From screened porch to four-season room: A home improvement story

When Leslie Kinsman moved into her home 10 years ago, she knew she would eventually tackle remodeling her porch. Here's what she learned along the way including tips on hiring a good contractor, working through selections, and more.
Although a lovely idea, the screened-in porch was a DIY job that was aging poorly — with peeling floors and a door that didn’t function properly. But the real issue was that the local weather made the space unusable for more than half the year. Still, it was never the right moment to tackle a disruptive home improvement project. Then, COVID hit. Kinsman, a former Andersen employee, and her 14-year-old daughter, Grace, spent the early months of lockdown at Kinsman’ mother’s home in Florida where a breezy lanai served as their office/schoolroom. It proved to be a bonding experience and prompted Kinsman to ask herself, “What am I waiting for?” When they got home, she was ready to tackle the long-delayed project.

Here’s her story and tips on surviving a home improvement project.

Finding a good contractor

Getting started was the barrier that had stopped Kinsman all those years. To overcome it, she asked personal contacts for a contractor recommendation and found a good match that way. “You know when a contractor comes into your home if they’re the right person based on how they listen to you,” she said.

In her experience, these are three signs of a good contractor:

  1. Good listening skills: “The right person will defer to you on decisions versus just trying to get things done quickly,” she said.
  2. Adaptable style: “Some homeowners want to be super involved and others less so — a good contractor can work with either end of the spectrum,” she said.
  3. Local knowledge: “Look for someone who’s known in the community and who has worked on houses like yours,” she said.

Mostly, she thinks the key to hiring a good contractor is trusting your gut at the first meeting.

Working through selections

With good help on board, her next challenge was wading through the seemingly endless decisions that come with any home improvement project. Luckily, Kinsman knows what she likes, and because of her experience at Andersen, she’s also well-versed in windows and doors. Here are the “whys” behind the product selections she made:
Casement window
Although she considered double-hung windows, Kinsman ultimately selected 400 Series Casement Windows because she wanted as much glass as possible. For the same reason, she chose to skip grilles and opted for mulled windows. Mulled windows are joined together either at the factory or onsite by a contractor. They allow for narrow framing in between windows so there’s more glass overall. These decisions allow her to make the most of this room’s southwest exposure. “You can sit out here and enjoy being in the sun, even during the winter,” she said.
Kinsman settled on 400 Series Casement Windows 400 Series Casement Windows because she wanted to maximize the amount of glass and fresh air in her space. These windows also serve her well during the cold Minnesota winters, because casement windows are one of the most energy efficient window types — they compress into their frames when the wind blows against them.
Bi-parting four-panel gliding door
The middle opening that a bi-parting door provides not only frames garden views, it also lets in a whole lot of sunlight and fresh air, plus it adds a little bit of drama to the space. The white frames on both the doors and windows match the surrounding interior trim, helping to reflect light and making the windows and doors recede into the background so the focus is on the backyard. The overall effect is a strong connection between indoors and outdoors that’s enjoyable in every season.
An A-Series Gliding Door with four panels and a bi-parting opening fully opens up the back wall of Kinsmans’ renovated porch. All that glass isn’t coming at the detriment of her utility bills either — the A-Series is our highest-performing and most energy-efficient product line.
The window selections were, of course, related to the paint selections, the tile selections, and furnishings. Together, they create a beautiful space that’s connected to nature, away from the main flow of the house, and feels like a sanctuary.

“I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I was recreating the feeling we had on that lanai in Florida,” Kinsman said.

Her advice to anyone considering a remodel is simple: “Don’t wait!”

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