5 replacement windows that save time, money

July 15, 2011

Traditional wood windows are ideal for preserving the architectural value of an historical home. But if you're among the majority of homeowners, why spend a fortune on wood windows to find yourself--or an expensive contractor--repainting them every few years?

5 low-maintenance replacement windows

Wood windows have a proven tendency to warp, decay, and eventually rot, if they're not routinely cleaned and painted. These cost-effective window replacement materials will spare you both the cost and headache:

  1. Vinyl: The most-popular choice among homeowners. Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl is lightweight, resists energy loss, and cleans easily with household soap and water. Vinyl windows won't chip, rust, warp, peel or rot. Top makers include Simonton, Silver Line. Alside, Milgard and Atrium.

  2. Cellular PVC: More energy-efficient and lighter than vinyl, cellular PVC can be painted to look like wood. Cleans with soap and water. Does not rot, chip or blister. Manufacturers include Milgard, Windsor, Lincoln and Okna.

  3. Composites: Possess thermal properties similar to wood, but are extremely durable. Cost more than vinyl and cellular PVC. Lightweight, made of wood products mixed with vinyl and epoxy. Can be painted like wood, and coated with durable, low-maintenance, vinyl or aluminum. Washes in a snap. Resists moisture, rot, buckling and chipping. Top manufacturers: MI Windows, Ply Gem, Weather Shield, CW Ohio and Milgard

  4. Aluminum: Least favorable in terms of energy efficiency. Resistant to cracks, rot, rust, and splitting, Can be painted. Hardly any maintenance required. Top manufacturers include PGT, Crystal, CGI, Traco, Atrium and Showcase.

  5. Fiberglass: Powerful resistance to weathering, hence a frequent choice for marine windows. Windows won't fade, warp, rust, dent or bow. Virtually maintenance-free. Top manufacturers: Marvin, Milgard, Pella, Fibertec and Thermotech

Highest-rated, low-maintenance replacement windows

Consumer Report's highest rating for low-maintenance windows went to Andersen 400 Series Tilt Wash. At a cost of $350 per window, this top-shelf window fared well for durability.

Consumer Reports also gave top marks to these brands:

  • Pella Impervia: $350
  • Pella Proline: $215
  • Andersen 200 Series Tilt Wash: $220

When you're looking for durable replacement windows that require light maintenance, choose vinyl, cellular PVC, fiberglass, composites or aluminum. Wood windows frequently chip, flake or rot, and require regular painting.

You should always balance price, ease of maintenance and durability, when evaluating window replacement costs. There are plenty of choices to fit any budget, and ultimately, to eliminate the cost of exterior window paint!

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