Vinyl vs. Fiberglass frames

woodswellJuly 22, 2006

Which is better? My builder has priced Kolbe vinyl windows in his bid - double hung, double glazed, Low-E. In looking at alternatives to try to get price down (without sacrificing quality) I have talked to the local Pella dealer. He suggests Pella's fiberglass windows - same specs and size is about 10% higher.

I'm in North Florida, so we get pretty high temps in the summer and sometimes fairly low temps in the winter, but not the extremes that other parts of the country can have.

On average, which would you guys think might be the better deal. I am also looking at other brands and dealers, but these are the only places that have given hard quotes for comparison.



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Are they vinyl inside and out, fiberglass inside and out?

Theoretically speaking, fiberglass lasts longer than vinyl. Our house was a combo of cheap aluminum and better vinyl. While the vinyl did not leak or warp, it did become creaky and winter moisture would collect to cause mildew to form on the inside surface. A bit of a pain to clean but they did clean up spotless.

If you are considering wood interior with vinyl or fiberglass outside, then I would suggest fiberglass, not vinyl. And if you decide on fiberglass exterior and wood interior, then another brand to look into is Marvin Integrity.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 4:28PM
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Each is vinyl or fiberglass all the way through - although wood might be nice, I am going for minimal maintenance. Wood has to be painted, even the ones that are clad outside must be painted inside. Plus, both the vinyl and fiberglass windows I am considering have lifetime guarantees as long as we own the house, while the best I have found for wood windows is a 20 year warranty. Since we're pretty much planning on owning this house for 30 years, the lifetime warranty sure sounds good.

I know Marvin windows are well thought of, but the only Marvin dealer I can find anyway near is a long way away and is not competively priced.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 10:37PM
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I don't like those pella windows because based on the documentation it didn't look to me like it was solid fiberglass.

Regardless - knowing the warrantee on the Kolbe and the Pella NEITHER one has a product guarentee of 20 years. They may have install warrantees, but I strongly suggest you read the kolbe mfgr warrantee - it's quite terrible and basically says nearly everything is not covered. I read it several times, and took it to an attorney.

I haven't read the pella one - personally I don't like Pella's customer service so they were never an option for me at all. But I do know that the mfgr ones for vinyl that normally go for 20 years are warantees against chipping, flaking, etc. Vinyl doesn't chip of flake so it's basically worth nothing.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 12:29AM
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The Pella warranty actually only is lifetime on the Duracast material - the "Non-Glass Materials and Workmanship" is warranteed for 10 years and the glass for 20. And none of them cover anything more than replacement of the window or door - not the labor or any damage caused by failure of the window or door.

So that lifetime warranty is not all that great - but then any warranty will have loads of room for the manufacturer to get out of it.

But my real question is aside from warranties and manufacturers, which material is likely to be better - vinyl or fiberglass?


    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 8:10AM
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The following link gives a brief intro to differences between vinyl and fiberglass.

Only you can decide which is *better* after getting some unbiased facts about strength and weaknesses of each material and apply that to your specifc needs. All we can do is share experiences if we happen to have such windows.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 2:20PM
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Ok, chaecking the Windows Selection tool at that site, insulated vinyl and finberglass windows show up on the same chart - so they seem to be identical in performance. Now to find out which companies offer insulated vinyl. I have not seen any mention it. I thought when I had visited the Efficient Windows site that they offered a link to manufacturers for particular types of windows, but it does not for those.

Thanks - I'll dig around on that site some more.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 7:08PM
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In florida I'd go with gorell vinyl replacement windows. I had them installed in my house and they work great. Here is an article about the differences in the window frame types you might find helpful... aluminum vs vinyl Windows

