Talking Wood vs Vinyl Replacement Windows

Just moved into a new home and it’s been an adventure. The windows here are probably the original windows in the house, which means they’re single paned metal framed windows that lack both appeal and any kind of climate control. The house overheats during the day because these windows soak up the sun. So, as you can see we’re facing a decision, we need new house windows for this shabby home that deserves some love and updating, but we don’t like to do anything just because the salesperson says so. To this end we’ve done quite a bit of research about wood vs vinyl windows. It’s very useful information to have, so I thought I might share what I’ve found.

Materials Used

Obviously the biggest difference between wood and vinyl replacement windows is the materials used in their construction. For many people it’s obvious that wood window frames and sashes are appealing, they have that good old homey organic appeal. No matter how many different benefits there are to vinyl it’s always going to be plastic. It is most common these days to actually have only partial wood in a wooden replacement window. The interior of such a window is going to be a beautiful wood, the exterior however will still be vinyl because it supposedly survives weathering better. If you’re looking for wood windows inside and out you’ll have to find a special window company—good news is, most professionals will admit wood windows still last longer than vinyl if they receive the proper maintenance.


I suppose that last comment naturally leads right into the discussion of maintenance. The difference between maintenance of wood and vinyl windows plays a huge roll in why the industry has changed over to selling a dramatically greater number of vinyl windows than wood ones. The great selling point of vinyl windows is that they “do not need” maintenance- which is only partially true. All windows will grow in heat and shrink in the cold, but vinyl does so twice as much as wood. This can do damage to the seal between the window sash and the window and cause it to fail, in many cases this can not be repaired and requires replacement- which isn’t technically maintenance. To be fair, the maintenance that wood windows require is more involved in a routine fashion, wood windows require painting (you can’t paint vinyl windows), glazing, sealing or insulating and repair due to weather.

Insulation Ability

Vinyl windows are non-conductors of heat so their insulation ratings are very good. The double paned nature helps create an additional layer of protection from the elements. But if the desiccant between the panes stops working the windows will fog permanently. Wood windows that are properly constructed and carefully installed into sashes and frames that are sealed and insulated tightly are EXCELLENT at insulating the home—but those variables can greatly affect this result.

Cost of Both

The real clincher of windows is that for the beauty and insulation of wood windows, which are lower in demand and therefore less available and more often custom made, you’re going to be paying a much higher price for your windows. Vinyl will always be cheaper, and will probably remain in demand for decades to come.

We haven’t decided on the best replacement windows for our home yet, like most of the home improvement projects ahead of us, but at least we’re aware while vinyl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, wood has its pros and cons too.

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