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Aluminum vs. Vinyl Windows

Window replacement is a significant long-term investment into your home’s appearance and comfort. Currently, homeowners have multiple materials, construction, and finish options to choose from. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of available window types is vital to making a well-informed decision. Keep reading to find out the difference between aluminum vs. vinyl windows and determine which are best for your home.

Appearance

Windows are a vital component of a home and can also significantly impact a house’s look, so homeowners should consider their preferred style when choosing between aluminum vs. vinyl windows. Both options are available in single- and double-hung, single- and multi-pane construction, and an array of colours as well as finishes.
Vinyl window frames are usually thicker than aluminum and are available in smooth and textured finishes. Vinyl frames are ideal for homeowners wishing to achieve a realistic wood-like look. Unlike aluminum frames that can only be painted to resemble wood, vinyl frames can replicate wood texture as well. Therefore, vinyl window frames have a more traditional look better suited for rustic and classic-style houses.
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On the other hand, aluminum frames are sleeker and have a distinctly modern appearance, ideal for homes with a contemporary style. The frames are usually thin, so most often the window is glass. Like vinyl frames, aluminum frames can have a smooth or textured finish, but the texture options are limited to matte, polished, and brushed.

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Durability

Window replacement isn’t cheap, so durability is a crucial factor to consider when choosing the frame material. Both vinyl and aluminum frames feature excellent durability compared to traditional wooden window frames.
However, aluminum is prone to corrosion, tarnish, dents, chips, and fading. These issues are prevalent in coastal regions with humid, salty air. Constant exposure to humidity leads to corrosion and pitting of steel or zinc frame fasteners. Homeowners residing in sunny areas should be aware of risks related to continuous sun exposure. The aluminum window frame finish may fade or change colour under intense sunlight.
Naturally, such damages don’t occur on aluminum window frames quickly. Even in coastal areas, aluminum window frames may serve for decades before the metal starts to rust or the finish fades. Aluminum frames are overall more robust than vinyl and have higher impact resistance. For this reason, they’re ideal for very large window constructions and frequent hurricane areas.
Vinyl window frames don’t rust, chip, or fade under the sun. Furthermore, homeowners needing extra window construction strength can opt for reinforced vinyl frames that can easily compete with aluminum in durability. Reinforced vinyl frames typically cost about 25-30% more than average aluminum frames.

Environmental Impact

If there are concerns about global pollution, the environmental impact of aluminum vs. vinyl window production may be important for many homeowners. Unlike vinyl, aluminum is a natural material that can be recycled. Therefore, aluminum is a more environmentally friendly option. However, the lifespan of both materials is so long that this shouldn’t be a major point of concern in homeowner decision-making.

Lifespan

The cost-efficiency of aluminum vs. vinyl windows can only be evaluated by taking into account the material lifespan. Vinyl window frames can last anywhere from 20 to 50 years, depending on the climate and maintenance. Coastal and extremely hot climates can significantly reduce the vinyl frame lifespan.
Aluminum frames last slightly longer on average – from 40 to 50 years. However, they are unlikely to remain in perfect condition for the entire lifespan. Aluminum frames require regular maintenance to preserve a visually pleasing look and prevent corrosion, tarnish, and dents.
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For comparison, conventional wooden frames only last 10-15 years on average, as wood is a natural material that decays relatively quickly.

Installation and Maintenance

Window installation must always be performed by a professional, though installation complexity can impact its cost. Vinyl windows are easier to install as the material is flexible. Aluminum windows are rigid and heavier than vinyl, so the installation can be tedious and time-consuming.
Once vinyl windows are installed, homeowners can virtually forget about maintenance. It’s a one-off investment due to vinyl’s resistance to corrosion, fading, and chips. Repairs are usually straightforward.
Aluminum windows require regular maintenance, though not necessarily professional. The homeowners must clean the frame with a special aluminum treatment to prevent corrosion and mould growth related to condensation. Additionally, they must lubricate the steel moving parts that are especially prone to wear and tear.
Furthermore, vinyl frames never need repainting. The finish is durable and resistant to flaking, peeling, and fading. Aluminum frames may require repainting occasionally, depending on the climate and maintenance, and matching the paint to the original finish may be tricky.

Energy-Efficiency

Vinyl windows provide better insulation than aluminum windows. The minimized heat transfer leads to warmer temperatures inside the house in the winter and cooler temperatures in the summer. Therefore, vinyl windows are an energy-efficient choice that can significantly reduce the homeowner’s HVAC bills. Additionally, vinyl windows have excellent soundproofing.

Aluminum windows also provide great heat insulation and soundproofing compared to conventional wooden windows. However, there’s a slight edge in favour of vinyl. As aluminum is metal, it naturally conducts heat and cold and therefore isn’t as energy efficient as vinyl.

Cost

Price is a vital factor in choosing window frame material for many homeowners. Vinyl windows are about 30% cheaper than aluminum windows on average. That’s only the cost of materials – the complexity of aluminum window installation and the need for regular maintenance may increase the difference. Considering that vinyl windows are more energy-efficient, don’t corrode, tarnish, chip, or fade, and don’t require maintenance, it’s a more cost-effective choice overall. Note that window replacement always raises the home resale value and can be seen as a long-term investment.

Which Windows Are Best for Your Home?

Vinyl is a clear winner when comparing aluminum vs. vinyl window features head-to-head. Vinyl windows are more energy and cost-efficient, resistant to corrosion and fading, easy to maintain, and offer a wide range of esthetic options. It’s a better all-around option for most homeowners. However, aluminum windows are ideal for homeowners residing in dry climates who prefer a modern and sleek look.
If you’re still struggling to pick the right window type for your home, don’t hesitate to contact Window Experts. Our professionals are happy to help you choose the best windows to suit your needs, budget, and preferences.
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