The Differences Between Fiberglass and Vinyl Windows—and Which Is Best for You

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated January 11, 2022
French bulldog looking out window
Margarita Mindebaeva / Shutterstock.com

Vinyl and fiberglass windows are both durable, energy efficient choices—but one might be the better choice for your home

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If you’re looking into buying or replacing windows, you might be faced with the difficult question: Do you choose fiberglass or vinyl? Never thought about it? No worries! We’ll break it down.

Either material is a suitable choice for windows because they stand up to wind and rain, while leaving you with easy maintenance. Vinyl windows, with a lower price point, are the most common choice, but fiberglass takes the trophy for eco-friendliness and durability. 

Here’s what you should consider before buying new windows.

Vinyl vs. Fiberglass: Appearance

From a distance, fiberglass and vinyl windows look pretty much the same, but there are some subtle differences to know. Fiberglass windows can be painted, so you can match your house’s trim or even your patio decor. Vinyl, on the other hand, can’t be painted—so choose your color carefully.

Vinyl windows are also thicker, while fiberglass has a slimmer profile. Vinyl is a weaker material, so these windows have two or three panes of glass in the frames to hold it all together safely.

Vinyl vs. Fiberglass: Cost

In general, fiberglass windows are more expensive than their vinyl counterparts, but can last 20 years longer. Expect to pay $500 to $1,500 for fiberglass, while vinyl windows cost $100 to $900.

Window installation cost is the same regardless of material choice. Expect to spend $100 to $300 each for labor. If you’re replacing older, leaky windows with newer, energy-efficient models, you can expect to save an average of 12% on your energy bill.

Vinyl vs. Fiberglass: Environmental Impact

Another benefit of fiberglass: it’s the more environmentally friendly option. While fiberglass is not easily recycled, it is often made from recycled glass. You can breathe easy knowing fiberglass is non-toxic and won’t off-gas in the home, and fiberglass windows can last up to 50 years. 

Vinyl, on the other hand, produces harmful chemicals when manufactured, but it can be recycled later. Vinyl windows should last about 30 years.

Vinyl vs. Fiberglass: Durability

Both vinyl and fiberglass windows are more durable than wood, which is vulnerable to rot, insects, moisture, and requires a lot of TLC.

Though both vinyl and fiberglass are durable options, fiberglass is super strong; it’s about 15% more energy efficient than vinyl.

Vinyl vs. Fiberglass: Noise Dampening

Ahh, neighbors. We love them, but might not love their music choices and frequent backyard gatherings. 

If you have noisy neighbors or live on a street you wish were quieter, you might want to spring for fiberglass windows. In general, they block noise better than vinyl.

Vinyl vs. Fiberglass: Maintenance Needs

Basic housekeeping is going to be easy with either vinyl or fiberglass windows. They can both be wiped down with a towel and a little dish soap to stay streak- and dirt-free. After that, there are tradeoffs.

Vinyl can expand and contract in heat. Over time, this will cause the seal to weaken, so it will need to be re-caulked. Make sure to check your windows for leaks regularly. 

Fiberglass windows stand up to extreme weather better, but might eventually peel and need to be painted. In the end, it’s all up to you.

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