Window Materials

Ysobel Croix | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

Shopping for the lowest priced windows may not end up being the most cost-effective solution. The window frame material affects the cost of window replacement, energy efficiency and long-term maintenance costs. Learn about your options so you know which questions to ask when you contact your local window supplier or contractor for an estimate.

Aluminum windows

Though aluminium are typically light, highly durable and low-maintenance, they conduct heat. Because of this, they lose heat and are prone to condensation. As long as the aluminum is coated or anodized, corrosion can be avoided. If you choose aluminum windows, make sure they have plastic strips that insulate between the interior and exterior frame to improve the window's energy efficiency. You can also purchase aluminum windows made with recycled aluminum and not be concerned with deterioration in the quality of the material.

Clad windows

Clad windows, sometimes called al-clad windows, combine the energy efficiency and aesthetic properties of wood windows with the durability of aluminum to protect against the weather and cut down on maintenance. The exterior of the frame is clad but the interior of the frame is wood, which may better suit the aesthetic of your home.They are considered both low maintenance and easy to repair.

Vinyl windows

Vinyl, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), windows are made from a synthetic material that decomposes very slowly and contains elements considered environmentally dangerous when burned or released into the soil and ground water. Vinyl makes for a low-maintenance option for window frames. They may be made with metal pieces which decrease their energy efficiency. Also, these windows may not be the best option for high-temperatures and sunny climates as vinyl can discolor and become brittle.

Wood windows

Wood is an environmentally friendly and sustainable product that makes for the most energy efficient window frame material choice because of its low thermal conductivity. However, wood windows must be painted or stained every few years, making them the most high-maintenance option compared to other window materials. Also, windows made from untreated timber might warp in high-moisture climates.

Whichever material you choose for your new windows, consider the long-term cost of maintenance and your energy bills. A local contractor would be able to give you guidance on the best window materials for your climate and how other factors impact the cost of this important home improvement project. You can begin by filling out the form on this page for a cost estimate.