So, you’re in the market to purchase windows. Maybe you are building a new house, or finally getting around to renovating your family home. Why do window suppliers always emphasize what their product is made of? The majority of the window is Glass, right? So, what does it matter?
To answer the question, it matters A LOT!
Of course, the glass is important. You want it to perform. So after you select the glass package that best suits your climate’s needs, it’s time to secure that glass in a structure that will last the test of time.
Windows can be made out of many different materials. From traditional materials, such as wood, to low maintenance materials, such as vinyl, fiberglass, or even composites!
So where are the advantages? What is the benefit to selecting a different material type?
If you are seeking the warm elegance of a classic window, then a wood window will certainly deliver. They can be stained to match cabinetry or custom woodworking within the home; or painted to give a bright, rich feeling to a warm space. The strength and stability of the wood allow it to be milled or machined without sacrificing its durability. These milled edges where the frame meets the glass can provide a window that is rich in design or one that is clean with simplicity. With endless design options, wood windows require a higher level of maintenance than other materials.
There are plenty of "maintenance free" or "low – maintenance" windows on the market today, almost too many to navigate the decision process alone. Vinyl windows were introduced in the early 1980’s as the cost effective, low maintenance alternative to the wood windows. Vinyl windows typically offer a white vinyl option or a tan vinyl option. When you select the color, it would be both on the interior and exterior. This is because the vinyl is actually colored prior to being molded into its frame parts. With the expansion and contraction of vinyl through heating and cooling seasons, painting and offering a 2-tone window became a major challenge in the vinyl industry. However, with current technologies in the paint industry, there are many more vinyl manufacturers willing to offer a painted finish therefore offering more options to their customers.
Many customers don’t want the hassle of maintaining a wood window, but are not satisfied by the limitations of the vinyl window market. Today’s consumers are smarter and more educated than ever before. And in most cases, they know what they want! And in this gap of the market place, was born the fiberglass and composite windows!
But don’t be fooled by the propaganda. These two window materials were not created equally.
Fiberglass material is very stable and very strong. One manufacturer specifically, has been on the forefront of this technology since day one. Marvin Windows has introduced a fiberglass window through their Integrity brand, calling their pultruded fiberglass by the name Ultrex. This material is 8x stronger than vinyl and as strong as steel. Its strength and durability allow it to build windows with smaller frame details therefore saving your total glass area. Now even more of your window is glass. They have even gone another step further by developing a way to bond an acrylic capping to their product so you gain a smooth surface, unlike its competitors. Ultrex allows itself to be profiled much like a wood window, while keeping a low maintenance similar to the vinyl market. With its stability and low expansion and contraction rates, the glass is protected by arguably the best building material on the market.
But let’s not forget about the fiberglass look alike…… composite. A composite is a material made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties that, when combined, produce a material with characteristics different from the individual components.
Nowhere does it mention that the product is actually better than its original parts. And in most cases, it’s not! Most composites were engineered for manufacturing at a lower cost, not a more superior product. A product has been introduced to the market by the name of Fibrex. This is a composite material being manufactured using saw dust and vinyl shavings. Not sure why a company would chose a name that starts a lot like Fiberglass, or ends a lot like its direct competitor ultrEX.
So, just when you thought picking out windows would be the “easy“ part of the selection process. Now you know that it is far more complicated than a simple selection of color and operation. Make sure that the glass is going to perform correct to your climates. But make sure you get a strong, stable, high quality frame to hold that glass for the life of your home.