Vinyl Vs Composite Windows: Don’t Waste Your Money

The world of windows has a ton of options for window types. With so many, it’s hard to make a good decision without getting overwhelmed and anxious about whether you’re making the right choice of not.

We’ve looked at various window frame comparisons such as vinyl vs aluminum and vinyl vs fiberglass. Now it’s time to compare vinyl vs composite windows.

Composite windows are the newcomer to the scene, they are much more modern and complicated. Vinyl’s been around the block for a couple of decades so far and remains at the top of the popularity list for new window replacements. But which one is better?

By the end of this article, I hope that you’ll be more confident in the decision that you’re making instead of wasting money on something that costs a lot but might not provide the most value.

What are Vinyl Windows?

Vinyl windows are the most common type of material used for window frames today. It’s durable, budget-friendly, and widely manufactured.

This material is made of polyvinyl chloride, which is also known as PVC. You may have heard of PVC pipes already in your plumbing systems. Vinyl windows are basically a plastic synthetic manufactured material. This makes it resistant to water, moisture penetration, mold, mildew, and rotting.

What are Composite Windows?

Composite windows are a more modern window frame material. It’s also a manufactured material. It’s called composite because it’s composed of various other materials that are blended together.

Composite windows end up looking a lot like wood windows without the downsides of wood, such as the constant maintenance and moisture issues that wood may have.

The most common type of composite window is made of wood on the inside that’s surrounded by aluminum cladding on the outside to keep the lifespan high and maintenance low. There are other types of composite windows as well that use different materials.

Vinyl vs Composite Windows: The Basics

The primary difference between vinyl and composite windows is that vinyl is a plastic material, whereas composite windows are made up of wood and aluminum.

The difference in materials makes everything else differ as well, such as lifespan, energy efficiency, cost, durability, aesthetics, and more. We’ll be diving into each aspect of vinyl and composite windows to compare them side by side.

Vinyl vs Composite Windows: The Differences

Maintenance

Windows are expected to last 20+ years. With that much time, you probably don’t want to be doing constant maintenance to keep your windows looking sharp and functioning properly.

Luckily, vinyl and composite windows are both low maintenance. Neither require painting or staining to maintain their color.

You also don’t need to worry about rot either. The aluminum cladding of composite windows protects the interior wood from any moisture penetration. Vinyl is plastic, therefore it can’t rot even when exposed to moisture.

Vinyl will warp over time, especially when it’s exposed to extreme temperatures. Composite, which has an exterior of aluminum, won’t do that.

If you live in a place with moderate temperatures in the summer and winter, vinyl will perform great and last a long time without any additional maintenance.

Verdict: Tie.

Aesthetics

Windows add a lot to your home’s curb appeal. If you want your neighbors, friends, and family to talk about your new windows, you definitely want them to look good.

Vinyl windows cannot be painted, but many manufacturers have many options for colors, styles, and finishes. You can make them look like wood if you want.

vinyl window
Vinyl Window Replacement

Composite windows don’t have as many options. They’ll typically resemble wood. Here are some examples of different finishes Andersen Windows has to offer for composite windows.

Verdict: It depends on what you are looking for, but vinyl has more overall options for colors, styles, and finishes.

Energy Efficiency

Image via Canva.com

Looks isn’t everything when it comes to windows. After all, what’s the point of looking good if your windows aren’t saving your any money on your energy bills?

Thankfully, both materials have great energy efficiency.

When facing each other head to head, composite windows will be more energy efficient. This is because wood is a better insulator than vinyl.

However, there are many other factors that go into energy efficiency, such as:

  • Type of window: Windows with more movable sashes will have less energy efficiency because they are not as airtight. Casement windows are more energy efficiency due to their compression seals.
  • Number of panes: Triple pane is more energy efficiency than double-pane, which is more energy efficient than single-pane.
  • Argon gas: An inert gas that’s pumped between window panes to reduce transmission of heat through windows.
  • Low E coatings: Microscopic layer on top of glass that reflects heat.

Verdict: Composite windows have better energy efficiency, but other factors such as window features will affect energy efficiency more.

Cost

Okay, so composite windows are better at insulating your home from outside heat and cold… but what about the cost?

Well, vinyl windows end up being more cost-effective than composite windows. Despite having slightly lower energy efficiency, vinyl windows exist in a goldilocks zone for price and performance. That’s why it’s so popular when homeowners pick their replacement window materials.

There are more vinyl window manufacturers as well, so they’re able to make more and sell it at a more affordable price.

Verdict: Vinyl windows are more budget-friendly and more widely available from many manufacturers.

Durability

As we’ve mentioned before, neither window material needs a ton of maintenance. That’s why they’re so popular. Homeowners like us don’t want to be constantly fixing our windows.

Vinyl is prone to warping in extreme temperatures, especially high levels of heat. Composite windows do not warp or crack, even under extreme conditions.

If you live in a place with moderate climate, you can pick either one.

Both vinyl and composite windows are not susceptible to rot or moisture.

Verdict: Composite windows can withstand more extreme temperatures, which gives it an edge over vinyl windows.

Pros and Cons of Vinyl Windows

ProsCons
More affordableProne to warping in extreme temperatures
Plenty of options in terms of colors, styles, and finishesCannot withstand extreme weather such as strong storms and windows
Lots of options from different manufacturersVariety of quality standards with different brands
Very low maintenance and easy to install
Good lifespan
Good energy efficiency, but not the best

Pros and Cons of Composite Windows

ProsCons
Better energy efficiencyNot as many options for colors and styles
More environmentally friendlyHarder to install
Resembles woodLimited options for manufacturers
Very long lifespan
Low maintenance
Better durability in extreme weather

Are Vinyl or Composite Windows Better For You?

After all these comparisons and tables, what’s the best option for your new window replacements?

The answer is that it depends on your priorities and your needs.

Yes, I know. This answer stinks. Because it’s not black and white, the answer never is.

Talk to your family and your local contractors and window manufacturers. This is your project and your home that we’re talking about.

Yes, composite windows win in a lot of categories compared to vinyl windows, but it’s also more expensive too.

Vinyl is a very popular window replacement material for a reason. It does most of everything really well and costs a reasonable price.

Replacing your windows can be a tough decision, especially when there are so many options available. Consulting with a professional will help you make these decisions.

Make sure you get multiple quotes and estimates from window manufacturers to get the best quality windows for your project.

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