The most common materials used for windows these days include: wood, aluminum, vinyl and fiberglass.
Of all the materials, vinyl windows are the most commonly installed in newer homes, while fiberglass windows are still relatively new on the market.
Before we break down each material’s good and bad qualities, let’s take a look at the materials in an easy-to-understand overview:
|No bending or warping||?||?||?|
|Large variety of shapes and designs||?||?||?|
|No sticking caused by expansion or contraction||?||?|
|High energy efficiency||?||?||?|
As you can see, vinyl and fiberglass have many great qualities that wood and aluminum are lacking. But to get a more in-depth understanding of each material we will break down the various issues separately below:
Vinyl Windows vs. Wood, Fiberglass and Aluminum Windows
When talking about windows, durability usually boils down to how long the windows will last without any need for repairs or window replacement. In Canada, and other places where temperatures change drastically throughout the year, this can have varied effects on the different materials as follows:
- Wood windows expand and contract quite quickly in humid, hot or cold weather. After only a couple of years, the wood can permanently warp, leaving you with windows that are difficult to open and close, and you may find small (or large) gaps between the window and the frame.
- Aluminum windows can behave in a similar fashion. A great conductor of temperatures, aluminum will also expand and contract quite quickly, making the windows difficult to open, which, again, often creates gaps.
- Vinyl windows are resistant to the contracting and expanding seen in wood and aluminum windows. They will maintain their shape and be easy to open and close for many years to come.
- Fiberglass windows are also very sturdy and will stand up well against varied temperatures, similar to vinyl windows.
On top of this, you must also think about how the windows will look in say, 5 to 10 years. Wooden windows will never look better than they do on the day that they are stained and installed. They will also need regular upkeep to retain their appearance and functionality. Aluminum windows can rust and warp. Vinyl windows, however, will look just as good 10 years later as they did when they were first installed.
Out of all the materials mentioned above, aluminum will provide the least amount of insulation. In fact, you can feel the outdoor temperatures permeating through the aluminum if you place your hand against the metal frame. Wood is a fairly good insulator, but because it is prone to bending and warping, it’s not long before you’ll feel a cool (or warm) draft coming from a wood window, due to gaps between the frame and window as mentioned above. Vinyl windows are made mostly from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and they create an incredible airtight seal that lasts for years on end as it does not expand like the other noted materials. Gaps and drafts are very rare in vinyl windows, similar to those made of fiberglass.
Basically, insulation directly relates to energy efficiency (and your monthly energy bills). If you’ve got windows that are letting in a draft of cold air, your heating system will have to work extra hard to warm the house. Windows that can ensure a tight seal are your best bet for saving money in the long run by keeping the heat (or cold as would be the case in the summer) securely inside the home. As well, there are some municipalities that offer government incentives when you choose energy efficient windows such as vinyl.
Cost is always an important fact when thinking about window installation, and that’s why vinyl windows are the number one choice for most homeowners. It can be broken down like this:
Window Materials from Most to Least Expensive
Window Materials from Most to Least Durable (meaning they last the longest with the least amount of regular maintenance)
As you can see, vinyl sits on the list with high durability and very little maintenance at an affordable cost. Wood can cost two to three times that amount, but requires a lot of regular upkeep. Fiberglass sits at the top of both lists, but the cost for fiberglass is a lot higher than any other material, making it a more common choice for commercial or industrial buildings.
At Toronto Doors and Windows, we can help you choose the perfect all weather windows and doors that complement your lifestyle while staying within your budget.