Vinyl vs. Aluminum vs. Wood vs. Fiberglass: what are the differences?


There are four main materials which today's manufacturers use for their replacement windows: vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass, and wood. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages. In Southern California the primary material used for replacement windows is vinyl. Vinyl windows are created from plastic known as polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Why is this material so popular?


Vinyl windows are considered superior to other materials because of their benefits in maintenance, energy efficiency, and cost. Vinyl windows are practically maintenance-free as opposed to their aluminum, fiberglass, and wood counterparts. Vinyl's durable surface does not fade or discolor from weather conditions and is virtually worry free. Now some may wonder how a plastic like vinyl could be compared with the strength of aluminum, wood, or fiberglass windows. In reality, vinyl windows are just as strong.


Lets see how:

Aluminum, wood, and fiberglass windows are mechanically fastened vs. vinyl which are welded. Because these materials are mechanically fastened, there is a chance for the two fastened pieces to shift and separate. If the window shifts out of its original position, air draft will enter your home's interior and the shifted window may start leaking, causing damage to the surrounding structure. On the other hand, vinyl windows are welded together to ensure the windows will never separate or shift out of its originally manufactured and insulated position.



Unlike wood windows, vinyl replacement windows are virtually maintenance-free after they are installed. Wood windows require painting once installed, are prone to rotting, and are much more costly than vinyl. On the other hand, aluminum windows can oxidize and fiberglass' surface is so fragile that many cleaning solutions will cause the window to fade. Vinyl will never warp, shrink, swell, rot, fade, corrode, etc. which is why they are considered a care-free replacement window solution.



Vinyl windows are a low conductor of energy which means that whatever the outdoor weather conditions, your home will retain its interior temperature. For instance, aluminum, a high conductor of energy, is hot to the touch during the scorching California summer months. So, as the aluminum warms, it in turn heats up your home's inside temperature, acting against your conditioner and raising your energy bills. This is one of the reasons why the government does not offer the same tax incentives for aluminum which it does for vinyl windows.


So, you have many options when it comes to replacement windows. Take the time to shop around and find the style, material, and company which best suits your project.