The stick-built sunroom has been left behind by manufactured sunrooms of vinyl and glass, according to many contractors. Still, though no one knows exactly how the sunroom market breaks down by product type, stick-built sunrooms remain. They appeal to homeowners who want “a high-end room,” says Jim Lang, president of TrueNorth Home Systems in Kennebunk, Maine. “It's another level,” he says, “for people who want vaulted ceilings, skylights, and open rafters.”
COMPONENT PARTS Manufactured sunrooms, such as the Betterliving brand sold by TrueNorth Home Systems or TEMO sold by Melani Bros., in Yorktown, Va., are durable, can be erected in days rather than weeks, and, “in most cases cost half as much to assemble as a room built the traditional way,” explains Melani Bros. vice president of sales and marketing Rick Menendez.
Most sunroom manufacturers also stress the energy efficiency of their glass and integrity of their engineered systems. “A guy building additions may have architectural plans drawn, but you don't know if every connection has been engineered and signed off on,” says Jim Ruppel, marketing director for Four Seasons Sunrooms based on Long Island, N.Y. Many manufactured brands offer a lifetime warranty, something few stick-built sunroom contractors would be likely to match. Lang also says that manufactured rooms have “a light, bright feel you don't get with stick-built.”
MATCH EXISTING Stick-built, though, is tailor-made and “looks like your house,” says Joseph Bendek, owner of Georgia Custom Sunrooms, in Rome, Ga. And Bendek says he can match, or beat, the price of a manufactured sunroom because he doesn't advertise, operate a showroom, or pay franchise fees. Where Bendek's sunrooms have a clear advantage is in historic districts and communities with strict codes on home exteriors. He takes issue with the notion that manufactured rooms are more energy efficient than those he builds. “A 2-inch Styrofoam panel with aluminum on both sides [can't beat] a studded wall with R13 batt insulation, plywood, and Tyvek,” he adds. —Jay Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Jamestown, R.I.