Whether you’re remodeling your home or building a new one, choosing window frames often comes down to the choice between wood vs vinyl windows.
Wood and vinyl windows are two of the most popular window options. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages that you should take note of when choosing which type to use.
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Cost of Wood vs Vinyl Windows
Wood windows are a premium luxury building materials, so its no surprise that they cost more than vinyl windows.
Overall, wood windows are about 35-30% more expensive than vinyl windows. You can install 10 standard size wood windows for $10,600 – 12,500, while the same size 10 vinyl windows will cost $7,500 – 9,800
Installation costs for wood windows are also more expensive, starting at $300-350 per window, where as the cost to install vinyl windows ranges from $150-225 per window.
You can use our Window Cost Estimator to calculate the cost of installing new or replacement windows in your home.
About Wood Windows
Wood windows were, until several decades ago, the most used window material available. Many still stick to wood windows because they feel that they’re more aesthetically pleasing. Wood is a very versatile material when it comes to construction, and wooden windows follow suit.
Because they can be painted, stained, and carved, wood windows are very customizable. With the numerous types of wood, along with years of woodworking techniques available, it’s easy to see why it remains popular as a window building material.
If you’re looking for a classic look that radiates both elegance and refinement, then you can’t go wrong with wooden windows.
Wood windows require a lot of maintenance, and depending on the type of wood, can be quite expensive. The upfront costs of installing wooden windows are a lot higher if you compare them to vinyl.
If well maintained, however, you can expect decades of enjoyment from them as they can last an average of 30 years. Well-made wood windows are very durable, and they add value to your home.
Any potential buyer will no doubt be attracted to well-kept wood windows.
Wood windows offer very good insulation, and will easily keep out both heat and cold when properly maintained. However, if they get damaged this protection is quickly lost and may allow drafts or cause loss of either heat or cold.
According to a recent cost vs value report, wood windows have an average ROI of about 67.4%.
This should be something to keep in mind if you’re planning to sell your home within 5 to 10 years after you build or remodel it.
Pros and Cons of Wood Windows
The following are the top advantages homeowners enjoy when they choose to install wood windows:
The following are the disadvantages to consider before making your final selection:
Harder to install than vinyl
About Vinyl Windows
A building material that’s growing in popularity, vinyl attracts a lot of homeowners due to its lower upfront costs and minimal maintenance requirements.
If you’re on a budget but want a window material that’s both attractive and durable, then vinyl windows is a good option.
Manufacturers have realized the increased demand for vinyl windows and have begun to create more designs.
Although vinyl can come in a lot of colors, because it can’t be painted, you’re stuck with that color until you decide to replace your windows entirely.
This lack of customizability is still a drawback for many homeowners, but this problem is slowly being solved as more patterns are made.
Another selling point of vinyl is its low maintenance requirements. Vinyl isn’t susceptible to rust, rot, or weathering and thus doesn’t need to be constantly looked after.
A good cleaning every now and then is all it takes to keep vinyl windows looking brand new. A well-maintained vinyl window will last an average of 15 years before it needs replacing.
Vinyl windows with foam frames are good insulators and offer great energy efficiency. These can keep both heat and cold out as long as there’s no damage to the frames.
Some vinyl windows, however, have hollow frames which can cause the temperature to fluctuate as some heat transfer can occur. It’s best to ask what type of frames your windows have before installation to see if this may be a potential problem for you.
Although vinyl windows are resilient, any damage may require replacing the entire frame. It takes a considerable amount of force to even cause a crack on a vinyl frame, but it’s something to take note of. A recent cost vs value report has placed the ROI of vinyl windows at 73-74%.
If you are not sure which windows to install check out our comprehensive comparative guide between Vinyl vs Fiberglass Windows.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl Windows
Here are the top benefits homeowners enjoy when they install vinyl windows:
Here are the important cons to keep in mind when installing vinyl windows:
Did you know? During the 18th and 19th centuries, some European nations initiated what is known as the Window Tax with payments based on the number of windows a property had.
