Vinyl vs. Aluminum Windows: Which One Should You Choose?

The two most popular options are vinyl and aluminum windows (and for good reason). They are easier to maintain, last longer, and cost less than wood or fiberglass.

But they both have benefits, so the question is: Which one is better for your home?

We’ll be looking at the different qualities of these windows to determine the difference.

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

vinyl windows

From a broad overview, both vinyl and aluminum may seem very similar. But, there are many differences between them.

Appearance

vinyl windows in a large window

Vinyl and aluminum frames both offer different options, including:

  • Color
  • Finish
  • Window type (double and single hung, double or single pane, triple pane, low E, etc.)

The main difference between vinyl and aluminum windows is the thickness of the frame.

Aluminum windows are much more sleek. The frame itself is very thin. When you look at it, you’ll see more glass. Aluminum windows are better for a modern look.

They are more durable under harsh weather conditions. These windows also may not offer as many color options as vinyl.

New neighborhoods have big windows without much frame visible use aluminum windows.

Vinyl windows have a more classic look. The frame is thicker around the glass. Vinyl windows are better for a traditional look.

They are also lower maintenance. Over time, you don’t need to repaint or re-stain them.

Vinyl can also look very like wood. With aluminum, you can paint it wood, but it’s not as realistic.

FeatureVinyl WindowsAluminum Windows
Thickness of FrameThickerThinner
ColorsWide varietyLimited
FinishesSmooth, textured, or faux woodSmooth or painted
MaintenanceLow-maintenanceRequires occasional repainting or staining

Lifespan

If you’re spending thousands on new windows, you probably want them to last for a long time. So which window type lasts longer?

Well, both vinyl and aluminum windows are both very durable and last a long time. But they both are strong in different areas.

For both types, you won’t have to worry about the frames breaking. They are tough.

But because vinyl windows are made from synthetic materials, it gives them different durability levels than aluminum, which is a metal.

Window frames tend to get small chips or damage over time. On an aluminum frame, these are easier to see. On vinyl frames, it’s much tougher to see.

Because aluminum is a metal, it faces corrosion over time. Vinyl doesn’t have that same problem.

In areas with strong storms, aluminum is the better option. It can withstand more impact and extreme weather. It is also resistant to fire.

Vinyl is durable in most climates, but it struggles with extreme fluctuations.

Vinyl window frames also do not need to repainting or re-staining over time. Aluminum windows need repainting and re-staining every few years to maintain their look.

FeatureVinyl WindowsAluminum Windows
StrengthStrongVery strong
DurabilityDurableVery durable
Weather resistanceResistant to extreme weather conditionsResistant to even more extreme weather conditions
MaintenanceLow-maintenanceRequires regular repainting or re-anodizing

Cleaning

dawn and windex on a window sill

Nobody wants to spend all of their time cleaning dirt and gunk off of their window frames. Luckily, vinyl windows do not need any maintenance over its lifespan. All you have to do is check it for air leaks or broken seals. If your window contractors installed your windows properly, vinyl windows are worry-free.

If you want to clean them, use a mild soap and water solution. You can also use commercial window cleaners with a squeegee.

Aluminum windows, however, will need cleaning with aluminum cleaner on a regular basis. Because it’s a metal, it condensates more in cold weather. This can lead to corrosion and rust over time.

If you are looking for maintenance-free windows, vinyl requires no work.

For both, avoid harsh chemicals that could damage your windows. Make sure you get rid of any soap stains. Dry them with a soft cloth.

FeatureVinyl WindowsAluminum Windows
Cleaning difficultyEasyMore difficult
Cleaning materialsMild soap and water, commercial window cleanerMild soap and water, commercial aluminum cleaner
Cleaning frequencyAs neededEvery few months

Insulation

If you’re getting new windows, you can expect your energy bill to be much lower. New windows are excellent at keeping the extreme cold or heat out because they are better insulators. If you compare vinyl and aluminum, vinyl windows are much better at insulation than aluminum windows.

