Vinyl, Composite, Clad-Wood, or Aluminum; Which is Best For Your Project?
Whether you’re building a home thinking about replacement windows one of the big questions to address is, “Which material is best for your project?” The four most common construction materials for windows and doors are vinyl, composite (typically fiberglass), clad-wood, and aluminum. Each has its own set of benefits in a range of categories from cost to performance to aesthetics. We’ll take you through all that you need to know to make an informed decision and get it right the first time.
When replacing the windows in your home you really do need to get it right the first time. If you hate your new windows once they are in there is no going back. There is no refund or return of the new windows. Your old windows were destroyed when they were removed, they’re in a dumpster somewhere. The only options are to live with a mistake or do it all over again.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the four most common window materials and outline five reasons why each might be best for your replacement window project.
Is A Vinyl Window Best For You?
Reason #5: Suitability
There are some instances where a vinyl window will work best just because of the dimensions of your previous window. For example; if you have a shallow opening depth to work with such as 2×4 construction with exterior siding there are a lot of windows that won’t even work and a narrow framed vinyl window is your best option.
Also, wet areas such as showers, sinks, and tubs are great places to consider vinyl windows since vinyl material is impervious to moisture.
Reason #4: Durability
Vinyl window material is a high-grade PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) that is extremely durable and will last for hundreds of years. Fortunately, it’s also recyclable so it doesn’t have to end up taking up space in a landfill and can find new life as another product.
Today’s premium vinyl window material has additives that help it to resist the breakdown caused by UV rays and cause the material to fade or become chalky. Not only does it last but it keeps up its appearance with any maintenance like painting or refinishing.
Reason #3: Efficiency
Vinyl is a terrible conductor, which is exactly what you want in a window. That means that the heat, or cold, outside does not easily transfer through the material and radiate into your home. In fact, it’s so bad at conducting heat that it’s used as an insulator in many instances.
Reason #2: Warranty
Because of the durability that we’ve already mentioned, premium vinyl windows will typically come with a lifetime warranty, and very often that is transferable. Having a great window is important but we all know that things just happen sometimes. When they do, it’s nice to have the peace of mind that a lifetime warranty brings.
Reason #1: Cost
Of course, it’s important that you find the color, style, and function of a replacement window that meets your needs; but if you can meet your needs in a vinyl window you’ll also be saving money. Of all of the window materials on the market today the most cost-effective, hands-down, is vinyl.
Why Choose A Fiberglass Composite Window?
Reason #5: Impervious
Fiberglass pultrusions are created by pulling fiberglass windings and mats first through an epoxy resin and then through a heated die to harden and cure into their final shape. The finished product is impervious to rot and oxidation (or rust). Fiberglass is going to stand up to even the harshest of climates without breaking down.
Reason #4: Expansion Rate
Yes, it may seem a bit obscure to cite “expansion rate” as a reason to choose fiberglass but hear me out. Consider that a window is broken into two components, the frame, and the glass unit. When heated, all materials will expand and when cooled, contract. Of all window frame materials, only fiberglass has the same expansion rate as glass. That translates to less stress on the seals and a reduction in the chance that they will fail.
Reason #3: Finishes
A composite window with a powder coat finish is superior to a painted finish. A powder coat is electrostatically applied and then baked on for a finish that will not scratch or fade like a painted finish will.
Reason #2: Paintable
If for any reason, that you do decide that you would like to paint your fiberglass windows, you can. Paint has a harder time adhering to other materials like vinyl and aluminum and, while it can be done, it’s a much more complicated process than it is with fiberglass composite windows.
Reason #1: Strength
You really just can’t beat the strength of fiberglass. It’s true that aluminum is strong but, being a metal, it can also be dented or creased. Fiberglass is a great combination of strength with the ability to bend without losing its shape. We have a great video that we test its strength and impact resistance here.
Why Choose A Clad Wood Window?
Reason #5: Real Wood
Classic and timeless, there is just no substitute for the warmth and beauty of real wood and nothing compliments a richly appointed interior better. Out of all of the window materials, clad-wood windows provide the beauty of wood where you need it most, the interior.
Reason #4: Paintable
Your new wood windows can be ordered unfinished, in a variety of wood selections, for you to paint or stain to match your existing trim. If you decide to update or redesign your space they can be repainted or refinished. Of course, they are also available finished from the factory.
Reason #3: Energy Efficient
That’s right! Not only is wood beautiful but it’s naturally energy efficient. It has nearly the same thermal conductivity coefficient as vinyl.
Reason #2: Aluminum Cladding
Today’s high-performance wood windows are clad on their exterior surfaces with aluminum. It protects the wood, which is susceptible to the elements, from rotting, swelling, warping, and shields it from damage. The aluminum material will not corrode and typically comes with a durable powder-coat finish that will not need to be repainted.
Reason #1: Beautiful
Wood windows are a high-end product and should be thought of more along the lines of furniture in terms of their construction and finishes. They are built by skilled craft workers with aesthetics in mind. A clad-wood window buyer is willing to pay a premium to get the best product for their home.
Why Choose An Aluminum Material?
Reason #5: A Black Finish
When it comes to design, black windows are very popular. Typically black finishes are an upgraded feature on materials like vinyl, but black is a standard color on most aluminum windows. So you can get the finish you want without having to pay extra.
Reason #4: Efficiency
Aluminum is a notoriously effective conductor of heat, which is exactly what you don’t want in a window material. Fortunately, technology has come a long way since the days of thin-framed aluminum windows and today’s aluminum windows are available thermally improved (or thermally broken).
Put simply, a thermally improved aluminum window will have a non-conductive material between the outside surface of the frame and the inside surface of the frame. This non-conductive material serves to stop the transfer of the heat across the frame and creating a very energy-efficient window.
Reason #3: Annodized Finishes
We’ll leave the explanation of the anodization process to the engineers but after it’s all said and done we’re left with a finish that is now a part of the material itself. A durable finish that won’t chip, fade, corrode, or need to be reapplied.
Reason #2: Durability
It’s metal and a non-ferrous metal at that, so an aluminum window isn’t going to rust or corrode. And as long as you choose a product which a heavier, extruded, aluminum cladding it’s going to stand up to any punishment the elements, your lawn service, or the neighbor’s kid can dish out.
Reason #1: Strength
The great thing about the strength of aluminum is that you can create some really large windows with very narrow sightlines. With aluminum windows, you get more glass and less frame.