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 11:25AM
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We have spent the last few weeks studying many of the leading brands of windows to make an informed decision for our new construction. I first talked on the phone with all of the leading players (Kolbe, Marvin, Pella, Anderson, Loewen, Lincoln, Jeld-wen, Weathershield, etc.) We looked at all of the choices (vinyl, aluminum clad, and fiberglass). We only recently looked at fiberglass because we had not heard much about them.
The best thing we did was to spend time making the rounds looking at the construction, the finish, the workings, etc. The Marvin wood interior/aluminum clad exterior would have been our choice if money were no object, but we are now leaning to the Marvin Integrity windows because of the total package (quality of construction, price, color all of the way through, no chance of chalking, prefinished wood interior, easy to operate, overall look.) Anyone else have Integrity by Marvin fiberglass?
But getting back to your basic question, I would definitely consider fiberglass windows.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 9:13PM
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I read through the tp:// site and it's excellect! I still have a few questions I'm hoping someone can help me w/:

As a quick background, we are doing a remodel. For our last remodel/addition we put in Jeldwin (Pozzi) Clad windows -- double glazed w/ low E glass, aluminum outside, wood inside. The existing windows were Pozzi, so we went w/ this to match, but increase energy efficiency and looks inside. We are now doing another remodel and got a quote for the same product to replace all the rest of the windows in our house to increase energy efficiency. (BTW, we have dual glazed now and donated the ones we removed to Habitat for Humanity.) I've recently learned about the energy efficiency of Fiberglass, and want to consider using it.

My question is, I can't figure out if we can have Clad w/ fiberglass on the outside and wood on the inside. Is there a seller of this? Is it a good idea? Does it really save energy over aluminum outside wood inside?

The Pozzi salesperson (window rep. that sells other lines, including Marvin) has said that we should stick w/ what we have or it won't match, looks-wise, from the outside, and that the wood on the inside prevents conductivity of hot and cold so the fiberglass isn't needed. Also, she said our double glazed w/ Low E is the same is triple glazed in terms of energy efficiency. We live in Sacramento CA. So, hot in the summer, cold but not freezing in the winter.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 3:50PM
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Marvin makes Integrity windows with pultruded fiberglass on the outside and wood on the inside.

I don't know why fiberglass/wood would be much more energy efficient than aluminum-clad/wood since most of the energy transfer of a window is through the glass and the perimeter sash seal. I would be more concerned with appearance and detailing, for instance, the Integrity (last I checked) doesn't offer spacers for SDL muntins, has a poor sill drip that should have a sub-sill added, and is made in very few sizes. Pay attention to what market the window is made for. The fewer standard sizes and custom sizes available, the lower the market, the lower the price. Window design revolves almost entirely around marketing which is why there are so many poorly designed windows for sale. There's no free lunch.

But you don't have to ask strangers, it is easy to compare the U-factors and SHGC for any two windows since it is listed in their literature and shown on a sticker on each window. The smaller the numbers, the better. I think you'll find the windows are virtually the same for a given kind of glass. The best glass should be Low-E Argon-filled regardless of the frame and sash.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 8:45PM
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I knew someone in grade school who kept asking me what animal I thought would win in various unlikely confrontations like a bear and a lion.

IMHO The most common mistake of amateur designers is to reduce construction issues to oversimplified comparisons like vinyl vs fiberglass or Marvin vs Andersen. One has to be "better" than the other.

In reality these issues are complex because the criteria are complex and the manufacturers make many different kinds of windows within such broad categories.

You can only effectively compare one specific window to another specific and if that is too much work you need to hire a professional who has already done it and can lead you to the relevant comparisons in less time.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 8:50AM
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Thanks for the feedback! I checked and it looks like the windows we are looking at, Jeldwin w/ wood interior, aluminum exterior, meet the recommended U-Factor and SHGC recommendations on the Efficient Windows Collaborative web site for our region, so we'll go w/ this pick, as the windows will then all match existing windows as well.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 12:42PM
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We have installed metal and vinyl windows for years. Poorly made windows and materials don't hold up. Owens Corning abandoned fiber glass windows years ago. Quality vinyl windows from reputable manufacturers have held up very well for 20 years + has been our experience. We have also replaced poorly made vinyl windows in 10 to 15 years. Real world track records IMHO mean more than opinions of a reintroduction of an old product that didn't survive very well long ago. I see no advantage yet to fiber glass over good quality vinyl replacement windows. Fiber glass windows sounds like reintroducing and old product technology by wood window companies trying to offer more energy efficient products than their maintenance required wood products.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 3:42AM
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