Windows are an integral part of any home-a household’s ‘eyes’ to the outside world. You may need to factor in a few key decisions when searching for the right set for your house. Top among them is the material for the frame and the sash.
Whether shopping for new construction or replacement windows, your material choice comes down to several different options. Wood and aluminum windows are popular options. Fiberglass and vinyl windows are the two most popular artificial materials. How do these materials compare for use on window frames, and which is the best option overall?
Vinyl windows are made from polyvinyl chloride as the base material. Vinyl is America’s go-to option, with over 20 million units sold annually. Fiberglass frame windows cut out a niche for themselves, selling as the most energy-efficient material. Fiberglass is made from polyester resins impregnated in glass base material and then molded into shape.
Here is a comparison guide to help you pick out the right window material.
1. Design Aesthetic
While both materials may appear similar at a distance, fiberglass offers a wider range of decorative options than vinyl windows. Fiberglass is stronger, requiring less material than vinyl for the same stress levels. The thicker vinyl frames reduce the glass space, meaning less natural light. Fiberglass can also be textured to resemble wood and comes in a wider range of colors and styles.
If you are reasonably confident of your skills with a power drill, you can install vinyl windows for yourself. Vinyl is slightly flexible, making it easier to install than rigid fiberglass. Fiberglass windows may need professional window installers after ordering from the manufacturers. Vinyl frames are available in pre-made standard sizes at most home improvement stores.
3. Strength and Durability
Both fiberglass and vinyl windows tend to outlast wood, as they are resistant to chipping, cracking, rotting, and denting. However, fiberglass frames are up to eight times stronger than vinyl, making them more durable. Good quality vinyl windows have ratings for up to 30 years with proper care, while fiberglass can last up to 50 years.
4. Energy Efficiency
Both materials have a higher R-insulating value than wood. The glass base material-similar to that on window panes- means that the fiberglass frame and the window glass expand and contract at the same rate. This makes fiberglass up to 15% better at insulating than vinyl as the more energy-efficient material.
Vinyl replacement windows are more affordable than both fiberglass and wood materials. Fiberglass is cheaper than wood but slightly more expensive than vinyl. Vinyl windows can be roughly 10-30% cheaper to buy and install. The average cost ranges between $700-$800 for vinyl and $900-$1100 for fiberglass.
Both types of windows are typically low maintenance. You do not have to worry about cracking and warping. You can easily scrub the grime away with a hard brush and water. Painted fiberglass windows may require a fresh coat when they fade.
Both fiberglass and vinyl windows are excellent products for your replacement project. Vinyl’s strengths are in the costs, ease of installation, and low maintenance. Fiberglass windows are preferable when looking for aesthetics, strength, and energy efficiency.