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A question about solariums in condos

NorthYorkEd

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I've noticed a lot of older buildings (c.1980) have enclosed solariums instead of balconies. This usually means that some of the rooms have windows that face into the solarium instead of an outside wall. There might be window or a set of sliding patio-style doors.

It's an odd layout, but it seems relatively common. Does anyone have any experience living in a unit with such a design? We don't mind the solarium, but it seems like there might be privacy issues, especially if you use the solarium area as a living space (den, office, etc) and you have guests staying in a "nested" bedroom.

On the plus side, it would make a bedroom very quiet, as the outside noise has to pass through the outside window, across the solarium, and through the inside windows/sliding doors.
 

ElDee

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I live in a unit that had a solarium connected to both the bedroom and living room. it was a small 5x10 room with glass dividers and a sliding door. We ripped out the sliding door and dividers the first week that we moved in. Doing so gave us a much more comfortable bedroom. The solarium on its own was pretty useless for us.
 

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I think there was a requirement in Toronto in the late 1970s early 1980s to have either a balcony or a solarium and there are many with solariums (solari?). In my building many people have removed them to make a larger living room though those who still have them find they reduce heating/cooling costs and provide a potential 'other room'.
 

Panontario

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I lived in a unit with a solarium. The living room felt very dark because it was separated from the windows by a narrow solarium. I would rather not have it.
 

NorthYorkEd

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Thanks, everyone. I think my only concern is having a guest room that uses the solarium as it's only source of outside light. If I was to use the solarium as a sitting room, or office, guests would always need to close their curtains or blinds for privacy.

What sucks is that many of the older, more spacious condos around here (at least the ones we'd be interested in) seem to make liberal use of that type of layout. :(
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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If your units are not metered for hydro and you are heated by hydro and people are turning the solariums into "extra rooms" the utilities costs are probably sickeningly high.

Also, if the solariums are considered "exclusive use common elements" then, strictly speaking, turning the solariums into extra rooms is asking for a great big legal headache.

It depends when the solariums were enclosed I think. If the building had them from day one, then it's not a problem (except for the possible heating costs.) If they were balconies that were later enclosed -- and I believe a number of Toronto condos did this in the 80s -- then better check the declaration, status certificate, by-laws etc.

I know that in our 1970s building there was a major campaign by many owners to enclose the balconies but the idea was narrowly voted down.
 

uto123

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If your units are not metered for hydro and you are heated by hydro and people are turning the solariums into "extra rooms" the utilities costs are probably sickeningly high.

Also, if the solariums are considered "exclusive use common elements" then, strictly speaking, turning the solariums into extra rooms is asking for a great big legal headache.

It depends when the solariums were enclosed I think. If the building had them from day one, then it's not a problem (except for the possible heating costs.) If they were balconies that were later enclosed -- and I believe a number of Toronto condos did this in the 80s -- then better check the declaration, status certificate, by-laws etc.

I know that in our 1970s building there was a major campaign by many owners to enclose the balconies but the idea was narrowly voted down.

Are the costs high when turning solariums into a second room because it's mostly glass and not as well insulated from the outside elements?
Whats the difference between a solarium and a condo with lots of glass walls?
 

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Are the costs high when turning solariums into a second room because it's mostly glass and not as well insulated from the outside elements?
Whats the difference between a solarium and a condo with lots of glass walls?
I think there are 'solariums" and "solariums". In my building the solariums are fully inside the building envelope and were always properly enclosed from outside. In other buildings a solarium has been create, at time of building or later, by (in essence) walling in a balcony or open area. These latter 'solariums" may well be an 'exclusive use common elements' while those in the former category will 100% be inside the unit boundaries.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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I think there are 'solariums" and "solariums". In my building the solariums are fully inside the building envelope and were always properly enclosed from outside. In other buildings a solarium has been create, at time of building or later, by (in essence) walling in a balcony or open area. These latter 'solariums" may well be an 'exclusive use common elements' while those in the former category will 100% be inside the unit boundaries.

Exactly. I'm no engineer or architect but I do know that balconies tend to act as thermal bridges -- basically radiator fins -- that send heat to the outside. Not very energy efficient. Walling them up with glass doesn't stop that and it may lead to condensation and/or mold. If you insulate them, you have to insulate them ceiling, floor and outside wall. At this point, if they are an exclusive use common element you are asking for legal trouble and the enforceable demand that you dismantle at your own expense.
 

uto123

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I think there are 'solariums" and "solariums". In my building the solariums are fully inside the building envelope and were always properly enclosed from outside. In other buildings a solarium has been create, at time of building or later, by (in essence) walling in a balcony or open area. These latter 'solariums" may well be an 'exclusive use common elements' while those in the former category will 100% be inside the unit boundaries.

I wish my unit had a solarium. Do you get more light into your unit than just windows?
 

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I wish my unit had a solarium. Do you get more light into your unit than just windows?
In our units the 'solariums" are really in what used to be called 'bay-windows'. The outer windows of the building are traditional windows NOT to the floor, the walls separating the solarium from the living room are all glass - they slide - so cut down on light getting into the living room very little. A friend had a solarium that was in essence a glass box in the corner of his living room (he removed it) - it too did not make much difference to the amount of light getting into the living room.
 

NorthYorkEd

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This unit has the type of solarium I'm talking about (starting at pic 13):

http://www.estatedigitalmedia.com/10-kenneth-ave-306/

It looks to be "bay window" style, but certainly large enough to put a small office or sitting room in there. In pic 14 you can see how each room as a set of sliding panel doors. While the size of this unit is fantastic, and the solarium provides even more options for living space, the layout just seems strange to me -- yet was apparently very common in the c.1980 buildings.
 

Day Knight

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my condo has solarium which is being used as office. since i have the nicest view, the solarium is a great place to enjoy outside view especially during fall since i am very close to a beautiful park.
 

NorthYorkEd

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Exactly. I'm no engineer or architect but I do know that balconies tend to act as thermal bridges -- basically radiator fins -- that send heat to the outside. Not very energy efficient.

No doubt about it. We enjoyed our balcony last summer, but with the temperature dipping so low lately, you can feel the frigid air at least 3 feet away from the sliding doors. To make it even less efficient, the vent for the heat pump is located high up on the wall right beside the balcony doors. I can't even imagine how much heat is being wasted.

A balcony can be great, but you can only use it for a few months out of the year (if that). I think we're liking the solarium idea a whole lot more.
 

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