To avoid it, many homeowners had their windows bricked permanently shut. This tax remained for 156 years before it was finally repealed.
Which Windows Are Better For You Home?
If the descriptions of each material weren’t enough to help you decide which type is best for your home, here are some direct comparisons of both.
Vinyl is the definite winner in this category as wood is simply the more expensive material. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $800 per wood window as compared to only about half that when it comes to vinyl.
Wood windows are harder to manufacture and are more difficult to install, driving up labor costs.
Vinyl is easier to produce and weighs a lot less making installation simpler. If you’re planning to replace windows as a DIY project, it’s simpler to choose vinyl windows.
Upfront costs aren’t everything, as wood will last twice as long as the average vinyl window as long as it’s well maintained.
This evens out the price you have to pay in the long run, but if you’re unwilling to invest a large sum on a short-term project then vinyl is the way to go.
Compared to vinyl, wood has more options for customization than vinyl. Yes, there are a lot of designs and colors available for vinyl windows, but this pales in comparison to what you can do with wood windows.
From the types of wood available to the designs that you can build to the paints or wood stains you can choose from, your only limit is your budget.
Each wood type has its own unique character, and it’s a lot easier to install wood windows that complement the feel of your home.
Vinyl still has quite a bit of development to go before it can match the customizability of wood, but that doesn’t mean that vinyl windows don’t look great.
There are a lot of themes currently available, and if you find one that matches your desired aesthetic then you have a cheap alternative to wood.
If you’re choosing to install vinyl windows, however, make sure that you like the color that you’re installing because you’re stuck with it.
Unlike wood that can be painted over, vinyl windows don’t react well to paint primers. Paint also doesn’t adhere well to vinyl surfaces creating a risk of flaking and peeling.
Both materials are tied in this category. As long as your windows are well maintained, both wood and vinyl will retain cold or heat. Because both products provide great insulation, HVAC costs are reduced ultimately leading to savings.
Do note that damage to the frames of either material will allow temperature fluctuations to happen. Cracks will let drafts in and let heat out, hiking up energy costs if left unrepaired.
There’s also a caveat with regard to vinyl windows that have hollow frames. The spaces between these frames can allow temperature changes that permit temperature transfers between hot and cold areas.
Pro Tip: If you’re currently building a home, it might be a good idea to discuss with your architect or contractor regarding the placement of your windows.
Sunlight is a great source of both heat and natural light that can save you a lot in energy costs. Consider how the sun moves in relation to your home to find the best locations to install windows.
In terms of installation, vinyl windows win hands down. Vinyl is lighter and more manageable than wood, and if you’re planning to install windows on your own, then vinyl is the easier option.
Labor costs are also higher when it comes to wood windows, averaging about $200-$300 per window as compared to about $150-$250 for vinyl.
This is because wooden frames weigh about 20 to 30 pounds, making them very unwieldy. Vinyl frames usually weigh 8 to 12 pounds, making installation simpler.
When it comes to DIY projects, vinyl is better in relation to the upfront costs involved. Making mistakes when installing wood windows can be quite costly, and with the heavier frame, it takes a lot of experience to get it right.
Vinyl frames are more beginner-friendly and are usually a lot more forgiving when it comes to mistakes.
This is another win for vinyl because it’s resistant to most conditions that will damage wood frames. Vinyl is resistant to rust, moisture, and rot, making upkeep a lot simpler.
Vinyl windows can be cleaned with a mixture of soap and water along with a damp cloth. This might not be possible for wooden window frames, especially if the frames have been varnished.
Dry rot and termites are also a potential problem when it comes to wood windows, and if they’re not discovered early may cause extensive amounts of damage. Vinyl frames are immune to rot and insects, eliminating such problems.
Because of the lower cost of materials and labor, it’s easier to replace vinyl windows than wood ones.
Since vinyl windows come pre-fabricated, replacing old windows of the same model is a rather straightforward process.
Just take the old window frame out and replace it with the new one.
Wooden frames, especially custom-built ones, need to be properly measured and crafted before installation.
Wood windows also usually involve sanding and staining after setup to match the look of older window frames. Vinyl windows are installed as-is and need no further modification after they’re set up.
