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Aluminum vs. Vinyl Siding for Prefab ADUs: Which is Better?
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Aluminum vs. Vinyl Siding for Prefab ADUs: Which is Better?

|Jun 1, 2024
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Regardless of the reason you buy a new ADU, aesthetics is something you should never take for granted. The looks of a place have a huge impact on how you feel when you are there. When talking about ADUs, the aluminum vs. vinyl siding discussion is common to see.

ADUs often come with a preset design. Autonomous options, for example, have their design as one of the features they offer. Investing in new siding options has more benefits than you may imagine, though.

Knowing there are many other options on the market, why do we cut down the discussion to aluminum siding vs. vinyl siding? Well, they are a few of the best and most used options out there. If you want to get the best deal you can get, you will get to those two.

In this page, we will thoroughly analyze what aluminum and vinyl siding offer and the main characteristics of both materials. If you are looking forward to optimizing the ADU you have at home, this is the page for you.

Go to the Autonomous website if you are interested in buying a prefab ADU or learning more about shed siding. You will find many other blog posts there, so it’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about the subject.

What Is Prefab ADUs Siding?

The concept of siding with ADU housing is the same as it is with average residential options. It is the material you use for the outside of the building structure. You can install it for aesthetic purposes or to improve the resistance, insulation, or overall safety of the place.

While many people have visual appeal as a priority when they look for a new siding material, you should keep in mind that it can also protect you from weather and external hazards.

ADUs are designed with looks and safety in mind. They don’t often come with siding installed, but they have good structural safety and look appealing. However, it’s worth noting not all options are like that.

Fortunately, if the ADU you bought is not as appealing or resistant as you wanted it to be, you can pay for additional siding. The process to install it is the same as you would do in a regular house.

Now, is aluminum siding better than vinyl siding for ADUs? Keep reading to know the answer.

What Is Prefab ADUs Siding?

Vinyl Material – What Is It?

Vinyl is a synthetic material people often use in construction settings for sidings, flooring, and other applications. People often like to use it for ADUs due to how durable it is, the low maintenance it requires, and its affordability.

It’s made of polyvinyl chloride, which is a synthetic material that offers a wide variety of features. Using vinyl has its pros and cons, so we will give you a rundown of them.

Vinyl’s durability is one of its greatest features. It is highly durable, and since it requires less maintenance than other materials such as wood or metal, you can keep it for years with minimal work.

Siding made of vinyl can withstand harsh weather conditions such as wind and rain. The synthetic plastic material vinyl comes from also gives additional protection from the sun’s UV rays. In a nutshell, know that this material will last long and protect you from many things.

You may think vinyl is highly expensive due to all the benefits it offers. However, this material is typically more affordable than most siding options such as wood, aluminum, or fiber cement. If you are working on a budget, it may be the best option for you.

Now, getting to the drawbacks of using vinyl, you have its limited design availability. Wood, for example, has a much wider color range than what vinyl offers. Therefore, it’s often difficult for picky people to match their siding with the other colors within their ADU if they choose this material.

You shouldn’t forget that this is a synthetic material, which means it’s artificially made. There are many environmental concerns regarding vinyl. Polyvinyl chloride releases harmful chemicals when you burn it or expose it to high temperatures.

As you may imagine, the process of making vinyl includes exposing this material to a hot setting. Therefore, if the people making the material don’t take the protective measures needed for it, they could truly damage the environment around them. Many environmentalists are against vinyl siding because of that.

While vinyl is durable and resistant to many things, know that extreme temperatures are one of its weaknesses. It could cause cracks over time. If you live in a place with harsh weather changes, keep an eye on how your siding withstands it in case you need to repair it.

Vinyl Material – What Is It?

What About the Aluminum Material?

On the other hand, we have aluminum. In this case, we are talking about a lightweight and durable metal with many applications in the construction industry. One of them, of course, is prefab ADU siding.

The first of its pros is how lightweight it is. That makes it easier to transport and install it in your ADU. Vinyl is not that heavy, either, though.

Aluminum shines due to how durable it is compared to others. This material is resistant to rust, corrosion, and many other environmental factors. It’s one of the longest-lasting options for ADU sidings. As for its maintenance, you don’t need to paint or stain it regularly.

Similar to vinyl, aluminum requires minimum maintenance. However, something that makes this material unique among others is that it’s recyclable. That makes it an eco-friendly choice for prefab ADUs and other construction projects.

This material is not perfect, though. It also comes with its fair trade of cons. First, know that aluminum is more expensive than other options on the market, such as vinyl or wood. You shouldn’t go for this choice if you are working on a budget or want to cut expenses.

Aluminum has limited design and customization options compared to others. Its conductivity is also a huge problem when talking about energy efficiency.

Since aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, it will transfer heat almost immediately to the rest of the structure. That makes your HVAC solutions work harder and your monthly energy bills more expensive. You can address this problem by properly insulating the ADU.

