A Homeowner's Guide to Window Frames

Windows
Decoration and Design
Small Projects and Repairs
By Contractors.com Team July 19, 2021

It’s no joke that the right windows can work wonders when it comes to opening up your interior spaces. The perfect windows can completely change the character of your home by brightening up the room with plenty of natural light, opening it up with some panoramic views, and even increasing your home’s energy efficiency. Much like a beautiful front door, a good set of windows helps to maximize your home’s curb appeal too, making them a good investment for anyone who’s thinking about selling their home. 

Having said that, there’s another equally important window detail that tends to be overlooked, and that’s window frame material. This refers to the outer section of your window that surrounds the glass pane and protects it from damage. In this modern-day and age, most of us just choose plastic vinyl frames and leave it at that. But with so many other options available in the world of window frame materials, it’s worth asking “which window frame is better?” After all, window frames are arguably the most important part of the window since they provide it with structural rigidity and its overall look.

Window frame materials each come with their own set of benefits, be they of aesthetics or quality. You won’t be able to judge these materials just by looking at them, so it pays to read up on them and see which one will best fit your home remodeling project. 

Wood 

This is an oldie but a goodie. Wooden window frames have been in use for centuries and are still available today. Though often found in older homes, wooden frames are still a great option for modern homes since they carry the undeniable benefit of aesthetic beauty. There’s just something charming about the rustic look of wood window frames, with their vintage natural look. If you’re looking for window frames that are guaranteed to boost your home’s curb appeal, these are the ones to go for. 

Benefits of Having Wooden Window Frames

Benefits of Having Wooden Window Frames

Average Cost

On average, wooden window frames cost between $600 and $1,300 depending on your window design. 

Pros

Wooden window frames can be pretty durable given that they’re regularly maintained as needed. They have a nice look and feel to them, and wood is pretty good as an insulator too. 

Cons

Aside from the expense, wooden window frames are more maintenance-intensive than other window frame materials. As with anything that’s made from wood, wood frames are vulnerable to long-term damage from heat and moisture. To mitigate this they need to be regularly repainted and treated so that they last as long as possible. 

Fiberglass

This is the “eco-friendly option” when it comes to window frames. Fiberglass is made mostly of sand, so it doesn’t pollute in any way. Plus, the versatility of fiberglass means that it can be made to look like any material including wood. So, a fiberglass window frame can offer you an alternative to wooden frames that gives you the same aesthetics without the drawbacks wooden window frames can have. 

Fiberglass door frames can be made in almost any color and can be designed to fit almost any design style. This makes them a good choice for a wide range of different homes.

Why to Choose Fiberglass Window Frames Over Others

Why to Choose Fiberglass Window Frames Over Others

Average Cost

The average fiberglass window frame can be as low as $600 in price or as high as $1,000. 

Pros 

Fiberglass is a famously durable material. It is even stronger and more long-lasting than vinyl. For this reason, it can last quite a long time with little to no maintenance required. Fiberglass is also an excellent insulator, so it’s a good option if you want to increase your home’s thermal efficiency.  

Cons

Fiberglass is more expensive than most other window frame materials. Also, while it is pretty low maintenance, it will require regular repainting if you choose to have it colored because the paint tends to fade with time. 

Aluminum 

In this modern minimalist world of ours, you can’t go wrong with something sleek and metallic. That’s no less true for your window frames which are one of the most visible details on your house. But aluminum window frames bring more to the table than just glitzy looks. They are quite lightweight which makes maintenance and installation just that little bit easier. Also, they’re very durable and can put up with years, if not decades, of punishing weather and harsh sunlight with almost no maintenance.  

Sleek Aluminum Windows Perfect for a Contemporary Interior

Sleek Aluminum Windows Perfect for a Contemporary Interior

Average Cost

Average aluminum window frame costs range from $150 to $700. 

Pros

Because they’re made of metal, aluminum window frames are immune to the problems that can affect the other window frame materials on this list such as rot, mold, cracking, and discoloration. They don’t wear out from sun damage and they don’t need much care to last a long time. 

Cons

Metal does come with its downsides, however, and the main one has to do with insulation. Aluminum conducts heat well, which is not what you want if your windows need to be good insulators. Incorrectly installed aluminum framed windows could cause things to get real hot real fast, so it’s important to have these installed with additional insulating materials.  

Composite 

Composite window frames are a relatively new innovation in the realm of window frame technology. They try to offer the best of both worlds by combining materials and are usually made from either wood and aluminum, or wood and vinyl. This is achieved by using a composite wood core that is then encased in a vinyl or aluminum surround. These combinations tend to be quite long-lasting and very energy-efficient. 

Alternatively, composite window frames can be made the opposite way. That is, with vinyl or aluminum frames encased in real wood coverings. Typically this is done with a wood composite such as plywood or strand lumber and it gives the same premium qualities as regular wood but with a much stronger core material. This is a good option for someone that wants the look and feel of wood without the maintenance requirements of wood. It can also be good if you’re looking for the durability of aluminum window frames without the insulation issues posed by aluminum. 

Reasons to Try Composite Window Frames

Reasons to Try Composite Window Frames

Average Cost

The average cost for composite window frames exceeds $1,000.  

Pros 

Composites are far more durable than traditional wooden window frames in every respect, with superior resistance to moisture and rot. 

Cons

Composite window frames are quite expensive. They are probably the most expensive window frame material you can buy today.  

Vinyl

Vinyl isn’t just a very popular siding material for its durability and affordability. It’s also a super popular material for window frames for all the same reasons. Vinyl window frames are quite cheap and low maintenance. Because they are made from PVC, they can be made in virtually any shape or color imaginable. They can be made to look like wood, metal, or anything in between. Vinyl is also a good insulator, so in many ways, it is a jack of all window frame trades. 

How Vinyl Windows Caught Up with More Traditional Materials

How Vinyl Windows Caught Up with More Traditional Materials

Average Cost

The average cost of vinyl window frames ranges between $300 and $850

Pros 

Vinyl frames are great for keeping out moisture and maximizing thermal efficiency. They don’t need much maintenance, and they last a very long time. 

Cons

Despite its durability, vinyl is not a premium material when it comes to how it looks or how it feels. As a consequence, it can’t quite simulate the look or feel of nicer materials like wood with much accuracy.  

Repair VS. Replace

If you have some dilapidated window frames in your house, you might think that the only solution is to rip them out and put some entirely new windows in. This might not necessarily be the case, as some window frames can be repaired quite affordably for less cost than a replacement window. For example, wooden window frames are relatively easy to repair. This may not be the case for all windows, since excessive damage or rotting wood will probably not be worth repairing. 

Also, if you have obsolete window designs such as single-pane windows, it might be better in the long run just to strip them out and put something more modern in such as double-hung windows, or even double-glazed windows. Of course, those that are dead set on keeping their vintage windows should try to have them repaired before opting to replace them, as it will be hard to find modern window frames with the same aesthetic.    

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team