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A Comprehensive Guide To The Pros And Cons Of 3-Season Vs. 4-Season Rooms

A Comprehensive Guide To The Pros And Cons Of 3-Season Vs. 4-Season Rooms

Are you craving the outdoors even when the Chicago wind is relentless, and it’s 40 below zero? Adding a four-season room is a great “outdoor living space” that allows homeowners to maximize vitamin D and enjoy the outside scenery all twelve months of the year, even in the cold winter months.

Your porch is great for about three months out of the year. Beyond that, standing for a few minutes to sip coffee and scan the neighborhood skyline can be challenging. Is a 4-season room worth the cost? Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to add some windows to the existing screened-in porch and get at least a few more months of use out of it? 

This article goes through the pros and cons of each option. Let’s get into the details. 

What is the Difference Between a Screened Porch, a 3-Season Room, and a 4-Season Room?

Screened-In Porch

A screened-in porch is typically a patio enclosure, a deck, or a porch enclosure with screens added to the window openings (no glass). These structures are good for enjoying the warm summer months without worrying about bugs. Screened-in porches do not have insulated walls.

3-Season Room

This is typically a home addition with a foundation. It is enclosed with windows that can be switched out to screens or opened up in warmer months. It is common for electrical wiring to be run for a ceiling fan and a few outlets. Sometimes, 3-season rooms will have a separate radiant heater, electric stove heater, or an electric fireplace to switch on and off as needed. Depending on the age and its original use, there may or may not be insulation in the walls. Oftentimes, these rooms are developed/enclosed over time.

4-Season Room

Also known as a sunroom, a 4-season room will have a proper foundation, insulated walls, a drywall finish, and fully installed windows. The heating and cooling system is connected to the home’s main HVAC system to regulate temperature. 4-season rooms are a true home extension, often functioning as the home’s ‘great room.’ 

Now, let’s look at what differentiates each option–the good and the bad–to determine which might be right for your situation.


Pros & Cons of a Screened-In Porch


  • This is the least expensive option.
  • This can be either connected to the house or disconnected from the home. A pergola with screens added is basically a detached screen porch.
  • Keeps insects out.
  • Provides shade.
  • Creates a nice transitional area between the indoors and outdoors.
  • Offers additional entertaining space 


  • Screened-in porches often do not provide a climate-controlled space. With little or no insulation and temporary heat sources, this space can be extra warm in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter months.
  • Essentially, screened-in porches are a 1-season room, usable for approximately three months of the year.
    If the screens aren’t covered in the winter, snow and rain will enter the space and damage furniture and furnishings. Because of this, all furniture needs to be weatherproofed, covered, or stored for the winter.
  • Rodents and other animals can enter the space through the screens
    Screens tear easily and need repairs regularly.
  • Many people assume you can build on top of them, but they typically don’t have foundations and, therefore, cannot support further development above the structure.
  • It will not keep pollen, dust, and other airborne debris out. This is particularly relevant if someone in your family has allergies.

Pros & Cons of a 3-Season Room


  • In the winter, the windows can be closed, minimizing the potential for rain and snow damage within the space. You can use higher-quality furniture without storing it elsewhere during the “off-season.”
  • With more structure and design finishes, this space feels more like a transitional area between indoors and outdoors than a screen porch.
  • Through the seasons of use, it can provide shade, protection from insects, and some degree of climate control.


  • If you are building the room as an addition from scratch, the cost difference between a 3-season room and a 4-season room may not be significant.
  • Three seasons? Here in Illinois, the space can be used only for about six months out of the year.
  • Temperature regulation can be inconsistent since windows and walls may not be well insulated, if at all.
  • It may have been retrofitted from an existing screened porch, which means the foundation may not be up to code and not be made to handle the load of the walls and windows.
  • Poor or no insulation means higher energy bills. 

Pros & Cons of a 4-Season Room/Sunroom


  • 4-season rooms are also known as a type of sunroom and can be used year-round.
  • The walls and ceiling are insulated, which provides climate control and can help save on energy costs. It is a more reliable entertainment space because you have more control over the temperature.
  • Heating and air conditioning are easy to maintain and will match the rest of the house for a seamless flow between rooms.
  • Because four-season sunrooms are typically built as home additions, they are usually finished to the same level as the rest of the main house. This additional space offers the most livable area of all the seasonal sunroom options.
  • This space can be open and airy, with windows everywhere, or you can choose just one wall of windows.
  • You can choose how much or little you want this space to interact with the outdoor space. For example, you can choose to design your 4-season room with accordion (Nano wall system) doors to create a more seamless indoor/outdoor space.
  • If your four-season room was built with a crawl space or basement below, you can add to the space above it in the future.
  • For those who have bad allergies, you can enjoy the views of the outdoors but keep the windows closed.
  • Because this space is more protected from the elements, you can add architectural interest, like a vaulted ceiling or a beadboard ceiling. You can also install skylights to allow natural light to reach the space further.


  • It’s more expensive than a screened-in porch and marginally more expensive than a 3-season room.
  • It does require more planning from an architectural and design perspective
  • Because it is considered a liveable space, it will increase your square footage and, therefore, increase your property taxes. 

Does a 4-Season Room Add Value to Your Home? 

Because the greater Chicago area has such short summer and spring months, most homeowners wish they had a 4-season room where they can get great outdoor views and feel the sunlight on their faces while having the comforts of being inside. But is building such a space worth it? 

Although it will increase your home’s taxes, it also adds additional living space, which always increases home value, providing you with a nice return on investment. A 4-season room is similar to a great room in that it has a lot of functionality and can be used as flex space. So, even if a future buyer isn’t interested in a sunroom (the way you are using it), they can repurpose it into something else entirely, like a home office or playroom. Also, this space is a natural overflow area for entertaining, a sought-after feature among homebuyers. 

If you have the available space and the budget, a 4-season room is a great investment. Compared with a screened porch or 3-season room, it is a more flexible option and can be enjoyed year-round.

Start planning your sunroom addition home remodeling project correctly by downloading this eBook, "Home Addition 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Planning a Family-Friendly Addition."