While our long, hot summers have some homeowners wondering if vinyl windows are a smart choice for Arizona homes, they’re one of the most popular choices that we install at DunRite Windows & Doors – a Rosie-Certified Partner.
With durability that can last 25-30+ years in the Valley and even longer in cooler Northern Arizona climes, a growing selection of color choices and innovations that make it one of the most energy efficient materials available, vinyl windows offer a substantial amount of bang for the buck.
However, good performance relies on the quality of the product being installed. So how can you tell if you’re choosing the right product that will last? Are there any drawbacks to vinyl, compared to other types of material? Can you paint them? Do they come in black?
Let’s tackle some of the most common questions we are asked.
How long do vinyl windows last?
One simple indicator of quality in a vinyl window is the rigidity of the frame. Does it have some heft to it, or is it light? Look for a window of substance that isn’t lightweight, or so thin that it can be flexed. You want something thick enough to withstand decades of sun without warping or sagging over time.
Price is an indicator of quality, too, along with warranty coverage. A bargain basement price can signify lower quality vinyl or too high of a ratio of virgin to recycled vinyl–which costs less, but is weaker and less durable, so risky in our climate–and a short warranty coverage period can indicate manufacturer’s lack of faith in the product. After all, they won’t provide a ten year warranty on something they know only lasts eight years, so look for robust coverage.
“When shopping for new windows, it’s important to realize that the product warranty is provided by the manufacturer, which differs from the installation warranty provided by the installer. Be sure to clarify so there are no misunderstandings.” says DunRite Windows & Doors Owner Sal Sucato. “Also ask if labor is included or excluded from warranty coverage.”
Other than warranty coverage, there are a few other signs that the vinyl may not be high quality. To uncover the information, you can ask questions about longevity of the product in your specific climate, and compare the information to several different product lines to get an idea of what lifetime to expect.
You can also ask which product(s) the salesperson prefers, and if certain ones are more prone to warranty claims. If that windows and doors company sells multiple brands, they’re likely to be forthcoming with information since they have more experience and information than those who sell product from a single manufacturer.
The ideal way to judge quality is to see a cutaway section of the window frame, or even hold window product in your own hands to judge the quality yourself, but most salespersons don’t bring product along for the ride when they visit a home. However, you can ask to see a cut-away photo of the product or visit the manufacturer’s website before making a product decision.
“Don’t assume quality because it’s made by a certain manufacturer. Each product line is different, and priced accordingly. It’s helpful to know that each window manufacturer has their own proprietary vinyl compound, too,” adds Sucato. “These vary widely, and some are more suited to Arizona climates than others, so ask about vinyl additives and compounds. They determine how well the product performs, and how many years the window will last before needing replacement.”
Listen to Sal on Rosie’s podcast!
Can you paint vinyl windows?
One common misperception by homeowners is that the color of the window frame isn’t too important, since they can always paint it later, but it’s important to note that vinyl windows (and doors) cannot be painted. Color is infused throughout the vinyl, and the surface isn’t likely to hold onto paint for long, even when using primer. It flakes, peels and bubbles.
The only exclusion to the “never paint vinyl” rule of thumb is when painting is done by the manufacturer when assembling the product. It’s done before the glass and hardware is assembled. Also, they use their own formula of paint that includes specialty heat additives, which prevent it from peeling in hot weather conditions. For example, if you purchase a vinyl window that is white on the interior and black on the exterior, it’s likely to be painted since black vinyl is currently unavailable, but includes some sort of warranty on the finish.
It’s worth noting that painting can void the homeowner’s warranty, due to chemicals in the paint and/or primer that soften vinyl and reducing its structural integrity, or because it blocks drainage holes in the frame that prevent water damage. Paint can also prevent the window from easily opening or closing, or lock up hardware.
For all of these reasons and more, it’s important to choose a color you’ll be happy with long term, even if the exterior paint or roof color on the home changes.
Quality, warranty and color are important areas to consider.
Questions if vinyl windows are right for your home and budget? We’re happy to chat.