complementing any decor. From a rugged and rustic look to Victorian elegance, there's something for every taste. Best of all, these furnishings have been designed to stand up to harsh elements.

Ignoring Your Home's Design

When adding a sunroom, especially to the front of your house, paying attention to the house itself is essential. Far too many homeowners have made the mistake of tacking, for example, a Victorian-styled sunroom onto a Cape Cod home. No matter how much you love the look of Victorian homes, this is not the way to indulge your preferences. A sunroom which clashes with the house it's attached to is an eyesore, for homeowners and neighbors alike. Do yourself a favor and follow the lines, design and architecture of your existing home. After all, you can decorate the interior however you like!

Not Making the Space Comfortable

In many cases, homeowners will build a beautiful sunroom and fail to furnish it. This doesn't make a lot of sense, but it happens more often than you'd think. The result? A gorgeous home addition which doesn't get used.

Avoid this senseless waste of space and money by making your sunroom a comfortable, inviting place to spend time. Regardless of how you furnish it, there should be ample seating, a table for convenience and any other items that your individual household uses frequently. The more inviting the space, the more people will want to spend time there, and the more value you'll get out of your new investment. 907

Creating an inviting sunroom also involves properly finishing the interior. Yes, it's a semi-outdoor space, but that's no reason to leave studs and beams exposed. Unless you're going for a rugged, log-cabin feel (which can be lovely), finish the walls and ceiling just as you would any other room in your home.

Patio Mistakes

When constructing a patio, several common mistakes often prevent homeowners from ending up with the outdoor living space they had envisioned. Thankfully, just like common sunroom mistakes, these errors are easily avoided.

Insufficient Space

At the very least, a patio should measure about ten feet square. This provides enough room for a small grill and a standard size outdoor table with chairs. However, if you plan on spending a lot of time on your patio, if you entertain a great deal or if you have a large household, strongly consider a larger size.

The entire point of a patio is to have an enjoyable space to spend time. If you or your guests feel cramped and crowded, nobody will have a very good time. Consider how often you entertain outdoors (or plan to), and build accordingly.

If pouring a very large concrete base is out of your price range, remember that a patio space can be visually enlarged in other ways. Trellis fence pieces can create a beautiful outdoor room, and climbing vines add to their appeal. This option is classic, elegant and very inexpensive.

Ignoring Your Yard and Home

As we've mentioned with sunrooms, a patio's decor should match that of the house itself as well as the yard. A patio which is designed or decorated radically differently from its surroundings generally doesn't look good, no matter how much you like the patio design itself. Try to design and decorate your patio to at least complement, if not entirely match, the adjacent house and yard. For example, picture a backyard which has been classically landscaped, featuring a large white-marble fountain and sculpted topiaries. Now picture the patio, adorned with brightly colored flaming torches and giving off a distinctly tropical-party feel.

Bad, right? Of course, this example is extreme, but you get the idea. Having your entire property follow the same general theme is always your best bet.

Uneven Slabs

Extremely dangerous, annoying and difficult to repair, uneven concrete slabs are an all-too-common mistake among homeowners who have installed a patio. How does this happen? Usually by improper preparation of the underlying materials.

Before actually pouring your concrete, a professional should ensure that the ground is perfectly level. They may have to dig out certain areas or fill in others, but the final surface should be smooth and even. If it's not, you'll end up with dips, slants and other hazardous and ugly results.

Unfortunately, this mistake is often the result of using a less-than-reputable worker. Since the concrete slab is the foundation of your patio, don't hesitate to pay a bit extra for qualified and experienced professional services. In the long run, the extra investment will pay off, because you'll avoid the cost and hassle of breaking up and hauling away the uneven concrete. 1409

Suit Your Outdoor Space to Your Life

With the exception of structural elements like a patio slab, the majority of the most common mistakes are simple matters. Make sure that your sunroom or patio fits in well with how your household plans to use it. Plan for frequent use, but don't waste money on furnishings or adornments you'll never need or use. Match your home's overall decor, or at least stay in harmony with it.

Ultimately, a sunroom or patio is all about enjoying your home, expanding it and relaxing outside. Once you have the basics taken care of, plan with enjoyment in mind, and it'll be hard to go wrong.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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