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Vinyl vs. Composite Windows: Pros, Cons, and Differences

Vinyl Window vs. Composite Window

Windows are one of the most important aspects of any modern building but choosing the right ones can be confusing. There are many different options. Two of the most common types of windows on the market today are vinyl windows and composite windows. Some people swear by vinyl, while others claim composite is the best upgrade for old vinyl windows. There are many differences between vinyl windows and composite windows, but there are also many similarities. Which type of window is right for you?

This article will provide a complete overview of both vinyl and composite windows, highlighting the pros and cons, so choosing between the two will be easier.

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Overview of Vinyl Windows

Vinyl window
Image Credit: Gina Leonard, Shutterstock

Vinyl windows are still the most common type of window on the market today. Other types of windows include composite, wood, wood-clad, and aluminum. Vinyl windows are easily found at local home improvement stores and are still being installed as replacement windows. Vinyl windows are also featured as the primary windows in some new construction.

What Are Vinyl Windows?

Vinyl windows are one of the oldest types of modern windows. Vinyl windows were developed as an upgrade over wood frame windows. Vinyl offers enhanced protection to moisture and temperature over wooden windows. In the past, wood windows would warp and crack over time. Repeated seasons of hot and cold weather combined with continual moisture caused wooden windows to degrade over time slowly. Vinyl was the answer to that.

Vinyl windows have been on the market for ages. They are affordable, easy to find, easy to maintain, and are well understood by sales professionals and contractors alike.

handyman repair window
Image Credit: Andrew Angelov, Shutterstock

When To Choose Vinyl Over Composite

Choosing vinyl windows over composite windows will almost always come down to cost. If you are looking for cheap and reliable windows that are easy to maintain you are going to want to check out vinyl windows. Vinyl windows are effective and still offer tons of benefits over old wood-framed single-pane windows.

Vinyl windows are also common replacement windows. If your home already features vinyl windows, you probably do not want to put in a single composite window while the rest of the house still has vinyl, even though you technically could. Vinyl makes window replacement easy and affordable compared to composite.

  • Affordable
  • Reliable
  • Well understood
  • Vinyl has issues in extreme temperatures
  • Poor insulating qualities

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Overview of Composite Windows

composite window
Image Credit: VIS Fine Art, Shutterstock

Composite windows are becoming more and more common as the technology becomes more affordable. Vinyl windows dominated the market in the past but now more builders and contractors are switching to composite due to their functionality and lasting performance. Just like vinyl was developed as an upgrade over wood windows, the composite window was developed to be a lasting upgrade over vinyl windows.

What Are Composite Windows?

Composite windows are the latest evolution of window frame technology. While vinyl has been around for decades, composite has really taken hold of the market in the last ten years. Composite frames are made from a variety of new materials, including resin and fiberglass. The new composite frames are thick, durable, and hold up to the most extreme conditions while providing above-average insulation value.

windows roll blinds
Image Credit: kunmom, Shutterstock

When To Choose Composite Over Vinyl

If you are looking to give your house the newest and best upgrades, you are going to want to get composite windows. Composite windows should last anywhere from 30 to 50 years and offer solid upgrades over the best features of vinyl. This is doubly true if your budget can support switching to composite. If price is not as high of a concern as performance, there is no reason not to choose composite over vinyl. Just know that the upgrade is going to cost more than sticking with vinyl windows.

  • Low maintenance
  • Great insulation values
  • Newest technology
  • Expensive
  • Longer lead times

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Are Vinyl And Composite Windows Similar?

Yes. Vinyl and composite windows are actually very similar. They were both designed with the same problems in mind. Composite windows take the benefits of vinyl and upgrade the base materials to enhance those benefits. Both of them are made from non-wood materials which are designed to hold up to the elements better than old wood and metal window frames. Vinyl and composite windows share the same roots and have overlapping benefits including water resistance, long-lasting durability, and continuing to improve on wood and metal window frame technology.

black window frames
Image Credit: Piqsels

What Are The Drawbacks Of Vinyl Windows?

Vinyl windows have some drawbacks despite their affordability. Vinyl is susceptible to extreme temperatures and can degrade in direct sunlight. Over time, vinyl will crack and wear more than composite windows. They also struggle in environments where winters are particularly cold or summers are sweltering. These effects are compounded on windows that spend a lot of time in direct sunlight. Sunlight wears down vinyl over time, so if a house has a lot of powerful direct sunlight, the windows will wear out faster than homes with a lot of shade.

Another issue with vinyl, compared to composite, is that vinyl does not insulate as well. Many vinyl window frames are hollow and offer poor insulation, especially in those areas where winters and summers experience extreme temperatures. Poor insulation adds to energy bills and can cause drafts in older windows.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Composite Windows?

Since composite windows were designed to be an improvement over vinyl windows, they have fewer drawbacks. However, composite windows are not perfect. Composite windows are heavier and more expensive than vinyl windows. This price difference can be significant.

Composite windows are also solid, making them more susceptible to denting and scratching than vinyl. Locations with high winds, hail, or nearby trees might find their window frames dented or dinged more easily than a vinyl window.

Composite windows also often have longer lead times than vinyl windows. Many companies offering composite windows are making them to size and have lead times that can be as long as sixteen weeks. Vinyl windows are more easily available in stock. If you are in a hurry, composite windows might set you back.

wooden window frame
Image Credit: Piqsels

How Much More Do Composite Windows Cost Than Vinyl?

Quite a bit more. The pricing will depend on the style of window and the various companies, but overall composite windows are much more expensive than vinyl. In some cases, composite windows can cost as much as double that of a comparable vinyl window. This price discrepancy can make composite windows cost prohibitive to some homeowners, especially those on a budget.

On a per-window basis, the cost of composite windows is often $250 to $300 more. That price can also be even higher depending on the features and options of the particular composite window. That is primarily due to the fact that standard vinyl windows are some of the most affordable options available.

Despite the high cost, composite windows are not the most expensive windows on the market today. Currently, the newest iterations of wood-clad windows are the costliest.

Are Composite Windows Better Than Vinyl?

With the price difference in mind, are composite windows better than vinyl? Objectively, yes. Composite windows are better than vinyl. They are an upgrade in almost every way, but the value of those upgrades will vary from person to person. Vinyl windows are still good. Vinyl is a well-trusted and reliable technology. The differences between vinyl and composite will not warrant the cost to some homeowners who are happy to continue to use the tried-and-true vinyl window technology. Which window is right for you will largely depend on your budget and if the temperature resilience of composite is worth it for your particular location.

For example, homeowners in Florida or Maine will appreciate the upgrades of composite over vinyl more than homeowners in Virginia.

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When it comes to making a choice for new or replacement windows, it is hard to go wrong with either vinyl or composite. Vinyl windows are older technology and suffer in extreme temperatures, while composite windows hold up better to the elements but are currently more expensive. Both vinyl and composite windows are clear upgrades over old wood and aluminum framed windows. The choice of whether vinyl or composite windows are right for you will largely come down to price. In terms of function and performance over time, vinyl and composite are extremely similar. These two windows are so similar, in fact, that some will find it hard to justify the large price increase of composite over vinyl. The choice will be entirely yours.

Featured Image Credit: Left: Vinyl Window, (Gina Leonard, Shutterstock) | Right: Composite Window, (VIS Fine Art, Shutterstock)


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