Wood Windows: Insulated Windows with Classic Style

December 13, 2009

When it comes to insulated windows, you've got a lot of options. From aluminum to vinyl, there are a wealth of choices for windows, but none offer the classic look and feel of actual wood windows. Wood is a lot like brick: it's been used for centuries in home construction, and it's still one of the best options available. It's not old; it's tried and true.

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Insulated Windows: A Crash Course

Insulation works by creating a dead air space. Windows made out of something other (like vinyl or aluminum) than wood use chambers in the window frame to create this dead air space. Wood, on the other hand, does this on it's own, making it a great choice for insulated windows. The natural insulating properties of wood meet or beat nearly every other product--even the newest and most advanced.

Wood Be an Issue: Maintaining Wood Windows

The biggest issue with wood windows is that wood can warp and crack if not properly maintained. Obviously, you don't want either of those things to happen to your new, insulated windows. Annual maintainance is recommended, but seasonal check-ups are better. A particularly rough winter may have started to attack the integrity of the frame's exterior. A scorching summer may have dried out the wood, leaving it susceptible to water around the edges.

It doesn't take long to give your windows a once-over with sealant in hand. Use a fine-grit sand paper (nothing below 80-grit) to prep an affected area before applying sealant. Keep in mind that only refinishing a small section of the frame can result in a less-than-uniform appearance. If it's time to re-seal the whole frame, start with 80- to 100-grit and finish with 220-grit. For wood that has a wire-brush finish, you may want to call in a professional, as refinishing without taking off a significant amount of the frame can be tricky.

Wood Window Energy Efficiency

Your choice in windows can make a large impact on your energy bills. When considering wood windows or vinyl replacements, you should know that there's a trade off for each. When it comes to matching the look of an historical or era home, many homeowners won't settle for anything but wood windows. Remember, however, that wood requires considerably greater upkeep over time than vinyl, especially in terms of paint.

If your main consideration is energy efficiency, then you should examine the manufacturer's label on all your wood windows candidates for brand-neutral ratings established by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). Wood windows are rated by their U-factors, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SOHGC), Visible Transmittance (VT), Condensation Resistance, and Air Leakage.

Understanding Wood Windows Ratings

The lower the U-factor, the stronger the window is in retaining interior temperatures. Because up to 30 percent of energy loss in the home is passed through windows, you should definitely evaluate products by their U-factors. The SOHGC measures the amount of solar heat that is transferred into your home by your windows, with the lower numbers indicating stronger energy efficiency properties. VT rates your window by how much daylight flows into the home. The higher the VT rating number, the better your chances of keeping your house bright and cheery.

Air leakage ratings play a large role in wood window energy efficiency. Cracks in the wood frame assembly can drive up your utility costs over time. The better quality wood windows carry a 0.30 air leakage rating or lower. Because wood breathes more than vinyl, you'll really want a condensation rating with the highest number to fight off mold, mildew, and wood decay. Always ask for professional installation.

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