Comparing Home Window Materials

The process of replacing windows can seem like a long and arduous task. It takes time, a lot of planning, and also can become a very costly endeavor. Therefore, it is important to do the proper research before buying new or replacement windows.

One of the most crucial decisions in choosing the correct replacement windows is also one of the easiest decisions to overlook: the decision of choosing the right materials for your windows. This, of course, refers to the window materials used other than the glass itself, the parts that hold the glass together. It may not seem like it, but each type of material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and some materials may not be right for just any home.

What Types of Materials Are Available?

There are many different types of materials available for window replacement, each with its own set of strengths and drawbacks. The main types of materials are wood, aluminum, steel, fiberglass, and vinyl. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is important to know a little about each type before choosing the best one for a certain home.

Wood Windows

For those who are looking for a classic window, look no further than wood. Wood has been around as a window replacement material for a very long time, yet contractors continue to improve on a classic. Recent advancements have made today’s wood framing stronger and longer lasting than its predecessors and wood just looks great when it is done properly. Wood is also very adaptable, as it can be painted to match the rest of the house with little to no problem. As mentioned earlier though, wood is very high maintenance, and it is also expensive. Therefore, wood should only be a choice for people who are willing to pay a lot and put in the work to make their house look great.

How much do wood windows cost?

Wood windows cost between $310-$3800 for single units such as double, single-hung or casement windows and an average of $2,225 for bay and bow window units. View our wood window cost guide for a full breakdown of prices and costs.

Aluminum Windows

Aluminum windows have seen a bit of a decline in popularity lately in the residential area, mainly because energy efficiency has become such a growing concern. In all fairness to aluminum, it really is a great material; it is strong, resistant to dents and scratches, and can be painted any color. However, aluminum is an excellent conductor of energy, so hot and cold from outside can easily be transferred to inside of a building. However, some home owners still choose an aluminum window replacement because of its moderate cost and durability; especially if they have a smaller house and are not as concerned with energy efficiency.

How much do aluminum windows cost?

Aluminum windows, although declining in popularity, are one of the cheapest window material types available. The price of aluminum windows is between $150 – $650 for single or double-hung units and $550 – $1,685 for bay and bow windows. Our aluminum window price guide has more information.

Steel Windows

Another material that has declined in popularity in homes is definitely steel, though it is not out of the running just yet. Steel is still used today in commercial buildings, but it shares a similar problem with aluminum in that it is not very energy efficient. However, in terms of durability there is simply no better option. Some people also use steel in their home for security reasons as well.

How much do steel windows cost?

Steel windows aren’t really in vogue any more and so we haven’t specifically collated prices for this type of material, however in short they are cheaper than aluminum at around $100-$150 per unit.

Fiberglass Windows

Many who are looking for a material that gets high marks in all areas will go with fiberglass. Fiberglass is as a window replacement material has a very interesting combination of energy efficiency, durability and adaptability. It is not as flashy as wood, but it definitely requires less maintenance while still being able to be painted to match any situation. It is also almost as durable as vinyl, yet it looks much nicer. The main drawback to fiberglass though is definitely its cost. It is a newcomer to the market of replacement Window Materials and the prices are still very high. However, if money is no object, fiberglass just might be the best of all worlds.

How much do fiberglass windows cost?

The average cost of an installed fiberglass window is $625, with prices between $295 – $2300 for single and double hung units and $880-$3,450 for bay and bow units. We’ve broken down the fiberglass window costs in our cost guide.

Vinyl Windows

Possibly the most popular material used in window replacement these days, vinyl is one of the most durable, lowest cost, lowest maintenance, highest energy efficiency material on the market. Vinyl is one of those materials that just has it all. There is really nothing to complain about with vinyl as far as performance goes, but critics of vinyl point out that vinyl can sometimes look cheap and lower curb appeal, and they may have a point. To many people, vinyl does not look as nice as something like wood, or even aluminum. That is why manufacturers have come out with wood-clad vinyl, which looks a little bit nicer, but also requires a little more upkeep than pure vinyl. For more information see our guides on the benefits and the disadvantages of vinyl windows.

How much do vinyl windows cost?

Vinyl windows cost $150 – $2,000 per unit for single, double-hung and casement units and $990 – $3,300 for bay and bow, with prices quite comparable with fiberglass. We’ve broken down the full price list for all major types of vinyl windows in our vinyl window price guide.

Fibex Windows

Fibrex is a specific type of material which was designed, developed and is manufactured by Andersen window corporation. Essentially fibrex is an extremely durable and strong material which is up to 2 x stronger than vinyl, it’s 12 x thicker finish than vinyl and can withstand up to 150 degree temperatures. It is made from a blend of 40% wood, which has been taken from waste via the Andersen manufacturing process. Some of the major benefits to fibrex over other materials such as vinyl or standard wood is that it’s able to reduce heating and cooling bills, is low maintanence and doesn’t require painting or staining, and it’s very rot resistant and corrode resistant.

How much do fibrex windows cost?

Fibrex windows cost between $250 and $1395 for single-hung, double-hung and casement windows. Window prices for bay and bow windows are significantly higher at $2,200 – $4,800, and are only available in replacement windows from the Andersen renewal range.

What Factors are Important When Choosing Your Window Replacement Materials?

When choosing replacement window materials, it is important to ask the right questions. When home owners are able to determine exactly what they want out of their new windows, choosing materials for the job becomes much easier. Here are a few questions to help the struggling home owner figure out what is important to them when replacing their windows.

  • In Terms of Cost: How Much is Too Much? Everyone wants the best quality windows with the highest curb appeal for their home, however this is not always an option for homeowners on a budget. The monetary difference between buying the highest quality brand name windows a more reasonably priced brand can be huge, especially if the home being renovated has a lot of windows to be replaced. That’s why it’s important to make sure you get yourself several free replacement window quotes before going with one contractor.
  • How Important is Energy Efficiency in the Home? This has become a huge question for most home owners. Most people want the best energy efficiency possible. However, this may not be practical as the high energy efficiency windows are extremely expensive. Also, in smaller homes with just a few windows, energy efficient windows may not make all that much of a difference in the heating and cooling bill. Therefore, homeowners with smaller homes may be able to get away with using less energy efficient materials.
  • How Much Maintenance is Required? Some Window Materials are more durable and require less upkeep than others. Anyone looking to replace their windows should consider exactly how much work they want to put into maintaining the look and feel of the windows. Some materials, such as wood, are very aesthetically pleasing in a window, but require constant maintenance to keep the window looking like new. Other materials, such as vinyl, may not look as nice, but will almost never require any kind of upkeep. Before choosing materials for window replacement, stop and think about the amount of work that is going to be required to keep the windows looking like new. If it seems like too much work, or if no one in the house is much of a handyman, consider finding a material that is easier to maintain.
  • How Important is Curb Appeal? Curb appeal is a definite factor when choosing window materials. Some materials simply do not look as nice as others to the neighbors. While how the house looks should be important, it should not be the only factor when choosing a window style. Pick something that looks nice, but is also meets the other needs of the home and the people living in it.

Remember To Choose Wisely

There are many different types of replacement windows available to choose from. The good news is that all of these choices means that there probably is something out there that is perfect for everyone. The bad news is that it may take some research and time to figure out exactly what material is the perfect material for the job. Take some time and make sure it is done right, as there is nothing worse than buyers remorse on something as expensive as replacing windows; especially considering how often windows get used how highly visible they are. Yet, the right material in the right house can be the difference between a nice looking house and a great looking home.