Need help on enclosing a patio

bill33333February 10, 2012

We have a walk out ground level patio that we want to enclose with a patio door plus windows to maximize the view. The patio already has a ceiling (the upstairs porch) and sides, so we are basically just adding one wall, which will be the sliding door/windows.

The new wall is 21 feet wide by 7 feet high. The room will not get additional heating and cooling, instead we will rely on the existing room HVAC. The entry to the patio from that room is 2 patio doors, each 8 feet wide (i.e. each has one sliding panel that is about 4 feet wide). The plan would be to keep these existing doors open to allow for heat and cooling into the newly enclosed space.

We live in Northern Virginia. Temperatures here are hot and humid in the summer (90's) with relatively mild winters. We will use the room mostly as a gym in the daytime hours, so cooling is more important, on balance, than heating. The room faces due west, and since it is sunny 300+ days a year, afternoon sun is an issue. Since the current room has the patio overhang of over 10 feet, this is not an issue now, but the new room will have virtually no overhang and so will receive a lot of sun.

We live kind of far away from major cities so it is not easy to get to many dealers -- even the closest Marvin dealer is over an hour away. We may be limited to Home Depot/Anderson (the 400 line), although of course I'll try to get something else if this is a terrible choice. Given the small size of the job, I can't get a mfg rep here (I tried!). So many of the brands that get good reviews here are probably not an option. Just as a note, we have over 200 all wood Anderson windows on the house (1973) and they have been fine except for the casements -- the opening mechanism is so flimsy (a thin piece of aluminum on only the bottom of 6 foot tall windows) that we don't dare open them, ever. Otherwise no issues with condensation, rot, etc. More recently we installed Anderson skylights, and while the windows themselves are fine, the motor mechanism and design leaves much to be desired, so all in all I'm kind of mixed on Anderson.

Our current thinking is either 2 side by side, 8 foot wide patio sliders (like the current entry to the space) or one 8 foot wide slider flanked by ~5 foot wide stationary casements.


1. Wood vs vinyl vs aluminum vs ? Newbie here, I've never bought windows. Strong pros and cons?

2. Screens. Are the retractable screens okay for occasional use? Do they hold up?

3. Glass: I looked at the Anderson options: Would the Low E4 "SmartSun" option be appropriate? The "Sun" option appears to have a dark tint. I can't quite figure out the Martin equivalents to these.

4. Anything I need to have in mind when ordering? Special options, etc?

Any and all comments/criticisms/recommendations appreciated!

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If your biggest concern is blocking heat, then you will want to go with a low solar gain glass. If the room is going to be primarily an exercise room, I would go with vinyl due to it's low maintenence. I would avoid the cheap vinyl doors the sell at HD.

I'm surprised you have a HD near you but can't find a local dealer of quality doors and windows here in Northern Virginia.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 11:58PM
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Thanks. I'm sure there are dealers in Fairfax, but that's still over an hour away. I'll take the day off from work to go if I can narrow it down and know exactly what to look for (getting my contractor to go there might be a different story...).

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 9:05AM
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What town in Virginia are you located in There's a Homeshow in Chantilly on Feb. 24-26th at the Dulles Expo Center. Might be a good opportunity to talk to a few dealers and see if you can find one willing to come and see you.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 9:26AM
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that's a good idea, thanks. Chantilly is just over an hour away. I was trying to get something done before then because we have a window to be able to get our contractor before he starts his next big job. I'm not too confident about getting a dealer (it can take months to get an electrician!) but I bet I'll learn a lot about the doors and windows there.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 10:29AM
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bill, skydawggy may service your area. There is another contributor here as well named Windows on Washington who does. He has some excellent products and has comments in most of these threads.
I don't think you should have any trouble getting someone in within a month (give or take), but you'll be hard pressed to order windows anywhere and see them in a week or two.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 1:51PM
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Brandon - Thanks. I do realize it will take a while -- I meant that I was hoping not to wait 3 weeks to go to the show, then 2 weeks to find someone to take the order, then another month for delivery...

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 5:52PM
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Got it... I wouldn't want to wait that long either, especially when you've found some good guys right here :)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 6:49PM
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+1 on the Contractors near you.

Also, since it seems that you have a big, how about a 3 panel/track sliding door? would allow you to stack the doors to one side.

Also, the retractable screns will hold up fairly well, although don't go to a cheap brand on a large opening.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 9:12AM
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