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We’ve heard a lot of talk about Canadian snowbirds who could not travel to Florida this winter. For the many, many snowbirds that chose to stay home in Canada this winter, and will continue to stay put until the pandemic situation improves, perhaps adding a little “Florida” to their Canadian home this spring is in order. As many British Columbians continue to improve their homes to increase both enjoyment, extend their living space and value, there’s one renovation option that will add a little opulence: a Florida Room.

Extend living space: The Florida Room

Also known as a sunroom, the Florida Room became a popular addition to homes during the mid-twentieth century in the panhandle state, offering homeowners the comfort and joy of an indoor space with a completely outdoor feel. Glass walls, sliding windows/screens on several sides, under an enclosed roof allowed for more sunlight indoors, and a shady oasis to cool off during the times before central air-conditioning became the standard. Generally added to the back of the home, or on the side with the best view, the Florida Room extends the living space into the back yard. And, as we’ve learned during this pandemic, increased living space for families spending a lot more time at home is always a blessing.

How would you use some extra living space?

How a homeowner might plan to use this extra space is only limited by their imagination. This summer, family dinners could be prepared in the outdoor kitchen and enjoyed al fresco at a secondary dining table in the Florida Room. Family game night will also look and feel different on comfy rattan sofas and lounges surrounded by lush, tropical plants and magical backyard lighting. This is Florida living, without even stepping on a plane.

Gardening, another pandemic trend, spurred many Canadians to flex their green thumb and grow their own bounty of fruits and vegetables. Gardeners might consider taking the Florida Room concept, but install a class ceiling instead of an enclosed roof, and voila, they have a conservatory to fill with bursting blooms, aromatic herbs, and other exotic plant life.

According to Four Seasons Sunroom Vancouver, sunlight is a significant qualifier between a conservatory and a Florida Room (sunroom) and the types of materials used in both. Because conservatories are more for horticultural use and not so much recreational use as a sunroom, the glass ceiling means plants will thrive in the natural light as well as be protected from the elements throughout the year. Four Seasons also recommends homeowners consider the type of insulation to use, especially if they want to maximize the use of the space for all seasons. For example, Florida Rooms in Florida are often encased in double-paned glass, keeping the room temperature pleasant during those occasional Florida cold snaps (yes, they do have them down there).

Deck this out

Some backyards are just made for a big, spacious deck and a easy way to extend living space. Add a pergola or a billowy canopy, and you’ve got yourself the outdoor living space of your dreams. Extending a deck allows a homeowner to get closer to the backyard landscaping and gardens they’ve dedicated so much time to perfecting. Homeowners take note; chances are good you will need to apply for a permit, even for a deck renovation. Citywide Sundecks of Vancouver are asked about permits a lot.

“Each municipality has slightly different guidelines for permitting. When you’re building a new deck you almost always need a permit unless the deck is unattached and less than 100 square feet.” -Citywide Sundecks

Citywide Sundecks provides useful links to local municipalities detailing permit requirements. The same will be true for Florida Room or conservatory addition permits: check with your local municipality first. Plus homeowners are reminded that larger home renovation projects like a sunroom installation could mean changes to your insurance policy during and after a renovation. Reliance Insurance covered this topic in a recent blog post because homeowners need to be aware of what their insurance requirements are prior to beginning the project.

Florida…on the tenth floor?

Yes, you can create a liveable, enjoyable space on a condo’s small balcony, and depending on your strata council, you just might be able to enclose the balcony with glass, making your own Florida Room in the sky. Finding a contractor experienced in red tape like Horizon Contracting in Victoria can help you explore the idea of an enclosed balcony and determine what you can legally do. Whether you are able to enclose the balcony or not, the ideas for extending your living space out to the balcony are plentiful.

A vertical flower garden is possible when container gardens take up too much room. Add some lattice for both climbing foliage and some additional privacy. A cheerful, colourful, outdoor rug, soothing lighting, and outdoor textiles (think pillows and outdoor drapes if allowed) will make for a dreamy outdoor room. Balcony gardeners make good use of cushioned storage benches as a place to keep their gardening tools and extra potting soil. Functional furniture that folds up will be helpful for times when you need a little more space.

As mentioned earlier, before you set out for the garden stores, it’s best to check out the rules laid out by your condo/townhome association first. Even renters should consult their lease for what the landlords will accept and not accept on balconies and patios prior to decorating. There could be rules governing the simple act of installing a hanging flower basket!

Southern porch meets Vancouver

Probably one of the most challenging small spaces to convert to a living space is the tiny front porch of a townhome. Often, townhomes have either limited backyard space, or no backyard at all, so townhome owners also look to the entrance porch as a means to maximize their outdoor living space. Because they are often located on the edge of a sidewalk, solving the privacy issue for a townhome entrance space is pretty simple; create a natural hedge using tall, ornamental grasses in pots.

Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) recommends using symmetry to create the illusion of a more spacious townhome porch: flanking the door or steps with identical plant pots or chairs, with identical pillows on each chair offers a clean look. Stick with small, round accent tables (no squares or rectangles for really small spaces), scaled-down seating, and use every inch of the space, but without creating clutter. If there is enough space for two areas, try zoning them: a seating area for conversation, a BBQ area for the cookout. Finally, BHG suggests using color to create a roomier feel. If pastels could speak, you know they’d say, “We’re from Florida, welcome to our room!”

With so many possibilities available to extend living space outdoors, it would be no surprise to see British Columbians enjoy more stay-cations right here at home for years to come. And don’t forget if your are making substantial changes to your home don’t forget to advise your insurance agent.

Resources

Southern Living: The Florida Room is a retro staple
Citywide Sundecks: Deck permit information
Horizon Contracting: why a sunroom?
Better Homes and Gardens: Stylish ideas for a small front porch
Reliance Insurance: Renovating? Keep your insurance broker in the loop

 

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