Vinyl vs. Wood-Clad or Wood Replacement Windows for the Home
By Bryan Dube on August 17, 2019
You’ve made the wise decision to replace your windows. While window replacement is a sizeable investment, 70 to 80 percent of the cost will be recouped through a higher market value during resale. Replacement windows will also increase the energy efficiency of your home, due to the many improvements made to the building materials.
When it comes to windows, you get what you pay for, which is why we only source high quality products from our preferred manufacturers. Vinyl windows are our most popular choice for replacements, while all-wood or wood-clad windows tend to be preferred by homeowners looking to preserve a more traditional aesthetic.
Which window frame material is best?
Read on, and we'll share some key differences that can help with your replacement window material choice.
Different materials, different aesthetics
The window frame materials that perform the best through all of the Vermont seasons are vinyl, all-wood, and wood-clad.
All-wood frames, which we source from Sierra Pacific Windows, are a high quality product sourced, processed, and formed from American trees. This window type is best suited for historic homes to fit the aesthetic and "breathe" with the older construction type. Wood is a great insulator, and if properly maintained, can last indefinitely.
Wood-clad windows offer the benefits of wood on the inside (such as customization, durability, and increased energy efficiency), but the low-maintenance aluminum jacket or vinyl on the exterior helps prevent against rot, warping, peeling and bending that can occur with low-quality, poorly maintained all-wood frames.
Vinyl windows are a cost effective choice that last for decades, and require less maintenance for home owners against rot or wear. While they have a slightly shorter lifespan than all-wood or wood-clad, they are still popular among Vermont homeowners.
One downside to vinyl frames is their color. Vinyl is a material that is difficult to paint, and we don't recommend trying. That means that the color of the window sash is permanent, even if the exterior color of the home changes with a fresh coat of paint.
Typical Lifespan of Window Frame Comparison
Depending on the materials used in the replacement, seasonal wear and the existing climate, the average home needs its windows replaced roughly every 15 to 30 years.
The lifespan of all-wood windows is reportedly the longest - but only if homeowners can properly maintain them. Annual care to maintain a rot-free and fully coated paint layer is key to keeping your all-wood windows beautiful and fully functional.
Wood-clad is a great option for homeowners looking for a more traditional or more natural aesthetic without the ongoing maintenance on the exterior. Choosing the right exterior material for the frame is key - aluminum dents easily and has a lower insulation quality than vinyl.
The cost of a wood-clad replacement window can range between $800 and $1,000 per unit, but can last upwards of 30 plus years.
Vinyl is the most cost-effective option, and when sourced from high quality manufacturers, vinyl windows will still last for up to 15 or 20 years. Vinyl is the least likely of these three materials to rot, warp, or bend under normal wear and tear.
Energy Efficiency Varies for Different Materials
The energy efficiency of your home is a pretty important factor when choosing the right window materials. Our winters get cold, and the summers get hot and humid here in Vermont, so your windows need to be able to insulate against all kinds of seasonal changes.
The frame material, coupled with the glazing and panes of a window, contribute to the overall energy efficiency rating of a rating, which translates into savings for you. The less heat that you gain or lose through your home’s windows, the less you will spend running your heating and cooling systems.
Wood is a good insulator, which is key for a 4-season climate. We mentioned earlier the "breath-ability" of the material, which refers to the seasonal swelling and shrinking that many traditional New England homes experience as the year progresses. Having windows of a breathing material means that over the years, there's less of a chance you'll see gaps between the casing, or experience issues opening or closing the window.
Wood-clad offers a combination of insulating materials, which can be a perfect pairing if other factors line up.
Aluminum is a lower insulator than the other options, so we typically don't recommend aluminum wood-clad for Vermont homes if energy efficiency is a priority. Instead, opt for vinyl instead. It's greater insulating factor combined with the even better insulator teammate, wood, makes it a better choice for homeowners.
Vinyl is a man-made material and is less likely to rot or warp. However, because it's a more rigid material, it doesn't breathe like wood does. According to consumer research, that means vinyl windows are less likely to retain their shape over time if exposed to a wide range of temperatures, like hot summers and extremely cold winters.
Environmental Impact of Window Manufacturing
One factor that is on the rise among Vermont homeowners is the environmental impact of the manufactured windows they consider using in their home.
We prefer to partner with responsible manufacturers based in the United States, to bring our customers high-quality USA-made and sourced products. Local sourcing means a lower environmental impact on product shipping, and that you can trust manufacturing processes and practices are up to our nation's standards.
Our Wood-Clad Recommendation
At Acme Glass, we use the highest quality windows. We offer a variety of brands and only sell manufacturers and brands that provide a quality product. By far, the best brand of wood-clad windows we carry is Sierra Pacific Windows.
Sierra Pacific Windows takes great pride in ensuring that nothing but the best products get passed along to the consumer. They handle the product from start to finish – including everything from planting and processing the wood to assembly, shipping and the creation of energy to power their facilities.