Screened porches, 3 season porches, 4 season rooms…what’s the difference? And which one’s right for you?
We’re exploring these indoor-outdoor spaces and letting you in on a lesser-known, best-of-all-worlds option. One that maximizes your summer living and keeps your family comfy into fall and winter, too.
It’s no secret that Minnesotans love their summer weather. And no wonder! We patiently wait months for the world to thaw so we can soak up the sunshine and enjoy the warm, fresh air.
But, no sooner has summer begun than mosquito season kicks in, leaving us to decide: do we immerse ourselves in a citronella candle fog and a constant reapplication of bug spray? Or admit our defeat and head indoors to escape the swarms?
Many homeowners attempt to get the best of both worlds with a porch addition. But each type has various benefits and limitations.
Pros and cons of screened porches, 3 seasons rooms, and 4 seasons rooms
These indoor/outdoor spaces come with a host of considerations, from cost to functionality.
First, let’s look at screened porches
A screened porch is the most budget-friendly option, and it keeps you closest to nature.
But because it’s open to the elements, furnishing and decor options are limited. Plus, with zero climate control, you’re lucky to get 5-6 comfortable months of use each year here in Minnesota.
What about a 3 season porch?
A 3 season porch offers a bit more protection from the elements.
With solid windows, it can keep you dry on rainy days, but it doesn’t have central heat to provide climate control. Some homeowners opt to insulate their 3 season porches to stretch their utility, but they’re still not livable year-round.
Finally, what’s a 4 season room?
A 4 season room (or sunroom) is a fully-insulated space with complete ductwork, millwork, etc — just like any other room in the house. Technically every room in your home is a 4 season room…but this one stands out because it’s usually an add-on that juts out from the main structure, giving you 2-3 full sides of windows and lots of sunshine.
It’s the most expensive of the three, and it’s livable year-round. For some homeowners, though, its fully-finished state doesn’t give that close-to-nature feeling they’re seeking.
So it can be difficult for homeowners to decide. Do you add a screened porch for minimal investment and maximum connection to the outdoors (but for a limited number of days each year)? Or, do you increase your budget to enjoy a sun-filled space for more months, but with less access to the open-air feeling you really crave on those beautiful summer days?
Indoor/outdoor living — can you have the best of both worlds?
At Titus, we love offering Minnesota homeowners another option. One that provides the open-air quality we love about screened porches but stays comfortable and warm long into fall and even winter.
A 3-season porch with Sunspace or Eze Breeze windows
These vinyl-glazed windows are more durable than glass and are specially designed for maximum climate control and comfort.
We love offering these porch windows because they:
- Maximize screens in the summer. Sliding panels allow you to have a room that’s 75% screens, for that outdoor feeling you want, but still bug-free.
- Retain heat in winter. As temperatures drop, simply slide the glazed panels closed to hold heat on chilly days.
- Are extremely durable. Struck by a baseball, these vinyl windows flex to prevent cracking or breaking, then regain their shape in minutes.
- Regulate temperature better than glass. The special glazing is designed to hold in heat in winter, as well as keep humidity out on sticky summer days, so you stay comfortable in almost any weather
- Provide sun protection. Their special glazing filters out 99% of UV rays to protect your skin and prevent fading of furnishings and upholstery.
- Are easy to customize. You can configure them however you like to maximize views and style.
Plus, Sunspace and Eze Breeze windows provide many of the benefits of a fully insulated 4 season room, without all the construction and hefty price tag.
In fact, a Sunspace or Eze Breeze porch typically costs less than a traditional 3 season porch with glass windows. And can offer substantial savings compared to a full sunroom/4 season room addition.
Lastly, because it’s not fully-climate controlled, a 3 season porch isn’t considered living space. This means it doesn’t add to your home’s tax bill the way a finished 4 season room would.
Ways to make the most of your 3 season porch
A 3 season room can be as rustic or polished as you’d like, depending on your aesthetic.
To maximize comfort on hot summer days, consider installing a ceiling fan. And to stretch its use in the winter months, interior designer Steph Morris recommends adding a heating element. “A gas fireplace or wood-burning stove allows you to use your Sunspace or Eze Breeze porch almost year-round. Even in Minnesota,” she explains. “We had a client tell us his porch windows retained heat so well that his family wore shorts in their porch this winter!”
Really want to maximize porch living? Add a TV or surround sound. With all these features, your 3 season porch might be your new favorite spot for football season.
Considering a 3 season porch for your Minnesota home?
It’s a relatively low-cost option to get the most out of your living spaces. Plus, the transformation is often much faster and less complicated than creating a true 4 season sunroom.