Best Materials for Replacement Windows Frames
Are your windows showing signs of age? Are the frames bent, panes foggy, or they just won’t open properly? There are many reasons why you would need replacement windows. If you’re considering getting new windows, how do you know what types are best for your home? We’ve offered some comparisons to help you decide.
Window Frames Materials
There are basically 3 common materials used in premium window frames. These include vinyl, fiberglass, and wood. They each have their own characteristics, as well as pros and cons. We’ve summarized each type below, in no particular order of preference.
Vinyl Window Frames
Vinyl window frames are composed of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is used in numerous household items, construction, and plumbing products. There is pure virgin vinyl and recycled vinyl. The main difference between the two is durability and cost. The pure vinyl is stronger and lasts longer than recycled vinyl; however, it is also more expensive.
Although vinyl windows originated in 1959 as an alternative to wood window frames, they didn’t really become popular until the 1990s. Since then, the quality and durability of vinyl windows have greatly improved, making them a good choice for frames.
Pros of Vinyl
- Energy Efficient. This characteristic is valid if the windows are Energy Star Rated. This applies to windows manufactured with Low-E glass. Vinyl window frames are airtight so they won’t allow air to escape when closed and locked. This will go a long way in lowering your energy bills.
- Cost Effective. Vinyl is usually less expensive than other materials, like wood or fiberglass. However, there is still a wide variety of quality and prices associated with different types and brands.
- Easier Installation. Vinyl windows are lightweight and made for easy installation. That means the cost of having a contractor install them would be less.
- Low Maintenance. Vinyl is easy to clean with common household cleaners. Vinyl is more durable than other materials, so repair or replacement of window components is less likely.
Cons of Vinyl
- Environmental Impact. Vinyl is not made of natural products, so it is difficult to recycle. Manufacturers have tried to improve on this factor, but the cost can be more than manufacturing it from scratch.
- Variation in Quality. There are different levels of vinyl windows, so you need to be diligent in what brand and types you buy.
- Less Design Flexibility. Manufacturers have expanded the color and style choices for vinyl windows; however, you’re still limited. Vinyl cannot be painted, so if you want to change your color scheme a few years after installation, it may be difficult.
Fiberglass Window Frames
Fiberglass is a relatively new material being used in window frames. Fiberglass is made of glass and plastic fibers embedded in a resin material. It’s strong and durable, while also being lightweight.
Pros of Fiberglass
- Low Maintenance. Fiberglass window frames are resistant to fading, flaking, and peeling. The original color is infused into the material itself and is simple to wipe clean. Unless you want to paint it a different color, there is no need for repainting or touch-ups.
- Versatile. Some manufacturers offer the option of having real wood over the fiberglass for a warmer aesthetic. Fiberglass can be painted virtually any color.
- Energy Efficient. Fiberglass is a natural insulator. It adjusts well to both heat and cold, so it’s three times more energy-efficient than vinyl. Because it’s made of glass, it works with the window panes in making the seal extremely airtight because all components are expanding and contracting at once.
- Durable and long-lasting. Fiberglass window frames do not warp, shrink, swell, rot, or corrode. They do not soften and degrade under the thermal conditions that most windows are exposed to. It is ten times as strong as vinyl and extremely resistant to warping. Less fiberglass material is needed to achieve the strength of other materials, so window frames and sashes can be narrower and less bulky.
- Eco-friendly. Since it’s made out of glass, fiberglass frames are completely recyclable, lessening the environmental impact.
Cons of Fiberglass
- More Expensive. This is probably the most restrictive attribute to fiberglass window frames. They traditionally cost at least twice what other windows do that are made of other materials. So you’ll need to weigh the cost against the other advantages of fiberglass.
- Factory Colors Limited. Compared with wood, fiberglass is more difficult to customize into unique shapes and profiles and has fewer color and hardware options to choose from. But since fiberglass frames can be painted, you can still have the color you want.
Wood Window Frames
Window frames made from wood offer a classic look that many homeowners prefer. Wood is one of the most beautiful and aesthetic surfaces for windows, and that is why these windows are so popular.
Wood was the original material used for window frames in modern civilization. Wooden windows used to be bulky and heavy. They’d swell in the heat, rendering them difficult or impossible to open. Plus, they were drafty in the winter. Today, wooden window frames have improved considerably, so they offer the benefits of other materials, while still providing the beauty that they always had.
Pros of Wood
- Classic look. The appearance of real wood cannot be matched. Even though other materials can be made to replicate the look of wood, nothing beats the real thing. It provides a unique aesthetic, especially to more traditional homes.
- Customizable. Wood can be cut to any shape and dimensions imaginable. Wood frames can be painted, stained and eventually repainted whenever you wish.
- Insulated. Quality wooden window frames provide the best insulation of any other type of frame material. It also provides a great sound barrier.
- Green. No, we don’t mean the wood used in the frames is green. We mean wood is a natural material, and it’s totally recyclable.
Cons of Wood
- Higher initial cost. While the up-front cost of wood windows is higher than other materials, it will last a lifetime with proper care and upkeep. So you need to factor the longevity against the initial price, plus the extra costs of maintenance.
- Maintenance. Wood is a natural material, once a living, breathing organism. Just like other formerly living things, it will decompose if not maintained properly. It is also susceptible to rotting from too much moisture. You will need to be diligent in regularly painting and staining them, in order to extend the life of your wood windows.
- Susceptible to pests. Untreated and improperly maintained wood can attract pests, especially termites.
Which Window Is Right for You?
When you look at each type of window frame material and its advantages and disadvantages, you will need to decide what your priorities are.
- Do you want a classic look that stands the test of time? Are you willing to put the time and money into proper ongoing maintenance? Do you want window frames that you can customize? Then wood is probably your best choice.
- Maybe you want a less expensive alternative that requires little maintenance. You’re fine with standard color palettes and don’t change them often. But you do want to save on energy bills. Vinyl would be your best bet.
- Are you concerned about the environmental impacts of your home improvement? Do you want windows that will last for decades with little maintenance? Are you willing to make the investment for extra durability and longevity? Choose fiberglass.
If you’re still not sure what type of replacement windows you need and want, Banner Construction can help you decide. We only carry premium replacement windows made by Simonton (vinyl) and Pella (wood and fiberglass). No matter which material you choose, you can be confident that your replacement windows will be the best you can get.
Let an Expert Install Your Premium Replacement Windows
Banner Construction installs premium replacement windows and doors. We’ve been in business since 1993 beautifying homes in St. Louis and St. Charles counties and surrounding cities.
Besides choices in window frames, we also offer additional windows options including:
- Functional options such as picture, awning, double hung, slider, casement, geometric, garden, bow, and bay
- Exterior and interior colors and hardware finishes
- Energy efficient glass options and grid options that work with the architectural style of your home
We know choosing replacement windows is a big decision, one that will affect you and your home for years. We begin with a consult with you to determine your preferences and requirements. We’ll then draw up a detailed proposal and review it with you to clear up any questions or concerns you have.
Banner also installs doors, James Hardie Fiber Cement siding, and vinyl siding. We can also build you a beautiful deck for your enjoyment and entertaining. Contact us today for a free quote on your window replacement job!