Insight Twitter Page

Wood Windows vs Vinyl Windows

by Tony the Window Guy.

One of the most common topics of conversation is “what are the major differences between vinyl and wood windows?”. You have come to the right place for the answer.

The basic purpose of any window is to fill an opening in a wall, in order to let light into the house. Additionally, operable windows offer the option of ventilation. Both wood and vinyl windows can accomplish both of these goals. However, in many important ways, vinyl windows and wood windows are indeed different animals. The pros and cons of each can also be in the eye of the beholder. I will attempt to point out the key differences between vinyl and wood windows. Keep in mind that by definition, a vinyl window is a window whose frame materials are made of vinyl, and a wood window is a window whose frame materials are primarily wood.

New construction versus retrofit:
Both vinyl and wood windows can be used for new construction. This refers to any situation where a brand new stud framed Rough Opening is used to install a window into. Both types of windows come with integral nailing flanges (in most cases) to install into almost any new construction situation. However, in a retrofit situation, where an old window (usually aluminum framed) is left in it’s existing wall, and a new window is “retrofitted” into the existing aluminum window frame, vinyl is the predominant frame type.

Energy efficiency:
There is very little difference in the energy efficiency of a vinyl window and a wood window. In fact, many vinyl window manufacturers now offer a triple-glazed window, which is a window with three separate lites of glass in the insulated unit. U-values for this type of window can range below a .20!

Sound reduction:
Both wood and vinyl windows can be manufactured with glass packages to further reduce outside to inside noise transmission. Vinyl windows have taken sound reduction to a new level, however. Some vinyl windows are built with a “double” frame, which allows for installation in high-density housing areas very near persistent noise sources.

Aesthetic appeal:
How one window compares to another aesthetically is a very personal opinion. In general, wood windows tend to give builders and consumers more flexibility in regards to exterior color choices as well as interior wood species and finish choices. Wood window manufacturers offer extensive exterior color choices, and multiple interior wood species choices. Wood can be painted or stained, further increasing design flexibility. Vinyl windows are catching up to wood windows in terms of exterior color array. Many vinyl windows can be painted at the factory, generally only however on the outside frame. The inside frame color will normally stay either white, tan, or taupe.

Wood windows require more periodic maintenance than vinyl. Vinyl window simply need to be wiped down and lubricated occasionally for optimum performance. Wood windows will need to be repainted over the course of their lifetime. In both cases, exterior window to trim/wall joints need to be periodically re-caulked to ensure a waterproof system.

Wood windows in general have longer leadtimes than vinyl windows. Please keep that in mind if job completion time is critical.

Generally speaking, wood windows are more expensive than vinyl windows. This may not be true in all cases. This can be a very important budgetary consideration for your job.