It can be hard for Central PA and Pittsburgh homeowners to decide on the right type of material for window replacement. Should you choose wood windows? Fiberglass? Vinyl?
The truth is that each window material has its own advantages. So the question becomes which window material provides the MOST benefits for the BEST value? Below, we review the most popular types of window materials to discover answer.
There’s no question about it: Wood windows can look beautiful. But that beauty comes at a big price—literally. Wood windows are some of the most expensive windows on the market.
Not only are wood windows pricey, but they also require the most maintenance of any window material. Be ready for regular painting and scraping to keep them looking great.
Wood windows are also vulnerable to warping, rotting, and insects (eastern subterranean termites LOVE munching on wood in Pennsylvania homes). Wood windows also expand and contract more than any other type of window. This means they can swell in the summer (making them harder to open) and shrink in the winter (allowing drafts into your home).
Bottom Line: Wood windows are a great choice if you need new windows for a custom or historic home and don’t mind paying a lot of money. Keep in mind that you have to maintain wood windows constantly, or they can quickly lose their looks and develop problems.
Fiberglass is a sturdy window material that can convincingly replicate the look of wood if it’s properly finished. Though fiberglass windows don’t need the same amount of upkeep as wood windows, they do require painting for that finished look.
A drawback of fiberglass windows is they are not fusion-welded at the corners of the frame like vinyl windows are. Fiberglass window frames are sometimes fastened together with screws, which means their joints are not as airtight, watertight, and energy efficient vinyl window frames.
While fiberglass windows are not as expensive as wood windows, they are still on the higher end of the pricing scale. Expect to pay 15% to 30% more for fiberglass windows of comparable quality to good vinyl windows.
Bottom Line: When properly finished, fiberglass windows look great. They are, however, more expensive than other window materials of similar quality. If you’re thinking about fiberglass windows for your home, consider if they provide enough benefit for the extra cost.
Vinyl is the most popular window material in Central PA and Pittsburgh. Because of their prevalence, vinyl windows vary widely in quality. The amount of brands on the market makes it tough for homeowners to separate the good vinyl windows from the bad ones.
One of the easiest ways to determine the quality of a vinyl window is purely visual. If a vinyl window has a “plastic, boxy” look, it’s likely on the lower end of the quality spectrum. Companies that manufacture good vinyl windows always make sure their windows enhance curb appeal, rather than hinder it.
Another way to spot a low-quality vinyl window is to check its energy efficiency. You can do this by reading the NFRC label on a window (which we show you how to do on our Window Energy Efficiency page). If the window you’re looking at does not have an NFRC label, it’s a low-quality window—period. Avoid it at all costs.
Lastly, the price tag of a vinyl window is often a good indicator of its quality. Those $189 replacement vinyl windows are indeed in that “too good to be true” price range. Vinyl windows at this price are known in the industry as “builder-grade” windows. They are typically used in low-cost rental properties and have poor efficiency.
Bottom Line: Low-quality vinyl windows are inexpensive, but you get what you pay for (and in the case of low-quality vinyl, you don’t get much). You may save money up front with cheap vinyl windows, but you will end up paying A LOT more in the long run due to energy costs, repairs, and premature replacement.
High-quality vinyl replacement windows provide the ideal performance, looks, maintenance, and value for Central PA and Pittsburgh homeowners. High-quality vinyl windows have gorgeous curb appeal (no boxy, plastic look) and contain a large amount of glass for great outdoor views. High-quality vinyl windows don’t need painting and scraping like wood and fiberglass windows, and many quality vinyl windows are built to resist fading and warping much better than other window materials.
How do you recognize a quality vinyl window from a substandard vinyl window? First, determine the material of the frame. Frames made of virgin vinyl—not recycled vinyl—are a sign of a quality window that will provide peak performance. Second, see if the window is reinforced: reinforced vinyl windows are much stronger. Finally, a top-of-the-line vinyl window comes with a top-of-the-line warranty that contains no loopholes and fine print.
In addition, high-quality vinyl windows are extremely energy efficient because of their material and how they are manufactured (visit our Window Energy Efficiency page for window efficiency requirements for Pennsylvania). You won’t find a window that’s better built to cut your energy costs and keep your home a comfortable temperature.
You might think we’re praising high-quality vinyl windows because those are what we sell. The truth is that we COULD sell wood or fiberglass windows, but we choose not to. We sell only high-quality vinyl windows BECAUSE they offer everything Central PA and Pittsburgh homeowners want in a replacement window: great looks, peak efficiency, minimal maintenance, and a tremendous value.
Bottom Line: High-quality vinyl windows are an excellent choice if you want great looks, smooth operation, the best energy efficiency, and bare-minimum maintenance for a reasonable investment. While historic homes may be better served with wood windows, high-quality vinyl is the most popular option for the vast majority of homeowners seeking window replacement.
If you’re looking for superior vinyl replacement windows in the Lancaster, Harrisburg, York, or Pittsburgh areas, Get An Online Quote today. And if you simply have questions, contact us—we’ll be happy to answer them.