Aluminum vs. Vinyl Windows: Why Vinyl is the Way to Go

When it comes to home improvement, many homeowners falsely believe that all types of windows are similar. Yes, they may serve the same general purpose and look alike from a distance, yet there are noticeable differences when you examine them in more detail.

There are a number of different options for new and replacement windows which can be overwhelming for the typical customer. The style and type that you will need is dependant on a number of factors including the weather where you live, average temperatures, the amount of sun exposure, and more.

One of the most important decisions you need to make when shopping is if you want aluminum or vinyl windows.

vinyl windows

Vinyl and aluminum windows are both viable options for many homeowners. Aluminum windows are well received because they are lightweight yet durable, and built with a strong form of material that is not easily corruptible to the weather elements. Vinyl windows have many of the same qualities as aluminum yet are considered significantly better insulators. Vinyl also is coated with a finish of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) so they don’t even need to get painted. They are basically maintenance free.

When you consider that vinyl windows are approximately 30 percent cheaper than aluminum it’s easy to see why many homeowners elect for this type of window.

We have put together a guide that breaks vinyl windows with some comparisons to aluminum. It will allow you to decide between the two, and should ultimately prove that vinyl is the way to go…

Design

Even though you will add or replace windows for other reasons that aren’t strictly limited to appearance, the average homeowner would be lying if they didn’t admit that appearance is one of the most important considerations – if not the most important.

Vinyl windows have a pleasant design. The windows aren’t purely designed to look utilitarian as they are sold in a number of different finishes. Even after the years’ pass, vinyl remains attractive as scratch and chips in the frame don’t do anything other than reveal the same material and color below the initial scratched/chipped surface.

The design stacks up well to aluminum which doesn’t hold up near as well long term. When aluminum gets chipped or scratched, it reveals the shiny metal under a painted coat and looks poor.

Vinyl frames are also thicker than their aluminum counterparts, which some homeowners prefer in a new design while others dislike. They also weigh more given the thicker frame.

Appearance

There is one obvious difference between aluminum and vinyl. In terms of the presentation, vinyl cannot get repainted. The color that you purchase is the color that you are stuck with.

Since there is so much variety in color schemes finding a near identical match is usually not a problem; however, when it comes time to repaint the exterior in another color you will have to be mindful of your limits.

Aluminum, on the other hand, can get painted over and sometimes has a powder-coated finish for added durability. You can get an exact match for the windows frame and trim of the exterior.

In terms of texture, vinyl windows are sold with a wood-grain designed to mimic actual wood. It is a solid alternative to actual wood and looks fairly authentic. Aluminum can also attempt to capture the effect of wood through a process known as “coating treatment” though it lacks the same authenticity and sometimes looks very cheap.

Durability

In addition to having a thicker frame, vinyl windows remain resistant to any type of damage through scratching, cracking, and making. Furthermore, it’s very difficult to dent the frame. Aluminum shares many of the same characteristics, which is why both styles of window frames are well regarded for their durability. However, aluminum can dent easier.

Though they both perform fairly well in strength tests, since aluminum is a metal it performs better in assessments. Overall, vinyl is pretty strong considering it’s not a metal substance.

Sustainability

Windows, along with doors, get a lot of abuse from the elements. Fittingly, you need a material for a window frame that is sustainable. Corrosion is not an issue with vinyl which is a really great feature. Aluminum, on the other hand, can corrode over time as the steel or zinc fasteners sometimes react with the metal.

Vinyl windows also build less condensation compared to aluminum or wood. Aluminum has a heat transfer property that actually generates condensation which is one major flaw of these types of windows. Condensation is obviously not ideal as it leads to mildew, rot, and mold.

Maintenance

Anything that is exterior has the potential for its paint to fade over time. However, that doesn’t include vinyl as it does not fade and never needs to be repainted. Aluminum windows can pit, and the painted surface does eventually fade.

Regular maintenance of aluminum requires the moving parts to get lubricated in order to maintain high functionality. Like any working part, metal against metal needs lubrication. It is not such a big deal for first-story windows, however, lubricating second or third story windows involves a high ladder and safety precautions.

Overall, vinyl windows have the lowest maintenance requirements when compared to wood or aluminum. There is no need to repaint or restain, and the working parts don’t corrode.

Energy Efficiency

The ability to have energy efficient windows is becoming more of an important feature in the 21st century as energy bills become more expensive, and homeowners simply want to be more self-sufficient.

Vinyl windows are labeled very energy efficient, arguably the best of any type of exterior window frame. Aluminum windows aren’t near as sufficient. They tend to suck in heat like a magnet from the outside and into the rooms of your house. Aluminum has a similar effect in the cold.

Therefore, many with aluminum windows invest in “thermal breaks” which is an added charge to your window replacement bill. Ironically enough, most thermal breaks installed on aluminum windows are made of, you guessed it, vinyl.

aluminium windows

Soundproof

Given that vinyl windows weigh more and have thicker frames you would probably expect that they are better at noise reduction. You are correct. Though they may not quite be at the same level as wood, vinyl windows are effective at soundproofing. Aluminum is not quite as effective.

Cost

Then it comes down to perhaps the most important consideration of them all – the price. In general, you get what you pay for and the more you spend the higher quality product you receive.

However, when it comes to the vinyl vs. aluminum window debate, it’s clear that vinyl windows are a much better value, not to mention more affordable.

Yes, you heard that right. Not only do vinyl windows tend to trump aluminum in a number of important categories but they are also typically cheaper. Aluminum, on the other hand, is more pricey if you buy anything above a bottom-line product.

Aluminum vs. Vinyl Windows – Final Verdict

If you don’t mind that the color of a vinyl window frame cannot get repainted in another color later on down the road, it’s clear that vinyl is the superior material for windows compared to aluminum.

Vinyl has many distinct advantages:

  • Features a better design
  • Is just as durable as aluminum
  • Is not exposed to corrosion and condensation
  • Requires little to no maintenance
  • Remains highly energy efficient
  • Is great for soundproofing
  • Is generally cheaper than aluminum

Do you believe that vinyl is the way to go?

For most people, vinyl is the perfect addition to a cozy home. At Feldco, you’ll find the perfect combination of color and grid patterns to match the interior of your home. From casement windows to picture windows, we’ve helped over 350,000 customers with window styles and accessories. Speak to a product specialist and get a free quote today.

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