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Are Wood Windows Better than Vinyl?

Are Wood Windows Better than Vinyl?

Updated: 01.25.2024

By Nina Tsoy

In the quest for the perfect replacement windows, homeowners often compare wood and vinyl options. Both window materials bring unique benefits and challenges to the table. Apex Window Werks, a reputable window repair company, understands these nuances and is adept at assisting homeowners in making the right choice. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of wood and vinyl windows, helping you determine the ideal fit for your home’s needs.

What Are Wood Windows?

What Are Wood Windows?

Wood replacement windows, embodying a classic and sophisticated design, are celebrated for their aesthetic appeal and warmth. Typically, these windows feature interior frames of visible wood, commonly crafted from materials like pine and Douglas fir, with additional options including cedar, mahogany, and oak.

For enhanced durability and weather resistance, the external frames often consist of a wood core encased in protective cladding materials such as PVC, fiberglass, or aluminum. This cladding, especially aluminum and vinyl-clad wood windows (composite windows), offers a slender but strong barrier, effectively protecting the wood from various outdoor elements.

What Are Vinyl Windows?

What Are Vinyl Windows?

Vinyl replacement windows, crafted from polyvinyl chloride or PVC, stand out as a practical and economical choice in the window market. PVC’s low cost and straightforward manufacturing process make vinyl window frames both affordable and relatively robust. While the standard design for these frames is typically hollow, the more superior versions are infused with extra insulation which elevates their energy efficiency.

Comparing the Pros and Cons of Wood vs. Vinyl Windows

Let’s explore the unique advantages and challenges of both types to help you make an informed decision considering new windows for your home.

FactorWood WindowsVinyl Windows
AppearanceMore versatile in appearance, can be painted any color, showcases wood grain.Limited standard color options, premium for richer colors.
DurabilityLifespan of about 20 years, requires maintenance, vulnerable to elements if not clad.Impressive durability, 30 to 40 years lifespan, less affected by weather.
Energy EfficiencyNaturally insulating, effective barrier against heat and cold.Insulating, especially with filled hollow frames, ENERGY STAR-rated options.
MaintenanceRequires regular sealing and painting, more maintenance if not clad.Low maintenance, resistant to moisture and temperature changes.
CostGenerally more expensive, higher material and production costs.20% to 50% less expensive.
Environmental ImpactMore eco-friendly, trees absorb CO2, recyclable at end of life.Less eco-friendly in production, recyclable but less versatile at end of life.
Resale ValueHigh ROI (67% to 70%), enhances home value, preferred in classic/traditional markets.Higher ROI (around 74%), appealing in contemporary markets.
InstallationComplex installation often requires professional service.Easier for DIY, especially for small projects, lighter and more flexible.

Appearance

  • Vinyl windows: These windows are commonly found in standard colors like white and tan. Achieving deeper, richer colors in vinyl has historically been challenging for manufacturers, often classifying such shades as premium and consequently, more expensive;
  • Wooden windows: Wood windows tend to offer more versatility in appearance. The interior frames can retain their natural wood color which showcases the beauty of the wood grain. Additionally, both the exterior and interior of wood windows can be painted in any color, offering greater flexibility for homeowners looking to match or complement their home’s design.

Durability

  • Vinyl windows: Vinyl frames are known for their impressive durability, often lasting between 30 to 40 years. This extended lifespan is largely due to their resistance to weathering, as vinyl is less susceptible to damage from the elements than wood. However, it’s important to note that the quality of the vinyl plays a crucial role. Higher-quality vinyl can withstand environmental factors better and last longer, whereas cheaper variants may not offer the same longevity, sometimes lasting only around 10 years. The durability of vinyl window material also depends on its exposure to sun and rain, with those under constant direct sunlight and minimal protection from roof overhangs likely to have a shorter lifespan;
  • Wood windows: Wood replacement windows generally have a lifespan of about 20 years, which can vary based on maintenance and whether the exteriors are clad in aluminum. Unclad wood windows are more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and moisture, requiring regular resealing and maintenance to prevent rotting and extend their life.

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Energy Efficiency

  • Wood windows: Wood frames are naturally insulating, which contributes to their energy efficiency. The inherent properties of wood make it an excellent barrier against heat and cold transfer, helping maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. When it’s cold outside, wood-framed windows are particularly effective at preventing the cold from penetrating into the home. This natural insulation property makes wood windows a solid choice for energy conservation;
  • Vinyl windows: Vinyl, while also an insulator, often comes in the form of hollow frames. These hollow spaces can allow for the passage of cold air and potentially reduce their energy efficiency. However, insulated vinyl windows, where the hollow parts are filled with insulating materials, can be quite energy efficient. Look for ENERGY STAR-rated vinyl windows, as these are designed to provide better thermal performance. Such insulated vinyl windows can match the energy efficiency levels of wood windows while being a more budget-friendly option.

