Did you know that “plastic” used to simply mean “pliable and easily shaped“? These characteristics have made it one of the most common materials all over the world. In fact, in 2018, the world produced 44.3 million metric tons of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) alone. By 2025, experts project that PVC production will become an 88.63 billion-industry.
You may not notice it, but PVC is everywhere, and not just in your vinyl records. At the home or office, you most likely have vinyl windows, made primarily of PVC! That’s because as of the latest count, 25.3 million US homes have PVC-based windows.
The question now is, what exactly is vinyl and what makes it so special? Why should you go vinyl when you need new windows?
We’ll have all these questions answered in this post, so be sure to read on!
New Construction and Replacement Windows: What’s the Difference?
Before anything else, let’s first talk about new construction and replacement windows. This way, you’ll know exactly what to purchase and budget for. Especially since there’s a large price difference between the two.
Both are brand-new, “off-the-shelf”, or “fresh-from-the-factory” windows. However, new construction windows, also called prime windows, are mostly for under-construction homes. Installing these windows involves inserting their nailing fin into an incomplete wall.
This is why new construction windows cost more to install than the replacement ones. Aside from new construction homes, they’re also used for home additions, such as new rooms. If you have severely decayed windows, you may have to get new construction windows.
Replacement windows are exactly what they sound like — they replace existing windows. These windows no longer have the above-mentioned nailing fin that’s built into a wall. They simply go into an existing window frame.
If you have windows with minor rotting and leaking, it may be best to replace rather than repair them. The same goes if you have cracked, broken, or condensing windows. Vinyl windows are low-cost, energy-efficient, and durable options to replace these damaged windows.
A Primer on Vinyl
Vinyl is a laboratory-made material manufactured from ethylene and chlorine. This combination forms the material known as “ethylene dichloride”. This then goes through a conversion process involving extremely high temperatures.
Out of this heat-induced conversion comes vinyl chloride monomer gas. This gas then undergoes polymerization, wherein it becomes polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin. This is the resin used in manufacturing vinyl windows, as well as hundreds of other products.
What Are Vinyl Windows Then?
Vinyl windows consist mostly of PVC blended with additives known as “plasticizers”. These allow window manufacturers to mold the PVC resin into window frames. Plasticizers also make the material better resistant to the sun’s degrading UV rays.
The Vinyl Advantage
Vinyl windows often cost the least compared to other window materials. That’s just one advantage though. Here’s a closer look at the pros of going vinyl.
Most Affordable Type of Windows
One study found that vinyl replacement windows cost about 18% less than wood windows. Fiberglass windows are usually more affordable than wood, but vinyl still costs less. A vinyl window also has a lower price tag compared to an aluminum one.
One of the main reasons behind this lower price is that vinyl is easier to work with. This then shortens the time needed to manufacture products, such as windows. With less time needed to create them, the less labor needed, which in turn, equates to reduced expenses.
- Durable. Just because they cost less doesn’t mean that they’ll fail in a few years. Vinyl is more resistant to oxidation, corrosion, and fading than aluminum. The fact that it’s plastic-based also means it’s far less likely to decay, unlike wood.
- Low-Maintenance. The best vinyl windows won’t fade or peel, and they would never need repainting. You also don’t need to reseal the best PVC-based windows out there. All you need is to give them a good cleaning to make them look their best!
- Energy Efficient. The honeycomb structure of vinyl makes for energy-efficient windows. This structure traps air within, boosting the windows’ R-value. R-value refers to a material’s ability to resist heat conduction.
At the same time, high-quality vinyl windows come equipped with insulating materials. This helps reduce air leakage while also lowering the windows U-factor rating. U-factor is a material’s ability to transfer heat, so the lower the U-factor, the better.
Bonus Benefit: Fabricated to Look Like Wood
One of the main detractions to vinyl windows is that they usually have limited color options. They used to be available mostly in white. The look of plastic on windows just didn’t sit right with many homeowners.
Today, however, window makers can fabricate vinyl windows to make them look like wood. While they don’t 100% resemble wood, they still look great. That, combined with the other benefits of PVC, make vinyl windows a great option.
You also now have more color options to choose from, and not just white. There are also special coatings used on the exterior surface of vinyl window frames. Aside from enhancing their appearance, these finishes also add to their durability.
Consider Vinyl When Replacing or Installing New Construction Windows
There you have it, your ultimate guide on vinyl windows and what makes them so popular. Aside from the pros discussed above, vinyl is also recyclable. This makes them a good eco-friendly construction material.
So, whether you need new construction or replacement windows, consider going vinyl. They’re your most affordable option, but they can still last you for at least a couple of decades. Best of all, the most reputable window companies offer lengthy, first-rate warranties.
Ready to shop for your new construction or replacement windows? Then please feel free to check out our extensive window collection! We’ll also be happy to throw in a free estimate for your project.
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