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Fiberglass, Aluminum, Vinyl – Which Type Of Window Should I Choose?

Nobody likes to overspend, and shopping for new windows is no different.

“Should I buy the high-end windows?” … “Which type of window gives me the most energy efficiency?” … “Which ones aren’t worth the money?” … “What exactly is aluminum-clad?” … “Should I consider vinyl?”


Sal Sucato, the owner of Rosie on the House Certified Partner DunRite Windows & Doors, recommends starting with a few simple design-related decisions that can start you down the right path and point you toward a suitable budget.

It’s a good idea to drive around your neighborhood and look at your neighbors’ windows. What colors do you prefer? What about the thickness of the frame; do you like thick or thin? These two questions alone can steer you into a specific product.

Do you like a thick or thin frame?

For homeowners that want the thinnest possible frame, aluminum windows are the best choice, though they aren’t ones DunRite typically recommends in Arizona. “They just don’t provide the level of energy efficiency we’re looking for in the Phoenix area,” Sucato says. “Some homeowners choose them anyway, due to their sleek modern appearance.”

Steel windows are also an option, with frames even thinner than aluminum, though they aren’t recommended for the desert climate. They cannot be manufactured with a thermal break to improve energy efficiency, they require a lot of maintenance, and the cost is prohibitive.

Our preference?

“When it comes to windows overall, fiberglass is the best choice in Arizona,” Sucato says. It’s a more expensive choice, and the frames are a bit thicker than aluminum, but it’s our preferred window in this climate. Fiberglass is extremely strong, so it can support the heavy double-paned glass in even the largest window, and it gives a nice modern feel to the home. It’s also available in dark colors, which are very popular right now, with a finish that never needs painting or any other type of maintenance. It’s a great choice.”

It also happens to be the most energy-efficient option available, depending on the product you choose.

If you like the substantial look of a thicker frame, Andersen® 100 Series windows are Sucato’s go-to choice. They are made from Fibrex®, which is a PVC polymer that’s mixed with reclaimed wood fibers, which creates a window that’s stronger than vinyl. They can also be ordered with an interior color that is different from the exterior, which is helpful when coordinating décor. A black exterior and white interior window are very popular.

The most popular choice, vinyl windows, have a slightly thinner frame than Fibrex®. They’re not suitable for homes with extremely large windows since they aren’t quite as strong as Fibrex® or fiberglass, but they’re appealing for their price and longevity.

Do you want the inside of your windows to look like wood?

Another style question that dictates the choice of window is whether or not you want wood on the interior of the window frame. While all-wood windows, where both the interior and exterior are made of wood, are popular because of the warmth and look it provides, it’s important to note that it’s not suitable for our climate. Cladding on the exterior is important.

“Wood windows will require an extremely high amount of maintenance, says Sucato. “It’s prone to dry rot, cracking, and warping, and can easily become damaged by water or termites. Instead, we recommend aluminum-clad wood windows.”

He notes that these are the most expensive choice of material when it comes to pricing, but they are beautiful products. They don’t have the same maintenance needs on the exterior, since the wood is protected from the elements by a thin layer of aluminum wrapped around the outside of the frame –cladding. This also helps improve energy efficiency.

Choosing windows by price.

Rather than letting design options determine the window product, many homeowners use a budget to slim down their choice. According to Sucato, materials used in the window frame can help rank your options from most expensive to least expensive. For the brands he installs at DunRite Windows & Doors, wood and aluminum-clad wood are the most expensive, followed by fiberglass, Andersen® Fibrex®,  thermally improved aluminum, then vinyl.

Pella® Impervia®

“We often recommend the Pella® Impervia® fiberglass window since its performance is exceptional,” recommends Sucato. “Plus, Pella provides excellent customer service. They truly care about the customer.”

Pella is the only brand of window recommended by Rosie on the House.

For a bit less money than fiberglass, Andersen Fibrex® windows are a great choice, followed by our vinyl window products. “Many people don’t know that a high-quality vinyl window can last thirty years or longer. They’re the most popular because of their price point,” he says. “However, we strongly suggest avoiding lesser quality vinyl, as it can have issues with heat. It can also include too high of a percentage of recycled vinyl used in the frame, which is problematic. It might sound better for the environment, but it actually weakens the window quite a bit. You’ll want to look for a high percent, or even 100% virgin vinyl to get the longest lasting product.”

Sucato recommends that it also should have minimal flex or “give” in the frame. Otherwise, it may not be strong enough to withstand the summer. Look for lengthy warranties as a sign of the manufacturer’s faith in their product.

Regardless of the manufacturer and material you choose, do your homework to determine the best fit for you and your home.


CONTENT PARTNER: DunRite Windows & Doors

DunRite Windows & Doors is a locally owned and operated, family business in Scottsdale, with a solid reputation, incredible customer reviews, and competitive pricing on top brands. Schedule a schedule an appointment for pricing. Read their blogs for more information.


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