In New England it can get buggy, so screen porches can be a nice way to extend your home to the outdoors. However, with our relatively short summers, many clients ask for a 3 Season room to get more use out of it. Let’s look at the pros and cons of screen porches, 3 Season rooms, and additions.
Screen porches typically have a roof with supporting posts with screen panels in between. They can have a solid floor made out of something waterproof like tile (as wind-driven rain will get on the floor), or decking that allows the water to drain. The screens can go all the way to the floor, or there can be a partial wall with screens above. Typically there is a door leading to the outside.
Pros: It is the most open, providing the most ventilation (I’ve designed a few with screen roofs for maximum ventilation). It is the least expensive to build.
Cons: Not comfortable on a chilly day/night.
A 3 Season room is essentially a screen porch that has uninsulated glass or plastic panels that can be inserted in place of the screens. These panels retain some warmth in the room, so they extend the usability to spring and fall. The cost of the panels makes it slightly more expensive than a porch.
Pros: Same openness as a screen porch
Cons: Requires effort to replace the screens with panels in the spring and fall, and you need a place to store the panels.
An addition can look identical to a screen porch but is has insulated windows and/or doors in place of the screens/panels.
Pros: Year-round use, the adjacent room(s) can be opened up completely to the addition if desired, since it is conditioned (heated and cooled) space.
Cons: Not as much ventilation, as operable windows or doors provide less ventilation that screen panels. The windows or doors have thicker frames and appear less open than screen panels. There is more of a feeling of separation from the outside. Additions can also be considerably more expensive to build as insulated doors and windows are more expensive than screens and panels. There is also the cost of conditioning the room.
However, there are new products that can make additions feels as open as screen porches. Multi-slide doors allow a group of doors to all slide to one side, providing very large openings. Essentially the entire wall of the addition can slide into a 3’ wide space. Then, a sliding canister screen is used to cover the opening. This can create an even more open feeling than a screen porch, as there are no vertical posts. This system is quite expensive, but can be worth it if you want the best of all worlds.