Vinyl is one of the most popular and widespread options on today’s window market. Despite its popularity, homeowners looking into the various options available for replacement windows often have questions about vinyl as a window material. These facts bring us to the question: How does vinyl compare to competing window types?
Vinyl vs. Other Options
There are five different types of framing materials available today: vinyl, wood, fiberglass, composite, and aluminum. Each material has different strengths and weaknesses to compare.
Vinyl Windows vs. Wood
Vinyl windows consist of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is sleek, stainless and durable. Wood windows are natural timber, such as pine or Douglas fir on the inside, coated with protective aluminum or fiberglass on the surface.
- Vinyl windows are primarily available in two colors: white and off-white. Darker colors are harder to come by and generally costlier. Vinyl surfaces do not require painting.
- Wood windows have the natural color and visual characteristics of wood, which is desirable to many homeowners. While you can choose to paint wood any color if you prefer a more colorful interior, this will require further maintenance every few years.
- Vinyl requires no protective overcoat, and is easy to clean with a damp washcloth. Thanks to its smooth, sleek, non-porous surface, vinyl never stains. The qualities that make it unnecessary to paint a vinyl surface also make it ideal from a maintenance standpoint.
- Wood windows require a finishing coat for surface protection. Whether this coat is varnish or paint, you must reapply it every couple of years. The only exception to the rule is the newer, higher-tech wood windows that sport aluminum or fiberglass outer-coats, but those are more expensive.
- Vinyl windows absorb little heat in the warmer months, in part because the frames consist of hollow centers. With some entry-level vinyl windows, this hollowness can also make it easier for air to pass, which can be problematic for homes situated in areas that are typically subject to extreme temperatures in the summer and winter months. Thankfully, Homespire Windows and Doors’ vinyl frames are specifically designed to combat this temperature fluctuation.
- Wood is a solid insulator that rarely leaks air and is thick enough to prevent outside noise and wind from seeping in.
- Vinyl windows are easier on the wallet than their wooden counterparts.
- Wood windows are generally higher priced, in part because wood traditionally had a reputation as a material of higher value. Due to declining wood sales, the price of wood has also gone up because fewer window manufacturers use the material. Consequently, a wood window will typically cost approximately $150 more than a vinyl window of proportionate dimensions.
- Vinyl windows have improved in recent years due to advancing vinyl-making technology, which has made it possible to produce the material in a broader range of colors. As such, vinyl has made great strides in terms of looks over older designs.
- Wood windows have been a classic of homes for centuries. This enduring popularity is due to the organic nature of wood, which gives it a timeless quality that works with all styles, both classic and contemporary.
- Vinyl windows work especially well aesthetically with most homes built within the last 30 years. The surface sleekness renders vinyl a low-maintenance choice. You can also save money with vinyl windows.
- Wood windows work with just about any interior and can be a suitable option to preserve architectural integrity for historical homes built during the early 1900s or beforehand.
Vinyl Windows vs. Fiberglass
Vinyl and fiberglass are similar in that both consist of synthetic elements. However, vinyl is a pure material, while fiberglass has an added material that makes it stronger in specific categories and weaker in others.
- Vinyl windows have an even color and solid appearance. One distinguishing mark for some vinyl windows is the join line, but Homespire Windows and Doors’ advanced fusion-welding technology ensures that there are never any weak seams.
- Fiberglass has more versatility in terms of appearance because it can resemble various other materials, including wood. While it is possible to paint fiberglass frames, this requires additional maintenance every few years.
- Vinyl windows are easy to install, thanks in part to the flexibility of the material, which allows for some degree of expansion and contraction. Therefore, skilled professionals can usually complete the process of fitting vinyl into a corresponding wall slot more quickly than for windows of other materials. Homespire Windows and Doors only uses W-2, employee installers, which allows us to offer a Signature Warranty on both materials and installation, and our installers are capable of installing up to eight windows in one day.
- Fiberglass windows have virtually no flexibility due to the rigid nature of the material. Consequently, fiberglass frames must meet the extra measurements of the corresponding glass panes and wall slots, and the installation process is more time consuming. Fiberglass windows are also harder to obtain in some markets because fewer window manufacturers use the material.
