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advice on covering atrium

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Joined: Mar 26 2005

hi, we're thinking of covering the open part of our Palo Alto atrium with some kind of translucent/transparent panels to weatherguard the space somewhat and make it more livable year-round.

Does anyone have any suggestions about the best way to do this and who to call, or have any experiences to share? We did lose the middle (exposed) rafter to rot a few years ago.

Installer/manufacturer names can be sent directly to tira44 AT yahoo DOT com

thanks for any advice!

Joined: Jul 28 2004

We covered our atrium about 10 years ago with custom clear glass panels on steel frames which we painted white. I can't recommend our installer because he moved out of the area.

One of the panels has a pop-up window for ventilation, but if I had to do it over again, I would put in another pop-up because the atrium gets very, very hot in the summer. We should have thought this out more before moving ahead, but, alas, we did not.

As I see it, the pluses to covering one's atrium are:

- more security (no one can climb into the atrium from the street)
- warmer atrium in the winter and, therefore, enhanced ability to use the atrium for entertaining.
- less heat loss from the main house.

The minuses are:

-Excessive heat in the atrium in the summer. You can allieviate this by using shade cloth, table umbrellas, or growing a shady vine that will block some of the sun's rays.

-A different ecology will soon appear and your cool weather-loving plants will not be happy. Also, be prepared for more aphids.


Joined: Aug 12 2004

While getting some polycarbonate at Tap Plastic in San Mateo, found a sample
and brochure for a line of multi-walled polycarbonate sheeting.

Took one and downloaded info from there web site for future what ifs.

An old boss had an Eichler up in Millbrae and he had a motorized covering
over his atrium. Solid. He owned the company and it was a motor control
company (factory automation, robotics, process controls). so the controls
were easy to design and the parts freebies from the stock room.

Anyway, I've always thought better to have it glass or some sort of plastic
to make it weigh less, but still allow sunlight in.

This polycarbonate made into multi-walled sheets is perfect. Strong (bullet
proof glass is polycarbonate), light weight, comes in many levels of
translucency, even colored. Best of all, insulating qualities with the
trapped air between the sections.

Here's a picture of their products:


And a hot link to their web site:

If me, I'd consider making it semi-closed. Leaving it open 360 degrees. The
whole would be made of this with some sort of superstructure and the open
area maybe in the 1-3 feet high (between it and the old roof). If security
an issue, then some sort of grating built into it, but out of sight.

Out of sight, as the covering would extend past the atrium opening by
several feet in each direction.

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