If you’re shopping for new or replacement windows for your home or business, you’ve no doubt realized there are several common frame options available. Of course, it’s ultimately up to you to determine which product is the best for your needs and budget, but this overview of the different types of window frame materials can make your decision easier.
Wood window frames are a traditional option that have been around for decades. They’re a popular choice with homeowners and builders because of their warm, natural beauty.
Pros: Good insulator; energy-efficient; strong; can be painted to match the home’s décor or stained to show wood grain
Cons: Susceptible to moisture damage like rotting or warping; expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity; can need regular maintenance with sanding, painting and touchups for best appearance and protection from the elements;
Cost: More expensive than fiberglass or vinyl, especially for windows that are unusually-shaped or not a standard size
Shopper’s Guide: Look for wood window frames that are blemish-free, easy to operate, and have tight corners
Clad wood windows have aluminum or fiberglass on the outside and wood on the inside. This means you can have an exterior that’s maintenance-free with a natural wood look inside. The interior part of the frame can be painted or stained. Clad-wood windows are generally more expensive than solid wood frames.
Vinyl window frames have been around since the ‘70s. They’re made mainly from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and many people like them because they’re affordable and low-maintenance.
Pros: Energy efficient; built with air cavities inside that can be filled with insulation; UV resistant; don’t need painting or scraping; durable; won’t corrode or rot; available in many sizes and shapes
Cons: Limited color options; can’t be painted; made with a composite of materials, so quality can vary from one manufacturer to another;
Cost: Least expensive window material choice
Shopper’s Guide: Make sure the frame has a uniform color, and that the joints are heat-welded instead of joined by screws or fasteners
Fiberglass and composite are newer window frame options. They’re made mainly from glass fibers and resin which are combined in a process called pultrusion. It’s similar to what car bumpers are made of.
Pros: Extremely strong, so it can hold large panes of glass; can be painted; better energy-efficiency than vinyl; low maintenance; moisture resistant; many design options; can be filled with insulation; don’t expand and contract with heat and humidity, so they resist warping and leaking; more durable than wood and vinyl
Cons: Labor intensive production process means it can take a while to produce the windows
Cost: Most expensive window frame material
Shopper’s Guide: Look for windows with color distributed evenly throughout the fame, and that have heat-welded joints
Aluminum window frames are another option that’s been around for a while. They’re a budget-friendly option that provides strength but needs little maintenance.
Pros: Durable; strong; light; low maintenance;
Cons: Conduct heat and cold more than other materials so they have a high U-value, which indicates a high rate of heat loss; can be corroded by salt water and salt in the air
Cost: Generally less expensive than other types of window frames
Shopper’s Guide: To help improve energy efficiency and reduce the flow of heat through the frame, look for ones with a thermal break, which is an insulating strip of plastic or rubber between the inside and outside of both the sash and the frame.
When shopping for new or replacement windows, don’t just consider the type of material the frames are made from. To ensure you’re getting a high-quality product, look at the hardware, such as the lifts, cranks and locks. Make sure they feel solid and comfortable to use, and that the windows open and close smoothly and easily.
Precision Windows & Doors carries a full line of wood, vinyl, aluminum and composite windows. Contact us today for a free estimate.