This article is the ninth in a series of 15 articles where we “decode” some of the industry terms surrounding replacement windows. Stay tuned for upcoming posts that we hope will help educate San Diego homeowners and allow them to make more informed decisions.
Replacement windows may seem like fairly simple consumer products, and back in the day, they were. You had a wooden frame with a pane of glass fitted into it. But today’s windows actually have a lot that goes into them. The glazing systems alone required an entire dedicated article in this column a couple of months ago. Other features like sound suppression and special coatings that help your windows stay cleaner longer also have a lot of research behind them. Windows may appear simple on the surface, but the more you look into them, the more you come to realize that they’re actually quite complex.
Take for example window frames. You can still get replacement windows with traditional wooden frames, but there are other offerings on the market that you should definitely consider. In this article, we’ll outline the frame options and give you the pros and cons of each, so you can make a more informed purchasing decision.
Replacement Windows with Vinyl Frames
Far and away the most popular choice for buyers of replacement windows in San Diego is those with vinyl frames. Vinyl window frames are made from extruded polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC). Vinyl windows have many great advantages, including the fact that they are extremely energy efficient, while still being affordable. They are also readily available throughout San Diego, giving you the ability to shop for the best replacement window dealer, since all of them sell and install vinyl replacement windows.
One of the downsides of vinyl frames is that they cannot be painted, however they are available in a wide range of popular colors—not just white.
Another “con” to vinyl is that cheap vinyl can have a tendency to yellow over time. Unfortunately, this gives all vinyl a bad name. But high-quality vinyl is durable and looks great for many, many years. If you’re considering vinyl windows, make sure you go with a reputable manufacturer of vinyl windows. Look for vinyl windows with a lifetime warranty, and don’t go with the cheapest windows on the market, even though they may look very similar to the more expensive models on the market. When it comes to vinyl windows, you generally get what you pay for. Cheap vinyl windows are, well, cheaply made and won’t stand the test of time.
If you have experience older vinyl windows that have not held up well, don’t let that keep you from buying new vinyl windows. Today’s vinyl is much improved over the vinyl that was being used even just 20 years ago.
Fiberglass frames are made from a combination of polyester resins and strands of glass that create a very strong, yet lightweight, material. Fiberglass has long been used to make things like surfboards and boats for this very reason. In windows, fiberglass frames provide a sturdy structure unmatched by any other material on the market. This is great if your home has a large picture window, and you want it to have a thin frame for aesthetic reasons. The material is also very energy efficient. Another benefit fiberglass frames is the fact that they are paintable.
One of the downsides of fiberglass windows is that they are pricier than vinyl windows, so unless you are looking for windows with the specific features mentioned above, they are generally not worth the added expense. They are also not as readily available as vinyl windows. You may have a difficult time finding a San Diego replacement window company that sells them, whereas every company in the area that we know of sells vinyl windows.
Wood windows are timeless and classic. They are great for homeowners with older homes who want to maintain the traditional character, or for those who prefer to use more natural materials in their homes. They are also paintable, so you can match your window frames to the paint scheme of the rest of your house.
One of the major downsides of wood windows is that they are generally the most expensive type of replacement windows on the market—even more expensive than fiberglass windows. You also give up a little bit of energy efficiency with wood windows over vinyl or fiberglass products. Finally, wood windows require regular maintenance to keep the frames from rotting, splintering, or decaying, whereas vinyl or fiberglass windows are virtually maintenance free. Despite these downsides, we’ve found that some homeowners are happy to pay extra for the look and feel that wood windows give a home.
Aluminum windows were most popular choice in windows for many years, before vinyl really came on the scene in the 1970s and ‘80s. Aluminum window frames have the advantage of being very strong. So, like fiberglass windows, they are a good choice if you want large windows with thin frames.
Unfortunately, aluminum is a good conductor of heat, which makes aluminum frames not very energy efficient. It’s also difficult to find window replacement companies in San Diego that sell aluminum windows, since they’re just not that popular with homeowners anymore.
Which Window Frame Material is “the Best”?
As you can see above, all of the window frame materials have their advantages and disadvantages. You just need to decide what’s most important to you. If it’s energy efficiency, you should go with vinyl or fiberglass. If it’s value, vinyl windows are probably the best choice for you. If maintaining your home’s historical character is important, you should go with wood. If you’re not sure, let a San Diego window replacement dealer help you decide what windows are the best choice for your particular home. Here at BM Windows in San Diego, we’re always happy to help!