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Enclosing back porch/lanai - opinions of material choices for Florida condo

HoggirlHoggirl 1580 replies193 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,773 Senior Member
Our condo (where we now permanently reside) in Florida has a screened-in back porch. However, as we are on the ground floor, it is virtually useless to us because it stays dirty most of the time - rain, lawn work (the grass comes right up to the edge), etc. We have gotten a bid for enclosing it with either vinyl or acrylic. We are not going with the the hurricane impact glass version as it is just too expensive. From what I have read, it is a bit harder to keep the vinyl clean/clear (we aren’t directly on the beach but overlook the intracoastal on the Gulf) and that it can bow from heat. However, it is my understanding that the vinyl is very inexpensive to replace. The acrylic is more rigid and heavier (either system will have panels that can be removed - it will still have screening either way). I have heard the acrylic is easier to keep clean, but tends to “yellow” a bit over time. Anyone have any experience and or wisdom to share? We are going to look at the actual products on Thursday at their showroom, and I will also ask these questions there, but I thought I’d check here first. It sounds like from the description of the bid we will have more air flow and visibility with the vinyl. Some of the windows will have to be “fixed” if we use the acrylic. Panels will slide vertically and stack. Vinyl system is around $3,800; acrylic is around $6,200.

Thanks for any insights that can be shared!
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Replies to: Enclosing back porch/lanai - opinions of material choices for Florida condo

  • BunsenBurnerBunsenBurner 38414 replies465 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 38,879 Senior Member
    Would it be possible to landscape around the porch so the grass is pushed back and contained by some sort of a barrier for the ease of mowing? I could be wrong, but I think you will have issues with weedwhackers damaging your enclosure if the grass is growing right next to it.
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  • HoggirlHoggirl 1580 replies193 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,773 Senior Member
    @BunsenBurner - absolutely not. Not allowed AT ALL! So. many. rules. There will be a 16-18” kick plate installed at the bottom. There is about 4” of concrete that protrudes beyond where the tracking system will be. The person from whom we received the bid has done several units in our building.

    That’s a great idea, though!
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  • gouf78gouf78 7773 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 7,796 Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    Talk to the people in your building who have had enclosures done. What did they do? Are they happy? Anyone with similar units (ground floor) to yours? How long have they had it?
    Good time to meet neighbors and let them show you what it actually looks like. Take note if they are air conditioning the space etc.

    !) Heat? Are you looking to make this an air-conditioned space? Acrylic is not good as an insulator. It'll be very hard to keep a space cooled effectively. Better than vinyl but not good. Depends on size.
    What direction does your unit face? Does it get a lot of sun?
    2) Clarity? Acrylic scratches and will be hard to maintain especially on a lower unit with lawn mowing etc. But looks good to start.
    Vinyl is much worse. Acceptability really depends on how much you use the space.
    3) Use? How often do you see yourselves using the space enclosed? (air conditioning, clarity, maintenance)

    Depending on your needs and wants--I've seen porches transformed into real additions to an existing living space but that usually takes glass installation.
    If you just want your porch to be cleaner with less hassle and you aren't looking to have it climate controlled OR need clarity for the view then go vinyl.
    Go acrylic if you want more clarity to maintain view but don't need to keep it climate controlled or looking for an extended living space.
    edited July 2018
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  • HoggirlHoggirl 1580 replies193 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,773 Senior Member
    @gouf78 - not looking for climate control either way. We just want it to stay cleaner so we can open up the sliders that lead out onto it and use it when the weather is pleasant. I’m not looking for a true addition. It has to look similar to what other folks have done with their units. Will go before the architecture committee for approval. The only reason real glass (would have to be impact glass which is why the price is > $17,000 for that choice) is even an option is that we are on the ground floor. Would be too heavy if an upstairs unit. Are you saying vinyl is worse about scratching or keeping clean? It would be nice for coffee in the mornings or appetizers and drinks in the evening when we don’t go to the beach for sunset.

    The porch is very small - about 12 - 14 feet wide and only 6 foot deep. The unit faces the East so sunrises in the morning. It would still have screening with sliding panels with the vinyl or acrylic.
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  • gouf78gouf78 7773 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 7,796 Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    I'd go acrylic.
    Not as good as glass (except for cost!) for cleaning and insulation efficiency but tons better for clarity over vinyl plus more durable. I suspect you look out onto your porch daily and would appreciate that.
    Think it would make your porch more useful and make you happier in the long run than vinyl.
    edited July 2018
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  • gouf78gouf78 7773 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 7,796 Senior Member
    If by chance you AREN'T looking out on your patio on a regular basis--say you have another area to enjoy the view--then I would consider vinyl.
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  • HoggirlHoggirl 1580 replies193 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,773 Senior Member
    @gouf78 - Yes! We look out onto our porch daily as it overlooks the intracoastal waterway! And our lovely grounds! Thank you for sharing your opinion. We also have the same view from our MBR. In there, we are replacing the old Jalousie windows with impact glass. But, we mostly look through our living area onto the patio. :)
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  • BunsenBurnerBunsenBurner 38414 replies465 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 38,879 Senior Member
    Yikes the price of glass! I would go for acrylic for the same reasons as above.
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  • gouf78gouf78 7773 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 7,796 Senior Member
    "We also have the same view from our MBR. In there, we are replacing the old Jalousie windows with impact glass

    How much more time are you in your MBR vs living area?
    If you upgrade for MBR s it worth the expense comparativly for another major living area?
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  • bookwormbookworm 8762 replies72 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 8,834 Senior Member
    I don’t have a sun room, but I replaced all my windows and sliders with hurricane glass. The price you mention seems high.

    My office manager has a small sunroom, she put in French doors leading into the sun room, and now uses the room a lot, especially for entertaining.

    I’m wondering if you would lose view if one side wall was not glass.
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  • HoggirlHoggirl 1580 replies193 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,773 Senior Member
    @bookworm - the cost for replacing the bedroom windows with hurricane glass is is around $5,000. They take up a nearly 12-foot wall. To replace our other windows with impact glass (front bedroom AND kitchen - these are much smaller windows) would be another $5,000 total or so. We did not ask for a price on the sliders. My friend did hers and they were about $10,000 - center-closing, same width as the patio - somewhere between 12-14 feet. We asked to bid everything separately so we could pick and choose. The bedroom windows have to be replaced. The front windows have previously been replaced but it was before impact windows were required. We don’t really need to replace those, and surge is a much bigger risk for us anyway. I don’t have the option of walling one side of the sunroom - it must be open/screened on three sides as that is how all the other units are. Everything must look the same - uniformity/architectural integrity is VERY important to the folks who live in our building. They would have to rebuild the frame. All options include a new door out of the sunroom onto the lawn. All ground-floor units have door leading to the grassy area. Again, I would not have the option of deciding not to have a door. Thanks for the idea, though.
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  • mathmommathmom 32014 replies158 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,172 Senior Member
    I've never seen a 6 foot wide enclosed porch that didn't feel like a coffin to me. I'd definitely ask your neighbors if you can see what they have done. I get that cleaning a screened in porch is a pain - I'm always surprised by how much dust and pollen comes in, but I love the feel of actually being in fresh air.
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  • HoggirlHoggirl 1580 replies193 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,773 Senior Member
    @mathmom - it will still be screened in and the windows will be panels that slide and stack open. So, we are not losing the fresh air aspect.
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