On This Page
- Difference Between Vinyl and Aluminum Windows
- Which is better
- Cost Comparison
- Which is Cheaper to Install with a Pro?
- Frame Appearance, & Aesthetic
- Impact Window Durability
- Hot or Cold Climates
- Energy Savings & Thermal Insulation
- Cost Comparison of Materials & Installation
- Best Replacement Windows
- Length of Life
- Strength & Weight
- Maintenance & Repairs
- Replacing Aluminum with Vinyl
What is the Difference Between Vinyl and Aluminum Windows?
While both materials are great options for your home, what motivates homeowners to choose one material over the other? Knowing the pros and cons of each frame material is the first step in choosing the best product for your home.
These frames are made of durable PVC plastic, which has been growing in popularity in modern construction. They originated in the 1970s to be a more affordable alternative to wood. They typically last 20 to 40 years.
Aluminum is a naturally occurring metal in nature that’s known for its strength and durability. These frames can last between 20 to 30 years.
Aluminum-Clad Wood Windows vs. Vinyl-Clad
These frames are wooden inside and “clad”, or wrapped, in aluminum or vinyl. Clad frames are enhanced versions of traditional wooden windows. Find out more in the vinyl vs. wood windows guide.
Cladding materials protect the wood from outdoor elements. This creates a stronger and easier-to-maintain frame that can last 30 years or more.
- Highly resistant to dents
- Popular in storm-prone areas
- Customizable designs
- Easy to clean
- Resist humidity
- Popular in warm and humid climates
- Customizable designs
Which is Better: Vinyl or Aluminum?
In this guide, we’ll explore these two materials considering various aspects of homeownership. This guide will only compare pure aluminum and vinyl windows, excluding clad types.
Aluminum vs. Vinyl Windows: Advantages & Disadvantages
|Colors & Painting||
|Impact Durability||Durable in storm areas||Not storm-resistant unless enhanced with impact-resistant glass|
||Great for any climate|
|Energy-Efficiency||Not energy-efficient unless enhanced with thermal breaks||Energy-efficient|
|Cost||Not as affordable||
|DIY||None. Hire a pro||None. Hire a pro|
|Length of life||30+ years||20-40 years|
|Strength||Strong||Not as strong unless reinforced|
|Maintenance||Moderate maintenance. Needs special cleaner||Low maintenance|
|Noise||Quieter||Doesn’t block noise well|
|Eco-friendliness||Easy to recycle||
Frame Appearance & Aesthetic
Both materials are available in virtually any style you want, such as single and multi-pane. But when it comes to design potential, there are a few differences.
- Popular because can replicate wood-grain texture.
- Thicker frames.
- Design versatility, but most come in a smooth, white frame.
- Can look like wood when it’s powder-coated and painted.
- Strong and thin frames suit commercial properties and contemporary exteriors.
- Sleek and modern in appearance.
Vinyl looks great on residential buildings; Aluminum performs well and looks good on many commercial projects.
- You don’t need to paint it.
- Paint on this material can peel and crack.
- If replacing, matching former window colors can take some time.
- Repainting it can void warranties.
- Limited color selection.
- Can paint, making it easier to update or match when replacing windows.
- Can have a wood look when coated with textured powder and painted.
- If it chips, the material underneath will show.
Impact Window Durability
Both materials resist cracking, impacts, and scratches well, but which one is worth the cost of a storm window?
- Is structurally weaker.
- Impact-resistant versions cost up to 30% more. This makes it equal to the cost of aluminum.
- Is structurally stronger.
- Higher impact resistance. Good for homes in areas with tornadoes and hurricanes
- Suited for large windows because of its strength.
Hot or Cold Climates
- Good at resisting humidity.
- Insulates extreme temperatures.
- Has a better thermal break, minimizing heat transfer from inside to out.
- Has less condensation than wood or metal.
- You must do your research on brands, as quality and performance varies. There are many cheap options out there that won’t hold up as well as higher quality options.
- Use the energy star products to ensure that your purchase has a good thermal break.
- Can warp in extreme heat.
- Thermally improved options are available to increase energy efficiency and minimize thermal heat transfer.
- Conducts heat and cold, resulting in condensation on the frames.
- Condensation leads to mold problems, especially in cold climates.
- A heat transfer upgrade will make it cost more than ordinary versions.
- Not good for salty beach homes because of sea salt corrosion.
Energy Savings & Thermal Insulation
- PVC naturally minimizes heat transfer, which keeps the temperature inside more stable.
- Higher insulation lowers your heating and cooling bills.
- When it isn’t thermally improved or has thermal breaks, it easily conducts heat and cold, making your HVAC work harder to keep internal temperatures comfortable.
- Can make rooms hot in the summer and cold in the winter by conducting outside weather.
- Thermal breaks cost more as add-ons.
Cost Comparison of Materials & Installation
The average cost of window installation is above $5,000, with the standard prices falling between $2,600 and $7,500. The price variation depends on the kind you install, and the labor involved.
- 30% less than aluminum.
- Averages $450 per window.
- Labor is $38 per hour on average. It takes about two hours to install each unit, resulting in $76 for labor.
- 30% more than vinyl.
- Averages $650 per window.
- Labor averages $64 per hour. It takes about two hours to install one unit, resulting in $128 for labor.
