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Extend the season with a patio enclosure

Next time you’re in the centre of any big northern city, look up. And notice the empty condo balconies; thousands of them, with millions of expensive square footage going unused. It’s the same scenario for homeowners who end up using their patio for one or two seasons per year. And if you live in Canada, the warm season is all too brief. Patio enclosures put that unused space to work – and play!

The ultimate accessory for luxury living, these enclosures usually come in retractable, frameless, sliding or folding glass panes. Ari Mujunen, sales manager at Lumon – a Finnish patio enclosure company, says that retractable patio enclosures have been popular in Europe for decades, but they’ve only recently taken off in North America.

Expanding your living space doesn’t come cheap. A patio enclosure from Lumon can cost from $55 to $75 per square foot of glass. The results undoubtedly up property value, though, making resale a piece of cake. So when it comes to competing in an already-saturated condo market, revamping unused space translates into a big return on investment.

“In fact, our most popular customers are condo owners,” explains Mujunen. “Since so many condos are already small, this option can really expand their living space in a dramatic way.” It’s important to remember that patio enclosures aren’t truly winterized, though.

“Customers love seeing their indoor property suddenly expanded,” says Mujunen, “but it’s still essentially a three-season space. The glass encloses the space and contains the heat, but not enough for winter.” Many people have installed patio heaters or built a fireplace near the enclosure in order to maximize its use in the winter months. (Be sure to check local bylaws before installing any heating or fire features).

There’s another plus to patio enclosures – at least in Canada’s largest city. Lumon recently received notice of approval from the City of Toronto Building and Zoning department indicating that they do not consider Lumon Balcony Glass Enclosures as part of a property’s gross floor area (GFA). Essentially, this means that balconies can have enclosures without adding square footage for the unit, or the building as a whole.

If you’re looking for a fully winterized space, a sunroom is your best choice. While more labour-intensive and expensive than retractable patio enclosures, sunrooms literally extend the home environment and make it irresistible to future buyers. They can also increase your home’s energy efficiency.

“Sunrooms are unlike any other addition to your home,” says Peter Kovacs, general manager at Toronto-based Four Seasons Sunrooms & Windows, “and the beauty of these rooms also increases the property value in a big way.”

The quality of the specialized glass is critical. At Four Seasons Sunrooms & Windows, Conservaglass Select is specially formulated to allow only 15% of the sun’s radiant heat to penetrate the sunroom. Natural sunlight comes in and damaging UV rays are blocked.

The company also produces a popular line of screen enclosures for patios, decks and porches. “This is especially great in the evenings when there can be a lot of insects,” says Kovacs. “Our fiberglass insect screens keep everyone comfortable, while still feeling like you are enjoying the outside.” Customers can also add skylights, or a roof fan beam to support a ceiling fan.

Stephen Attfield, general manager at Toronto’s Phantom Screens, says the increased popularity of retractable screening stems from the new trend of homeowners wanting to maximize the use of outdoor space.

“People are really decking out their outdoor kitchens and patios with TVs and the works,” says Attfield, adding that a screening system makes the most of expensive exterior renovations. “During a sunny morning, keep the screens down and experience the full outdoor effect. But when mosquitoes start spiraling at dusk, roll out the screens and continue enjoying the cross-breeze.”

The outdoor living trend is enduring. Sunrooms, screened-in spaces and patio enclosures help you embrace the space you’re in and make the most of it – regardless of the weather!

Careful Screening

The most basic retractable screen will cost you close to $2,000. Outfitting a huge space might cost tens of thousands. Why not learn how to preserve your investment to last a lifetime?

Weather

Always retract your screens when it rains, as well as during the winter months. Harsh weather may damage them.

Cleaning

Minimal maintenance makes these screens a big-seller, but it’s still recommended that they be gently washed twice a year with mild detergent and warm water. Many companies will also come out for an annual cleaning job.

Tears

Accidents happen. Sometimes a raccoon will get a little too curious. Tears are not usually a big issue and all screens can be easily repaired or replaced by the company that installed them.