Build Your Own Sunroom


OK, so the roof was complete, at a relatively low cost, with materials that were fairly easy to find. The walls were more of a challenge.

It was my intention from the start to find used sliding patio doors to use for my walls. In fact, I had a head start, since I had a friend who I knew would soon be replacing his set of patio doors, which were 16' long, comprised of four 4' panels - 2 center sliding panels and 2 fixed outside panels.. They were perfect for my deck, since it was 16.5' long. I had to wait several months, but eventually I was able to get this used set of glass doors, for $200. This was the single highest-cost component of my sunroom.

Had I not been able to get my hands on this 16' set, I was considering using three 5' sets of doors. However, finding that many separate patio door sets would have been a challenge. As it was, I still needed to find doors for the ends of my sunroom, and I learned a few lessons during the course of my quest:

  • Used patio doors appear regularly in the classified ads. They can be priced anywhere from free to $400, but most people seem to ask $100 - $200. Most sellers already have their new doors, and just want to get rid of their old ones, so prices are usually very negotiable. Sizes range from 5' - 16' (although 16' sets are rare), and sets come in 2, 3 and 4 panels.
  • Look for sets that come with all the hardware and screens. It may be possible to make due without, but it will be much easier with the tracks and side frame, and screens are a must in the summer when you'll want to open up the doors for maximum airflow.
  • Reject any doors that have condensation between the panes. This is quite common with older patio doors, and is often the reason why they are being replaced by the seller. You don't want to look through fogged glass, and it's very difficult to clear the condensation once it's there. I've learned that from experience, as two of the 4' panels in my 16' set were fogged when I got them, and I've been trying to clear them since with limited success.
  • One good place to look for sliding doors and large fixed panels is at a demolition salvage yard. Companies that dismantle buildings, etc, often salvage and sell building materials with any value. Windows and doors from commercial establishments can be good candidates for your sunroom walls, if the size is right. Searching through these places can require some patience and diligence, but it can pay off if you're lucky.

Installing my 16' set wasn't too bad, as I had planned ahead when building the roof. I screwed two 8' 2x6's to the deck, end to end, and then screwed the bottom track to the 2x6's. The height of the top track was just 1/4" below the roof joists, so I was able to use shims to fill this gap. On the sides I used 2x4's, screwed to the 2x6's at the bottom and to the roof joists at the top. The aluminum side frames were then screwed to these 2x4's.

 


So I had my sunroom's front wall, but I still wasn't sure what I would do about the 8' ends. I figured I would just see what I could find, and make it up as I went along. After looking at a few duds, I came across a 9' set comprised of three 3' panels - 1 sliding and 2 fixed. It was complete with screen and all hardware, and wasn't fogged. I got it for $125.

I decided to convert this 9' set into a 6' set, by cutting the track. Since the sides were 8' wide, I thought I would make up the extra 2' by adding a window on each side. I had some old panes of glass lying around, so the extra cost was just for the additional 2x4 framing. As with the front wall, I screwed a 2x6 to the deck first, carefully placing it where I needed the wall to go. I positioned it so that the 2x4 side framing would meet the side framing of the front wall, and I could screw them together. On the other side, against the house, I lag bolted a 2x6 to my vinyl siding, and then ran a 2x6 across the top, completing a wood frame for the aluminum framing to be screwed to. 

I used the sliding panel along with one of the fixed panels, positioned so that they open at the top of the steps that go up to the deck.

 


This left me with the other 8' end to enclose, and a 3' panel left over from the 9' set. I figured a 5' set together with this 3' panel would do the trick.

I placed an ad in a local classified paper, saying that I was looking for used patio doors, and it worked. I got a call from someone who had a 5' set lying in their back yard that they wanted to get rid of, no charge. There was no hardware or screen included, and the rollers were seized, but they weren't fogged up and the price was right so I grabbed them. However, I still needed a track, which I was able to find at a salvage yard.

The procedure for assembling this wall was pretty much the same as for the other end. Except that I didn't need the side windows, since the glass doors filled the entire space. The track I had found at the salvage yard was deep enough to accommodate 3 panels, although the fit wasn't perfect. And where the panels from the different sets came together, they overlapped but didn't connect or integrate like panels from the same set. But overall I was happy with the result.

I was able to attach rollers to the bottom of the 3' panel (I used screen door replacement wheels) so that I would be able to slide it open for maximum ventilation.

 


For the sloped space above the side walls, initially I just screened it in to keep the bugs out. When fall came, I decided to insert pieces of Plexiglas cut to size. My intention was to remove the plexiglass in the spring for more ventilation, but since then I've decided to just leave it in place.


So my enclosure was pretty much complete. Now I wanted to upgrade the floor, as it was just the deck boards, with cracks open to the space below the deck.