Vinyl vs. Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Not All Materials are Created Equal

By: Architectural Visions

Whether for a new build, a remodel, or a replacement, there are a variety of materials used for windows and doors that homeowners can choose from for their next project. Of course, there are several key factors to consider when choosing what material should make up your next door or window, such as durability, customization, and energy efficiency.

Here at AVI, we are happy to help guide you through several of the most popular materials — fiberglass, aluminum, and vinyl — as well as go through some of the main factors that will determine which material is right for your next door or window.

Key Takeaways

  • Vinyl is one of the most cost-effective materials for windows and doors, however, it’s not as durable as its fiberglass and aluminum counterparts
  • Fiberglass and aluminum are both known for durability, customization options, and energy efficiency, though fiberglass has a slight edge over aluminum for durability and energy efficiency
  • The final verdict between materials will depend upon a homeowner’s individual needs, desires, and other factors such as location, taste, and climate

Aluminum

Due to its durability, customization, and its lightweight nature, aluminum is one of the most popular materials for windows and doors.

Aluminum is in fact one third the weight of steel, but still highly durable, making it an optimal material for something like a large patio door. The material’s optimal strength to weight ratio makes it much more resistant to dents. Furthermore, Aluminum windows can last up to 30 years. This longevity of aluminum windows and doors is because the material is considerably more resistant to outside elements than others, making it less susceptible to warp and rot. Because aluminum is a metal, however, homeowners in very wet climates need to coat their aluminum doors and windows with anti-corrosion coating. This issue is especially true for homeowners in ocean climates where the corrosion comes from lots of salt in the air.

Aluminum doors take finishes easily, a nice perk for homeowners interested in customization. Likewise, because aluminum windows are light yet strong, they can be configured in a variety of combinations. Another aesthetic benefit of aluminum for windows is that it offers narrow sightlines; the narrowness of the frame attracts more view to the glass and hence the view through it.

Modern aluminum windows typically include a “thermal break,” insulated pieces built into the frame not visible from the outside. These pieces break the flow of thermal energy to help keep warmer air in its proper place.

Brand Highlights:

Fiberglass

Fiberglass material is made from fiber-reinforced plastic that is produced by forcing strands of glass fiber through a heated resin. The resulting material can be flattened into a sheet, a chopped strand mat, woven into the fabric, or it can be randomly arranged. Like aluminum, fiberglass has a light yet durable nature, making it another appealing option for use in home windows and doors.

Fiberglass is approximately 8 to 10 times stronger than vinyl. The material’s strength provides for smaller, less bulky window frames which in turn provides for more natural light and expansive views. Fiberglass windows stand up exceptionally well to warping, corroding, rotting, rusting, and overall wear and tear.

Recent innovations allow for more design flexibility for fiberglass windows and doors. There are a great many options for coating. Fiberglass now takes paint just as well as wood and another feature is a glaze that allows even more light to shine through while blocking heat. Curves and archtops are also now an option for fiberglass windows, and there are hundreds of styles available in fiberglass doors.

Fiberglass doors and windows are great for keeping heat while keeping the cold out. Additionally, the material’s heat conductivity is significantly low, meaning it will not expand or contract as much.

Brand Highlights:

Vinyl

Vinyl has traditionally been considered one of the most cost-effective materials to use in home windows, holding two-thirds of the market share of home installations. Vinyl doors are also considered a less expensive yet effective choice for homeowners.

While generally more durable than wood, vinyl windows are not as durable as their aluminum and fiberglass counterparts. Vinyl doors do offer adequate durability, but under extreme temperatures shifts, the material will experience some wear and tear. In high heat, the material will warp and in massive cold vinyl will crack.

Vinyl windows are thicker than aluminum and fiberglass ones. If you’re looking to create a more modern or contemporary look for your household, you’ll want to consider your latter options. For a more Traditional style household look, however, you could consider vinyl windows.

Vinyl windows have been a popular choice for decades regarding energy efficiency. Plastic still acts a very good insulator, and therefore vinyl is a good option for homeowners concerned about energy costs. Vinyl doors are also energy efficient and can stand up well against the elements without peeling, flaking, rotting, or corroding.

Brand Highlights:

Best Material for Windows and Doors

As seen from above, the material you choose for your next window or door installation really depends upon those factors such as durability, customization, and energy efficiency. Location, climate, and issues such as style can alter these aspects. While vinyl windows and doors are adequate, for a modern home you’ll really want to consider fiberglass over aluminum for windows and doors as their cost benefits are significantly better. Let’s compare fiberglass and aluminum windows as an example of how to weigh your options.

Fiberglass vs Aluminum Windows

Durability

Fiberglass and Aluminum windows are both known for their strength, durability, and low maintenance. With consistent cleaning, both materials can maintain a new finish for years. In terms of corrosion, however, aluminum is more susceptible. So, if you’re renovating a beach home or one exposed to a wet climate, you’ll need to cover an aluminum window in a corrosion-resistant coating. Fiberglass cladding, on the other hand, is naturally resistant to corrosion.

Customization

Up until recently, Aluminum windows had a clear advantage when it came to customization and aesthetics. The material has been popular for decades and basic frames, as well as historically accurate frames of different styles, are widely available. There are not as many color options for aluminum, however.

Recent innovations in fiberglass allow much more design flexibility for these types of windows. Curves and arches are now available, allowing for a variety of design options. Furthermore, fiberglass now comes in a variety of colors and the material takes paint just as well as wood.

Energy Efficiency

As you know, metal is a great conductor of energy, making aluminum conversely not so suitable for energy efficiency. As discussed above, innovations such as thermal breaks and low e-glass, have made aluminum a more tangible option for homeowners looking for energy efficiency. However, even with these innovations, aluminum windows are still not considered quite as energy-efficient as fiberglass.

Fiberglass Windows vs Aluminum Windows: Final Verdict

As you can see, any final verdict between fiberglass and aluminum windows will depend upon a homeowner’s individual needs and desires. While the cost-benefit ratio of both fiberglass and aluminum exceed that of vinyl, other factors such as location, taste, and climate will need to be considered when choosing new windows for your home.

AVI Can Help!

Don’t feel daunted about choosing the right material for your next door or window renovation. The experts at AVI are here to help guide you and help you choose. With both in-person and online service options, AVI is you’re one-stop shop to browse, choose, and install your next aluminum or fiberglass door or window.

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