Vinyl and fiberglass are two of the most common types of window frames in residential buildings. These frames do not affect the windows themselves, which can be made with many different materials and layers, but they can determine how easily air leaks into the house and are important for structural stability. Homeowners often face a choice between vinyl and fiberglass, which look similar and can both come in nearly any color.
Vinyl window frames are made from a plastic resin that is molded into the shape of the frames and then hardened. This produces a tough plastic frame that when properly cared for has a long life and can be produced very easily. This leads to very low costs for vinyl windows compared to other versions, as well as a very high number of style and brand options. For an averaged sized window in 2011, vinyl options cost between $150 and $500 per a 30 by 48 inch frame. This amount varies due to the complexity of the window, the quality of the vinyl and any included designs.
Fiberglass is also a plastic product, but it is made by coating resin over a backing material. This makes fiberglass strong and long-lasting, and gives it qualities similar to glass that make joining the two easy. Because fiberglass windows have such strong backing and, they tend to cost much more then vinyl. As a general rule of thumb, fiberglass will cost twice as much, so a $500 vinyl window will cost up to $1,000 in fiberglass. High-end vinyl products and low-end fiberglass products may have similar prices.
When replacing windows, variance in cost can be determined by the project itself. Replacing only the frames can be relatively inexpensive. But if homeowners want to expand windows or repair structural damage at the same time, costs will quickly rise. For windows that are difficult to reach or very large, costs may exceed $3,000 for new windows. Windows that are a nonstandard size will also cost more.
Quality and Savings
Quality is an important factor in long-term costs. Fiberglass windows, for example, can be painted, but the paint must be applied every several years in order to keep its quality high. Vinyl windows cannot be painted in most cases, but they can discolor over time and in harsh weather they can break or warp, especially in the heat, which can lead to expensive replacements. Climate may be an important determinant when it comes to maintenance costs down the road.