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Let the Sun Into These Do-It-Yourself Rooms


QUESTION: I'd like to add some openness and extra living space with an efficient, bright sun room. My budget is tight, so I plan to install it myself. Are professional-looking do-it-yourself kits available?

ANSWER: You are in luck. There are many new designs of reasonably priced, do-it-yourself, sun room kits ideal for your needs. If you install one on the south side, it may even provide some extra free heat for your house this winter.

With new computer-aided design methods, sun room manufacturers have produced very efficient, durable kits. They use the newest technology in high-tech glass and clear plastics, shading methods, and ventilation systems. Some manufacturers have more than 100 sizes and shapes of sun room kits to choose from.

Even the easiest-to-install kits, that literally bolt together like huge erector sets, have professionally installed appearances. This is particularly true of models with real curved front glass. There is even a new mini-office sun-room kit complete with a desk, cabinets, drawers and computer wiring.

On most kits using aluminum or vinyl frames, all the structural members are precut, predrilled and color-coded for easy assembly. They also include all the required screws (rustproof stainless steel), seals, etc. You and a couple of friends can easily build a kit over a weekend.

Although more expensive, sun rooms with gently curved real wood frames are beautiful. If you like natural wood but want low maintenance, select a kit with an aluminum-clad exterior. It never needs painting and is strong.

There are several important design and comfort features to consider when selecting your kit. If you plan to get an aluminum-framed model for reasonable cost and easy assembly, select one with a thermally broken frame. This frame design is efficient and minimizes condensation.

Even in cool climates, a sun room can overheat in the afternoon summer sun. If you plan to use it throughout the day, select a kit with good ventilation and an easy-to-operate shading system. A kit with built-in channels for electric remote control or automatic shades and vents is most convenient.

One unique, convertible sun-room kit has quick-change window panels that snap out. This exposes screens to create a summer porch. Another unique kit (Sun Crescent) has a semicircular design. It is actually five-sided, assembles easily and adds openness to any room.

The type of glazing is important for a year-round efficient and comfortable sun room. Clear or tinted double-pane, low-e argon or Heat Mirror glass is most efficient. Double-pane clear acrylic, although it requires more gentle care than glass, is less expensive and assembles easily.

Write for (or instant download from Update Bulletin No. 830, a buyer's guide to 12 sun room kits that lists designs, frames, glazing, ventilation, and shading options and features. Please include $3 and a business-size, self-addressed envelope, and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Patch Siding Cracks While They Are Small

Q: I have wood siding on my older house, and it is splitting in several spots. Is this a problem that should be fixed so that cold air does not leak into my house? How should I fix it?

A: It is not uncommon for siding to split because of repeated expansion and contraction cycles over the years. Although the air leakage through just a few cracks is not great, repair the cracks anyway.

If the cracks are longer than two feet, replace the entire piece. To repair shorter cracks, pry them open a little with a screwdriver. Squirt in waterproof exterior glue. Force the crack closed and nail it in place.

James Dulley has written a new 304-page book compiling 100 of his most popular Update Bulletins and columns. Included in the 15 chapters are lists of manufacturers and information on 1,000 money-saving household, healthy-home and earth-friendly products, 36 low-cost do-it-yourself projects, and many super-efficient house construction methods.

You can order the book for $15.95 (including delivery) with check made out to James Dulley. Mail to James Dulley, 100 Most Popular, P.O. Box 54987, Cincinnati, OH 45254, or visit

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