Vinyl vs Aluminum Windows

Vinyl Windows

   PROS
  • Can be painted
  • Energy-efficient
  • Less expensive
  • Easy to install
  • Does not fade in sunlight
  • Increases resale value
  CONS
  • Expands, contracts, and warps
  • Little insulation in the frame
  • Not biodegradable
$7,700 - $9,800

(for 10 48-inch windows installed)

Get free advice and estimates from window installers in your city.

Aluminum Windows

   PROS
  • Durable
  • Protects your home
  • Comes in different sizes and styles
  • Increases resale value
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Can improve insulation
  CONS
  • Allows heat to penetrate
  • Can be expensive
  • Condensation can lead to corrosion
  • Cannot be painted
$10,700 - $12,800

(for 10 48-inch windows installed)

Get free advice and estimates from window installers in your city.

Your windows allow light into your home, and they are your view to the world outside. Why cloud that with poor quality windows, or windows that do not meet your needs? One of the most important decisions you will make is whether you should choose between aluminum or vinyl 1 windows. Each option has pros and cons, but the final decision is yours to make.

Below, we explore both vinyl and aluminum windows in depth to help you gain a better understanding of what to expect when you invest in either option.

Appearance

Aluminum windows come with a thinner frame, which provides your home with a more modern style. With vinyl windows, the majority of the window is made up of glass. Unlike aluminum windows, vinyl windows have a join line at each of the corners, which may be unappealing to some individuals. Vinyl window frames are typically plainer and thicker than aluminum windows because they are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Many individuals find that aluminum windows are more attractive because the frame is thinner. However, vinyl windows allow the ability to paint the frame, which is an option that many homeowners like. Aluminum window frames come in a metallic silver finish, which is not as attractive.

Aluminum window frames can succumb to damage over the years, and this is evidenced by weathering and rusting of the metal. You cannot paint aluminum window frames, which means that you need to replace the frame when you are displeased with the appearance.

Energy-Efficiency

Vinyl windows that are on the market today are energy-efficient and provide the cost savings you expect when investing in new windows. The reason vinyl is energy-efficient is because it is designed to reduce any heat transfer that takes place and also limits the amount of light penetration that shines through the window. Vinyl windows help regulate the internal temperature of the home, which allows the HVAC system to work less, thus rendering the vinyl windows energy-efficient.

Aluminum windows are not as energy-efficient. This is because they are actually heat conductors and heat a room up. Since the aluminum conducts heat, it allows more heat to penetrate through the windows, causing the HVAC system to work harder to cool the room. If the interior of the home is substantially cooler than the outside, condensation can form on the windows and lead to other issues such as mold and rust.

No matter which type of window you choose, vinyl or aluminum, even the best energy-efficient windows are less efficient if not installed properly.

Installation

Both aluminum and vinyl windows should be installed by a professional. Each type of window can be a relatively easy DIY project, but if you install one of your windows poorly, then you will pay for it later.

Vinyl is a flexible material that contracts and expands easily. This flexibility makes installation simpler and faster than for aluminum windows. If the vinyl does not come already set, it will need to be placed into the frame once the window is installed.

Aluminum window installation is more difficult because if any of the measurements are off, the window may not install correctly. Once the aluminum window and frame are in place, caulk is typically used to secure the window in place. Aluminum window installation takes longer than vinyl because the aluminum is not flexible.

Costs

Of these window materials, vinyl is the less expensive to both purchase and install. A 48-inch vinyl window will cost between $520 and $730, with installation for each costing around $250. This makes the total cost for each installed window between $770 and $980.

Aluminum windows cost between $720 and $930 for a 48-inch window, and installation costs are higher, around $350 for each window. This makes the final cost for each window installed between $1,070 and $1,280.


Noise Insulation

Aluminum windows are much better at stopping noise than vinyl windows. In fact, vinyl windows should not be chosen for noise insulation because they do not insulate very well due to less mass. While aluminum windows will not block out all noise, they do a better job than vinyl windows. Aluminum windows are a better choice for homeowners who live near busy streets or loud areas such as parks and need some noise reduction.

Durability

Since vinyl is a flexible material, the windows cannot handle extreme temperature changes and will warp. This can sometimes leave the vinyl stretched with a distorted look, which is undesirable. Aluminum windows are extremely durable and do not bend or twist, even in the hottest or coldest temperatures, which is why many homeowners prefer them. Also, aluminum windows are one of the strongest materials available in the window market. The frame is made to withstand inclement weather, and the frames do not warp, contract, or expand in extreme temperatures.

Corrosion is not an issue with vinyl windows, but it is with aluminum. You will find that aluminum windows deteriorate and corrode, especially around the metallic silver area.

Maintenance

While vinyl windows are considered low maintenance, they require care over time. They can warp in extreme temperatures, so it is important that you caulk around them to prevent as much airflow coming into and out of them as possible. Vinyl windows that become damaged can be easily repaired.

Like vinyl windows, aluminum windows are easy to maintain and considered low maintenance. They require some care, especially when it comes to the track and runners of the window. You need to clean them out periodically, or you may find it nearly impossible to open and close your windows. In addition, aluminum rusts over time. So, if you notice any condensation buildup on the windows, make sure you wipe it away and keep the metal clean.

Environmental Concerns

Vinyl windows are made from PVC. Because of this, the windows are not biodegradable, and there is controversy about whether there are harmful gases released during and after the production of the windows. Many people, who are environmentally conscious, do not choose vinyl windows.

Aluminum is environmentally friendly because it can be recycled. These windows are often removed from homes and then recycled or reused. One thing to keep in mind is that aluminum, while environmentally friendly, is not energy-efficient, which may be a deal breaker for those who are conscious about keeping the environment green.

Resale Value

Vinyl windows have a return on investment of around 74%, which is one of the best investments that can be made in a home. Aluminum windows, along with almost all other windows, have a return on investment of around 60 to 80%. While you will recoup some of your money with aluminum windows, you will recover more money with vinyl windows.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Vinyl: A synthetic plastic made from ethylene and chlorine. Vinyl has many applications in the construction industry and it is widely used in sidings, window frames, roofing and gutters, among others

Cost to install vinyl or aluminum windows varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

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Amarillo, TX
-15%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Aurora, CO
+10%
Austin, TX
+13%
Bozeman, MT
-18%
Bronx, NY
+32%
Brookline, MA
+51%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Charleston, SC
-1%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Cleveland, OH
+7%
Colorado Springs, CO
-3%
Columbus, OH
+5%
Cunningham, TN
-13%
Dallas, TX
+10%
Daly City, CA
+51%
Denver, CO
+1%
Detroit, MI
+16%
Duluth, GA
+16%
Elk Grove, CA
+6%
Ferndale, MI
+16%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Fresno, CA
-6%
Garland, TX
+8%
Gilbert, AZ
-2%
Grand Rapids, MI
+7%
Greensboro, NC
-9%
Houston, TX
+24%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
La Habra, CA
+19%
Langhorne, PA
+29%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Littleton, CO
+2%
Long Beach, CA
+16%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Lumberton, NC
-38%
Macon, GA
+20%
Miami, FL
+1%
Milwaukee, WI
+12%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
Mobile, AL
-8%
Naperville, IL
+47%
Nashville, TN
+21%
New Orleans, LA
+35%
Oceanside, CA
+8%
Pearland, TX
+16%
Pennington, NJ
+28%
Peoria, AZ
-2%

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