- Vinyl is a relatively cost-effective window option. Homespire Windows and Doors takes pride in being able to offer the highest quality windows on the market while working within your budget.
- Fiberglass is not as costly as wood, but it does cost considerably more than vinyl. If you purchase a new fiberglass window and have it installed by a professional, the final cost could more than double that of a vinyl window.
- Vinyl is a durable material in regular climates, but for entry-level vinyl, the chemical compounds can buckle under extreme heat. However, Homespire windows are made in Pennsylvania, specifically to withstand the harsh, mid-Atlantic climate and are backed by a Signature Warranty that covers windows and installation.
- Fiberglass is a sturdier material than vinyl due to its chemical makeup, which consists of glass fibers mixed with synthetic material. Overall, fiberglass windows can last for at least 50 years.
- Vinyl, as noted, is an average material when it comes to home insulation. Most newer vinyl windows make up for this by building extra insulation into the frame. With Homespire windows, there is an advanced 12-layer glass system and spacers built in to provide additional insulation against heat loss and outside noise.
- Fiberglass windows offer some of the best insulation of any framing material. This quality is due to the glass strands within the material, which is similar to the fiberglass used in ceilings and wall cavities.
- Vinyl requires little, if any, surface maintenance. With entry-level vinyl windows, the effects of temperature between the hottest and coldest months can cause subtle expansions and contractions within vinyl, and this can have a warping effect over time and require caulking from time to time to keep a tight fit in the wall slot. Since Homespire windows are manufactured for the temperature fluctuations experienced in the mid-Atlantic region, this is not a concern for our windows.
- Fiberglass can incur surface damage, but is not prone to warping, and is therefore unlikely to lose its tightness within a wall.
Vinyl Windows vs. Composite
Vinyl windows compare favorably with composite windows in several areas. Both are resilient and sleek in appearance, yet one has the better overall pricing advantage.
- Vinyl is a purely synthetic material made of polyvinyl chloride with no organic elements. The processes involved in its creation are relatively straightforward. As such, vinyl windows are the most widely available option for today’s homeowners.
- Composite windows have frames made of two or more materials, both synthetic and organic, bonded together with epoxy resin. A composite material of wood and vinyl, for example, could have the qualities of both.
- Vinyl windows are easy for manufacturers to produce in mass quantities with relatively low overhead. Therefore, vinyl windows are generally the most cost-effective window type available on the market today.
- Composite windows are somewhat pricier because the material is more challenging to manufacture. The steps required to bring together organic and synthetic materials can be complicated and costly at factories. Consequently, fewer manufacturers currently produce composite windows.
- Vinyl windows have the sleekest finish and most impervious surface of any window type. Vinyl can generally withstand the effects of sunlight, rain, wind, snow, and debris.
- Composite windows are also resilient and long-lasting, largely because composite frames combine different materials, each with different strengths. A composite made of vinyl and wood will have the sleekness of the former and the insulation qualities of the latter.
- Vinyl is well-suited to modernistic homes and condominiums that feature sleek, simple designs and trimming. Vinyl matches particularly well with white walls and furnishings. In renovated homes, vinyl windows often suit the walls of more modernized rooms.
- Composite windows can suit a vast range of homes, from 19th-century mansions to 21st-century tiny homes. For classic properties, the composite framing material could include a balance of organic elements that conjure the appearance of wood, making it suitable for a Victorian home in need of new windows.
- Vinyl windows will keep your living quarters comfy and quiet in peaceful surroundings with a moderate climate. Vinyl windows designed for specific climates, like Homespire’s windows, can typically handle weather in more volatile climates, and windows professionally installed are tight enough that they can help block out frequent noise and lower your reliance on artificial heat and air conditioning.
- Composite windows can offer some of the best insulation possible from a frame because manufacturers can mix materials with high-insulating qualities with materials that are stronger in other areas, such as vinyl.
