Window frames are one of the most important aspects when it comes to buying new or replacement windows. They are the structural backbone of a window and a good frame is what will keep a window functioning for decades rather than years. When you’re looking for quality windows start by focusing on the frames themselves and then worry about the glass. It’s important that you know what type and size frame you need before you make the purchase.
There are four major types of window frames available on the market today: vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass and wooden. It’s important to consider the benefits of each to determine which type fits your needs.
Vinyl windows are windows with frames made out of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), the same stuff used to make pipes and fittings for plumbing. The material is extruded into a straight shape and then crafted together into a window frame and filled with glass to make the window.
Vinyl windows are affordable and they are known for being good insulators. Vinyl is a versatile material and can be used to make most window styles so you can get exactly what you’re looking for.
However, vinyl windows aren’t the most durable option and they don’t have the same level of charm as wooden windows or aluminum windows do. They aren’t quite as strong as fiberglass, wood or aluminum, even when made with the best design practices.
Aluminum windows are known for being rugged and long lasting. They are also more modern and work well if you are looking for a sleek modern look on your home. They let in plenty of sunlight and are low-maintenance, especially when they aren’t painted. They won’t wear out in sunlight and won’t rot, or mold or suffer from most common wear problems that affect wood, vinyl or fiberglass windows.
Aluminum windows aren’t very efficient even though manufacturers do everything they can to boost those efficiency figures. When compared to other options they fall short in terms of efficiency. They are also quite expensive. You’ll spend more for aluminum windows than you will for vinyl or fiberglass, though they are usually a bit cheaper than wooden windows.
Fiberglass windows are a less common option that’s really very durable and relatively simple to maintain. The windows are made from extruded fiberglass sections and the frames are a similar shape to vinyl frames.
Fiberglass windows are highly durable known for resisting weathering and standing up to extreme temperature changes more capably than any other material. That’s because fiberglass is so close in composition to the glass panes used to make up windows so both materials expand and contract about the same amount with temperature changes. Fiberglass is an excellent insulator and makes window frames that work to prevent the transfer of heat.
Unlike wood or aluminum, fiberglass is a bit dull in appearance. This can be remedied by painting it a different color, but many people still don’t find it as charming. The material is also quite expensive and can cost as much as or more than aluminum or wooden windows. Fiberglass is much more expensive than vinyl windows are for a very similar look, and that’s why so many people end up with vinyl frames in their homes.
Wooden windows are one of the oldest types of windows still in use today, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer most of the benefits that newer options offer. They’re just as durable as your other window frame options as long as you’re willing to do the work to keep them in good shape. You might have a hard time justifying the purchase of them though if you’re trying to save money, because they’re one of the most expensive options available.
Wooden windows are highly durable, they’re attractive, and they are known to last for a very long time when properly maintained. They’ve been in use for hundreds if not thousands of years and over that time the actual frames themselves have been improved upon but they still offer the same general strength and aesthetic appeal that they always have.
Compared to vinyl or fiberglass windows, wooden windows are pretty expensive. They also require a lot maintenance, for instance if you fail to repaint the windows when needed, they can suffer from severe expansion and contraction due to moisture changes in the wood. They are also susceptible to rot and weathering in certain climates.
Before deciding on a new window frame, make sure you have them properly sized by an expert to fit the opening in your home. Without proper sizing you’ll run into one of two major problems. The first is that the windows will be too large for the opening so you’ll either have to cut away some of the wall in your home to accommodate the new window size, or return the window. If the window is too small it will be difficult to hang properly and will let in drafts, have poor insulation and potentially even break.
Some window frames can be repaired affordably especially when they are wooden, but it’s important to assess the current condition of your window frame and glass before deciding if you want to repair or replace the product. Rotting windows likely aren’t worth the trouble to repair and often can’t be repaired anyways. Single pane windows create a drafty environment and they aren’t good for insulation or energy efficiency so if you have single pane windows in need of attention, it’s best to replace them altogether.
If you have more modern windows in your home that are at least double paned you might want to consider repairing them versus replacing them. Wooden windows can be repaired and updated easily with kits and other commercial products sold for the purpose. Older wooden window frames offer a certain charm that you won’t get from windows sold today, and making repairs is an affordable way to save that vintage charm.
When shopping for windows you’ll have to decide if you want a full frame of open glass or if you want a divided frame. Divided window frames have sections with small pieces of glass in between each section and there are also windows that come with faux dividers that make the windows look separated even though they really aren’t. If you want an unimpeded view, avoid divided frames but if you want the classic window panes look, there are several options to choose from.
Windows with authentic dividers and small pieces of glass in between each divider are quite expensive. They are more work to create and they have more weak points. These are the most authentic windows when you want an old-fashioned look, but they generally are not the best option today.
If you want a realistic divided look, attached grid windows have a full pane of glass with dividers glued to their surface. They appear to be divided just like authentic divided windows but they are more affordable and generally more efficient.
Finally there are the faux grids. These grids sit in front of the window as part of the frame and often don’t even touch the glass. They are the least convincing option, but they are the easiest to clean. You can easily put a cloth in behind the separators and clean all the glass at the same time. It’s much less of a hassle than trying to clean each individual piece.
It’s common for a manufacturer to offer a “lifetime” warranty with their window and frame, but that warranty can mean one thing at one manufacturer and something completely different at another. It’s important that you read through the fine print and find out how long the warranty covers the windows and what conditions are covered so you know which manufacturers stand behind their products.