Choosing the Right Window Type – Aluminum, Vinyl, Wood and Clad
With all the talk about green energy and rebates, a lot of people have looked to the possibility of replacing their old windows as a means of saving energy and improving their homes. Why would you do that? Well, there are some whose windows are little more than <1/16-inch pieces of low insulation glass between them and some pretty hot or cold weather. In Florida and other warmer climates, for example, codes were considerably lax in decades past, allowing for substandard windows to make their rounds in many cities. Now, with rising energy costs and a housing market that has many holding onto what they have, choosing the right window type is becoming an even more important means of home improvement. Plus, it tends to add curb appeal.
Choosing the Right Window Type
There are, more or less, five different types of window frame material out there to choose from and it’s important to understand the positives and negatives of each when you go when choosing the right window type for your home. This won’t be a complete breakdown of all the differences in windows, but we thought we’d start with one of the more overarching choices.
The window frame is an important aspect. Here are some things we think that all homeowners should know about the frame types before choosing the right window type for their home.
- Wood Windows
If your interest is in solid wood, you’re in luck. Wood is a superb, natural insulator against heat and cold. Wood windows do, however, require a certain level of maintenance, including painting and staining – a task that may eventually lead to scraping and re-painting or staining. Because wood windows are natural, they are going to have to withstand the rain, snow, heat and other elements that tend to cause swelling, contraction, and decay.
- Aluminum Windows
If you are looking for the cheapest option, you found it. Aluminum windows give you a strong and affordable solution that doesn’t require any maintenance. But remember, aluminum is metal, so it’s going to conduct heat and cold through from the outside into your home. This may not be a huge deal, but it’s a consideration. Aluminum windows are also, typically, less stylized than other forms of window and won’t tend to work as well for older homes that are attempting to retain that old world charm. Typically, if you plan on painting the window itself a specific color to match your home, you’ll want to go with aluminum over vinyl as it’s easier to paint and prime.
- Vinyl Windows
Vinyl windows are nearly as affordable as aluminum and share their maintenance-free characteristics.
It is possible for vinyl windows to fade and even sag over time, but we’ve found this to be less and less of an issue. The other nice thing about vinyl is that it comes in an array of colors right off the bat, including white, cream and brown – making it easier to purchase a paint-free solution to match your home. Whenever possible, we tend to go with vinyl over aluminum, simply because they conduct less heat and are generally easier to work with (you can trim flanges if needed with a razor knife, for example).
- Clad Windows
Clad windows are like the superstars of the window world. They are literally vinyl or sometimes aluminum laid overtop of a wood window – typically on the outside only. This type of window is the most expensive but it really combines the best of everything. You get a nice wood frame inside that can be painted or stained to match the desired look for your home’s interior, and you get the protection of vinyl or aluminum against the outside elements. Wood frame windows also help reduce the transfer of cold and heat from the outside into your home. Since it’s really like two windows in one, you can see why vinyl clad or aluminum clad windows cost more than almost any other type of window.
- Composite Windows
Composite windows are the new kid on the block, so to speak. Composite frames can actually provide superior resistance against air infiltration, in addition to thermal resistance (through the frame) comparable to wood. They are a stronger and more durable window replacement option than many others, but they still cost considerably more than either aluminum or vinyl. One of the added benefits is you get a solution that can have the look and feel of wood, but be completely protected against the elements.
If you’re going to hang onto your house for an extended period of time, you might want to investigate new windows and what it might cost you compared to the energy savings and just aesthetic improvements it can offer. If you can do the work yourself, you’ll find that even a custom-size vinyl window can be as inexpensive as $100 or less at your local home improvement warehouse. Choosing the right window type isn’t all that hard if you do the math and understand the differences of each style and form.
Let us know in our forums if you’ve replaced your windows and, if you’re a builder or remodeler, which style you tend to work with the most.