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Vinyl vs. aluminum windows: 3 reasons both offer value

July 20, 2011

Once you have made up your mind to replace old windows, and have established a renovation budget, the next step is to decide upon a style for your replacement windows. If you are on a tight budget, vinyl and aluminum windows are perhaps your two best options for low-cost replacement windows. Each style of window has strengths and weaknesses, and each works better in different parts of the country.

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Vinyl windows: pros and cons

Pros:

There are many reasons why vinyl has grown in popularity in the past few decades. These are perhaps the three best ones:

  1. Affordability
  2. Lack of maintenance
  3. Durability

Vinyl windows offer greater energy efficiency over outdated single-pane windows, and the frames are made with corrosion-resistant materials for increased longevity. They are manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate many different architectural styles and colors.

Cons:

Vinyl window frames are not as rigid as other frame materials, so you cannot have extremely large windows made with vinyl frames. Also, vinyl has a noted tendency to expand and contract, more than other types of window frames. This can lead to warping, twisting or cracking of the frame. Finally, colored frames can fade in areas with hot, arid climates.

Aluminum windows: pros and cons

Pros:

Aluminum window frames have some definite benefits over vinyl:

  1. Rigidity
  2. Size
  3. Strength

The strong metal frames used in aluminum windows allow homeowners to use much larger, expansive panes of glass, making them ideal for large, picture windows. The rigid frames are also resistant to expansion, cracking or splitting--problems that can plague other window frame materials, such as wood, fiberglass and vinyl.

Cons:

Despite their popularity, aluminum windows do have several inherent drawbacks. Foremost is heat loss: Aluminum is a great conductor of heat and cold. Second, the metal frames can corrode over time, especially in wet and coastal regions.

Ultimately, both styles of window can fit within most homeowners' budgets for replacement windows cost. One of the best ways to narrow down your decision is to consult a professional window installation contractor or home renovation specialist to determine what style of replacement window works best for your area.


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