Maintenance

  • Wood windows: A wood window requires more regular maintenance than its vinyl counterparts. Being prone to rot, warping, and water damage, wood windows must be periodically sealed and painted, typically every three to five years, to protect them from the elements. This maintenance is essential unless the wood is protected with weatherproof material, such as aluminum cladding. Aluminum-clad wood windows offer the benefit of significantly reduced maintenance, as the cladding protects the wood from direct exposure to weather and eliminates the need for frequent painting;
  • Vinyl windows: In contrast, vinyl windows are known for their low-maintenance nature. They typically only require occasional cleaning to keep them looking fresh. Vinyl is resistant to moisture and temperature changes, which contributes to its low upkeep. While vinyl can technically be sanded and painted, it’s not an ideal surface for paint adherence, meaning that repainted vinyl windows may require frequent touch-ups. For this reason, many homeowners opt for vinyl windows in their preferred color from the onset, as the color is often baked into the vinyl to provide a more lasting finish.

Cost

Cost

  • Vinyl windows: Typically, new vinyl windows present a more economical option in comparison to wood. They can be 20% to 50% less expensive, a variance influenced by factors such as dimensions, finishes, and glass choices. This price difference is reflected not only in the cost of the windows themselves but also in the installation expenses. The affordability of vinyl windows stems from factors like lower raw material costs, consistent quality, and the streamlined, often automated, production process, which reduces the labor required for their manufacture;
  • Wood windows: Conversely, wood windows are usually pricier. For an identical size and style, wood windows often exceed the cost of vinyl alternatives by a considerable margin. This higher price is attributed to multiple aspects: wood as a frame material is inherently more expensive, the production process of wood windows tends to generate more waste, and the craftsmanship involved is typically more intricate and labor-intensive. Furthermore, the market has fewer manufacturers of wood windows which impacts both their cost and availability. The investment in wood windows encompasses not just the price of material but also potentially greater expenses for installation costs, given the complexity of working with wood.

Environmental Impact

  • Wood windows: From an environmental perspective, wood windows are often seen as more eco-friendly in their manufacturing process. The growth of trees, the primary resource for wood windows, naturally absorbs carbon dioxide, somewhat offsetting the negative impacts associated with their production. While the manufacturing process does have some environmental drawbacks, such as the release of carcinogens and land use implications, the overall carbon footprint is generally lower compared to making vinyl windows. Additionally, at the end of their lifespan, wood windows offer versatility in recycling and repurposing. They can be creatively reused in various ways, such as in home decor or as raw material for new products, reducing waste;
  • Vinyl windows: The process of making vinyl windows is less environmentally friendly, largely due to the release of more pollutants during production. These emissions can contribute to climate change and ecotoxicity. Additionally, the raw materials for vinyl windows come from non-sustainable sources, which is a significant environmental concern. However, at the end of their life, vinyl windows can also be recycled, although this requires finding a specialized facility capable of processing PVC. The recycled material can then be used to manufacture other vinyl products, although this process isn’t as straightforward or versatile as repurposing wood.

Resale Value

Resale Value

  • Wooden windows: Wooden windows generally have a high ROI, averaging around 67% to 70%. This impressive return is a significant consideration for homeowners who plan to sell their property in the foreseeable future. The natural charm and aesthetic appeal of wood can enhance the overall value and appeal of a home, making it more attractive to certain buyers, especially in markets where classic or traditional home styles are preferred;
  • Vinyl windows: PVC windows, on the other hand, have an ROI of approximately 74%. This higher ROI, combined with their lower initial cost compared to wood, makes vinyl an attractive option for homeowners seeking a balance between investment and return. The lower maintenance requirements and modern appeal of vinyl windows can be particularly enticing to prospective buyers, especially in more contemporary housing markets.

DIY vs. Professional Window Installation

When it comes to window replacement or installation, the decision between professional services and DIY window installation can significantly impact the outcome of the project.

Professional Window Installation

For extensive projects, such as replacing all windows in a multi-level house, it’s advisable to enlist the expertise of a professional contractor. Professionals can execute the job swiftly and with precision, ensuring the windows are installed correctly and efficiently. It’s also important to consider that many new windows’ warranties may require professional installation to remain valid. Therefore, when budgeting for window replacement, especially for complex or large-scale projects, labor costs should be factored in, regardless of the frame material.

DIY Window Installation

If the project is limited to one or two ground-floor windows, DIY installation might be a viable option. Vinyl windows, in particular, are more suitable for DIY due to their lighter weight and greater flexibility, making them easier to fit into existing openings. Essential tools for this task would include a pry bar, utility knife, hammer, putty knife, power drill, caulk gun, caulk, spray foam insulation, and the window unit itself. DIY installers must ensure all gaps are properly sealed to prevent issues like water damage or increased utility bills due to air leaks.

Making the Right Choice for Your Home with Apex Window Werks

Step #3. Straighten Both Tracks

Your decision on whether to choose the classic elegance of wood or the practical efficiency of vinyl replacement windows will greatly depend on your specific needs, preferences, and the characteristics of your home. It’s crucial to align this choice with your long-term objectives and aspirations for your living space.

For homeowners in Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, Apex Window Werks is here to guide you through the process. Not only are we seasoned experts in window installation and repair, but as window manufacturers, we have a deep understanding of the intricacies and nuances of both wood and vinyl windows.

Contact us today to start the journey of transforming your home with windows that blend style, function, and quality.

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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