Whether you’re selecting windows for a new building project or looking for the best material for windows as part of your home’s remodeling, new types of window frame materials mean you have more choices than ever before.
Of course, when considering what window frames are made of, you’re really comparing three overall types: wood, vinyl and aluminum. Each material has its own unique advantages. That’s why, before making any choices, you’ll want to compare factors such as differences in installation, energy efficiency and maintenance.
Let’s look at each window frame material to see which fits your taste, requirements and lifestyle.
Wood Window Frames
For those who love the look and feel of wood, there’s really no other material that can match it. Wood framed windows are still one of the top choices for discerning homeowners who enjoy the natural style they bring to a house. In addition to looking nice, wood windows offer fairly good insulation and energy efficiency when installed professionally. Their biggest drawback is that, like anything made of wood, they require routine maintenance. To keep their beauty, therefore, wood windows need staining or painting at regular intervals.
One interesting recent development is that certain manufacturers have begun making wood windows with an exterior vinyl cladding. This process adds to the cost of the windows, but it also protects their exterior from the elements while allowing the natural look of wood to be seen from the inside of the home.
Vinyl Frame Windows
As one of the most affordable choices for window frame materials, vinyl is both highly popular and — due to its structure — extremely energy-efficient. In fact, vinyl windows receive a high ENERGY STAR® rating thanks to their ability to trap pockets of insulating air. This is important, since reducing your costs to both heat and cool your home is an ongoing savings throughout the lifetime of the windows. Plus, when it comes to care and upkeep, quality vinyl windows require very little maintenance.
Vinyl-framed windows also come in so many styles and varieties that many remodeling projects find their perfect match with the choice of vinyl. And if you’re interested in selling your house, it’s interesting to note that Remodeling Magazine reports that, on average, vinyl windows recoup more than 70 percent of their original value!
Aluminum Frame Windows
Aluminum-framed windows are also a lower-cost option. But since their frames are made of metal, they have both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, aluminum windows are highly durable and need little maintenance so long as they’re not heavily scratched up or dented. However, since metal conducts heat, they offer very little insulation when compared with other window frame materials.
For this reason, aluminum-framed windows are really more suitable for warmer climates. And if you do choose to go with aluminum, make sure they’re manufactured with what’s known as a “thermal break.” This is typically a piece of heat-resistant material like rubber or plastic that separates the exterior and interior sides of the frame and stops the heat from being transmitted.