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Extending the Seasons

Three ways to maximize your outdoor living space

By Sarah Casey

Garden Prairie Pool & Spa EnclosureYour backyard may be your favorite place to spend a sunny afternoon or springtime weekend. Of course, when the weather is rainy, humid, cold, or windy, you may find yourself stuck indoors. Luckily, you can add a structure to your backyard that will help you keep insects and unfavorable weather at bay, while still giving you the feeling of being outdoors. Pool houses and sunrooms often include sliding glass doors and skylights, while functioning as a second family room and a place to entertain. Current pool and spa owners can add to their living space while also extending their pool season by building a permanent enclosure; in many areas, this allows for year-round swimming. So which one of these season extenders is best for you? Read on to find out.

Enclosures

Built around a pool or spa, permanent enclosures allow you to swim and relax poolside, rain or shine. Most enclosures use light-transmitting polycarbonate (a glass alternative) on the roof and walls, which traps heat from the sun, keeping the water warm and the enclosure well-insulated. When the weather beckons, you can open the roof to enjoy the fresh air. If you live in a seasonal climate, you may wish to install a heater. Enclosure heaters typically run on oil or gas, but can be fan-driven as well. Most are built with sensors or programmable thermostats to control the heat output. 

Permanent enclosures offer a great amount of customization. Some manufacturers offer a catalog of pre-determined designs so home­owners can select one that fits with their home’s architecture or desired look. These enclosures typically cost between $6,000 and $22,000 before delivery, depending on size and style, and only take a few days to install. A custom enclosure offers more versatility because it can be any style, color, and size you wish, as long as it fits into your budget. Cathedral-like and domed roofs, custom moldings, motorized opening systems, and outdoor overhangs are just a few of your options. These enclosures can be freestanding or lean-to (using one wall of your house as the fourth wall of the enclosure). Custom enclosures can take longer to plan and build, but give you the freedom to create a truly unique and personalized space.

Sunrooms

Sunrooms are usually built as an attachment to the home and typically have a series of polycarbonate or tempered glass sliding doors along the walls. When the sun is streaming in, you can open the doors to allow in a cool breeze, while keeping the screens closed to keep insects out. You may also add skylights to provide additional sunlight and a perfect view of the stars at night. Furnishing your sunroom with plush seating and tables will create a cozy place to relax year-round. Sunrooms use sunlight as a primary heat source, meaning it’ll cost less to heat this room than if you built a traditional extension. Sunrooms also provide the ideal environment to grow flowers and other plants, which adds to the indoor/outdoor ambience.

A basic 8-by-10-foot sunroom starts at around $10,000, while larger models—with heating and cooling systems and custom design features—often range between $35,000 and $75,000.Construction of your sunroom can take anywhere from several days to a month, depending on the size and time of year you choose to build it. It’s a good idea to plan your sunroom’s construction for spring or early summer, so you’ll have less chance of inclement weather delaying the building process.

Pool Houses

Pool houses are freestanding structures built near (but not covering) the pool, and can be used for a multitude of purposes. Small units can house pool toys, maintenance items, and deck furniture, while larger models can be decorated and furnished to create a relaxing, shady escape from the hot temperatures. Luxury pool houses can even include a bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom to provide extra space for entertaining or overnight guests. 

When planning a pool house, you can work with an architect to achieve the exact design you want. Pool houses can be made of virtually any material, but are usually constructed from wood and include weather- and storm-proof windows. Recent trends have taken a turn toward minimalist designs with clean lines, angular shapes, and muted colors for the exterior. 

The first thing you should do when planning to build a pool house is to get an idea of which styles suit your home, and find builders in your area who can accommodate that style within your budget. A prefab pool house can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 or more depending on size, and custom pool houses typically run $50,000 to $100,000 when adding additional rooms, floor space, or electronics. Luxury pool houses may be as large as 1,000 square feet and, when incorporating high-end materials, can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. A professional will most likely need to install electrical wiring and plumbing, which will add to the cost. Check with local codes to determine installation requirements. A small pool house that does not require any wiring or plumbing will typically take a few days to build, while more sophisticated models can take several months to complete.

A great place to start looking at pool house styles and designs is the Coventry Pool & Garden House Plans book, which contains 63 different models. You can purchase this helpful reference catalog in our bookstore.

Photo courtesy of Garden Prairie Pool & Spa Enclosures, Manufactured by CCSI International, Inc.