What Type Of Replacement Window Frames Should I Purchase?


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Replacement Window Frame Options

There are four main materials used for replacement windows; vinyl, fiberglass, wood clad and aluminum. Discover each of these options, the relative pros and cons associated with these replacement window frames.

Vinyl Frames

Vinyl is now the most popular choice for replacement windows in the United States. At one time vinyl windows were thought to be poorly made and prone to bending and warping (and this can still occur with poorly made products in extremely hot climates). Well made vinyl extrusions are quite strong and offer good energy efficient options. They aren't the best looking frame (they will never compete with wood in terms of beauty) but they are affordable, long lasting and there are tons of options available.

Bottom Line: Most homeowners can purchase a well made vinyl window with good solid installation at a reasonable price and will be completely satisfied for the next 15 to 20 years.

Cost Range: $300 to $750 installed

Recommended Brands & Models:
HiMark Enviro-Star 800 Series
Sunrise Restorations Series
Soft-Lite Elements LS Series
Soft-Lite Imperial LS Series
Okna Insul-Tec 500 Series
Gorell 5300 Series
Amerimax Craftsman Portrait Series
Simonton Relections 5500 Series

Fiberglass Frames

Fiberglass is a more expensive option than vinyl, but is definitely one that could be considered if you find a model or series that you really like. Fiberglass is very strong and has good energy efficient numbers (there is debate in the industry over whether fiberglass is more energy efficient than vinyl over time - the answer is probably a little bit). Fiberglass can be painted (vinyl can't) but honestly, to the untrained eye, the material looks very similar to vinyl. Their are some manufacturers who make a beautiful fiberglass with a wood or wood veneer interior that provides the best of both worlds, although homeowners will need to stain and treat the wood to make sure the window lasts.

Bottom Line: Fiberglass frames are an energy efficient option that will probably hold up a little better than vinyl, but will cost perhaps 33% more up front.

Cost Range: $400 to $875 installed

Recommended Brands & Models:
Marvin Infinity Series
Marvin Integrity Series
Milgard Ultra Series

Wood Clad Frames

Wood clad means that the exterior is vinyl, fiberlgass or aluminum and the interior is wood or a wood veneer. A wood window has wood on both the interior and exterior, but most companies no longer make this because the exterior must be painted or stained often and this defeats the whole idea of having a wood window. Exterior cladding provides protection on the outside and still leaves the beauty of wood on the inside. Should you buy wood clad windows? Most contractors would say this; if you have to have wood and are willing to pay for it and are fine staining all of your windows every 4 or 5 years, then go for it.

Bottom Line: Wood windows are beautiful but expensive and require maintenance. If they aren't a must have, don't bother with the added expense and headache.

Cost Range: $400 to $1200 or more installed

Recommended Brands & Models:
Marvin Ultimate Series
Loewen Standard Wood Series
Andersen 400 Series Woodwright

Aluminum Frames

Aluminum is an interesting choice that makes sense in hot climates in the south and elsewhere. Modern aluminum is thermally broken, meaning the window doesn't conduct heat or cold the way older aluminum frames did. This was always the big knock on aluminum frames; they were hot in the summer and cold in the winter. They are used in commercial buildings all the time, mainly because the material is so strong and durable. Some homeowners love the look of the them as well - more modern and commercial. They tend to be about the same cost as fiberglass windows and the added price will certainly depend on whether they have wood interiors. Bottom line on aluminum is they are super strong and have a more modern look although they aren't the most energy efficient option out there.

Bottom Line:

Cost Range: $400 to $875 installed

Recommended Brands & Models:
PGT WinGuard Impact Series
Milgard Standard Model or Thermally Improved Model
Jeld Wen Premium Atlantic
Don Young (only available in Texas)