Because aluminum is a metal, it transfers heat and cold faster. Vinyl transfers much less heat and cold. It’s heat-resistant.

Another thing that makes vinyl better at insulation is its density.

With aluminum, you can add a thermal break. A thermal break is a material that doesn’t transfer heat. This can cost extra.

There are also special aluminum materials that have better insulation. These are much more expensive.

There are other things that improve insulation beyond frame material such as:

  • Window type: double or single pane
  • Low E coatings
  • Glass thickness
  • Gas fill

Security

sash locks

Aluminum is more secure than vinyl for window frames.

Vinyl is a softer synthetic material. You can break through it easier than aluminum.

To make vinyl windows more secure, you can use:

  • Stronger glass
  • Tempered or laminated glass
  • Security pins
  • Deadbolts
  • Anti-lift pins

Aluminum is much tougher to break through. Impact-resistant glass and aluminum frames are good for big windows to improve security.

You can improve the security of aluminum windows by:

  • Having thicker frames
  • Using a single piece of aluminum
  • Use more layers of glass, also known as security glass

There are more factors that make your home safer too. This includes:

  • Using window locks
  • Keeping windows closed when you are away.
  • Use motion sensors.
  • Use security cameras.
  • Trim bushes and trees around your windows.

Energy-Efficiency

Vinyl windows are better for energy-efficiency than aluminum windows.

Vinyl transfers less heat and light. It is better at keeping your home at the temperature you want.

Aluminum frames heat up fast and can transfer heat into your home. You can get aluminum materials that are better at insulation, but they cost more.

Cost

Vinyl windows are less expensive than aluminum windows. This is because vinyl is synthetic and costs less.

Vinyl windows are also easier to install into your home. This lowers labor costs.

Aluminum is a more expensive material. This makes aluminum windows more expensive.

These windows are harder to install too.

Other things that can affect the cost include:

FeatureVinyl WindowsAluminum Windows
CostLess expensiveMore expensive
Labor costLess labor-intensiveMore labor-intensive
Total costLower total costHigher total cost

Installation

Both vinyl and aluminum windows need to be measured properly to install into your home.

Aluminum windows are tougher to install because aluminum doesn’t bend, expand, or contract. It needs to be measured to the exact measurements of your window space.

Vinyl windows, on the other hand, are much more flexible. It is more forgivable to make measurement mistakes with vinyl windows. Exact measurements are still important for both types of windows.

Home Value

Replacement windows are important for your home’s curb appeal and resale value.

Home buyers notice new windows because it means they’ll have good energy savings.

Aluminum windows are more expensive than vinyl windows. However, homeowners prefer vinyl windows for the following reasons:

  • Easy to maintain
  • Better energy savings
  • Modern appearance

It’s also important to notice what windows other people in the neighborhood are using. Many homeowners do not want their home to stand out amongst their neighbors. Vinyl is a more typical choice amongst homeowners.

Pros and Cons of Vinyl Windows

ProsCons
More energy efficientSynthetic materials
More affordable than alternativesVariety of quality with different brands
Easier to installLower security
Low maintenanceThicker frames
Variety of colors and options

Pros and Cons of Aluminum Windows

ProsCons
Extremely weather resistantMore expensive
High securityHarder to install
Thin framesLess energy efficient
Modern lookMore ongoing maintenance
Very strong and durable

Are Vinyl or Aluminum Windows Better for You?

Vinyl and aluminum windows are common choices to choose for new window replacements.

Based on all of the factors above, choosing between one or the other will depend on your needs and your situation.

If you want something that’s very durable and has good energy savings but low maintenance, then vinyl windows are the way to go.

If you have a specific aesthetic in mind for your windows, perhaps aluminum is something you want to consider.

When you talk to your local window contractors, make sure to tell them exactly what you want out of your windows. This way, you can discuss the best option for your situation with them before moving forward with the window replacement project.

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