Exploring Different Types of Window Frames

Exploring Different Types of Window Frames

Updated: 01.22.2024

By Nina Tsoy

As you begin the process of choosing new windows, or considering window replacement, understanding the array of available types is crucial. This guide focuses on the types of window materials – from traditional wood to innovative aluminum, and beyond. Explore the distinct advantages and visual charms of each material, ensuring that your choices in window frames not only serve their functional purpose but also add to the aesthetic value of your environment.

How Significant Is the Selection of Material for Window Frames?

Selecting the right window frame material is pivotal in determining the durability and functionality of your windows. These frames are more than just a structural component; they play a critical role in the longevity and performance of the window. As you explore options, prioritize the frame material first. This approach ensures that your windows not only look great but also stand the test of time, long before you consider the type of glass to be used.

MaterialQualitiesCost per Window
VinylCost-friendly and low-maintenance, but a poor insulator that’s prone to condensation and corrosion.$100 – $900
AluminumEnergy-efficient and low-maintenance, but less natural-looking, flimsy, and may warp or discolor.$300 – $1,000
WoodTimeless appearance and great insulation, but high maintenance, high costs, and prone to pests and rot.$150 – $1,300
FiberglassLong-lasting, and ideal for fluctuating weather, but higher price and limited customizations.$400 – $1,000
Wood CladAesthetically appealing and low-maintenance, but higher in price and differing quality by manufacturer.$500 – $1,500
CompositeCombines the best of wood and rot-resistant materials, but has a higher price and can separate over time.$400 – $1,400
SteelModern look is sturdy, and durable, but has a higher price point and is prone to rust.$500 – $1,500

What Are the Different Types of Window Materials?

Let’s discover the unique qualities of various window frame materials and understand how they can enhance both the appearance and practicality of your environment.

#1. Vinyl Windows

Vinyl window frames, made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), are modern window frames popular for their affordability and versatility. These frames are appreciated for their excellent insulative properties, enhancing the energy efficiency of homes. Unlike traditional frame materials, vinyl frames offer a contemporary look and can be customized to match various home aesthetics. Their compatibility with different types of glass panes makes them a versatile choice for window installations.

Where to Use Vinyl Window Frames

Vinyl window frames are suitable for almost any setting. Their durability and insulation capabilities make them a great choice not only for windows but also for door installations. These frames are particularly beneficial in areas requiring good insulation and weather resistance.

Vinyl Window Costs

Vinyl window frames are budget-friendly, typically ranging between $100 and $900 per window. This price point makes them an accessible option for homeowners looking to upgrade their windows without a hefty investment.

Pros of Vinyl Windows

  • Low-maintenance and easy to clean;
  • Cost-effective, offering good value for money;
  • Longevity, with a lifespan of over 20 years;
  • Provides good insulation, enhancing energy efficiency.

Vinyl Windows Cons

  • Aesthetically less natural compared to wood frames;
  • Potential for discoloration or warping over time;
  • Limited in terms of refinishing; difficult to paint or stain.

#2. Aluminum Windows

Aluminum window frames are known for imparting a sleek, modern style to homes while providing robust support, especially for larger windows. These frames have a minimalist and lightweight appearance, which is favored by many homeowners. However, it’s important to note that aluminum is not the most energy-efficient material, as it naturally conducts heat and cold, which could potentially lead to higher energy bills.

Where to Use Aluminum Frames

Aluminum frames are particularly suitable for homes with larger windows, as they can support heavy glass panes effectively and offer customization options. These frames are best used in mild or warm climates due to their conductive properties.

Aluminum Window Frame Costs

The cost of aluminum window frames ranges between $300 and $1,000 per window. This pricing makes them a more budget-friendly option compared to materials like steel or wood, while still offering durability and strength.

Pros of Aluminum Windows

  • Durable, often lasting 40 to 50 years with proper maintenance;
  • Sturdy and resistant to various weather conditions;
  • Low maintenance, requiring minimal upkeep;
  • Often includes recycled materials, making them somewhat eco-friendly.

