A Beautiful Sunroom Reveal + 11 Steps To Help You Choose The Right Contractor
The sunroom is quite clearly one of our favorite rooms in the house, for obvious reasons: sun-filled, comfortable, beautiful . . .as soon as I saw it, even in its original form, I knew it could be special and the place we'd start each day due to its location near the kitchen.
From looking at old, blurry photographs, we could tell this room was not part of the original construction of the house.
A porch was added to the back of the house some time after the house was built. We learned from the Grandson of the original owners who had passed, that their son took up residence and enclosed the porch with glass to create his “winter room” to keep warm. Here is what the sunroom looked like when we purchased the house.
Needless to say, we were left with quite a mess. We immediately got started with the cleanup.
Once the cleanup began, we could tell we were dealing with a brick floor that was in really good shape structurally, which was helpful. None of my designs were finalized at that point, so I was contemplating trying to make the brick work with the design direction I was headed.
Our plans for this room were to:
Replace all of the glass with new sliding French doors;
Remove the window between the sunroom and main powder bath;
Expand the opening into the new kitchen;
Remove a tiny powder bath for better flow to the garage access and side entrance;
Close up access to an existing closet to allow the closet to become a new wet bar at the great room.
As my design plans came together, I decided that a brick floor just wasn't going to work with my new aesthetic. Additionally, the idea that there was a step down to enter this room wasn't ideal. (It was required when the porch was originally constructed because it was an exterior space.) To bring a better flow to adjacent spaces, and to increase safety by eliminating a tripping hazard, I made the decision to have the floor height brought up to match the other rooms down stairs.
The steel supports were removed and the brick and concrete base were jackhammered to make way for new steel supports and doors, and to enable the floor height to be brought up.
Unfortunately, there was an error with ordering the new structural steel and the sunroom was left in this state for months, with brand new doors propped up around the job site for even longer. (Insert tremendous frustration, way more than I'm telling you.)
Once the correct steel arrived, walls and doors were installed, including that boxed vertical beam to the right, NOT right. The architect was missing from the project before construction began, and in the wake of that decision were a host of challenges we were faced with. Certain "results" either needed to be accepted and/or disguised with design to be less noticeable. (Insert tremendous stress.) The good news was that the floor height had been brought up and the increased flow and better accessibility into this room was exciting. Also, I had the guys install a V-groove paneled ceiling in this space. It added visual texture, it helped to achieve the idea I wanted it to appear to have been part of the original construction, it matched the adjacent kitchen ceiling detail, added charm, and honestly, it just made the room look more interesting.
Next up . . .
the tile floor installation began. The design and aesthetic choices for this entire project came really easily to me; however, I struggled with whether to install a 12 x 12 patterned floor tile, or to choose a large gray 12 x 18 slate floor tile. The slate would give it an elevated traditional feel mimicking large, stately country homes, but the patterned tile would bring added visual texture and tie in with my largely black and white theme. It would also provide for easier maintenance and better durability moving forward. I was nervous but ultimately went with the pattern, and I couldn't love it more! I had it installed on the diagonal because it changed the visual at all entrance points and it invites your eye to take in the beautiful view out in the new courtyard. I selected a black grout because I knew this room would receive a lot of foot traffic and I didn't want to deal with stained grout.
I interrupt this post for the following:
After last week's post, a number of you sent emails saying you’d like to hear about what happened during the construction process. Some of you said you wanted to know what lessons we learned so you could avoid making the same mistakes with your own upcoming remodels, and one of you said you just needed to hear something juicy in your life (you know who you are! ha ha.) To satisfy inquiring minds, and to probably provide a little therapy for myself, I will be including a segment each week on “Home Renovation Lessons We Learned”. So, without further ado, here is lesson number one.
home remodeling lesson #1:
RESEARCH YOUR CONTRACTOR
One of the most important, if not THE MOST important element of any construction/remodeling project is to choose the right contractor. I knew this, and I thought we were in good hands. For this project, we went back to a contractor we worked with more than 15 years prior. We had a great relationship with them, and they did a great job for us. We called up the owner to discuss the project, met and toured some properties, got initial budget estimations, and discussed our vision and scope of the project. We felt very comfortable we’d receive the same experience and quality job we had before. We knew we’d pay more to go with this contractor, but because this was truly our dream project, and the journey and end result were so important to us, we were okay with paying a little more. Had we done our research, we would have learned that, while the owner was still there, the company was under new leadership, and it wasn’t good.
ADDITIONAL ACTIONS WHEN CHOOSING THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR
Make sure you talk with all of their clients from a consecutive list, not just cherry picked ones they provide. If the list isn't consecutive clients, there is probably a good reason.
Interview management team. Ask hard questions. If they’re uncomfortable answering, you don’t want to work with them.
Do a background check with the Better Business Bureau and other agencies for any red flags.
Get a referral from someone you know who has had a good experience with a contractor.