Window frames? What’s the difference? Most homeowners don’t know much about windows in general, never mind the differences between frame material types.
Let's be totally honest: there’s a big time knowledge gap between you as a homeowner and the contractors and salespeople trying to get you to buy their windows.
HireHaven is built on transparency and empowering homeowners to make an informed buying decision. We’ll help you answer two fundamental questions:
- How do you decide what window frame type is right for your home?
- What should you look for or ask about to make sure you’re buying a high quality product?
Best Window Frame Materials
Let’s focus on which of the three common window frame types:
When does it make sense to buy vinyl windows?
Vinyl windows are among the most widely installed frames for their durability and convenience. They don’t require painting to maintain appearance after they’re installed and are great at withstanding moisture and the elements. Homeowners who want value without compromise on energy efficient windows should look no further than vinyl. They’re made from one of the most used polymers in the world called Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and have ultraviolet light (UV) stabilizers to preserve structural integrity.
Here are some ‘must haves’ good quality vinyl windows will have:
Welded components – Vinyl window frames have corners and sashes that are either welded or they’re fastened or caulked. Welding a vinyl window frame involves heating the components together and allowing them to fuse together as they cool. This offers a sturdier frame and superior insulation. Cheaper made vinyl windows are fastened or hammered together with a screw or nails – this is usually what you see in the big box home improvement store. All of our vinyl windows have welded corners and sashes for better durability and performance.
Multi-chamber frame – Premium vinyl windows have frames with four or more chambers that offer superior energy efficiency through better insulation. Thick, multi-chambered frames have superior structural integrity and will reduce the amount of expansion and contraction that naturally occurs through the seasons. Remember this rule of thumb: quality windows have more chambers. So be sure to count or ask the number of chambers.
Think thickness – A premium vinyl window will have thick vinyl and jambs that make for a more rigid frame. This will ensure durability and insulation without reducing glass space significantly. For jamb thickness, the rule of thumb to keep in mind is that premium grade vinyl windows have a 3¼ inch jamb which is 33% thicker than building grade jambs. Be sure to ask your installer the thickness of the jamb!
Pro tips on vinyl windows:
- Vinyl windows are among the best value windows. Standard configurations are generally less expensive than wood and fiberglass.
- High-quality vinyl are low maintenance. They’re resistant to dings, dents and aging spots and there’s little to no painting needed to maintain them.
- They don’t corrode or rot and have a long useful life.
When does it make sense to buy wood windows?
Wood windows have an elegant and traditional look and offer excellent insulation when you include low-e insulating glass — as all of our wood windows have. Wood windows can add value to your home but may require maintenance or re-touching over time. They are typically at a higher price point. Bottom line is, if your priority is to preserve your home’s character or add to potential re-sale value, an energy efficient wood window frame is the way to go.
Here are some ‘must haves’ good quality wood windows will have:
Exterior cladding – The exterior of the wood frame must have cladding to increase durability and provide a long-lasting protection that is virtually maintenance free. Two of the most widely known and respected wood window manufacturers are Andersen and Pella and both include an exterior cladding. The Andersen 400 Series wood windows feature a vinyl cladding and the Pella Architect wood windows have aluminum cladding.
Manufacturer matters – While generally a good practice, it’s particularly important that you choose wood windows from a reputable brand manufacturer that has a long history of making wood windows and stands behind their products. How can you tell? Look for outstanding, fully transferable warranty coverage, and great customer support.
Pro tips on wood windows:
- A major pro of wood window frames is a classic, unmistakable look. The curb appeal factor can be huge – especially for older homes.
- From both inside and outside, wood windows will look quite nice and can add value to the resale value of your home.
- There are many color and staining options; particularly impressive are the options for Pella Architect windows which have over 20 exterior color options.
- Wood windows aren’t generally as susceptible to expansion and contraction that other window types may be during seasonal temperature changes.
- Wood frames are environmentally friendly since they can be composted or recycled when the paint is removed.
When does it make sense to buy composite windows?
Composite windows combine some of the best aspects of wood and vinyl windows. They’re fiberglass which is composed of glass fibers and resins — look for multiple layers but more on that below. They offer the strength of wood windows and the energy efficiency and lower maintenance of vinyl windows. Fiberglass composite is among the most durable materials and is available in a wide range of colors, and styles. They’re for homeowners who want the look of a painted wood window without the long-term maintenance or cost of wood windows.
Here are some ‘must haves’ good quality composite windows will have:
Multi-layer fiberglass – The strength of the best fiberglass composite frames comes via a layered material that includes a structural core and multiple layers of glass fibers, mat, and resin.
Block and tackle balance – Higher quality fiberglass composite windows will have a rigid steel block and tackle balance system to ensure proper opening and closing function for the life of the window.
Pro tips on composite windows:
- Composite windows are resistant to temperature extremes and moisture helping them have longer lifespans.
- Composite windows require no or minimal exterior maintenance such as paint touch ups or dents.
- One thing to keep in mind is that although they’re similar in appearance, some consider composite fiberglass frames to have a fundamentally different feel and look than completely wood windows.
While it depends greatly your needs and wants, generally speaking, wood windows are an elegant option that usually has a premium price. Vinyl and composite fiberglass windows are great options for the budget-conscience shopper who demands durability and quality for their home. The cost ranges overlap for each of these material options. The licensed experts at HireHaven can help you understand your options and the associated costs.
Armed with these details and attributes of each material type, and what to look for, you’re ready to have a more informed renovation process. If you have any questions about what window frame is right for you, call our experts at 888.392.4236 or visit HireHaven.com today.