4 types of windows that will fit your budget

July 24, 2011

Windows are a major home investment, and too often homeowners underestimate the ongoing energy and maintenance costs associated with many materials. While windows require some financial planning, you should not have to take out a second mortgage to pay for them. Here are four popular low-maintenance window materials that won't break the bank.

4 window materials that pay off

  1. Vinyl windows. Vinyl is the most affordable window material available offering budget-friendly initial window installation costs and ongoing ease of maintenance. Vinyl also comes in a variety of colors, offering unmatched versatility. The trade-off: vinyl cannot be painted; it tends to expand and contract, and it isn't as strong as most other materials. Look to such brands as Survivor, CertainTeed and American Craftsman for quality.

  2. Aluminum windows. Aluminum is another popular low-maintenance, low-cost window material available in a broad range of colors. It is strong and durable, but its low thermal performance means higher-than-average heating bills can offset your savings over time.

  3. Fiberglass windows. Fiberglass is another low-maintenance option for homeowners on a budget. Fiberglass windows can be painted; they are also strong and offer a solid thermal performance. They cost more than aluminum and vinyl, but less than wood. Their efficiency can also provide energy savings, making this a strong choice for cost-savvy homeowners. Pella's Impervia series is a popular, reputable option.

  4. Composite windows. Composite is perhaps the newest material on the block. They are strong, low-maintenance and incredibly versatile. Ongoing maintenance and initial window installation costs are low and energy efficiency is high. Note, however, that as a fairly new product, only a limited number of manufacturers offer composite windows, and quality and durability varies greatly.

Other factors impacting window cost

When setting your window budget, it can be difficult to balance initial window installation costs with ongoing maintenance and energy savings. To complicate matters more, material is only one major cost driver. The following options can also help--or wreck havoc on--your budget:

  • Shape and size: Unique or custom window shapes and sizes tend to cost more.

  • Glazing: Glazes can boost window aesthetics and efficiency, but at an additional cost.

  • Window condition: Window frames that are warped or rotten will need to be replaced, raising window installation costs considerably.

  • Panes: Double-pane windows cost more but improve lifetime energy efficiency. Adding argon between the panes improves performance even more.

Perhaps the most important factor influencing window costs, however, is patience. When contacting contractors, never rush in to the first estimate you receive. Instead, request quotes from a number of contractors to ensure you get the best deal. Be sure to verify quotes are all-inclusive, as hidden costs quickly add up.

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