Are you planning to invest in new windows this season? Make sure you cover all the bases. Window replacement, after all, can eat up a considerable amount of your time and money. If you want to make the most of this home improvement, one of the things you should focus on is your choice of material. What your replacement windows are made of can directly affect their longevity and performance, so be particular about your options.
For many homeowners across the country, the go-to choice is vinyl replacement windows.
A Brief History of Vinyl Windows
This synthetic material hasn’t always been a popular choice. Back in post-World War II, building materials like aluminum, steel and wood were scarce, leading the Germans to develop windows made of vinyl frames. The first manufacturing attempts at vinyl windows, however, weren’t too well-received – the windows were small, bulky and generally unattractive.
Then, in the late 1950s, an American manufacturer began mass-producing vinyl windows – ones with sleeker and better-looking designs that were more acceptable to the market. It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that vinyl’s use as a frame material finally came into its own; this is because prior to the 80s, many homeowners still considered vinyl, a form of plastic, a low-end building material.
So, What Changed?
In recent years, vinyl windows have become one of the most common and popular options in the market. Not only is the material readily available and cost-effective, but the windows now also come in a growing number of color choices. Here are some of the reasons why vinyl replacement windows are now considered a worthy investment for your home:
- Customizable. You won’t lack for options with vinyl replacement windows. They come in a wide selection of colors, sizes and styles. Some of them even emulate the rich look and feel of genuine wood, allowing for more design possibilities. They can be custom-made to match your home’s existing design elements. In fact, whether you own a traditional or modern-contemporary home, you can easily match your new windows with its architecture and color palette.
- Easy Installation. Vinyl isn’t like other window materials, such as wood, which requires additional trim work after installation. Most vinyl units have all the trim work built in, so they’re installed as a single unit. Because they don’t require finishing work, this allows for easier, faster and more cost-effective installation.
- Low Maintenance. Once you have your vinyl windows installed by a trusted window company, not much further attention is needed. The windows are scratch-resistant and never need to be scraped, stained or repainted. The color wraps around the entire window unit and holds up well against the harsh elements. This means vinyl windows can sport an even, vibrant color for longer, letting you avoid the hassle and costs of frequent maintenance.
- Great Energy Efficiency. Vinyl windows can effectively keep heating and cooling energy inside your home. Most of them have hollow cavities within the frames that are filled with insulation, which subsequently create more durable, airtight seals. These help prevent air leakage and significant energy loss, which means you can enjoy a more thermally comfortable home no matter the season, minus the high energy bills.
GREAT COMBO. Good looks and maintenance-free performance are just some of the reasons vinyl windows remain popular.
Like other window materials, vinyl has its own set of disadvantages. Here are some of the things that can make you think twice about this popular material:
- Prone to Warping. When exposed to extreme changes in weather or temperature, vinyl windows may warp. This can significantly reduce the windows’ energy performance. Because they may also discolor under these conditions, vinyl windows may also negatively affect your home’s curb appeal.
- Synthetic Appearance. Vinyl windows can mimic more premium materials like wood, but the quality may vary. Some of them can provide a cheap, plastic feel despite the wood-grain look and texture. This can be a big minus, especially when you’re aiming to keep your home architecturally or historically accurate. If you’re planning on changing the look and exterior color scheme of your home anytime soon, vinyl windows may not be your best choice either. They are hard to paint, and most paint products that work fine with vinyl often come in limited colors.
- Less Value. Unlike other window materials, vinyl windows don’t add much to your home’s resale value. Their sustainability is also a source of debate. The manufacture of vinyl can produce toxins, and because they’re not fully recyclable, they contribute to more landfill waste.
Three Alternative Window Materials
If vinyl replacement windows still give you pause, you might want to check some of the other popular window materials available today. These include:
THE OTHER OPTION. Composite replacement windows are proving an excellent choice because of their myriad of benefits.
- A classic choice, wood windows offer superior strength and insulating value. They also offer a warm and elegant look to your home. The only downside is the material’s propensity for rot and other moisture damage, requiring constant maintenance to maintain its look and performance.
- Windows made of this material are sleek and durable, making them an excellent addition to your home. They are light yet strong, so they don’t need as much upkeep. However, aluminum units are not good insulators, allowing costly energy to leak from your home.
- An option that’s fast gaining traction among homeowners, composite windows can offer some of the best features of other window materials. They can, for instance, provide wood’s strength and insulating properties, plus vinyl’s maintenance-free performance.
The Importance of Working with a Professional Window Company
Whether you’ve decided on vinyl windows or on some better alternative, it pays to hire a reliable contractor to install them. This way, you’re sure your replacement units can provide the long-lasting performance you expect. DIY window installation, after all, can be rife with costly mistakes. By working with a trusted windows contractor, you can avoid these errors and ensure a safer, smoother window installation process.
Here’s what to look for in your prospective installer:
LET THE BEST ONE IN. Narrow down your selection by looking for qualified contractors.
- Make sure they’re eligible to perform this kind of work in your area. Hiring a licensed window installer also ensures the work will adhere to local building codes and regulations.
- Working with an insured window company helps protect you and your investment better should anything go wrong during the project.
- Is your contractor certified by top window manufacturers? If they are, you can have access to some high-quality replacement windows and the solid warranties included with them.
- It pays to work with a pro who specializes in window replacement and installation. This way, you’re sure they can work on your project and get things done right from the get-go.
- Look for a physical business address and a working phone and email, plus an updated website. Check them out on prominent trade sites like Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau®. They should have earned satisfactory reviews and scores from their previous clients.
How do you ensure you’re hiring a premier windows contractor, anyway? All you need to do is ask friends and neighbors for local referrals. Everything else from there on is pure research.
Keep your material choices in mind when investing in a window replacement. When you go for the better, longer-lasting picks, you can maximize your home’s good looks, comfort and energy efficiency.
Charlie Gindele owns Renewal by Andersen of Orange County, a premier home improvement company offering high-quality window and door replacement solutions. He has over 45 years of experience in the window replacement industry, making him one of the most trusted people in the said niche. This recognition has also let him teach budding contractors from across North America on various industries and topics. Catch more of Charlie’s updates through his blog.