If you are replacing an old wood patio cover you probably already know that you want to replace it with aluminum or vinyl. A wood outdoor patio cover requires a great deal of maintenance to protect it from aging, rot and termites. If you live in a high risk fire zone – well, forget it! My philosophy is that wood belongs inside the home not outside – just look at the window and door replacement business. Here is a guide to comparing the features of vinyl and aluminum patio covers.
Appearance – Compared to wood which will split, warp and crack, vinyl and aluminum will retain their original appearance years after they are installed. Aluminum now comes in woodgrain embossing and looks identical to perfectly cut premium grade wood. Vinyl is smooth, no embossing or texture.
Bottom line – No difference, it is in the eyes of the beholder. The best thing to do is to visit a showroom or make sure your salesman has samples. Compare both before you decide.
Styles – Both products offer lattice or full shade. Aluminum has two styles of full shade including a 3″ and 4″ insulated cover that is quiet, cooler, walkable and can be fitted with raceways for electrical wiring (ceiling fans and lights). The insulated cover can also be built with polycarbonate skylights. Some vinyl companies offer a nice louver system. Aluminum offers up to eight colors while vinyl is limited to white and beige.
Bottom line – Aluminum has the advantage on full shade patio covers. Lattice is a toss up.
Durability – Both products meet all city building codes including wind speeds of up to and exceeding 100mph. They both come with lifetime warranties against fading, chipping, peeling, discoloration, etc. Maintenance is the same for vinyl and aluminum – occasional cleaning with mild soap and water, no painting. Vinyl is heavier and can resist impact from a heavy object or lawn equipment. Aluminum can dent but damaged components can be easily replaced.
Bottom line – Slight edge to vinyl for resistance to impact.
Green Building – Both aluminum and vinyl can be recycled. Aluminum is the third most abundant element on earth (behind oxygen and silicon). The amount of aluminum remains relatively constant since it is recycled and not consumed into energy. Once either product is installed on your home if will outlast the life of the home.
A patio cover will significantly reduce your air conditioning costs especially if it covers an area exposed to the west or south side of your house. Our customers notice the difference immediately after their new cover is installed.
Bottom line – Both have good credentials but an edge to aluminum because vinyl is a petro chemical byproduct.
Additional Features – Vinyl is cooler to the touch in hot weather. In heavy rain aluminum can produce a pinging sound. This usually is not a problem unless the cover is over or near a bedroom window. Aluminum has more style options than vinyl especially with full shade covers. As I mentioned earlier there are more colors with aluminum.
Bottom line – No advantage with either – it just depends on your particular needs.
Cost – Aluminum is significantly lower in cost to vinyl.
Botton line – Get your competitve bids and decide for yourself.
Warranties – Both materials carry lifetime warranties. The aluminum warranty is transferrable to a new owner for life. Vinyl offers a 30 warranty after it is transferred. After many years and hundreds of installations I have never had a customer make a warranty claim.
Bottom line – No significant difference.