One of the most common questions we get asked by homeowners wanting to replace their windows is what material they should choose for their window frames. There’s no single right answer: it depends on your budget and your personal preference. We examine the pros and cons of each option.
Wood – stylish but expensive
Wood remains the most popular choice for many homeowners, primarily for the natural look they give. They’re strong and fairly energy-efficient, they offer good noise reduction, and they can be shaped in a wide variety of interesting ways.
However, wood has two drawbacks. It’s less durable than the man-made alternatives, and in Florida’s hot, humid climate, that can be a big concern. Interior wood can easily be maintained by good air conditioning, but exterior wood is exposed to all the elements: rain, sunlight, heat, mold and critters. Wood needs to be painted, stained or varnished, and requires regular repainting or revarnishing to prevent rot.
Wood is also the most expensive of the options. Given the ongoing maintenance costs, it’s definitely the luxury choice for home-owners who value top quality appearance over more utilitarian concerns.
Vinyl – energy-efficient and affordable
Vinyl frames are well suited to South Florida’s humid climate. They won’t rot or corrode, and will never require repainting. They provide excellent insulation, so they will help your house stay cool, and lower your power bills. The only weather-related issue you may wish to consider is that they’re sometimes structurally weaker than aluminum, which makes them more vulnerable in hurricanes. However, modern windows will withstand anything short of an extreme hurricane, and you can always reinforce your windows with shutters.
Vinyl also has excellent noise-reduction qualities. If you live in a noisy area, then vinyl frames will help your house stay quieter. In terms of appearance, modern vinyl is available in a wide range of colors, so you are no longer limited to plain white. However, if you’re concerned with environmental issues, then you should be aware that unlike wood and aluminum, vinyl is hard to recycle.
Price-wise, vinyl is the mid-range option. If budget is a consideration, then this offers windows that look almost as good as wood, but for a lower price.
Aluminum – durable and cheap
Aluminum’s greatest advantage is that it’s the most affordable of the three options. It’s also the strongest and most durable: it won’t rot, although over time, it may corrode. So why isn’t it the obvious choice?
The biggest drawback with aluminum is that it conducts heat very efficiently, which reduces the insulation in your home. That’s less of a problem in Florida than in colder climates, since when the heat is outside, you don’t get condensation indoors, but it’s still a consideration in those few cold winter weeks. Some aluminum frames are made with vinyl thermal insulators to address this problem. Aluminum also conducts noise, so it’s not an ideal choice in busy traffic areas, but once again, vinyl insulators will help here.
Aluminum windows also require regular maintenance. They usually need to be painted, and over time, small scratches and chips will appear, and the paint will discolor. You may also need to lubricate any sliding parts.
However, the deciding factor for many homeowners is that aluminum often looks less attractive than either wood or vinyl. It’s a little plain compared to the molding options available on the other materials, and it can appear somewhat utilitarian. That’s usually fine for commercial buildings, but it’s not always what people want on their homes.
The right choice for your home depends entirely on your priorities: are you more concerned with price, energy efficiency, noise, maintenance, durability, or style? We’ll be happy to talk to you about your options and help you choose the windows that are right for your family’s home.