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Windows – Materials: Vinyl vs wood

Category: Tips, Windows

In this second part on our window series we will define the different materials used in the construction of the window sash and frame.

  1. Wood — The first material in windows and doors, wood windows produce higher R-values, are unaffected by temperature extremes, and are less prone to condensation. Many wood windows feature aluminum or vinyl cladding on the exterior, which reduces external maintenance. Manufacturers like Andersen even offer the exterior cladding in a variety of colors.
  2. Vinyl — One of the most popular materials, vinyl windows are durable, generally lower cost, and energy efficient. While they are typically available in a wide variety of light colors, one drawback is they cannot reliably be painted another color if the home’s exterior changes, because paint doesn’t adhere well to the vinyl. Another consideration is climate. In areas of extreme heat, vinyl windows may get soft or sag, compromising the seal between the glass and the frame. Repeated exposure to extremes of heat and cold may cause the windows to become less energy efficient. When selecting vinyl windows use windows that have fusion-welded corners and use extruded premium vinyl. The fusion-welded corners are more weathertight and hold up better over time compared to chemically welded corners or mitered screw together corners. Also windows manufactured with a premium vinyl extrusion will be less brittle and a truer white than low quality vinyl, whereas a lower quality vinyl often has a blue or gray cast.
  3. Fiberglass — A relative newcomer to the window industry, fiberglass windows are some of the most energy efficient windows, because they do not warp, shrink, swell, rot or corrode in varied climates. Because of their thermal stability, they are excellent for holding large expanses of glass. Fiberglass windows are typically more expensive than aluminum or vinyl.
  4. Aluminum — Aluminum windows are less energy efficient than windows made of other materials. Aluminum windows may experience conductive heat loss and condensation around the frame. If your home is equipped with aluminum windows, you may feel more heat or cold when you are near your windows. Another drawback is that while they can be painted to accommodate a color change to a home’s exterior, the paint job may not be as natural looking as paint on wood or fiberglass.

    In our next article we will discuss the different glass (glazing) options available and their effect on efficiency.

~the Brennans

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