Home Additions , Residential Category

Sunroom vs. Screened Porch: How to Make the Most of Your Minnesota Home

Wish you could enjoy Minnesota summers without the mosquitos? We can help! 

We’ll explain the difference between a sunroom and a screened porch — plus our interior designer Stephanie Morris shares a third option you probably didn’t even know existed! Here’s everything you need to know about your new favorite room of the house.

Minnesota summers are sacred. We endure long, grueling winters each year in exchange for 3 glorious months of sunshine and (mostly) idyllic weather. But many of our summer plans shifted with the pandemic. Travel plans, youth sports, and backyard BBQs all look and feel a bit different this year. So how can we still enjoy the best of summer, even with much of it happening at our own homes? The answer: A gorgeous indoor/outdoor living space. While some people use the terms ‘sunroom’ and ‘screened porch’ interchangeably, they aren't the same thing. “A sunroom and a screened porch are totally different, especially in Minnesota,” Stephanie says. A sunroom is typically fully walled in and climate-controlled, while a screened porch (or sun porch) is essentially a roofed, screened-in deck that’s open to the elements. Either way, these sunny spaces provide the best of summer living.

So, why add on a sunroom? 

More than just additional square footage, the sunroom offers the best of all worlds no matter the season. Imagine yourself listening to the sound of summer rain while sipping tea or enjoying an afternoon nap in the warmth of sunshine even on the coldest winter day. Both are possible with a sunroom. Because sunrooms typically have windows on three sides, they can provide an amazing cross breeze with the windows open. Then, when the weather’s less than ideal, simply close the windows and enjoy the comfort of climate control with tons of natural light. A sunroom also provides the perfect backdrop for a host of design options. You can select plush carpet or heated flooring for comfort underfoot. Throw in a cozy sofa and television and you’re ready for year-round relaxation. And because it’s impervious to rain and snow, you’re free to choose whichever light fixtures and decor best suit your style.

Is a screened porch right for you?

On the other hand, if you prefer a bit more rustic experience, you might be a screened porch person. Do you picture playing a round of your family’s favorite card game in the fresh outdoor air (without stopping to swat at dozens of mosquitos)? Or maybe you daydream about enjoying your first cup of coffee in the cool breeze while listening to the local birds make their morning announcements. If this is more your style, a screened porch might be the right choice. True, it might not offer as wide a range of finish options since it’s open to the elements, but there’s something soothing about the rusticity of a cedar-planked sun porch. It provides many of the familiar amenities of a lakeside cabin — with screens to prevent unwelcome guests that invade an open deck or patio.

Still can’t decide? There’s a middle ground that might be just right.

There’s an alternative to your typical glass sunroom windows. “It’s a window that allows you to have a screened porch feel, but more airtight than just a screened room, and without the cost of a full sunroom,” Stephanie explains. Companies Eze Breeze and Sunspace manufacture these specialty sunroom windows that provide the best of both worlds. Sliding panels give you a screened porch feel on beautiful, breezy days. Then in the offseason, their vinyl glazed panels retain heat to keep your porch much cozier than you’d expect. Yep, even in a Minnesota winter! “The room isn’t insulated, but many people put fireplaces in the rooms with these windows because they allow you to hold in some of the heat,” says Stephanie. A wood stove is another great option for keeping your sun porch toasty year-round. Not only that, but these special panels are also shatter-resistant. They actually stretch and regain their shape if hit by a rock launched from the mower or a wayward baseball from a neighborhood pickup game. So, if you’re looking for a middle ground when it comes to indoor/outdoor spaces, these specialty porch window panels might be a perfect choice.

How much does a sunroom addition cost?

Because it’s a bigger project, a sunroom typically comes with a higher price tag. In fact, most sunroom additions can cost nearly double what a screened porch costs to build. Homeowners can expect to pay more for larger spaces, special ceiling treatments, and extra features. For a more budget-friendly option, consider adding a screened porch, price varies depending on size and materials. If you already have an existing porch or patio that’s square and structurally sound, it can keep your costs even lower since the flooring and foundation are often the most expensive component. The hybrid vinyl glazed window options typically land somewhere in between a screened porch and full sunroom addition.  But what is most important to understand is that every project is different because of the variables at your property and it is always best to talk to one of our professionals to get an accurate price quote based on the existing structure along your needs and wants.

Is a sunroom a good investment?

In terms of investment, a sunroom typically recoups about half of what you spend at resale depending on the market. This could mean if you spend $30,000, your home value could increase by $15,000 overall. While this is nowhere near the ROI of a kitchen or bath remodel, it doesn’t mean a sunroom addition is a bad investment.  Consider this, an indoor/outdoor space can add tremendous value to your family and your life! A sunroom can provide:
  • Added square footage to your floorplan
  • Access to sunlight when it’s too cold to soak up the sun’s rays outside
  • The perfect spot to grow houseplants or herbs
  • A versatile space with tons of natural light (think game or craft room, breakfast nook, or home office)
  • The ability to enjoy nature even in the winter months (not to mention a gorgeous spot to watch the snowfall)
On the other hand, a screened porch:
  • Allows you to soak up Minnesota summers without the mosquito bites
  • Provides an escape from the rest of your house (without having to leave!)
  • Connects you and your home with nature
If you intend to stay in your home for the foreseeable future, a custom indoor/outdoor space might be exactly what you — and your home — need for Minnesota summers.

Whether you’re drawn to the fully finished sunroom, a rustic screened porch, or something in between, our team is here to help you sort it out. Contact us today to learn more about sunroom and screened porch additions to make the most of your Minnesota home. 952-746-7817

Written by Scott Rajavuori on July 7, 2020