Vinyl Windows: Weighing The Pros and Cons

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Now that spring is here, you want to throw open the windows and let all that warm, fresh air in. But the window in the kitchen sticks, the one in the master bedroom won’t stay up and the window in the living room won’t even budge. It might be time for replacement windows.

Vinyl windows are often one of the first types homeowners consider, thanks to the ease of use, low maintenance and agreeable prices. But there are those who swear vinyl windows are a bad idea. Weigh the pros and cons yourself before you make that important decision on where to put your hard-earned money.

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The argument for vinyl windows

There are a few good reasons why vinyl windows are all the rage. Here are a handful to ponder:

  1. Low maintenance. Want to just install and forget? That’s what vinyl allows you to do. These low-maintenance windows need a simple inspection and routine cleaning about once a year, and that’s it. You don’t even have to paint them.
  2. No finishing required. When wood windows are installed, that’s just the start — there is also plenty of trim work that has to be done, and that can be time-consuming. Vinyl windows have all of that trim work built in, so they are installed in one easy unit. This lack of finishing means that your installation is faster and cheaper. It can also mean that the windows are sealed better and can offer higher savings in utility bills.
  3. The price is nice. No matter what type of window you choose, window replacement cost is not cheap. But vinyl can be the most affordable of all, considering that there is no required trim work, installation is relatively easy and the material itself is more affordable than most.

Why you might give vinyl windows  a pass

Just as there are reasons to jump at the chance to own vinyl windows, there are a few reasons that can give you pause.

  1. Environmental concerns. Vinyl windows are made of poly vinyl chloride. This substance is found in many things around the house, including door frames and pipes. But the manufacture of it concerns many people, and some suggest that PVC is bad for your health over time, as it breaks down into chemicals that aren’t considered safe. Before you buy, do research into the PVC issue to determine whether you are okay with having these windows in your home.
  2. Painting is an issue. The low-maintenance, no-paint nature of vinyl windows can be a negative. If you decide that you don’t like the color and want to paint it in a few years, it’s not the easiest thing to do. While there are paint products on the market that reportedly work just fine on vinyl, the color options are rather limited and the work is more difficult than painting over wood.
  3. Not restoration-friendly. In the end, vinyl looks like plastic. Even if it comes close to mimicking the “real thing” of wood, over time the differences are clear. If you have an older home and you intend to restore it to an original appearance, vinyl windows might not be the best choice.

If you’re not sure about vinyl windows, now is the time to do your research. The more you know about your window options, the better choice you will make when it’s time to put your money on the line.


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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.