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Outdoor Additions: Enclosures, Sunrooms & More
Enhance the look and functionality of your backyard and increase your living space with an enclosure, sunroom, gazebo, or pool house.
By Kimberlee Courtney
Backyard structures—such as pool enclosures, sunrooms, gazebos, and pool houses—add function and style to your yard and allow you to get more use out of your property. Whether you’d like to enjoy your swimming pool year-round, open up your home to the radiant outdoors, or add a multipurpose space for outdoor/poolside entertaining, these structures can satisfy your needs. Find out which backyard addition best suits your desires and budget.
Extend the Swim Season
A permanent pool enclosure lets you enjoy your swimming pool any time of year, regardless of the forecast. These structures can be built as a freestanding unit or attached to your home in a lean-to design, which uses one wall of your house as the fourth wall of the enclosure.
Permanent pool enclosures are typically constructed of tempered aluminum framework and stainless steel hardware. The roof and walls are made of glass or a light-transmitting polycarbonate material, which provides room insulation, UV protection, and maintains the pool water temperature. On sunny days, you can create the feeling of swimming outdoors by opening the roof panels to let in sunlight and fresh air. In seasonal climates, an oil or gas air heater can be installed to keep a comfortable temperature inside the enclosure when the weather gets cold.
A pool enclosure will not only extend your swim season, but also increase your living space by making use of the area during unpleasant weather conditions. You’ll never have to reschedule a pool party or deal with a house full of drenched guests due to unexpected rain again! Most prefabricated models include ample space for furniture, planters, or even exercise equipment. Custom-built enclosures offer even more versatility. Wood, brick, stone, and other materials can be incorporated into custom designs to match the architectural style of your home or your personal taste. They can feature cathedral or dome-shaped roofs, custom moldings, and motorized opening systems.
Permanent pool enclosures range from $22 per square foot for prefabricated models to $60 per square foot for custom-built designs.
Enjoy the Outdoors Year-Round
A sunroom brings natural light and fresh air into your home, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors without the threat of rain, wind, or insects ruining the experience. Sunrooms are typically constructed of low-maintenance aluminum, wood, or vinyl framing and polycarbonate or tempered glass. Most feature double-paned windows for insulation and a series of sliding glass doors with screens to keep the room cool on a hot summer day.
A sunroom can be built as an addition to the home or created as part of an existing room, such as a kitchen, family room, or home office. To enjoy the sunroom year round, you can extend the ductwork of your home’s heating and cooling system, but be sure to get a price estimate during the planning stage to see how this will factor into your budget. Another option is to install a baseboard heater and window air conditioner to heat and cool the room separately. Because sunrooms use sunlight as a primary heat source, it will cost less to heat this room than if you built a traditional addition.
With a variety of design options, including straight, curved, cathedral, and conservatory styles, a sunroom can be a great extension for any home. The expanded living space can be used for entertaining, exercising, relaxing, or even soaking in a hot tub.
Prefabricated sunrooms start around $10,000 for small (8-by-10-foot) models and range from $35,000 – $70,000 for larger models with custom design features. A 200-square-foot custom-built sunroom averages around $75,000.
Create Poolside Living Space
Pool houses, also known as cabanas, provide a convenient place to lounge and entertain guests. Constructed as a freestanding unit near the pool, a pool house can be made from a variety of materials, though it is typically built from wood. It has weather- and storm-proof windows and can feature a multitude of design elements, including skylights, window shutters, decorative trim, overhang for a porch, and French doors.
Pool houses can serve many purposes. Small structures can function as a shed and may be used to store pool toys, maintenance equipment, and patio furniture. Larger units can serve as a useful spot for swimmers to change, relax, and enjoy refreshments. More elaborate models can include a variety of amenities, such as a bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom, so you can entertain family and friends without having to step back into the main house.
Before construction begins, you’ll need to check local building codes to determine installation requirements. It’s also important to look at the wide array of pool house/cabana designs to find a style that meets your needs and complements your home. A good resource is the Coventry Pool & Garden House Plans book, which contains a collection of 63 different pool house models ranging in style, size, and price. Having a good idea of the assorted design options that are available can help you work more efficiently with your builder or architect.
Prefab pool houses typically range from $3,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on size. Custom pool houses that feature additional rooms, floor space, or electronics can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. Luxury-style pool houses, which can be as large as 1,000 square feet and include high-end materials, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, the need for professional installation of electrical wiring and plumbing will add to the cost. Generally, a small pool house that does not require any wiring or plumbing will take only a few days to build, while more sophisticated models can take several months to complete.
For building plans, articles, and more info on pool houses, visit the
Photo courtesy of Garden Prairie Pool & Spa Enclosures, manufactured by CCSI International, Inc.
Add Stylish Shelter
Gazebos offer a charming backyard retreat where you can seek shade from the hot sun, find cover from the rain, or enjoy a relaxing soak in your hot tub. These freestanding structures are usually hexagonal or octagonal in shape with a pointed roof and low railing around the base. They can be open on all sides or enclosed with skylights and sliding windows and doors for extra privacy and protection.
Large or small, gazebos can be crafted from wood, brick, vinyl, and even canvas. Cedar is the most popular choice thanks to its natural beauty and durability, while vinyl has become favored for its low maintenance.
The roof defines the overall aesthetic appeal of the structure and can made of wood, asphalt or vinyl shingles, as well as copper, painted aluminum, or steel. Often, a decorative copula, finial, or weathervane is featured at the top. Some gazebos have a double roof, which adds both visual appeal and ventilation.
Along with the roof, a variety of finishing details, such as trim, corbels, posts, and rails enhance the gazebo’s appearance. A wide range of designs and styles are available in prefabricated kits, or you can build your own for a truly customized showpiece. In most cases, plumbing and electricity can be incorporated into the design to allow for a ceiling fan, lights, or a hot tub or spa. Gazebos cost around $200 for canvas types and $2,500 for small prefabricated models. Fully enclosed, customized structures typically start around $20,000.
Photo courtesy of Backyard America Outdoor Structures
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