What you need to know about window frames

July 13, 2011

When choosing the right framing material, the goal is to balance aesthetic appeal and energy-efficiency, in order to maximize the value of your home improvement investment.

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Aluminum: energy-efficiency for a tight budget

If mentioning aluminum windows conjures up images of 1970s shag carpet and lava lamps, take heart, the product has evolved. Compared with wood or some new composite models, aluminum windows might still score lower on the aesthetic appeal scale, but their looks have improved in recent years. If built and installed properly, aluminum windows are energy-efficient and the most economical window replacement option. While it might not make sense to put aluminum windows in a 100-year-old Craftsman home, there are definitely architectural applications, where aluminum makes sense.

Vinyl--It's not just for records and tight pants, anymore

Vinyl windows are also a big seller. They are manufactured in such a way that vinyl window frames contain dead air space, which increases their thermal insulation value. Vinyl frames work well for a clean, contemporary look, and like aluminum windows, they are relatively low maintenance. The biggest criticism of vinyl frames is that they cannot be painted; so choosing the color is a long-term commitment.

Fiberglass provides energy efficiency

At the high-end of the replacement windows cost spectrum are fiberglass window frames. They rank high on the efficiency scale; and because the main ingredient is glass, they expand and contract at similar rates to the windowpanes, which adds to the lifespan of unit. Fiberglass is also durable and takes paint well, so while routine maintenance is low, you always still have the option of changing the color.

Still hooked on wood window frames?

Wood frames are still the gold standard for windows. After all, they look good and conserve energy, when installed properly with well-insulated windowpanes, and they generally fall into a mid-level price point in terms of replacement windows cost.

The big drawback to wood frames is that they require routine maintenance and are subject to decay and warping over time. That's where composite window frames come in.

Composites combine the look of wood and the durability of a synthetic material by adding wood fiber to a PVC polymer. Composites are different than wood-clad windows and can be painted to match your home's color scheme. The biggest advantage is that they rarely require maintenance.

Regardless of your budget, with so many traditional and modern options now available for sale, choosing stylish window frames is as easy as search, compare, purchase and install.


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