Photo: Dariusz Jarzabek / Adobe Stock
If you’re looking to replace a window or two or upgrade your home’s exterior, choosing the right frame can make all the difference in withstanding weather conditions and contributing to insulation. For example, while aluminum frames are usually thicker than vinyl, vinyl tends to be more effective at reducing heat transfers from outside temperatures. Each material type has its pros and cons for different types of homes and climates. Read on for what you’ll want to know about aluminum windows versus vinyl.
On This Page:
- What Are Aluminum Windows?
- What Are Vinyl Windows?
- Life Span
- Environmental Impact
- Resale Value
- Are Aluminum Windows or Vinyl Windows Better for Your Home?
- Aluminum Windows and Vinyl Windows vs. Other Options
What Are Aluminum Windows?
Photo: Javi / Adobe Stock
Aluminum is a lightweight, malleable metal used commonly in building materials like window frames. It’s a standard option for exterior windows because of the metal’s resilience against outside elements. It’s also durable and can hold up over decades.
What Are Vinyl Windows?
Photo: Javi / Adobe Stock
Vinyl is an abbreviation for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Various products use PVC, including pipes, flooring, siding, and window frames. Vinyl’s flexible properties allow it to fit into window spaces and provide a good seal.
The window frame appearance will affect both your interior and exterior finishes. Because of the difference in materials, the look of aluminum versus vinyl windows is in the finish and the function. Also, consider the color options available for your window frame style and if you can easily update and refinish the frame in the future after it’s endured some wear and tear.
|Available in a range of colors
|DIY-friendly for repainting
Aluminum windows often include finishes or coatings—like anodizing—that can add extra durability to the frame. Aluminum’s lightweight strength can also support different window shapes and sizes that are more elaborate in design. Aluminum offers sliding doors, swing doors, tilt, or accordion configurations.
Vinyl windows have a straightforward, modern look that comes in various colors. Some of the most common are tan, white, black, brown, and traditional blues. Double-hung, casement, awning, and bay windows are standard types of vinyl window frames.Find a Local Window Installation Pro
Windows cost between $3,000 and $10,000, including materials and installation. The cost may be impacted by factors like glass type, size, and whether your home is a new build or an older structure. Better energy-efficiency ratings will also increase the cost of the window.
|$400 – $1,200 for frame material
|$250 – $600 for frame material
The cost of an aluminum window is between $400 and $1,200 and depends on the size, shape, and if there are any frame customizations or finishes. Double-hung windows tend to be on the lower end of the cost spectrum, while egress and casement windows are more expensive. Working with a contractor may help you get a wholesale discount if you have a larger order installed.
Due to their affordability and durability, vinyl windows are a popular window frame. Vinyl window frames cost around $250 to $600, less than wood or fiberglass windows. With an average two-decade life span, they offer a high return on investment with energy savings to boot.
Aluminum windows are known for their resistance to weather and holding up over the years, but vinyl windows can hold their own in the durability and easy upkeep categories. Upkeep is highly dependent on where you live. Moisture levels, precipitations, and temperature changes will impact the frequency of upkeep needs.
|May corrode or rust over time
|Can warp with temperature changes
|Wipe down and dry off moisture
|Periodically check and reapply caulk
Periodically wiping down the windows to prevent moisture from building up can help add to the longevity of your window frames and prevent rusting. If the finish starts to peel or chip, you can touch up your windows to extend their life. Scrubbing with a vinegar-water mixture restores and removes rust from aluminum.
Vinyl windows are easy to keep up with and can withstand more variable conditions. Still, suppose you live in a climate that experiences a lot of swings in temperature. In that case, you’ll want to periodically check the vinyl surface and caulking since it can be susceptible to cracking over time. To reseal the window and improve your home’s insulation, you should re-caulk if you notice any gaps or drafts.
Durability is important when planning your budget and how long you want the new windows to last. Aluminum and vinyl both bring durable qualities to a home and hold up over time, but the climate where your home is can impact vinyl versus aluminum-clad windows. The quality of the materials will also affect durability.
|Not appropriate for coastal homes
|Hold up well against most weather elements
|Wipe off moisture to extend life span
|Extreme heat can cause problems
|Powder coating can improve durability
|Prone to cracks, warping, or melting
Coastal homes may benefit from a material other than aluminum since saltwater and air can cause oxidation and pitting in untreated aluminum. Wiping down and drying off moisture periodically can help aluminum window surfaces. Finishes like powder coating and anodizing can further improve their durability.
Vinyl holds up against most elements, but extreme heat can cause long-term problems. Due to its more flexible properties, vinyl can be prone to surface cracks, warping, or melting. Periodically check the windows and reapply caulking if necessary to see how they’re holding up and if they need to be resealed.
