Windows come in dozens of styles; however, the two basic categories are wood or vinyl. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Both are energy efficient – the big differences are cost and maintenance.
Wood windows look great when they are put in, but they need periodic maintenance to keep up that look. Exposed wood will swell, rot and decay so wood windows need to be painted or stained regularly.
Vinyl windows are cleaned with soap and water and they never require painting or sealing.
Wood windows can cost two to three times what vinyl windows cost, but they have a higher re-sale value. They give an aesthetically pleasing, finished look to a residence and there are dozen of custom options, too. With wood windows you can vary the color, style, grille, hardware and the configuration.
Vinyl windows are relatively plain. There are vinyl windows being manufactured in wood-grain looks, but on close inspection, you can still tell you’ve got a vinyl window manufactured in a wood-grain look, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but something the consumer needs to keep in mind.
Vinyl windows are great for modern homes. They have a clean, symmetrical look that goes great with a clean design. Wood windows compliment older homes and historic homes. They can be ordered to fit into those quirky spaces that older homes have near foundations or by attics and dormers.
You can use cladding to defer some maintenance of wood windows. Cladding is vinyl or aluminum applied to the outside of the windows to sheet moisture away from the wooden frame. It forms a seal, but if that seal is broken, moisture can leak in and then the frame will rot.
If done correctly it can prolong the life of the window without maintenance. One thing to remember about cladding is it prevents outside moisture from damaging the frame. If you have a window that has constant condensation inside that sits on the frame – such as certain kitchen or bathroom windows – cladding on the outside won’t prevent damage.
Wood or vinyl aside, measuring and ordering windows, in general, is complicated. Windows are rated for certain areas of the country. Do you want UV protection and how much? Do you want sound rated windows? Do you want hurricane rated? Since windows are a costly investment, we recommend you get help from professionals for picking and measuring your windows.
Future blog posts will go through specific kinds of windows and their different applications.