Aluminum Window Frames Cons

  • Not very energy efficient due to high heat conductivity;
  • Prone to condensation, which can lead to deterioration;
  • Susceptible to corrosion, particularly in coastal areas with saltwater exposure.

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#3. Wood Windows

Wood window frames are synonymous with traditional elegance, adding a distinct charm to both historical and contemporary homes. Wooden window frames offer a versatile aesthetic, thanks to the wide range of wood types, paints, and stains available. However, they demand more care compared to other materials, as they are susceptible to pests, rot, and warping due to environmental factors.

Where to Use Wooden Frames

Wooden window frames are ideal for exterior windows due to their excellent weather resistance and insulation properties. They can enhance the aesthetic appeal of various architectural styles, from classic to modern, making them a versatile choice for different home designs.

Wood Window Frame Costs

Wood window frames fall into a higher price bracket, typically ranging from $150 to $1,300 per window. While the initial investment may be substantial, the savings in energy bills due to their superior insulating properties can be significant. However, the cost of maintenance should also be considered.

Pros of Wood Windows

  • Warm and inviting appearance, enhancing the visual appeal of the home;
  • Versatile design options, customizable with paint and stains;
  • Excellent natural insulator, contributing to energy efficiency;
  • Long-lasting, with potential durability over decades if properly maintained;
  • Soundproof, offering better noise insulation than many other materials;
  • Resistant to rust, an advantage over metal frames.

Wood Windows Cons

  • Requires regular maintenance, including repainting and sealing;
  • Vulnerable to insect damage and wood rot;
  • Higher upfront costs compared to other frame materials;
  • Susceptible to warping and cracking in fluctuating temperatures;
  • Can be a fire hazard if not treated properly.

#4. Fiberglass Windows

Fiberglass window frames, crafted from a mix of resin and glass fibers, are known for their exceptional strength and stability. This composition prevents them from expanding or contracting significantly, making them an energy-efficient and robust option for window framing.

Where to Use Fiberglass Window Frames

Ideal for areas with high moisture levels or heavy rainfall, fiberglass frames resist water effectively. Their slim profile also makes them suitable for windows that need to accommodate thick glass, offering reliable support without the bulk.

Fiberglass Frame Costs

The cost of fiberglass window frames generally falls between $400 and $1,000, placing them in a moderate to high pricing bracket. Despite the upfront cost, they are a cost-effective choice in the long run due to their durability and low maintenance requirements.

Pros of Fiberglass Windows

  • Excellent resistance to temperature changes;
  • Waterproof, ideal for humid or wet climates;
  • Effective noise reduction for a quieter indoor space;
  • Low maintenance, needing less care compared to other materials;
  • Energy efficiency, which can lead to savings on utility bills.

Fiberglass Windows Cons

  • Tend to be more expensive than other materials like vinyl;
  • Vulnerable to damage from prolonged UV exposure;
  • Installation might be more complex, often requiring expert help;
  • Limited customization options in terms of colors and styles.

#5. Wood-Clad Windows

Wood-clad window frames present a sophisticated blend of natural wood aesthetics with the robustness of protective materials like vinyl or aluminum. This hybrid structure features a core of authentic wood, enveloped in sturdy cladding, which guards against external elements while maintaining the interior charm of wood.

Where to Use Wood-Clad Frames

These frames are particularly well-suited for areas where the classic beauty of wood is desired inside, such as in main living spaces or bedrooms, yet require the resilience of a tougher exterior to withstand environmental factors.

Wood-Clad Window Frame Costs

The pricing for wood-clad window frames typically spans from $500 to $1,500. Factors influencing the cost include the type of cladding material and the size and style of the frames.

Pros of Wood-Clad Windows

  • Minimal upkeep due to the durable outer cladding;
  • Retains the natural, warm appeal of wood indoors;
  • Excellent insulating properties, enhancing home energy efficiency;
  • Adaptable to various interior designs with customizable options;
  • Eco-friendly, often incorporating recyclable materials.

Wood-Clad Windows Cons

  • More expensive than simpler frame types;
  • Risk of cladding detachment from the wood base over time.