Window installation includes removal of the previous window and sashing, fitting and securing the new window, and ensuring it’s properly insulated. Installation is a job that’s well-suited for hiring a professional window installer near you, which costs around $30 to $50 per hour. The structure of your home and how many floors it has will also impact the total project price.
|Follow standard installation
|Easier to install than aluminum
|May need more insulation
Aluminum windows follow a standard installation process. They may require more attention to insulation since they’re less efficient when keeping out colder temperatures. These installation factors come with a slightly higher price tag.
Vinyl windows are often DIY-ers’ choice because they cost less than aluminum and are relatively straightforward to install. The flexible vinyl frames are also helpful if it’s a simple retrofit process. With a faster installation time and better insulation properties of vinyl, you’ll likely have fewer installation costs than aluminum.
When well-maintained, both aluminum and vinyl windows can hold up for decades. If you start to notice cracks, chips, or tears or feel drafts inside, it’s usually a sign that it’s time to consider a replacement. The typical cost to replace windows ranges from $300 to $2,100.
|20 – 25 years
|10 – 40 years
Aluminum window frames can last 20 to 25 years. Aluminum is known for its strength and is a more hearty option for window materials. With regular maintenance, you can extend the life of your window frame investment.
Vinyl window frames can last anywhere from 10 to 40 years. The life span of vinyl windows may be variable, depending on the installation and quality of the windows. Higher-quality vinyl frames will last longer than the lower-cost variety.
The environmental impact of both window frames considers the windows’ performance and how easy it is to dispose of once you’re ready for a replacement project. Windows with better insulators will support your HVAC system and how hard it has to work. In addition, when it comes to vinyl windows versus aluminum windows, both can be recycled or repurposed.
|Reduces heat transfer
|Can be recycled
|Can be recycled
Aluminum windows don’t offer the same insulation benefits as vinyl, which results in your home holding more heat. Therefore, aluminum windows are better suited for milder temperature climates. The upside to disposing of old window frames is they can often be recycled and are also biodegradable.
Vinyl windows are the more efficient of the two options since the material reduces heat transfers and helps with internal temperature regulation. This supports the work your HVAC system is doing and allows in less outdoor temperature. PVC is also a recyclable material, so your frames can be recycled or repurposed when you’re ready to replace them.
Even if you plan to stay in your home for a long time, it’s always good to keep resale value in mind when considering your window investment. Windows are a noticeable part of your home’s exterior appearance—not to mention how they help your home feel on the inside. Potential buyers will notice a drafty window, no matter what the temperature.
|Good investment for home updates
|Sought-after by homeowners and builders
|Clean finish can help curb appeal
|Can recoup 68% in resale value
Aluminum windows are on the lower end of the cost spectrum. Because they’re fairly durable, they make a solid investment for home updates. A nice, clean finish on window frames will also help with curb appeal.
Vinyl windows are a sought-after choice for many homeowners and builders since they require much less upkeep and contribute to energy cost savings. They also provide a more modern aesthetic, which can help your home’s exterior look updated. You may even be able to recoup 68% of your replacement costs in resale value.
Are Aluminum Windows or Vinyl Windows Better for Your Home?
When it comes to windows, keep in mind your budget, home’s location, age, construction, and HVAC efficiency. All these factors can help you decide what will be the best fit for your project. If you’re comparing aluminum versus vinyl windows and looking for the best overall value, vinyl is more likely to edge out aluminum windows.
|Standard, wider look
|$400 – $1,200
|$250 – $600
|Dry off moisture
|Periodically check and re-caulk
|May corrode or rust
|May warp with high temperatures
|Quicker and easier
|20 – 25 years
|10 – 40 years
|Reduces heat transfer
|Offer good value
|Recoup 68% of your replacement cost
In addition to lower material costs and faster install times, vinyl windows offer better insulation properties. Better insulation can potentially save you more money on your energy bill. Speaking of cost savings, if you want to improve your home’s efficiency while staying on budget, you can compare the cost to replace a window frame.
Upkeep and Durability
Aluminum may be the clear winner in strength of materials, but vinyl requires much less upkeep. Vinyl is also better equipped to withstand more stormy and cold weather elements. Compare brands or talk to a professional installer to find a high-quality vinyl frame option that can also handle higher temperatures.
Aluminum Windows and Vinyl Windows vs. Other Options
Wood frames average around $1,300 and require frequent maintenance but have a traditional home charm that’s hard to replicate. Fiberglass ones cost around $750 each and perform similarly to vinyl window frames but have a higher price tag.Start Your Window Replacement Project Today