Vinyl vs Aluminum Windows

Person opening windows

Vinyl window frames are starting to make great inroads into what has traditionally been the domain of aluminum windows especially in residential housing. With both options having advantages and disadvantages, opting for one or the other is purely a matter of personal taste. Here are some facts to help you choose.

Aluminum Windows

Aluminum frames used to be the main alternative to wood and are still popular especially for commercial uses. Their main selling point is their long life, and that they are easily replaceable. A cracked or broken pane is easy to replace in these frames.

Noise reduction is another advantage. Aluminum windows do a better job of noise reduction because of their greater mass. Most noise is stopped by the glass of the window, particularly if the window is double glazed, but the frame can contribute a little to the reduction. Vinyl window frames must be very thick to achieve the same sound insulating results.

Aluminum is stronger than vinyl; these windows are preferred in places that experience storms and gales, such as near the coast.

One downside of aluminum is that it corrodes when exposed to airborne chemicals, salts and pollution. Aluminium windows can rust if placed in rooms or areas with high condensation or continuous dampness, or where they are exposed to industry.

Aluminum also has a slightly lower insulation value, especially in bitterly cold areas. These windows can also transfer heat into a room during very hot summers.

However, it is easier to replace broken glass. The frames are screwed together so it is relatively easy to take out a broken glass pane and reinsert a new one.

Aluminum can be repainted as required. Suitable paints can be found in any hardware store.

Vinyl Windows

vinyl windows with a view

Vinyl windows are made in the same way as aluminum windows but with the vinyl extrusion forming a frame around the glass, resulting in better thermal efficiency and low maintenance. Most types of windows and doors have vinyl frames now. Their main selling point is the ease of maintenance.

Vinyl offers a higher resistance to heat or cold transfer.

However, they are only found in light colors due to slight expansion in hot or cold weather. This means they cannot be painted without special paints and techniques. They are light colored so they don’t absorb heat, therefore resisting heat stresses and warping.

This also makes them impervious to rust, rot, and flaking. The material is versatile so it can be extruded to non-standard shapes.

But vinyl also has less wind load resistance than aluminum, so they are not suitable for places that experience gales.

Vinyl requires little maintenance. You never need to paint them and they don’t rot or pit. Because of this, they often come with warranties for 20 to 30 years.

Another disadvantage of vinyl is that the sashes are glued so it is difficult to replace a broken pane. Also, they may warp and bend over time, especially in areas that experience wide temperature variations over the year.

Vinyl frames are made of PVC so are environmentally hazardous.

Both vinyl and aluminum windows are designed to last a long time. Cost wise, there is a little difference, with good vinyl windows a bit more expensive; but you will find price differences within both framing options, it often depends on the type of glass used more than the frame material. It pays to shop around.