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Community and Q&A

Vinyl windows

JoeNorm | Posted in General Questions on

I am trying to choose a window package. I am leaning toward a fiberglass option and an aluminum clad/wood option.

Both of these are about 3x as expensive as vinyl, and the fiberglass window, to the untrained eye looks about the same.

So I am wondering why does vinyl get such a reputation? Is it just the fact that it associated with cheap houses. PVC is obviously a little gross and the color choices are not good, but to save $10K is tempting.

Any thoughts here?

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  1. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #1

    Why is PVC “gross”? It makes great drain pipes, and a lot of other things too. Many people are very happy with their vinyl windows. The color is part of them, so no painting. You cant stain them, but some manufacturers offer interior wood that allows you to stain them if you so choose.

    There are many good vinyl window options out there, and LOTS of installed vinyl windows. Fiberglass is a better option in some ways, but it does cost more. Fiberglass is very durable, that’s probably it’s main benefit over vinyl. You would likely be happy with a good vinyl window, even though there are other more expensive options that have some benefits over the vinyl options.

    I’m gradually replacing my own windows with fiberglass windows. I like the durability and low maintenance.


  2. Expert Member
    AKOS TOTH | | #2


    The issue with North American vinyl windows is mostly the construction. Most rely on the vinyl extrusion for strength and even there they tend to skimp on cross section area. PVC under load tends to creep over time, usually it takes about 5 to 10 years to start to see the window deform, usually it gets harder to close over time, the larger the window, the worse it gets. I had to replace a set of larger casements because the only way to close them was for two people to push from the outside.

    There are metal reinforced vinyl windows, it is how most European tilt and turns are built. These tend to be much sturdier but at the cost of wider frames.

    Fiberglass and aluminum clad wood windows don't have this problem. Wood might warp a bit with moisture over time but that is an easy fix with a hand planer.

    Since most dual pane IGUs have a lifespan of about 20 years in colder climates, you will probably end up replacing something down the line anyways, so fancy windows might not be worth the upfront cost.

    If you do go with vinyl, try to keep the size and weight (stick to dual pane) down for the windows you will open regularly.

  3. Expert Member

    I agree with both Bill and Akos. Vinyl windows are fine, if you acknowledge their limitations, and take that into account during the design phase.

  4. harrison55 | | #4

    I chose vinyl windows from OKNA for my house. OKNA makes a premium vinyl window with good insulation and excellent airsealing; their window outperforms Marvin's fiberglass window by a wide margin. And at half the price.

    We installed the windows last year. They felt substantial, and the locking mechanism for the casements felt solid. We got an excellent blower-door test result. (The two OKNA sliding doors did have a small deliberate air leak from the weep-holes; when we taped over the weep-holes our blower-door rate decreased by a tiny amount, a change too small to properly measure - maybe 10CFM @ 50 Pa for the two doors combined).

    I would buy the same windows again, except that I might choose the (fairly affordable) triple pane option.

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