There are five common window frames, each with its own set of pros and cons. For example, some materials, like vinyl, are maintenance-free but might not give you the look you want. Then there’s wood, which is classic but very high maintenance.
Aside from the popular wood and vinyl, you also have fiberglass, aluminum, and clad windows to consider.
If you’re unsure which window frame material is best for you, here’s a look at the most common types of window frames, how much they cost, and their pros and cons.
Average cost of vinyl windows: $100-$900
Vinyl windows are the least expensive and most popular type of replacement window. Vinyl is a hard plastic composed of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) mixed with additives and pigments to form modern window frames that are fade-resistant and maintenance-free.
You can find vinyl windows from nearly all top manufacturers in dozens of colors and styles.
- Come in many colors, styles, and types of windows
- Aesthetics, and bulkier frames, may not go well with wooden or historic homes
- Cannot paint
- Varying quality among brands
Average cost of wood windows: $650 – $1,300
Wood windows have a wooden frame and sash. They are wood throughout and can work with any home. Wood is a good insulator, so these windows are energy efficient and can last over 50 years when well-maintained. The price of wood windows depends upon the wood species, manufacturer, and window style.
It’s harder to find all-wood windows than it is to find vinyl or wood-clad options.
- A timeless look never goes out of style
- Can last over 50 years when well-maintained
- Can change out the look by painting or staining the wood
- Need to be refinished every 5-10 years
- Can rot, mold, or deteriorate due to poor maintenance
Average cost of wood-clad windows: $400 – $1,300
Wood-clad windows consist of a wooden frame and sash with a thin layer of aluminum, fiberglass, or vinyl wrapped around the exterior frame. This wrap, or “cladding,” protects the exterior wood from the elements and provides a wood interior that homeowners can paint or stain.
Aluminum-clad windows are the most popular of this style, while vinyl-clad windows are much more challenging to find.
- Cladding protects wood from the elements
- Interior wood frame that homeowners can paint or stain
- Can choose between cladding options
- Sold by many top brands
- Expensive – similar to all wood frames
- Hard (or impossible) to reclad damaged sections
- Can’t see if the wood under the cladding is damaged
Average cost of aluminum windows: $250 – $1,250
Since aluminum is a heat conductor, these frames used to be terrible for energy efficiency. Newer models feature a thermal break, which improves energy efficiency and stops heat transference, making these frames a better choice.
Since aluminum is strong, low maintenance, and malleable, it’s a good pick for homeowners wanting a modern look.
- Low-maintenance, just clean the frames a few times per year
- Strong and lightweight
- Thermally improved designs
- Comes in many colors
- Features a lower-profile, modern frame
- Can rust if not maintained
- May not be as energy efficient as other options
Average price of fiberglass windows: $400 – $1,500
Fiberglass windows are the most energy efficient and strong of all materials, but these frames are not as widely available. Fiberglass consists of glass fibers mixed with resin and additives. The result is a strong frame that doesn’t expand or contract, making it energy efficient.
The biggest downside to fiberglass is that it doesn’t come in as many styles or colors as other frame materials.
- Moisture-resistant and weather resistant
- High energy efficiency
- Can come in a thinner frame
- One of the strongest frame materials
- Limited color and design options
- Harder to find
What Affects the Cost of Windows?
The main factors that affect the cost of windows are size, frame material, type of glass, and brand. Even then, individual prices vary from brand to brand. For example, some brands price their fiberglass windows higher than their wood ones, and others do the opposite.
When purchasing new windows, get more than one quote so you can compare products and pricing. Also, check the manufacturer’s warranties.
What is the Cheapest Type of Window?
The cheapest window material is vinyl. Vinyl comes in many colors and styles and is the most affordable. But, don’t worry, inexpensive doesn’t mean low quality. Most vinyl windows will last 20-40 years and come in many colors and styles.
What is the Best Window Material?
There is no one “best” window material. Instead, there are five high-quality options that meet different needs.
- Vinyl is a good choice for homeowners looking for zero maintenance and affordability.
- Fiberglass and aluminum are ideal for those who want a modern aesthetic with a low-maintenance frame.
- Wood is a long-lasting window frame choice for log cabins, historic homes, and craftsman-style houses.
- Wood-clad frames are a good solution for those who want a low-maintenance exterior and a wood interior.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
What is the most energy-efficient window frame?
Fiberglass is the most energy-efficient window frame – it’s also one of the strongest. Following fiberglass in energy efficiency are wood and vinyl. But, this can vary depending on insulators and additives a brand puts in its window frame.
What is the best window frame material for Texas?
The best window frame material for Texas is fiberglass, vinyl, wood, or wood-clad. You’ll want to avoid aluminum frames since they can conduct heat.
What is the best window frame material for snowy climates?
If you live in an area with cold weather, go for a vinyl, wood-clad, or fiberglass option. You can also go with wood as long as you keep up with maintenance. If you don’t regularly refinish a wood window in a snowy climate, it can deteriorate.
What are the best windows for sunny climates?
Fiberglass is one of the most energy-efficient window frames, ideal for sunny climates. Wood, wood-clad, and vinyl are also suitable options. In sunny climates, avoid aluminum frames.
There’s a lot to consider when buying windows, and your frame material is just as important as the style. For example, a wood frame isn’t a good choice if you know you won’t keep up with maintenance. Instead, vinyl, wood-clad, or fiberglass will be your best bet.
So, consider your climate, budget, and personal preferences when making your choice. Most of today’s window frame materials are energy efficient and long-lasting, so pick one that best suits your home and lifestyle.