Best Replacement Windows
Which works the best as a replacement or retrofit unit?
- Easy to install with cheaper labor.
- There are a variety of pre-made designs and textures.
- Impact-resistant retrofit units cost more than standard versions.
- The limited variety of designs can make it hard to match the replaced units.
- Can paint to match more exterior designs.
- Desirable in storm areas when reinforced.
- Labor is usually more extensive and expensive.
DIY Window Replacement or Installation
- Fitting it in without having cracks or damaging structural integrity requires the expertise of a professional.
- The cost of installing a screen will drive up the total installation price.
- Though they’re lighter, they have more specialized parts.
- Can get textured and painting after installation.
- Fitting it properly is only 100% guaranteed when you hire a professional.
Length of Life
- Can last 20-40 years depending on product quality and subsequent care.
- Won’t fade, corrode or pit.
- More resistant to chips and dents.
- Low-quality products will last just two decades. You’ll need to shop around to get the best quality or maximum length of life.
- Can last up to 30 years depending on quality and the area installed.
- Can maximize lifespan with regular care and cleaning.
- Colors can fade in the sun
- The frame can corrode in salty or humid climates, which shortens its life.
- The metal fasteners used inevitably corrode over time.
Strength & Weight
- Good for residential properties
- Better for small windows
- Structurally weaker than metal.
- Good for large units and commercial properties.
- Can corrode in some environments, which decreases its strength.
Maintenance & Repairs
When you need to repair a window frame, which material is more cost-effective and easy to fix? There are some common factors, such as the average cost to clean windows being around $200, and the cost to replace glass around $260, regardless of the frame type. However, there a few unique care aspects to each material.
- Frames are easy to clean with just a damp cloth.
- There’s no need to repaint or stain.
- Has uniform colors that won’t fade, pit, or corrode.
- Sealing the window is necessary if the frame warps from extreme heat.
- There are fewer options for design.
- Paint can often cover up small exterior imperfections.
- Must clean with a special cleaner to prevent rust.
- Must lubricate moving parts to maintain functionality.
- Painted frames require regular touch-ups.
- Individual frames of this material cost more.
Does one material have an advantage in your return on investment?
- Offers a 74% ROI, which is one of the highest that windows offer.
- Its ROI ranges between 60 to 80%, depending on its quality and condition.
- Vinyl: Doesn’t block outside noise.
- Aluminum: Blocks more, giving you a quieter home.
- More difficult to recycle.
- Not biodegradable.
- Efficient and easy to recycle.
- Without enhancements, can use more energy by letting in heat in the summer and cold in the winter.
- Can enhance with low-e glass, which can minimize heat transfer.
Consult window pros near you
Replacing Aluminum Windows with Vinyl
If you’re thinking that vinyl may be a better fit for your home that currently has aluminum windows, you can replace your windows with a retrofit frame. The costs will involve these factors:
- The labor to remove the old units.
- Disposing of/ recycling old parts.
- The labor and cost of new construction materials.
The ultimate price tag for this process will depend on the scale of your project and the quality of the products you use. There are many benefits of replacing old windows with new, energy-efficient units like vinyl or thermally-enhanced aluminum, including cost savings and increased home value.
Aluminum vs Vinyl Windows in Florida or Texas. Which is Best?
Both Texas and Florida have diverse weather patterns which make different material windows more suited for their unique locales. Though both are warm states, there are stormy, dry, humid, and coastal areas to consider.
- Dry: For the arid but warm west Texas, aluminum works great. There isn’t as much danger for rust or condensation.
- Hot & Humid: Vinyl is better because of its thermal break that will keep your home cool and comfortable.
- Coastal: Vinyl is better because it won’t corrode from sea salt air.
- Tornado Alley/Hurricane-Prone Areas: Aluminum units are better for Florida’s hurricanes or tornadoes in Texas.
Which Window is Best for a New Construction?
The best window for a new construction depends on the nature of the job.
- Most standard residential homes can benefit from the affordability and low-maintenance factor of vinyl.
- High-end homes and commercial properties with large windows need a stronger aluminum frame to handle the pressure and hold the glass securely.
Vinyl vs. Fiberglass Windows
Vinyl and fiberglass have much in common, but there are a few ways in which fiberglass is different. Though both are synthetic materials that promise durability, longevity, and minimal upkeep, fiberglass deviates in these ways.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Fiberglass Windows
- Better insulators= more energy-efficiency
- Lasts up to 50 years
- Higher ROI
- More expensive- costs at least $600 per unit.
- Harder to install
- Fades in the sun
- Needs to be repainted periodically
Homeowners that want a simple, affordable, and easy-to-install window should get vinyl. Those who want a sturdier unit with a higher ROI and better energy efficiency should get fiberglass.
Which Material Is Better for Double Pane or Sliding Windows?
The material you choose for your double pane or sliding windows don’t make a difference in performance or longevity. Since both materials make sturdy and functional frames, there truly is no difference in performance whether the panes slide vertically or horizontally.
Is Aluminum Better Than Vinyl for Blinds?
Choose Aluminum if:
- You’re looking for a set that will last for years.
- You need blinds that won’t easily snap in half when tampered with.
Choose Vinyl if:
- You want vast textures and design potential.
- You need a cheap temporary set. The basic $5 versions work great for short-term periods.