Vinyl (polyvinyl chloride or PVC) windows have been in existence for 35 years. From the early 1980’s vinyl held an anemic 3% of the housing, but the prevalence of vinyl has grown. Last year its share rose to over 36 percent of all residential windows offered. It is made with substances that inhibit UV degradation. Vinyl is coloured throughout its cross section and requires no painting. The knock on vinyl is it stinks, is unpaintable, gets brittle and is thermally unstable (especially dark colours). It expands and contracts over aluminum, wood, as well as the glass it retains. Vinyl frames have the possibility of causing increased air leakage over time due to this differential movement. Richard Walker, Technical Director of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), is quick to say, “Vinyl windows are constructed with this motion in your mind and failures have never been listed to cause concern.” Superior advice is: define light-colored vinyl windows with heat-welded corners.
The pigments that go into paint are nearly identical to those that enter vinyl, but vinyl’s color goes all of the way through. The outside weathering is conducted in Florida, Kentucky and Arizona to get a 2-year interval after which colour readings are taken. I tried the “Soft Scrub” test and was amazed with how much brighter aged vinyl obtained. Not the first color to be sure, but a marked and acceptable improvement has been noted.
Fiberglass framed windows have begun to appear in a couple of product lines. Fiberglass is extremely robust and, since it’s made of glass fibers, the coefficient of expansion for the frames and the glass will be the same. Fiberglass has to be painted and is pricier than vinyl. Owens Corning, Andersen and Marvin are 3 significant producers who produce fiberglass windows. Owens Corning is the only manufacturer which makes a fiberglass window with insulated frames. However, before getting too excited….