Choosing the Best Window Frame Material

home window upgrade using Marvin Integrity windows
Planning to upgrade your windows? Here’s the #1 thing you need to know. Choosing the right window frame material is the main decision that will determine the price point, lifespan, and options for your new windows.

If you have dingy and drafty old windows, you’ve probably had an upgrade on your mind for quite some time. Choosing the right style — and the right window frame material — are the biggest choices you need to make. The most common window frame choices we install are:

  • Vinyl
  • Fiberglass
  • Wood

Since Eby Exteriors is known throughout South Central PA as expert window installers, homeowners often come to us asking, “Which window material is best?” The answer depends on your goals, your budget, and your interior’s style. We’ll break down the HONEST pros and cons of each — along with the HONEST total price you’ll pay.

Choosing your window frame material can be difficult. Like with any home improvement, Eby Exteriors makes the experience easy and satisfying. Let’s dig in.

Window Frame Materials

The window frame is responsible for the window’s durability and creates the basis for the interior and exterior window style. Before you started looking for windows, you might have thought that they were all basically the same. In fact, choosing the right window frame material can really determine your satisfaction.

Vinyl Windows

vinyl windows at a low price point
Price: $400 — $700 per window (including materials and labor)

How long do they last? Between the 7 to 10 year mark, you can expect to see some issues.

For most homeowners the main choice is vinyl windows vs. fiberglass windows — so we’ll start with vinyl. Vinyl windows come at the lowest price point — that can’t be disputed. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best buy. While “deluxe” vinyl options that can exceed the price of fiberglass exist, we don’t recommend them. Vinyl is the cheap option — upgrading to “deluxe” vinyl is like painting a racing stripe on a Toyota Tercel.

Here are the main issues we see with vinyl windows:

  • Because vinyl expands and contracts at a different rate than glass, the seal between the panes of glass in vinyl windows crack, causing them to fog over permanently.
  • That movement can also cause the insulation seal around the vinyl frame to crack and gap. This may allow significant air leakage and can undo all of the energy savings new windows should provide.
  • Vinyl windows often sag over time, which makes them very hard to open or operate.
  • Since vinyl is not as strong as other materials, the frames themselves are bulkier. That means less visible glass space and less light. Essentially, there is no such thing as a sleek vinyl window.
  • On the outside, vinyl windows lose their luster, looking cheap and chalky. Painted vinyl rarely looks good either.
  • While many vinyl windows come backed by “lifetime warranties” those are notoriously difficult to collect on. Many of the warranties are undercut by fine print and unreasonable clauses. We’ve also seen many vinyl window companies go out of business, leaving homeowners to replace their defective windows on their own.

Simply put, vinyl is not a good long-term answer. If you’re not planning to be in your home for more than a few more years, or it’s simply all you can afford, vinyl can be a decent choice, but otherwise, we recommend homeowners spend a little more money for a whole lot more window. Hey — we told you we were going to be honest.

Learn more about the flaws with vinyl windows.

Fiberglass Windows

Integrity by Marvin fiberglass windows
Price: $900 — $1300 per window (including materials and labor)

How long do they last? The fiberglass windows we sell have a REAL 20-year warranty, but last much longer than that.

For most homeowners, fiberglass windows are the BEST VALUE on the market. Fiberglass windows are great in terms of durability, strength, energy efficiency, and possess a sleek, modern style. We’ve looked at almost every brand of fiberglass windows on the market, and at Eby Exteriors, we’ve chosen to use Integrity by Marvin Fiberglass windows.

Since the choice often comes down to vinyl windows vs. fiberglass windows, here’s how fiberglass wins compared to vinyl:

  • Fiberglass expands and contracts at the same rate as glass, so cracks and fogging are non-existent.
  • Fiberglass is a strong material: it’s 2X stronger than steel and 7X stronger than vinyl.
  • Since fiberglass is so strong, the frames can be slim and sleek, maximizing light and visible glass.
  • The 7X strength means they have a drastically lower tendency for air to leak around the window.
  • Marvin Integrity Fiberglass windows have an acrylic coating, which maintains its crisp style inside and out.
  • For the interior frame, Integrity makes a real pine wood interior, to create a natural wooden ambiance.
  • Plus, you can trust Marvin to stay in business — they have 100 years under their belt and are still going strong. Learn more about our relationship with Marvin.

For the vast majority of homeowners, fiberglass windows are the best choice on the market. Unless you absolutely demand real wood, these windows will satisfy your sense of style and your sense of value. One more thing to consider when comparing vinyl windows vs. fiberglass windows: fiberglass is used to build things like boats and ladders — vinyl is used in records and Halloween costumes.

Beware of Fiberglass Imitators

As the advantages of fiberglass windows are becoming well-known, imitators are starting to appear. Some products, like Fibrex, have names that imply fiberglass but are actually a blend of wood pulp and vinyl — no actual fiberglass involved.

Wood Windows

Marvin wood windows
Price: $1500 — to NO LIMIT, per window (including materials and labor)

How long do they last? Once again, the wood windows we sell have a REAL 20-year warranty, but last much longer than that.

If you know your style calls for the authentic look of real wood, these windows are what you need. While fiberglass may be the most sensible choice, wood windows come with the aesthetic bells and whistles that can’t be beaten.

Here’s what makes wood windows unique:

  • The Marvin wood windows we sell boast a massive variety of wood species and color, stain, and finish choices. Some of the most exotic wood species include mahogany or black walnut.
  • Wood windows come in designs like radius-top, which fiberglass or vinyl can’t match.
  • Wood windows are as strong and crack-resistant as fiberglass windows.
  • Well-built wood windows also minimize the risk of fogging.
  • Marvin Windows has a custom department where they build true, one-of-a-kind wood windows as specified by you.
  • Wood windows can enhance a strikingly modern style or create a historic and rustic inspired décor, right out of the 1800s.

Wood windows create a fantastic style — no question about it. Being 100% honest once again, though: we still think the budget-friendly price of fiberglass windows makes them the best bet.

New Window Installers in South Central PA

If you’re ready to start the conversation about the windows you need, Eby Exteriors is the team to provide you design expertise and honest conversation about your options. We have decades of experience installing windows throughout Lancaster County and beyond.

In addition, we now offer financing to make it easier for homeowners to get the best products they really want.

Contact us to start a conversation and get a quote!

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