Even with the sluggish economy, homeowners continue to long for a relaxation room that feels different from a family room, said Brian Kinane, director of marketing and sales for Timberbuilt Inc. of St. Charles.
For some, that room is a simple screened porch they can enjoy when the weather is warm. For others, it is a slightly more expensive "storm room" that features sliding windows that keep wind, rain and snow out when the weather is questionable, but allow a cool breeze to flow through the screens when the weather is warm. This type of unheated room can be used from spring to fall. Yet others want a heated and air-conditioned sunroom that features floor-to-ceiling windows and can be used year-round.
"Today the rooms we are building all over the Chicago market generally range in price from $20,000 to $50,000 and are built on slabs with no basements," Kinane said. "They are simple structures that match the rest of the house and are not elaborate or one-of-a-kind. The average size is 12 feet by 15 feet.
"Many people today cannot afford to move or they don't want to sell their home at a depressed price, so they are looking for more space and are opting to add a screened porch or other type of sunroom," he said. "They tell us that they like their neighborhood and figure they might as well enjoy it more.
"And in some cases," Kinane said, "people who have recently purchased an existing home that has a screened porch are opting to convert it to a three- or four-season room so they can get more use out of it. In those cases, we leave the foundation and roof, if they are good, and just gut the living space and rebuild."
Those who opt for a four-season room generally choose ceramic tile for the flooring, with carpeting a distinct second choice, and floor-to-ceiling, double-paned, argon-filled windows.
The storm room crowd gets sliding single-pane windows with full screens and no heat, which allows most people an affordable and simple way to enjoy Chicago area springs, summers and autumns.
"Five years ago these types of storm rooms weren't at all popular. People were opting for the more upscale choices. But today people are reverting back to them, driven by necessity. It is a way for them to get more space in their home for less money," Kinane said.
Another low-cost option that some people are choosing, he said, is the pergola, which is a free-standing pavilion without sides that keeps the rain off family and friends, and allows a view of the sky through its polycarbonate roof. But it does not protect anyone from wind, snow or rain.
"This is an attractive option for some," Kinane said.
He freely admits that his clientele has changed markedly in the past five years.
"In 2005 and 2006, everyone was a candidate for a loan to built one of these rooms," Kinane said. "But now we are drawing from a smaller and more serious group. They are people who either have money put away to do something like this or they are people who have been in their house for a long time and still have equity so they can qualify for a loan."
Thanks to these customers, Timberbuilt's business was up 26 percent from 2009 to 2010 and it is expected to be up another 20 percent this year over 2010.
"We are now back up to 75 percent of our 2005 revenue," Kinane said.
For more information about Timberbuilt, which was established in 2002, call (630) 443-7100, visit www.timberbuiltrooms.com or stop by its showroom at 3990 Commerce Drive, St. Charles, to view their five full-size models.