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The Six Window Materials: What You Need to Know

Apart from home insulation, the material that makes up a window has its own strengths and weaknesses to meet particular needs and tastes. Navigate at your leisure, the window materials below are listed in order of descending costs.

Wood: The naturally aspirated wood frame is unparalleled when it comes to insulation, but it also stands out because of its authentic and rich appearance. It should be noted that unsealed wood will need regular treatment with primer as it is prone to moisture, decay, and termite damage. A low-maintenance solution that is growing in popularity is the clad-wood alternative, which is a window frame that protects the interior wood with a vinyl or aluminum clad.

Clad-Wood windows are the second most expensive options because of the wood material and the manufacturing process of cladding the wood interior. Clad-Wood windows combine the best aspects of wood and the cladding material of choice. You can choose for the exterior protective layer to be aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass for maximum protection against rot and termites.

Composite window frames vary in their combinations as different leading companies innovate with different mixtures of synthetic and natural materials. Some are mostly made up of vinyl, fiberglass, or wood fibers to enhance the final product. The best thing about composite windows is the wide variety of products available. They can be more expensive than vinyl but with manufacturers competing in the marketplace, you could find for yourself a bargain.

Fiberglass: By far the strongest and most durable window material on the market, fiberglass resists corrosion, thermal buckling, and discoloring. Although it accepts darker colors, it is very limited in color variety.

Vinyl is generally the most affordable window because it's so easy to mold and manufacture. Vinyl provides the home with excellent energy-efficient insulation and can reduce energy costs by up to 15%.

Aluminum: The impact window of choice, aluminum windows are second only to fiberglass in terms of strength but are a lot more affordable. Aluminum windows are generally the most customizable material to work with; they have the widest variety of colors and finishes to match any home. They can rust over time but are very resilient, reliable, and more durable than their vinyl counterpart.


Window Trait \ Window Material Aluminum Composite Fiberglass Vinyl Clad-Wood Wood
 Insulation Performance Poor, but can be improved Very good 89% better insulator than aluminum and can sometimes be better than vinyl Excellent Better than vinyl The best insulating material
 Impact Resistance Very resistant Resistant The most resistant window material Resistant Very resistant Resistant
 Availability Readily available Readily available Limited availability Readily available Limited availability Readily available
 Strength Very strong Strong The strongest window material Strong Very strong exterior Very strong
 Durability Lasts longer than vinyl (PVC) Varies from company to company The most durable window material Very durable Very durable exterior Depends on area's climate
 Maintenance Occasional cleaning Occasional cleaning Occasional cleaning Occasional cleaning Occasional cleaning Requires regular treatment with primer if not properly sealed
 Thermal Buckling Twice as resistant to thermal expansion and contraction as vinyl  Twice as resistant to thermal expansion and contraction as aluminum Twice as resistant to thermal expansion and contraction as aluminum The most prone to thermal expansion and contraction Depends on clad material (i.e. vinyl or aluminum) The most resistant to thermal expansion and contraction
 Glass Space Allows for more glass space than vinyl or wood Allows for more glass space than vinyl or wood Allows for more glass space than vinyl or wood Little glass space due to thickness of material Little glass space due to the double-layered material Allows for the most glass space
 Home Resale Value Increase Increase Substantial increase Up to 72.9% recoup of window costs Substantial increase Up to 78.8% recoup of window costs
 Affordability Very affordable More expensive than vinyl but more affordable than clad wood More expensive than vinyl by 15-30% The most affordable material Expensive The most expensive material
 Sound Abatement More soundproof than vinyl Poor but can be improved Very soundproof Soundproof vinyl models are available Very soundproof Very soundproof
 Recyclability Completely recyclable Partially recyclable Partially recyclable Difficult to recycle Completely if clad material is aluminum Completely recyclable
 Interior Appearance Not very pleasant Pleasant Very pleasant Pleasant Exterior can be aluminum or vinyl. Interior is a pleasant natural wood appearance A natural favorite for homeowners
 Customizability The most customizable material Very customizable Accepts darker colors and wood veneer but lacks in variety Very customizable Very customizable  Very customizable
 Energy-Efficiency Not very efficient, but can be improved Very good and can be improved Extremely low thermal conductivity and more airtight than vinyl Vinyl can reduce energy costs by up to 15% More airtight than vinyl The most energy-efficient material
 Deformation/Discoloration Very resistant but can rust after years of moist air Composite does not absorb moisture and will not deform Does not deform but can lose color over time Does not peel or warp but can discolor. Plus, it cannot be repainted Refer to aluminum and vinyl Termite prone. If not properly maintained, wood can swell and 'soften' in areas of high humidity.

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