Vinyl Vs Fiberglass Windows: Which One Should You Pick?

It’s time to replace your windows, but you’re left in the middle of a decision between vinyl versus fiberglass for the window frame material.

Sure, vinyl is cheaper, durable, and is easy to maintain. But what about the other end of the spectrum? What if, by picking vinyl, you’re making a mistake?

Fiberglass is more expensive, but it’s more durable and is the option for eco-conscious people.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a much more solidified answer when your local contractor asks you which material you want for your window frames.

Vinyl vs. Fiberglass Windows: What’s the Difference?

So first, let’s go over the basics. What exactly makes these two materials different from each other. Then, we’ll go over all of the important things like appearance, maintenance, energy efficiency, etc.

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What are vinyl windows?

Vinyl windows are the most common type of material used for windows. It’s made of PVC, also known as polyvinyl chloride. It’s a synthetic manufactured material, which makes it resistant to the elements such as water and rotting. It’s basically plastic.

What are fiberglass windows?

Fiberglass windows, on the other hand, are made up of tiny fibers of glass that have been manufactured together in a way that produces a strong and durable frame that doesn’t get affected by extreme temperature and weather chances. It has all of the benefits of glass, such as being a great insulator and noise reducer.

Comparing Vinyl and Fiberglass Windows

Appearance

Aesthetics are important when picking out a window frame material because it’s what people see from the outside. Your neighbors and family members will see it when visiting, so it’s important to pick out a material that you think looks good.

Vinyl and fiberglass may look very similar, but fiberglass gives you a lot more options. Fiberglass also has thinner frames too, which can add a nice sleek look to your windows.

There are various different ways that you can use fiberglass as well.

  • All fiberglass, which resembles painted wood
  • Fiberglass sills, sashes, and frames with wood on the interior
  • Fiberglass sash with wood as the interior and a composite material for the exterior

With fiberglass, you can paint them in any color you want. It can also be textured to resemble real wood, without all of the problems of wood such as moisture penetration and rotting.

Vinyl, on the other hand, looks smooth and cannot be painted.

If you’re looking for more options, fiberglass wins in the appearance category with its thinner and paintable frames and more options too.

Winner: Fiberglass.

Lifespan

Next is lifespan. If you’re paying more for windows, especially fiberglass, you definitely want them to withstand the test of time.

Vinyl and fiberglass are both manufactured materials that do not rot or decay. Insects and moisture do nothing to either because plastic and glass are not affected by these either.

However, fiberglass is better for extreme temperatures and weather conditions. Even with extreme temperatures, fiberglass won’t warp or crack.

Vinyl will get bigger and smaller with large swings in temperature. This causes the window’s air seals to leak over time, which makes your energy bills might go up without you knowing.

Fiberglass windows will last for 50-80 years. Out of all of the window materials, it is the most durable. Vinyl, on the other hand, will last about 20-30 years at most.

Winner: Fiberglass.

Cleaning and Maintenance

painting window
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So fiberglass is the winner so far. What about cleaning? It’s not worth it to last a long time and look better if it involves more maintenance over that time.

Both vinyl and fiberglass require very little maintenance. Neither needs painting, staining, or any of that stuff.

All you need to do is wipe off dirt or debris and use a mild soap and water mixture.

But, if you want to, you can repaint fiberglass every decade or so… if you want. They’re resistant to chipping and fading, so it’s not necessary to repaint them.

It depends on what paint the window manufacturer used as well. Higher-quality fiberglass windows will need next to no maintenance at all.

Winner: Tie.

Energy-Efficiency

thermostat
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Energy efficiency and insulation are some of the most important things when it comes to windows. You want your windows to save you money in the long run, not cost you more.

Both materials, vinyl and fiberglass, are great insulators. However, fiberglass is better. It resists more heat transferring through your window.

In addition to this, fiberglass windows are not as prone to air seals breaking as vinyl ones. As we mentioned before, fiberglass doesn’t contract or expand under extreme temperatures, making it the better choice for people who do live in areas with extreme climates.

If you live in a moderate area, vinyl is more cost-effective and just as energy-efficient.

There are many other factors that go into energy efficiency, such as the amount of panes you have, extra features of your windows, and the size of the window. The frame actually makes up a very small portion of the window.

Winner: Fiberglass.

Installation

window installation professional
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Alright, it’s time to talk about installation. Do you need to hire a professional window company or can you do it yourself?

This is an important factor to consider when thinking about cost as well.

You can purchase vinyl windows from your local home improvement store and from window manufacturers once you know what you want. They’ll even come out and do the measurements for you to make sure the windows will fit properly.

Vinyl is a more flexible material, which means even if the measurements are not 100% spot-on, you can still install vinyl windows into your window opening.

Fiberglass, on the other hand, is very rigid. You’ve got to be very precise with your measurements.

Fiberglass windows are also not as easy to find either. A limited number of companies manufacture and install them.

If you are thinking of installing fiberglass windows yourself, forget about it. Your window’s warranty will go flying out the window if you don’t have a professional install them.

Ease of installation: Vinyl.

Cost

And last but not least, the question on everyone’s mind. Cost.

Which one is more expensive? And is it worth it to choose the more expensive option?

Fiberglass needs to be installed by a pro, which already bumps up the price on them. With that in mind, fiberglass also does cost more for the materials alone.

Fiberglass windows will cost anywhere between $500 and $1,500 per window. Vinyl windows cost between $100 and $900 per window. Both of these approximations do not include the installation cost and come from home experts, Angi.

Overall, fiberglass windows cost a lot more, especially if you’re considering doing a full house replacement.

More affordable option: Vinyl.

Are Vinyl or Fiberglass Windows Better for You?

So after all of this, which one is better for you? The answer, like always, is “it depends.”

I know, we all hate hearing that answer. At the end of the day, it is your project, your house, and your budget.

Objectively, fiberglass wins in a lot of categories, but no one actually thinks objectively like that.

Vinyl is the most popular material for windows for a reason. It does most of the job very well while staying at a reasonable price too.

Make sure you talk to your local contractor and window manufacturers to get high-quality and accurate estimates for each window type.

It’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes or estimates so that you can save the most money and have a full picture view of your project.

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