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Wood Sunroom vs. Aluminum Sunroom vs. Vinyl Sunroom: Which is best for your home?

May 21st, 2024 | 5 min read

By Callie Lovejoy

Are you feeling the heat to choose the right sunroom material?

Isn’t that what your contractor, the expert, is supposed to help you with?

It’s time we bring some clarity into the conversation! The three most common materials for sunroom additions are wood, aluminum, and vinyl.

JSB Home Solutions builds over 60 aluminum and vinyl BetterLiving sunrooms per year in the Central Ohio area. We are well aware of the crazy weather Ohio throws at us and what sunrooms need to withstand to last for years to come. Whether JSB builds your sunroom or not, this article will tell you about the materials used to build different types of sunrooms and give you some tips for planning your perfect sunroom addition.

Table of Contents:

What Types of Sunroom Materials Are There?

As mentioned, the three materials most commonly used to construct sunrooms are wood, aluminum, and vinyl. As you plan your perfect sunroom addition, these materials will help determine what other sunroom features you have to choose from. There are three things that all of these materials have in common:

  1. Size Limitations Usually Don’t Factor into Design: Sunrooms built with these materials do have an upper size limit. However, more often than not, you will reach the upper range of your budget before you run into construction limitations.
  2. Same Foundation Requirements: Sunrooms can be added to a home in several ways. Sometimes there is no existing outdoor living space, meaning there is just grass where the sunroom is going to be built. Sometimes there is a wood or vinyl deck already in place. A concrete patio or covered porch might be existing. Wood, aluminum, and vinyl sunrooms can be built on any of these existing foundations. If you have only grass, either a concrete pad or wood deck will need to be built in addition to the sunroom.
  3. Under-Existing Capabilities: Building an “under-existing” sunroom means that there is already a roof structure and the rest of the sunroom is built under the existing roof. Think of it as closing in a porch.

    Before image of covered porch readyAfter image of an under existing sunroom construction

Each material has its characteristics and comes with pros and cons.

Wood Sunrooms (or Stick-Built Sunrooms)

Wood sunrooms, also called stick-built sunrooms, use traditional framing methods with 2 x 4’s for the walls and oversized windows to bring in large amounts of natural light. These are most often installed on homes as the home is being built, as opposed to as an addition later on.

All three types of sunrooms, screen rooms, three-season, and four-season rooms can be built with wood.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of sunroom construction using wood.

Advantages of Wood Sunrooms

  1. Most Design Flexibility: Stick-built sunrooms have the most design flexibility. You can build them as squares, rectangles, octagons, etc. They can have hipped, gable, or shed roofs. You can shape wood into fancy designs and add character to anything you build with wood.
  2. Perfectly Matches the Rest of the Home: Because stick-built sunrooms are built at the same time as the home, they blend perfectly with the home. Sometimes, it’s even difficult to tell where the sunroom starts and the house ends.

Disadvantages of Wood Sunrooms

  1. High Maintenance: Wood sunrooms are usually painted or sealed. This finish coat has to be reapplied every 3-5 years to maintain its appearance and protective quality, adding time and money to your sunroom maintenance plan.
  2. Susceptible to Water Damage: As with anything built out of wood, stick-built sunrooms are susceptible to water damage. Screen rooms especially can end up with rotten posts because water has penetrated through the screens and eaten away at the wood structure.
  3. Compromised Structural Integrity with Temperature Fluctuations: In Ohio, we have a lot of temperature fluctuation and wood will shrink and swell as the thermometer goes up and down. Over time, this will result in boards twisting or bowing. If they move enough, it can pull the whole room out of alignment and jam windows or doors so they do not open and close properly.

When is a wood sunroom right for your home?

Wood sunrooms are the best fit if you want a custom shape (not square or rectangle) or customized wood character for your sunroom.

If you are not building a new house currently, wood sunrooms will not be the most cost-effective option for your sunroom addition. Aluminum and vinyl sunrooms can also be built alongside a house and offer many advantages over wood sunrooms. If you are  wanting to add a sunroom to an existing home, aluminum and vinyl are better options for sunroom additions.