Vinyl vs. Aluminum
Vinyl frames are generally preferable over aluminum, which still has a presence in apartments and office buildings but has been largely phased out in U.S. homes.
- Vinyl windows have a sleek, modern appearance that makes them aesthetically suitable in most modern living quarters.
- Aluminum windows tend to have thinner frames, which some people do prefer over the standard thickness of vinyl, wood and fiberglass frames. Others would argue that aluminum frames, which are most common in office buildings and apartments, have less character.
- Vinyl windows do not conduct heat, and are therefore the more preferable framing material for homes that experience warm weather most of the year.
- Aluminum does conduct heat and can therefore leave an interior feeling too warm for comfort during hours when the sun hits the window directly.
- Vinyl windows are easier to install, thanks largely to the flexibility of the material. That said, a professional window installer should generally handle the work. Damaged vinyl windows are easy for a professional window installer to remove for repair work.
- Aluminum windows are more challenging to install and therefore can result in more issues. If the measurement of an aluminum frame is off in any way, you would probably need to have the space re-measured and a new window sent. Once in place, aluminum frames usually get caulked for enhanced stability.
- Vinyl windows are better suited to homes in quiet residential neighborhoods. In an apartment complex or anywhere within city limits, entry-level vinyl windows are not as preferable due to the potential for outside noise, as uninsulated vinyl does not serve as an effective noise barrier. With higher quality insulated vinyl windows, such as Homespire windows, this is not a concern.
- Aluminum, while not a perfect noise barrier, does a better job than vinyl at reducing noise from the outside. That is one of the reasons aluminum windows are a common feature in apartments and condominium complexes, where the noise of children, dogs and passing motorists are more prevalent.
- Vinyl windows are generally impervious to dirt and stains. Entry-level vinyl windows can gradually warp, ever so slightly, when subjected to intense heat. Over time, this warping can affect the appearance of vinyl window frames and render them less secure. Higher quality virgin vinyl windows, such as those offered by Homespire Windows and Doors, are manufactured for greater heat resistance and will not warp.
- Aluminum frames are not prone to losing their shape or buckling under heat. The measurements of a vinyl frame remain the same for all the years they stay in use. In terms of durability, the main weakness of aluminum frames is their vulnerability to the corrosive effects of rain and moisture, which can get to the underlying metal in an aluminum frame and lead to rust development in some environments.
- Vinyl windows require little maintenance over time, aside from a simple once-over with a washcloth. Every couple of years, it could be necessary to re-caulk a window frame to suppress the formation of drafts. With Homespire’s Signature Warranty, should any caulking be necessary, a trained employee technician would promptly perform the service for you at no charge.
- Aluminum windows also require little maintenance, but it is essential to keep the tracks clean and free of dirt, gunk, or debris. As dirt accumulates within the tracks of an aluminum window, the sashes can become difficult to move up and down. To prevent the development of rust, it is also crucial to prevent water formation on the surface of aluminum windows.
So How Do I Choose Which Is Best For Me?
To determine the best type of window for your home, consider the following factors:
- How much are you willing to spend?
- Would you be willing to commit to a regular window maintenance schedule?
- Do you live in a moderate or volatile climate?
- How hot are your summers?
- How cold are your winters?
- Is your home relatively old (pre-1950) or new (post-1990)?
- Does your house have a vintage or modern design scheme?
- Do you live in a noisy or quiet community?
- Do you plan to sell your home in the foreseeable future?
- Would your next set of windows need to resemble the previous ones as closely as possible?
Homespire Windows and Doors offers a free, in-home window and door analysis where one of our highly-trained representatives will help you answer all of these questions and any others that you may have. We’ll also inspect all the windows in your home to identify any problems that may be undetected. We’ll help you come up with the solution that best fits your wants and needs, all while working within your budget.
Vinyl Windows From Homespire
Vinyl windows are one of the sleekest and most modern options available to today’s homeowners. Vinyl is a durable material that holds up against rain, water, steam, and other elements. At Homespire, we offer 100% virgin vinyl windows in a range of styles. Explore our products and contact us today to schedule your own analysis.