#6. Composite Windows

Composite window frames are a modern and eco-friendly option in the world of window frame types. They are crafted from a blend of recycled materials, such as plastics, metals, and wood fibers, offering a durable and sustainable alternative. These frames are known for their longevity, resistance to rot, and excellent insulation properties, which can contribute to reduced energy costs over time.

Where to Use Composite Window Frames

Composite frames are particularly effective in wet climates, thanks to their rot-resistant nature. Their durability and reliable insulation make them suitable for areas experiencing extreme temperatures, providing both comfort and efficiency.

Composite Frame Costs

The cost of composite window frames typically ranges from $400 to $1,400, positioning them at a higher price point compared to other window frame materials like vinyl or aluminum. However, they are often more affordable than options like wood-clad or steel frames.

Pros of Composite Windows

  • Offers a seamless and aesthetically pleasing look;
  • Environmentally friendly, utilizing recycled materials;
  • Excellent insulator, aiding in energy savings;
  • Capable of mimicking the appearance of wood with less maintenance required;
  • Resistant to rot, making them durable in various climates.

Composite Windows Cons

  • Tend to be more expensive upfront;
  • Quality and composition can vary significantly between manufacturers.

#7. Steel Windows

For a blend of robustness and contemporary design, steel window frames stand out in the realm of window materials. Celebrated for their unbeatable strength and resilience, along with fire resistance, these frames cater to both aesthetic and safety requirements. Custom fabrication is common with steel frames, which contributes to their higher price, but they are an investment for the long haul, often lasting upwards of 75 years.

Where to Use Steel Window Frames

Ideal for reinforcing areas vulnerable to security breaches, steel frames are excellent for windows in accessible locations or where extra strength is essential. They are also a preferred choice for achieving a minimalist, modern look in large window installations in avant-garde architectural settings.

Steel Frame Costs

The pricing for steel window frames typically falls between $500 and $1,500 for each window. This higher price point is offset by their longevity and low upkeep needs over time.

Pros of Steel Window Frame

  • Exceptionally fire-resistant, enhancing safety;
  • Unparalleled durability, able to endure extreme conditions;
  • Conveys a distinct, modern industrial aesthetic;
  • Fully recyclable, aligning with eco-friendly practices;
  • Energy efficient;
  • Longevity surpasses many other materials, with a potential lifespan of over 75 years.

Steel Windows Cons

  • Higher initial cost relative to other materials;
  • Potential for corrosion, requiring careful maintenance;
  • More complex to customize and fabricate due to the material’s robustness;
  • Heavier, which could influence the installation process.

Selecting the Ideal Window Frame Type for Your Home

Choosing the appropriate type of window frame is pivotal in defining the window style and overall ambiance of your home. With a variety of options available, from classic wood to modern fiberglass, each material offers distinct benefits tailored to different aesthetics and functional needs. For expert assistance in navigating these choices, consider consulting with Apex Window Werks. As a proficient window repair company serving Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, we specialize in a range of window frame types, ensuring you find the perfect match for your home’s architecture and personal style. Reach out to Apex Window Werks for a consultation and embrace the transformation that the right window frames can bring to your living space.


What types of windows are ideal for hot and sunny environments?

In hot climates, fiberglass window frames stand out as the most energy-efficient choice. Other viable options include wood, wood-clad, and vinyl frames, which offer good insulation. However, we advise you to steer clear of aluminum frames in such climates due to their heat conductivity and lower energy efficiency.

Which window frames are suitable for cold and snowy conditions?

For colder, snowy regions, the optimal choices for window frame materials are wood-clad, fiberglass, or vinyl, owing to their resistance to moisture. It’s recommended to avoid traditional wood frames in these settings, as they can be susceptible to rot in damp conditions.
Nina Tsoy

Nina Tsoy

With over 15 years of experience in the window repair, replacement, and manufacturing business, Nina is in charge for strategic solutions and exceptional operational performance at Apex Window Werks. This allows her to offer innovative techniques and solutions to address any window-related problem, all while adhering to industry standards and best practices.

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