What Will It Cost?

Unfortunately, regardless of the material, replacing windows is a costly endeavor that will vary greatly depending on the number of windows, the size of the windows, and the materials. Knowing the costs of vinyl vs. aluminum windows upfront will help you to plan for your project and eliminate some of the sticker shock. The cost, of course, varies between vinyl and aluminum but there isn’t enough of a difference to choose one over the other strictly based on cost differentiation.

Vinyl windows cost approximately $150 per window versus aluminum windows which will cost around $100 per window.

Plus, you have to add installation costs of $175-$300 per window; vinyl, on the other hand, you can expect to pay $180-$300 per window with installation costs of $140-$230 per window.

It’s worth it to check around and see what the big-name stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have to offer in vinyl windows vs aluminum windows. They will carry standard sizes, but you may have to branch out if you have a lot of windows that are a special size and function. Of course, there are also heavy hitters like Andersen’s and Pella to be considered when making a well-researched purchase.

Hiring A Window Contractor

Choosing the right contractor is a huge deal when it comes to all home improvement projects but especially when installing windows. Many contractors become masters at hanging one kind of window, so you have to do some calling around to find the sensei of vinyl or of aluminum window installation. They should be prolific at removing the old windows and installing the new without damaging the exterior and interior of your home.   Make sure that you get, at minimum, two bids, and three are better. 

As with working with any contractor, it is important to get references and to make sure that all the costs are in writing and upfront. The bid you receive needs to include all the necessary materials including the framing, trim, and flashing on the exterior. Likewise, it is good to find out what is included in the labor costs. You want a contractor who takes windows out one at a time; you don’t want a gaping, wood covered holes in your wall because of some unforeseen circumstances.  Your bids should also include the timeline of completion.  The contractor needs to be adept at insulating and securing the windows properly inside and out. If it is important for you to be environmentally sound, find a contractor who will responsibly haul away and recycle your old windows.

Once you decide who is going to do the installation, it’s common to pay a small amount to secure the deal, but don’t’ pay over 30% upfront. After the job is complete and you are happy with the work, you can write the final check.

Vinyl vs. aluminum windows run a close race when it comes to aesthetics. They are both appealing, while aluminum may have an edge in terms of a more “refined” look.  But, like all aesthetics, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Aluminum has an edge in visual appeal because it can wear a lot of dresses.  In other words, you can paint aluminum-clad or the enamel finish comes in many colors. With vinyl, what you see is what you get, and the color options are limited.  But, vinyl will likely retain its beauty longer because the dye used to color runs throughout the product while the color in aluminum clad will fade in sunshine.

Aluminum is the stronger of the two but more likely to take damage to its outside appearance in the form of dents, scratches, and fading. Both types are resistant to scratches and cracks, but vinyl boasts extra toughness when it comes to denting and won’t chip.  With aluminum frames, damage to the finish may expose the raw metal underneath which could lead to rust.

As far as continued maintenance goes, vinyl comes out the winner. Vinyl windows are virtually maintenance-free; whereas, aluminum may need recoating more often and because of the wood base, are more prone to corrosion, especially in humid places.  Rust and mold will need to be treated.

You might be saying to yourself, the choice is easy, vinyl is better. If only that were true in all instances, but aluminum framed windows serve a very valuable purpose. If you have any big windows, aluminum is a better choice than its vinyl counterpart. Because of their strength, aluminum frames provide structural soundness. 

Window Efficiency 

Making sure your vinyl or aluminum windows are aesthetically pleasing is a prime factor while practicality and efficiency should be a deal-breaker.  You want to look at the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) ratings which give windows their energy performance ratings after testing. Ask your contractor for the solar radiation that emits heat inside your home which is great if you live up north and not so great if you live in South Florida. The higher the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), the better the selection if you live in a cold place in the winter, a low SHGC is something you probably want to be on the lookout for if you live in a hot climate year-round. Considering where you live and the performance ratings for vinyl windows vs aluminum windows is important so doing a little extra research can mean a higher return on investment.

Resale Value

No matter what you choose, you can be confident that your investment will be returned to you.  While different sources argue the exact rate of return, most agree that while you may not make a profit by adding the vinyl or aluminum windows, you will recoup 100% of the costs. 

In the vinyl vs. aluminum battle, because both have a similar price point, and neither has a significant edge over the other,  it really comes down to researching where you live and finding out what contractors install in your area. Again, examining which type of window will hold up against the elements and perform in your climate is key.  But, the good news is, you are not likely to go wrong, whichever you choose.