Tom Shafer

Deciding on wood windows is just the beginning

December 15, 2011

Purchasing new windows requires plenty of decisions, not least of which is the type of material. So what's it going to be? Wood, vinyl, aluminum or fiberglass? Definitely wood?

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The design of your home, or your taste, might dictate your windows must be wood, but your options don't end there. Here are some other choices:

  1. Wood windows can come prefinished or unpainted.
  2. They can be made partially from composite materials.
  3. Exteriors can be clad in either aluminum or vinyl.

For renovations requiring historical accuracy, however, there are wood windows that are available as they were almost 100 years ago–unfinished, requiring paint or stain. A company called Dynamic Windows goes so far as to make wood replacement windows with weight and pulley balances, handles for sash lifts, and cam locks.

If you decide to go with wood, selections are not limited to species such as pine or hemlock. Parrett Windows offers 15 non-traditional wood species including the following:

  • cypress
  • cherry
  • maple
  • alder

Exotic woods can be special ordered. Another option is split species, with one type of wood outside and another inside; for example, an exterior of Honduras mahogany and a wormy cherry interior. Many of these windows can be purchased prefinished, and the finish (as well as the price) can be indistinguishable from that of fine furniture.

More affordable wood windows are made using pine. They can either be stained or painted. Peachtree offers several other species, in addition to pine. Pre-finishes come in several stain colors.

Easy-maintenance options for wood windows

Ply-Gem's Series 4000 double hung is considered a wood window because of the wood frame, but the sash is cellular PVC. Many wood window manufacturers offer cellular-PVC, non-rotting material for their exterior trim.

Likewise, aluminum or vinyl cladding, which can be applied to the exterior without altering the interior wood, requires no painting and doesn't rot.

Aluminum cladding is either roll-formed or extruded. Roll-formed aluminum is thinner; therefore, it's more likely to dent and scratch. Extruded aluminum, on the other hand, resists denting because it's as thick as sections used in aluminum-frame windows.

Neither type of aluminum cladding requires painting but is available prefinished from the factory. Roll-formed cladding is painted prior to forming, while extruded aluminum cladding is painted before final fabrication. Both are offered in several colors.

Vinyl cladding consists of a thin section of vinyl, shaped to conform to the wood section it covers. While it doesn't require paint, only light colors are offered such as white and almond. Another drawback to vinyl cladding is that like roll-formed aluminum cladding, it can show dents.

Wood windows clearly have a lot to offer, from low-maintenance options like cladding to high-end woods and finishes to please even the most discerning homeowner. Even with stiff competition from other options, wood still holds its own and is the favorite in the higher-priced and custom-home markets. So, what's it going to be?

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.


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