When building a new home or replacing windows in your existing home, there are several types and styles of windows to choose from. In addition to deciding on the style of window you want – sliding, casement, hinged, picture, etc. – you will need to determine what frame material will be the best fit for your install.
When selecting a frame material there are several factors to consider, including maintenance, durability, insulation properties, and finish.
Choosing the Right Window Frame Material
The oldest and most traditional material for windows is wood. Wood windows provide natural beauty and a classic style that other materials cannot match. Various wood species are available depending on the look you want to achieve and wood windows can be painted or stained just about any color. This provides a lot of flexibility from a design perspective. Wood windows do not conduct as much cold or heat compared to other frame materials making them a good choice in terms of insulation. However, wood windows are also susceptible to expansion and contraction depending on weather conditions, which can cause problems with the window seal.
The big disadvantage of wood framed windows is maintenance. While hardwood windows are more durable that softwoods, all wood framed windows will require more maintenance than other frame materials. Frequent touch ups of paint or finishes are required and complete refinishing – sanding and applying new paint or other finish – will be required periodically. To help combat this issue, some window manufacturers are producing windows that are vinyl or aluminum on the exterior, but wood on the inside. This process adds exterior durability while still providing the natural wood beauty on the interior.
Vinyl windows provide many benefits over traditional wood windows. Perhaps the biggest advantage is vinyl windows require little to no maintenance. Vinyl windows resist fading and corrosion, which means no painting or refinishing required. Vinyl windows come in a variety of colors and finishes, including wood-grain looks. They offer heat and sound insulation and are very energy efficient. Vinyl windows are also much more affordable than wood. However, quality of vinyl windows can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer so it is important to do some research when choosing a brand of vinyl windows. Vinyl window durability can also vary depending on climate conditions in your region.
Some of the big disadvantages of vinyl windows are that there are color limitations, a shiny finish, and often have a heavy (clunky) appearance. There can also be grid limitations. These restrictions may create a setback when designing your home.
Aluminum windows offer many of the same benefits of vinyl windows. They are durable and low maintenance, are available in a variety of colors and finishes, and are more affordable than wood windows. Aluminum windows are lightweight, thin, and able to provide a great amount strength with less material. This not only allows for more glass and less frame, but also means aluminum windows are the ideal choice for supporting a large piece of glass. Aluminum windows, by themselves, are less energy efficient due to the fact that aluminum conducts heat and cold more than vinyl or wood. However, most manufacturers address this issue by offering a thermal break. A thermal break is generally a piece of plastic or a rubber struck that is placed in between the inside and the outside of the frame. This stops the heat and cold from passing from the exterior of the window to the interior of the window and vice versa. Due to their conducive properties, aluminum windows are better for warmer climates.
As stated above, one of the biggest disadvantages of aluminum windows is that they can be thermally-inefficient. You often do not have the same insulated value in comparison with wood windows. There are also color limitations with the aluminum product, as well as the vinyl.
If you are building a new home or replacing your current windows, AFT Construction has the knowledge and manufacturer relationships to assist you in choosing the right windows for your project.