Selecting Window Materials

Vinyl Windows

The vast majority of new windows today are made out of Vinyl. Vinyl windows tend to be trouble free and require very little maintenance. But even with such a reliable product, selecting good materials and a good contractor requires informed and careful shopping.

Almost all vinyl windows are white and can't be painted. Replacement windows can often be installed into the existing window frames and this allows for a variety decorating options. The existing frame can be painted to match the replacement window or be used as a contrast.

    A note about vinyl:

    I am not a great fan of vinyl as a construction product. I find many problems with vinyl siding and with PVC (vinyl) water lines. My biggest concern with Vinyl has to do with the toxicity of vinyl during the manufacturing and disposal processes.

    But I have now seen thousands of homes with well functioning vinyl windows and have to admit that they work well, are relatively low priced and seem to last. I am also hearing from the vinyl industry that more care is taken during the manufacturing process.

    So, my advice is that if you decide on vinyl windows get some very good ones and make sure that they are installed to last. That way you reduce the number of times that windows have to be manufactured and the amount of vinyl that needs to end up as waste.

    And what about wood and aluminum? Well the best wood comes from trees that are hundreds of years old and aluminum production uses a lot of electricity... In other words, there is no perfect window material.

    My biggest problem with vinyl windows has to do with the way they tend to be sold. All too often they are sold by commissioned sales people who's primary job is to sell windows and not to help the customer get the right product for their home.

Aluminum Windows

Although not a popular as they used to be is a good replacement window material. Quality aluminum windows incorporate changes in the way the material is assembled and that reduces "sweating", one of the biggest drawback to the older versions.

Most aluminum windows have thinner frames than either vinyl or wood windows and come in "aluminum" or a bronze/brown color. The ability to build such units with thin frames and the color choices also makes aluminum a good choice for storm windows.

Wood Windows

Here the selection is varied and the quality ranges from poor to outstanding. Unlike their earlier counterparts with all of their problems, today's quality wood windows have all the attributes of what a window should be. They also have the ability to replicate historic and traditional window styles.

Few wood windows were manufactured between WWII and the early 1980s. After that, the resurgence of the wood window industry resulted in a range of quality and durability. Some of these newer wood windows deteriorated quickly while others were a vast improvement over the pre WWII models.

Wood windows with metal or vinyl exterior cladding are designed to resist sun and moisture damage. And today's window hardware has the ability to overcome the problems associated with the wood windows of the past.

Good quality wood windows tend to be more expensive than vinyl and aluminum units.

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Replacement Windows