Diehm-Sunroom-JSB17-scaledAluminum Sunrooms

Aluminum is used to construct pre-fabricated sunroom pieces that are then assembled on the job site. They can be screen rooms or three-season rooms. The primary difference between screen rooms and three-season rooms is whether you install sunroom windows.

Advantages of Aluminum Sunrooms

  1. Water Resistant: Aluminum is a rust-free metal, meaning that water will not eat away at the material.
  2. Resistant to Temperature Fluctuations: Aluminum will expand and contract uniformly with temperature fluctuations. This means that the structural integrity of the sunroom will not degrade even after years of Ohio’s seasonal changes.
  3. Low to No Maintenance: Aluminum sunroom pieces are powder-coated paint finish, meaning they will not need to be repainted. Depending on where you live, your sunroom might need to be rinsed off but it will be as easy as washing your car.

Disadvantages of Aluminum Sunrooms

  1. Less Insulated than Vinyl Sunrooms: Aluminum sunroom panels are insulated, just not to the level necessary to have climate controls inside the room. As an example, here at JSB, all of our sunrooms (aluminum and vinyl) come standard with double-pane, Argon gas-filled, LoE-insulated glass. The roofs are also R-13 to R19 insulated. We also insulate underneath the floor of all three-season rooms that are built on a deck platform. Our aluminum sunrooms are technically considered three-season+ sunrooms when we use our insulated glass.

When is an aluminum sunroom right for your home?

Aluminum sunrooms are the right fit for anyone wanting to build a screen room or three-season room. If you want to save money and don’t plan on using your sunroom in extreme temperatures, then aluminum will be the right sunroom material for you.

Aluminum will not be your best option if you want to be able to use your sunroom all year round, even in the heat of summer and dead of winter.

If you want to use your sunroom in any type of climate, you will want to consider a vinyl sunroom.

Patterson-Jim-Diane-Professional-Pictures-BL-11Vinyl Sunrooms

Vinyl is used to wrap aluminum to create thermal breaks in the sunroom wall panels. Vinyl sunrooms are four-season rooms. The thermal breaks in vinyl rooms mean that less heat travels through the walls of your sunroom. Less heat from the sun travels into your room in the summer. And less heat leaves your sunroom from your heating unit in the winter.  

Advantages of Vinyl Sunrooms

  1. Waterproof: Vinyl is unaffected by water.
  2. Resistant to Temperature Fluctuations: Like aluminum, vinyl is a uniform material and will expand and contract uniformly with temperature changes. The structure of vinyl will remain strong through years of Ohio seasons.
  3. Low to No Maintenance: Also like aluminum, vinyl will not need to be repainted and any cleaning is simple and dependent on the environment in which you live.

Disadvantages of Vinyl Sunrooms

  1. Higher Cost than Aluminum: Vinyl rooms cost more than aluminum rooms. This is because of the thermal breaks and because vinyl rooms also come with an AC/Heating unit, requiring more electrical work.

When is a vinyl sunroom right for your home?

Vinyl sunrooms can be used year-round and have no regular maintenance. If you want to enjoy your sunroom in all weather conditions without having to repaint or reseal regularly, vinyl sunrooms are your solution.

Vinyl sunrooms do cost more than aluminum. If you want an enclosed outdoor living space but want a lower price point, vinyl may not be the best option for you. Aluminum would offer you a better fit for your budget.

As you consider and plan for a sunroom addition, the key is deciding how and when you plan to use your sunroom. This will help you decide the size and type of room that will best fit your lifestyle.

Which Material Should You Use to Build Your Sunroom?

The pressure of choosing a sunroom material shouldn’t fall on your shoulders. You should be able to relax and know that your sunroom contractor is the best in the business for the job that you are asking them to do.

As you plan for a sunroom addition, learn about the types of glass in sunrooms. This feature alone will tell you whether a company is installing quality materials and how efficiently your room will maintain comfortable temperatures.

If you feel like we can help you plan and execute your sunroom vision, schedule a free in-home consultation with us.

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