OK, so I’m probably not actually going to tell you everything about vinyl windows. After all, this is a short, informational piece, not an extensive dissertation containing all the technical data about how vinyl is made, how it is transformed into windows, and all that other dull stuff. There are already resources out there that will provide that information, and, most people don’t really care about that part. Instead, I will be looking at three major vinyl window manufacturers and providing you the information I believe will be most helpful to assist you in your decision making process.
Vinyl windows are among the most popular on the market today, in large part because they tend to be less expensive than their wood and fiberglass counterparts. However, as with any important decision, price should never be the primary consideration. Instead, you should always look at quality and value for the price, as well as at the available options. If a vinyl window does not offer all the features that are important to you, it will not be the right choice for you, regardless of the price. So, obviously, you are going to have to decide what is most important to you when choosing what kind of window will best meet your needs.
Our three manufacturers – Simonton, Sunrise, and Great Lakes – each offer fusion welded windows in a variety of basic exterior colors (white, tan, and at least one shade of brown for each). Fusion welding is important in that it maintains strength and stability over the years, whereas a frame that is screwed together at the corners may tend to shift out of square over time. Additionally, Sunrise and Great Lakes both add insulation inside the frames for added energy efficiency. Simonton will add steel within the frames and sash rails for additional structural integrity in high wind applications, such as on a higher floor. Along with their standard colors to match the exterior, each also offers a number of woodgrain laminate color options to give the appearance of wood without the maintenance. Each has a wide variety of energy efficient glass options, including tinted, tempered, laminated, and obscure glass, as well as various Low E coatings. Varying Low E coatings provide different light and heat transference ratings, something to consider depending on the region in which you live and the location of the windows in your home. Each also offers grids between the glass in a variety of popular styles and patterns to add to the beauty of your home. The benefit of having the grids between the panes of glass is that it is much easier to clean your windows. And, on that note, all of our manufacturers also provide tilt-in sash, meaning you tilt the sash into the house to clean them, rather than having to go outside to clean exterior glass.
The available options vary between manufacturers, including blinds between the glass offered by Sunrise, and some art glass (aka stained glass) options available from Sunrise and Great Lakes. Simonton will provide an “empty” sash (with no glass) so that art glass can be installed by an outside source. Each manufacturer also offers various hardware color options to meet your needs, in addition to the standard color matched hardware they generally install. Each of these manufacturers also offers a lifetime transferable warranty on their products, so that if material or manufacturing defects arise over the life of your windows, you don’t have to worry about the cost to replace it. Note, this generally does not include the cost of installing a replacement window, if necessary. That is something you will have to discuss with your contractor.
Vinyl windows are a great lower cost option for replacing the windows in your home. They offer a wide variety of color, glass, and grid options to enhance the appearance of your home. About the only real drawback I can think of, depending upon your needs, is the limitations on color options (both interior and exterior). In general, our manufacturers offer plenty of color options, but, unlike wood, they cannot be painted or stained if you want to change the color somewhere down the road. And, before anyone points this out, I am aware that there is vinyl paint available on the market. But, before you think about going that route, check your warranty. After market changes to any product will impact the warranty, sometimes even voiding it. I will note that Simonton does have a product line that offers painted exteriors In a broad spectrum of colors, but this is not a standard feature and requires extended lead time, taking away one final key benefit of vinyl windows – lead times of 2 to 4 weeks, whereas wood and fiberglass generally require longer manufacturing times of up to 8 weeks, sometimes even longer for special products.
Rae the Renovator