Replacement Windows - Top Materials for Window Frames
Vinyl, Fiberglass, Aluminum & Wood
You might need replacement windows for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your existing window frames are past their sell-by date and letting in cold breezes. Or perhaps you've just moved into a new house and you hate the way the windows look. Whatever your reasons, there are plenty of choices for your replacement windows. The glass itself is usually less of a problem than what surrounds it, so this page concentrates on the window frames.
Vinyl Replacement Windows
Vinyl windows are the best option if saving money is the priority. They tend to be cheaper than other materials, and they do last a long time. Vinyl is a good insulator and not prone to cracking. It's also great if you live in a coastal area, as it resists damage from salt spray. However, many people dislike the appearance of vinyl window frames.
Fiberglass replacement windows
Fiberglass has the advantage when it comes to energy efficiency - something to think about if you're spending a lot on heating or air conditioning. Whatever the weather, fiberglass windows can handle it. But the biggest advantage of fiberglass is that it's so low-maintenance. It won't crack or suffer damage from mold.
The main disadvantages of fiberglass are that it is one of the more expensive options and that it doesn't look as good as wood. However, the longevity and durability of fiberglass makes it a better-value option in the long term. If you hate the plastic-y look of fiberglass, it's possible to buy fiberglass frames with a wood veneer, usually a hardwood such as oak or cherry. Alternatively, fiberglass comes in a variety of colors, so you might find a shade that appeals to you.
Metal is the strongest window frame material. Aluminum frames are also very good at resisting deterioration - aluminum won't crack, shrink or swell, and it isn't damaged by mold. However, the disadvantage of aluminum is that it is a poor insulator, so it won't do a very good job of keeping the heat or cold out of your home. This may lead to condensation problems. However, condensation will not damage the aluminum. Another disadvantage is that many people dislike the look of an aluminum window frame.
Wood replacement windows
Wood wins out on looks. It's hard to beat the appearance of a wooden window frame, especially if you're aiming for a natural or old-fashioned appearance for your home. Wood is also a good insulator, and there won't be condensation problems. However, wood tends to shrink and swell according to its moisture levels. This may cause you problems, especially if you live in an area where the humidity varies a lot. Proper protection for your wood window frames will cut down on shrinking and swelling.
As you can see, all the different materials for replacement window frames have their own advantages and disadvantages. However, by choosing a window with a combination of materials, you get the best of both worlds. For example, as mentioned above, a fiberglass frame with wood veneer is good-looking and durable. So is a wood frame with a vinyl coating. It's also possible to buy aluminum frames that have been treated to make them better insulators. When you're choosing your replacement windows, don't be afraid to choose treated materials or combination options. Use whatever choices are available to make the best window for your needs.