Eeny, meeny, moe, which window frames save dough?

July 29, 2011

Don't allow replacement window shopping to reduce you to children's rhymes for decision-making. Your renovation dollars won't be well-spent if you choose a window frame material that doesn't meet your needs.

Before you shell out money for windows that don't fit your needs, consult this quick list on the pros and cons of different window frame materials.

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Aluminum window frames


  • Paintable
  • Durable and low-maintenance
  • Environmentally-friendly, able to be recycled


  • Profile cannot be designed to look like wood window frame
  • May lose heat; less energy-efficient than other window frames

Clad/composite window frames


  • Very energy-efficient
  • Low-maintenance exteriors
  • Excellent option for historic homes in coastal climates
  • Blends benefits of interior, wood window frames with exterior aluminum, vinyl or fiberglass frames


  • Varies by cladding material

Fiberglass window frames


  • Paintable
  • Low-maintenance
  • Extremely energy-efficient
  • Won't shrink, corrode, warp, swell or rot
  • Good for high-moisture, coastal environments
  • Made from sand, a sustainable and natural material
  • Profile can be made to replicate the look of wood windows


  • Still at a high-end price point due to novelty
  • A relatively new product, so fewer choices may be available

Vinyl window frames


  • Energy-efficient
  • Low maintenance
  • Won't expand, contract, then stick


  • Not paintable
  • Colors tend to fade over time
  • May expand and warp at high temperatures, or crack in extremely low temperatures
  • Made from PVC, a petroleum product that isn't easily recycled; PVC produces toxic gas when burned

Wood window frames


  • Very energy-efficient
  • Environmentally friendly, renewable material
  • Paintable, allowing for flexible interior aesthetics


  • May swell, rot, crack, warp and stick
  • High-maintenance; requires regular staining or painting

Window installation, cost and warranties

Once you have an idea of the type of window frame that meets your needs, you'll need to get information about glazing and glass options, like UV coating and decorative frame casing, which can also impact window installation cost.

Though you may be tempted to skimp on window installation cost and do-it-yourself, keep in mind that some window manufacturer warranties are voided without professional installation. Equally important, improper installation can decrease your windows' energy-efficiency.

If you want to compare the price of different window frame materials, consider getting quotes from a few dealers for several types of frame materials from a single manufactuer, such as Milgard or Andersen. To get replacement and window installation estimates from professionals in your area, fill out the form on this page.

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