When building a new home or renovating an old one, the material of the window frames is one of the things one needs to choose, and the options usually come down to vinyl vs fibreglass windows. Wood and aluminium are other materials to consider, but the former is expensive and prone to expanding and contracting over the seasons, whereas the latter is not as versatile as vinyl or fibreglass.
Then the question arises about whether to choose vinyl or fibreglass. Both the materials have advantages and disadvantages, which is why we have dedicated this ideabook to outlining a detailed comparison of vinyl vs fibreglass windows, pros, cons and everything else a homeowner needs to know before deciding which is a better option for the home.
Besides the difference in the quality and properties of the two materials, one can also consult an architect for advice on which of them will be more suitable for the design style of the house. Without further ado, let’s dive into the comparison between vinyl vs fibreglass windows.
Vinyl windows are made by extruding PVC, which forms their base material. Additionally, the windows might have metal in their composition to provide a sturdier internal structure. As a material, vinyl has been in use for over fifty years. It first appeared in the 1970s, when small fabricators made them for meeting the demand for custom sizes that were not offered by large manufacturers. Over the following two decades, they became popular when large manufacturers realised that there was a big demand for vinyl-framed windows.
The primary advantage of using vinyl windows is that they are relatively inexpensive. They cost almost half as much as windows with wood frames. Since they are built with a honeycomb structure, they offer good thermal insulation, making them an energy-efficient option. Additionally, they are versatile as they can be custom-fabricated to any size. One can choose from a few options to match the colour scheme of the house.
The process of manufacturing fibreglass involves activating polyester resins with a catalyst, after which it is pulled through a heated dye. This results in the formation of glass strands or mats that can be shaped easily. Fibreglass windows are known to be strong and light.
Compared to vinyl, fibreglass is a relatively new material for windows. They first came into the market at the turn of the century and were created to eliminate some of the disadvantages of vinyl windows, especially its limited durability as it aged. The material is not only stronger than vinyl but more energy-efficient. Moreover, they have a lower profile compared to vinyl windows. The best part of using fibreglass for the window frames is that it can be fabricated to resemble wood framed windows and can be painted in almost any shade of one’s choice.
As technology advanced, fibreglass windows began to include polyester resins in their composition, making them stronger than wood but less expensive. They are priced between wood and vinyl.
The best way to get an idea of the pros and cons of vinyl and fibreglass is to make a detailed comparison of their features.
Cost : While both the materials are cheaper than wood, fibreglass is more expensive than vinyl. A vinyl window costs around INR 350 per square feet, whereas fibreglass windows cost INR 450 per square feet on an average. This makes fibreglass window frames around 25 to 30 per cent more expensive than vinyl ones.
Suitability for DIY: Vinyl windows don’t need much skill to install, making them an excellent option for DIY. The rigidity of the material makes fibreglass not as easy to install. Usually one needs to hire an approved contractor for their installation. In terms of availability as well, vinyl window frames can be purchased at a home centre, whereas fibreglass windows need to be ordered directly from the manufacturer as they are made to order.
Durability—Compared to wood, which comes with the risk of termite or ant infestation, both vinyl and fibreglass offer a more durable alternative. Between the two, fibreglass windows have a more durable structure, which makes them last around 40 per cent longer than vinyl ones. Additionally, since the fibreglass expands and contracts like normal glass, they are less prone to seal failure, which causes condensation and fogging. In comparison, the welded seams in the corners of vinyl windows don’t expand and contract easily, resulting in seal failure.
Strength: In terms of a comparison of the strength of fibreglass vs vinyl windows, the former is around eight to nine times stronger than the latter. As a material, fibreglass is rigid and relatively maintenance-free.
Environment friendly: Since they are made from recycled glass, fibreglass windows are an eco-friendlier option compared to vinyl, which comprises PVC, a plastic component that is not easy to recycle.
Insulation: While both vinyl and fibreglass offer good insulation, fibreglass is around 15 per cent more energy-efficient than vinyl, because the glass fibres in them expand and contract easily.
Appearance: Fibreglass windows come in a wider range of colours than vinyl ones. Unlike vinyl, fibreglass frames can also be painted in any colour of one’s choice, making them easy to pair with almost any exterior colours for the home.
Overall, fibreglass offers the advantages of strength, durability, eco-friendliness, better insulation and more colour options than vinyl. However, one of the main reasons why fibreglass windows are not popular is because they are more expensive and are not readily available for purchase.In the end, the choice between the two materials will depend on the needs of the homeowner as well as the budget. While fibreglass windows cost significantly more than vinyl ones, they last longer and are stronger, making them a better investment in the long term. However, for replacing just one window in the house, especially when one doesn’t want to wait for a few weeks, vinyl is a better option as these windows are readily available and do not require any specialized skills for their installation.
Besides this, several factors need to be considered such as which of the two will suit the design style of the house. Since fibreglass is sturdy, the frames are sleeker and slimmer than those of vinyl windows. They also come in many more colour options compared to vinyl.
Undoubtedly, in modern Indian homes, vinyl and fibreglass are the more popular materials for windows compared to wood, which is not only more expensive but also high-maintenance. If you are confused about which of these two materials are better suited for your home, we recommend consulting an architect. Besides reviewing your needs and budget, the professional will do a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of vinyl vs fiberglass windows. They will review each feature that can make a difference to the design and finish of the house, ensuring that whichever material is chosen will be easy to maintain and repair so that it will be several years before you need to explore the options once again for replacing the windows of your house.