This category depends on how well you maintain your windows. Poorly kept windows will quickly fall into disrepair no matter the material used for them.
However, proper maintenance extends the longevity of your windows considerably.
The average life of wooden window frames is about 30+ years, twice as long as the vinyl’s 15-year average.
This is the equalizing factor when it comes to considering both window types. If you’re planning on reselling a house within 5 to 10 years of remodeling, vinyl windows are a better investment.
If you plan on making the building into your permanent family home, wood windows will be more cost-efficient in the long term. It all depends on how long you’re planning to stay in the house.
Return on Investment
A 2021 Cost vs Value report has calculated the ROI, or return on investment, of both wood and vinyl windows. This indicates how much value is retained when the owner decides to resell the property as opposed to the costs involved in building or remodeling.
The average ROI of wooden windows is at 67.4%, not too far off from vinyl’s 68.6%. Just a 1.2% difference between the two window types.
Did you know? In the 1600s, glass was such a luxury that aristocrats took extra precautions regarding their windows. They would order them taken down and stored whenever they went on long trips abroad.
Wood Window Brands
If you’re looking to install wooden windows for your home, you might want to consider these top brands:
Established in 1903, Andersen Windows and Doors has more than a century of experience when it comes to window design and manufacture.
With a very large catalog of wooden frame products, you can certainly see why Andersen Windows are considered as one of the leading wood window brands in the country.
Their webpage offers not only a selection of their various styles but a tool to design your own. They’re a brand that’s worth a look.
Another veteran company when it comes to windows, Marvin was founded in 1912 and continues its century-old tradition of providing quality wooden products.
Marvin Windows have a great lineup of products, including 15 types of wood for interior windows and four kinds for exterior installations.
Their signature collection offer themes that can adapt to any building project, and easy replacement windows when needed. Check out their website to see if they have the types of windows that you need.
Founded in 1960, Jeld-Wen began from a single wood mill in Oregon that was converted into a window-making facility.
From its humble beginnings, it has now established itself as a global corporation with 120 facilities in 19 countries around the globe.
Jeld-Wen windows has a diverse line of products that can fit a variety of budgets, from their reasonably priced W-2500 series to their high-end custom line.
Vinyl Window Brands
If vinyl windows are what you want, then these manufacturers have some of the most popular options:
One of the leading manufacturers of vinyl building materials, Alside windows offers a range of vinyl window designs that can fit almost any style.
Their website allows you to pick colors and grid templates to better understand how a certain model might potentially look in your home.
Simonton Windows and Doors is a company that comes highly recommended among customers and contractors alike.
Unlike many of their competitors, Simonton windows are made to exceed expectations, and their customer service is one of the best in the industry.
Their portfolio of products can be ordered to meet Energy Star guidelines, and offer a variety of styles to choose from.
Check out Simonton windows website to mix and match grid patterns, colors, and designs to match your current project.
With over half a century of innovation under its belt, Milgard has become one of the top providers of quality vinyl windows in the market.
With their in-house production line, they formulate their own vinyl compounds, fabricate their own vinyl frames, and even temper their own glass.
Milgard windows manages all the details in the creation of their products to ensure that you’re getting the best vinyl windows on the market.
Pro Tip: The EPA publishes a climate zone map with recommended values for insulation and solar heat gain for the USA. Before buying your windows, see if that particular model meets these recommended values for optimal energy efficiency.
Expansion of Wood vs Vinyl Windows
Temperature changes will cause wood window frames to expand or contract. Cold temperatures may cause wooden frames to become loose, while hotter climates may cause them to get stuck.
Vinyl windows will actually expand more than twice than wooden frames. Take this into account when buying vinyl windows in areas that experience extreme temperature changes.
When planning to build a home or replace windows, it’s always important to keep in mind a few factors before choosing which material to go with.
Both vinyl and wood windows offer great options depending on the circumstances. If you’re looking for a quick turnover, then vinyl is the best choice.
If you want a home for posterity, then wood windows are the way to go.