When it comes to improving the energy efficiency of your home, one of the most common upgrades is installing new windows. Replacement windows come in a wide range of styles, materials, glazing options, and efficiency levels, plus many manufacturers offer the option for customized windows to maximize the returns on your investment.
Among the common materials used for replacement windows, vinyl and fibreglass are the most popular options for homeowners. But which one is better for you? Here are some factors to consider:
Fibreglass is about nine times stronger than vinyl; plus, it features a narrow frame that maximizes sunlight and the outside view. This does not necessarily mean that vinyl is weak. If properly framed, vinyl windows perform fairly well.
While fibreglass and vinyl are fabricated from inert materials that do not attract insects and are resistant to the elements, they are both pretty durable. But the fact that fibreglass is a stronger material gives it a 38 per cent longer lifespan than vinyl.
In addition, vinyl windows tend to expand and contract with temperature change, which causes them to warp, crack, bow, and shrink, ultimately destroying the seal between the glass and vinyl framework. Fibreglass, on the other hand, is made from resins (silica sand) and glass fibres that are better able to withstand expansion and contraction forces without losing their integrity.
Both options are highly energy efficient. That said, vinyl windows are designed with a number of chambers that trap air and improve the insulation properties of the frame.
Fibreglass is made from an abundant natural resource, silica sand, that consumes much less energy during fabrication of the windows compared to vinyl windows that are fabricated from a petroleum-based plastic.
Vinyl windows are fairly easy to manufacture to very specific measurements, and offer a high degree of flexibility during installation so you can get an exact fit. Fibreglass, on the other hand, offers a wider range of colour options and customizable features, but it is also more labour intensive during fabrication and installation due to its rigidity, plus it requires greater precision when being fitted.
Vinyl windows require minimal maintenance, as they do not require painting once installed. Their corners are also welded, which reduces the risk of air leaks around the sash and frame, allowing them to maintain their efficiency for longer. But if worn or damaged, vinyl cannot be repaired; it has to replaced. Fibreglass, on the other hand, will need to be repainted, sometimes as soon as it is installed, in case the paint scratched or chipped during installation.
Many homeowners prefer fibreglass windows for the obvious reasons – strength, durability, ability to withstand the elements, more glass real estate to let in more light, more colour options, etc. And while it costs about 10 to 30 per cent more than vinyl, a home with fibreglass windows tends to have a higher resale value than one with vinyl windows.