Aluminum Windows | Vinyl Windows | Building Products

Vancouver IslandSunshine CoastPowell River
header photo

Aluminum Vs. Vinyl Windows

What’s the Difference and Which is the Best Choice?

While countless older homes were constructed with wood windows and some modern homes still are, they’re as charming as they are inefficient. Aluminum windows actually appeared as early as 1912 for use in railroad cars, streetcars, buses, and eventually buildings. Vinyl windows originated in the 1970’s and quickly boosted in popularity as a modern, affordable alternative to wood. Nowadays, there’s a wide variety in colours, materials, finishes, and styles with aluminum and vinyl windows. Although both types offer a more durable, lower-maintenance, and affordable alternative to wood (especially with today’s wood prices), each type offers its own set of pros and cons. But what offers the most choice in style, durability, maintenance, insulation, and energy efficiency?

Which Windows are Stronger and More Aesthetic?

Generally speaking, vinyl frames are more traditional in appearance than aluminum. However, both are available in single or double-hung, single or multi-pane, and nearly any colour or finish you’d like. Vinyl windows are typically thicker than aluminum and offer a wide variety of options with smooth, textured, or faux wood finishes. Aluminum frames are usually thinner than vinyl, but are much stronger against strong winds from storms. If your home or building has extremely large windows, aluminum would be the viable option. While there are impact-resistant vinyl windows available, these can cost 20-30% more. Aluminum windows are typically smooth, or have texture powder-coated enamel for a modern and sleek-looking appearance, which fits in more with contemporary architectural styles. If you’re looking for that wood-grain texture, vinyl offers the best look if you want the appearance of wood, but strive for the durability of newer materials. While you can achieve the wood-grain look with aluminum by painting over it, it doesn’t look as good as vinyl. It should be noted that painting over vinyl may void your warranty, so be sure to decide which colour you favour at the time of installation to avoid any future issues. Overall, vinyl windows are better for smaller, residential homes, and aluminum windows are structurally strong enough for larger units or commercial properties. 

Do Windows Need Regular Maintenance? 

While both types of windows are very resistant to scratching, cracking, and marring, vinyl has better durability when it comes to dents and chips. In fact, if vinyl were to be damaged, it would be less likely to show when compared to aluminum which would immediately show the raw metal underneath. Aluminum can corrode and change colour over time. The steel and zinc fasteners can corrode and pit, especially if you live in a coastal town with salty air. The enamel finish on aluminum windows are likely to fade from strong sunlight compared to the dyes used in vinyl construction as well. Vinyl is virtually maintenance free, besides annual cleaning and possible caulking in and around the windows. Aluminum doesn’t require that much maintenance, but it’s much more prone to condensation which can result in rust and mold. Always use specified cleaners for aluminum windows, and lubricate the moving metal parts to avoid potential problems in the future. 

Which Panes Beat the Heat and Cold?

Vinyl windows can excel at resisting humidity, which means the likelihood of mold can be relatively low. This results in far less condensation compared to wood or aluminum windows. Vinyl can insulate better from extreme heat due to its superior thermal breaks (which means less heat transfer).  However, the quality and performance can differ with how much you spend, and vinyl can potentially warp due to extreme heat. If the frame does warp, you may need to seal the window again.

Although aluminum windows do have thermally improved options available, aluminum is more likely to conduct heat and cold which results in more condensation. This leads to mold, especially in colder climates. Aluminum windows are not recommended in beach homes due to sea salt corrosion. Heat transfer upgrades for aluminum windows will cost more than vinyl windows. 

Are Vinyl and Aluminum Windows Energy Efficient?

Did you know that vinyl naturally minimizes heat transfer? That’s what keeps the temperature inside your home stable. The higher the insulation, the lower your heating and cooling bills will be. That being said, vinyl isn’t recyclable everywhere, and it isn’t biodegradable. 

Unless the aluminum windows are thermally improved or have thermal breaks (which coincidentally are vinyl) it will conduct cold and heat. This makes your HVAC work much harder, and can make your building hot in the summer and cold in the winter. But are aluminum windows eco-friendly? Since it’s a naturally occurring metal, they are extremely easy to recycle. 

Another important note to mention is aluminum windows have much better noise cancellation than vinyl. 

Overall, vinyl windows are much more energy efficient than aluminum unless you’re willing to pay extra for thermal breaks. Always seek out “Energy Star” qualified windows to lower your energy bill. 

Which Lasts Longer? Vinyl or Aluminum?

With proper installation and maintenance, vinyl can last 20 to 40 years. Aluminum can last 20 to 30 years. Whether you need vinyl or aluminum depends entirely on the type of building and location. If you have a smaller residential home, vinyl is a simpler material that’s well suited for smaller windows. If you have a larger home or commercial building, aluminum will structurally perform much better for the task at hand. However, aluminum has more specialized parts like tracks and runners. While vinyl is great for any climate, aluminum can be better for moderate climates. As far as cost is concerned, vinyl is cheaper than aluminum and half the price of wood. As with anything building-related, your needs depend entirely on what you want. 

At Modern Windows, our windows are manufactured right in the heart of Powell River, so our team of professionals can help guide you every step of the way in window installation or replacement. Whether you’re a homeowner or a contractor looking for a new manufacturer, phone or email us today for a no-obligation quote about our windows, and so much more!

Go Back


      Better Mousetrap