The material you choose to frame your windows with deserves to be much more than just an afterthought in the window buying process. Your selection of framing material will impact the visual appeal, energy efficiency, and maintenance needs of your windows throughout their lifetime.
Let’s introduce you to the four most common framing materials: aluminum, fiberglass, vinyl, and wood.
Frames made from aluminum are very strong and light-weight. Homeowners looking for a low-maintenance option may be drawn to aluminum because it won’t crack, peel, warp or bend. Aluminum’s sleekness complements homes with modern styling.
The main drawback of aluminum is that it naturally conducts heat, making it a poor insulator. For this reason, aluminum window frames will need to be insulated with a “thermal break” set between the inside and outside of the frame.
From a pricing standpoint, expect aluminum to be more expensive than vinyl or fiberglass and less expensive than wood.
Homes located in climates with extreme weather and temperature fluctuations can benefit from fiberglass window frames. Fiberglass expands and contracts at roughly the same rate as glass, so fiberglass frames maintain their structural integrity well even through hot summers and frigid winters. Fiberglass frames are naturally well-insulated and will minimize heat transfer.
A potential downside to fiberglass is that it can have a bit of a flat, dull appearance unless it is painted. The visual look of a fiberglass frame is very similar to vinyl, however since vinyl is considerably less expensive, some homeowners may opt for vinyl instead of fiberglass.
In general, fiberglass frames are less expensive than wood and aluminum, but more expensive than vinyl.
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Vinyl window frames are made of the same PVC material as plumbing pipes and fittings. This material is a good insulator can be shaped to fit nearly every style of window. Vinyl windows tend to be preferred by homeowners who are looking for a budget-conscious solution more than an aesthetic statement.
The downside of vinyl as a window frame material is that it isn’t necessarily the most strong or durable material. It also tends to have a more utilitarian look and feel than other materials do.
Vinyl is the least expensive of the 4 most common framing options. It provides a look similar to fiberglass, but at a reduced price point.
Wood is the most traditional of window frame materials. Homeowners who favor wood frames appreciate its intrinsic visual appeal and versatile styling options. They may also be drawn to the potential to repair rather than replace wood frames that have begun to wear.
The argument against wood frames is dual-fold. Wood frames require more maintenance than other styles of frames due to the need to repaint or re-stain them on a regular basis. This routine maintenance protects the wood from moisture and weathering that could otherwise rot the wood or cause it to warp.
Of the top four window frame options, wood tends to be the most expensive.
Would you like a professional opinion on what window frame materials may best suit your style and your budget? We offer in-home consultations to supply you with personalized advice and guidance on your framing needs. Schedule your free consult today!