As we said before, aluminum is highly resistant, but that doesn’t mean it’s unbreakable. This material is prone to dents and scratches.

What About the Aluminum Material?

Vinyl Siding vs. Aluminum Siding

You now know the main takeaways of using aluminum siding vs. vinyl siding. It’s time to make a deeper analysis of the features, pros, and cons we talked about to make a proper decision between the two.

Here, we will compare the main factors you should consider before picking the material for the siding of your home office pod or studio shed.

Remember that your decision depends on your current needs and preferences. Don’t get carried away and choose one before thoroughly studying what both options offer.

Budget

Budget-wise, vinyl is the best option between the two. Although installing aluminum is technically simple compared to other materials, it’s not as easy as setting up vinyl siding. That makes the latter way more affordable.

People often think vinyl is more expensive than aluminum because it’s a synthetic material, but that couldn’t be further from reality. Apart from being easy to install, vinyl’s setbacks also make its price more accessible to people.

Eco-friendliness is more important for people than ever, so being a material that harms the environment also affects its popularity. People often prefer safer options for our planet, so manufacturers reduce vinyl’s price to make it more appealing to them.

Budget - aluminum vs vinyl siding

Installation

Installing vinyl is easier than installing aluminum. The process includes preparing the exterior surface of the ADU by cleaning it and repairing any areas that need attention. You can add insulation to the siding, too, if you want.

You need to install vinyl siding panels horizontally. People often start from the bottom and work upwards. The idea is to make the panels interlock with each other and secure them to your ADU’s walls with nails or screws. If you want to use trim pieces, corner posts, or other accessories for the edges and corners of the siding, you can do it.

Preparing the surface and adding insulation is the same when installing aluminum siding. Aluminum panels are also installed horizontally, but you need to use fasteners to fasten them to the ADUs’ walls.

The process to fasten each panel is challenging and takes time, which is one of the reasons it’s more expensive than vinyl. Apart from that, people have to do this part of the process with extreme care to keep the panels from getting dents or scratches.

Installation

Maintenance

Both materials are similar when it comes to maintenance. They require just the bare minimum to work. However, they have some weaknesses you should keep an eye on. Vinyl-wise, it's prone to dirt buildup. Clean it regularly to avoid this problem.

One of the benefits of vinyl siding is that you can replace damaged panels individually. We recommend you often check your ADU’s siding to know when to replace it.

As for aluminum, it doesn’t require painting, and cleaning it is easy, too. However, you may need to clean this material more often than with vinyl to keep it from getting chalky residue. You don’t need to worry about rust-related maintenance with it, though.

Maintenance

Insulation

If you want to get a modern ADU or a tiny house in your backyard to save energy, you need proper insulation. The problem with these materials is that neither includes insulation in their standard presentation.

Regardless of that, there are special vinyl options that come with insulation. They may be more expensive, though. You could still add insulation at the beginning of the installation process.

While insulation is an option for vinyl siding, things are different when talking about aluminum. Due to this material’s conductivity, you need to add insulation if you don’t want your prefab backyard studio to make your energy bills more expensive.

Looks

Aluminum and vinyl offer a limited color range. However, the former offers even fewer color options than the latter. Regardless of that, aluminum looks smooth and gives your shed a unique textured finish.

What you like the most regarding the looks of your studio office depends on your preferences. However, vinyl offers more customization options.

Looks

Resistance

Resistance-wise, aluminum remains unbeaten compared to most prefab ADU siding materials. One of the reasons why this material is more expensive than others is how resistant it is.

Although it’s prone to dents and scratches, it’s still resistant to most of the other problems other materials often suffer from. Vinyl is also relatively durable, but not as much as aluminum.

Apart from that, vinyl is more prone to give you trouble in places under extreme weather circumstances. If you live in an area that is usually hot, aluminum is a much better option. You would need to install proper insulation in your studio office.

What Option Is Better for ADUs?

Aluminum and vinyl offer unique features the other doesn’t give you. The choice lies in what you need and where you live. Regardless of that, it’s true that vinyl offers the most features, gives less trouble, and is more affordable.

The problem with this material is that it’s not eco-friendly. If that’s not a setback for you, go for it. When talking about aluminum vs. vinyl siding, cost is an essential factor to consider. That’s the reason we got to this verdict.

That doesn’t mean aluminum is a bad choice, but it’s still more expensive. Its conductivity adds up to the final installation price because you don’t have any other option but to install good insulation.

However, you should pick aluminum if you want a resistant material and don’t mind spending more on your ADU’s siding.

What Option Is Better for ADUs?

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many factors to consider before picking a material for your prefab ADU. Aluminum and vinyl are excellent options, so feel safe picking any of the two. Regardless of that, the latter is often better for most situations.

Go to the Autonomous website to learn about prefab ADUs or buy one!

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