The Homeowner's Complete Guide to Window Materials
We demand a lot from our home’s windows. They not only usher in fresh air and natural light but also help keep out the wet and cold. And we expect them to function well for decades. For centuries, windows were only made from wood. Today, consumers have many options to choose from, including aluminum, fiberglass, and vinyl.
Here’s a look at the differences between these four materials, along with the pros and cons of how they perform.
Wood is a traditional material choice for windows. Attractive and durable, they offer excellent insulation. But they also require regular maintenance to keep them looking and performing their best.
Disadvantages to wood windows include:
- Paint and stain touchups and weather barrier coatings are often needed to protect wood from warping and rotting due to natural elements exposure.
- They’re also not the best choice for homes located near a coastline, as the salt air can cause pitting and staining.
- Termites love wood windows, which makes it doubly important to keep up on maintenance.
Wood windows are also the most expensive option, but they don’t rust and can last a lifetime — as long as you’re willing and able to maintain them.
When they hear “aluminum windows,” most people think back to the cheap, flimsy models of the 1960s to 1980s. Today’s aluminum windows are a lot stronger and can last a long time if properly maintained. They’re less expensive than wood but cost more compared to vinyl.
One of the top-selling points of aluminum windows is their low maintenance. A major downside is they’re not as energy-efficient as other windows, as aluminum conducts heat more than any other building material. That can be a problem if you live in an area that experiences freezing temperatures in the winter.
While aluminum isn’t prone to warping, it can eventually corrode, especially if installed in coastal area homes. Corrosion-resistant paint can lessen the risk of decay.
Lighter and stiffer than wood and as low-maintenance as vinyl, fiberglass replacement windows are unaffected by temperature fluctuations. They’re available in custom sizes, have durable UV-blocking coatings, and a wide color selection. Built to last, they come with similar options and offer similar energy efficiency ratings as most vinyl windows. However, fiberglass windows do typically carry a higher price tag than vinyl models. But if you don’t mind spending a bit more, fiberglass windows are a great choice.
When you’re looking for attractive, durable, and low-maintenance replacement windows, you don’t need to search further than vinyl. Made from an incredibly strong plastic material called PVC, vinyl doesn’t rust, corrode, or separate.
Advantages of vinyl windows include:
- They come in an abundance of sizes, styles, and exterior colors and can be manufactured to mimic a classic wood look.
- Vinyl frame corners and sashes are airtight, which keeps your utility bills low and your home comfortable all year long.
- They’re practically maintenance-free. You don’t need to touch them up with paint or stain, and you can easily clean them with just a little soap and water.
Vinyl windows also deliver the biggest bang for your buck. Properly installed, they’re designed to last and offer excellent energy efficiency, particularly if you choose our double-pane windows with high-performance low-E coatings.
Which Window Material Is Best for Your Home?
When choosing a replacement window material, it helps to make a list of which features matter most to you, always keeping in mind the level of upkeep and maintenance you’ll need to do.
All Zen Windows locations offer vinyl windows, and some offer fiberglass windows as well. We offer these materials because we believe they offer the best balance of form and function. We'd be happy to tell you more about these durable, efficient materials; contact your closest location to find out more! Our team is ready to answer any questions you might have about window materials and options.