Whether you’re shopping for windows as replacements or for new construction, you’re dealing with an installation that is meant to last decades. Therefore, it’s a challenge to decide between the two most durable and reliable materials: wood and vinyl. Below, we outline the pros and cons of these materials important categories like cost, energy efficiency and length of life.
On This Page
- Are Wood Windows Better than Vinyl?
- Wood Clad Windows – Vinyl Exterior & Wooden Interior
- Material Comparison
- Pella, Andersen & Other Top Replacement Window Brands
Vinyl windows are a common and suitable option for replacement windows because they won’t warp or rot. They are made from polyvinyl chloride—a very durable material—and other components that prevent ultraviolet light from deteriorating the frame. They typically have hollow cores, but you can buy frames with a foam filling for extra insulation.
Wood windows are popular and dependable. They are known for both durability and beauty. Most of them are made from Pine or Douglas Fir. Window manufacturers offer options in a greater variety, from Cedar to Oak and Alder. Higher-end species like Mahogany is significantly more expensive than common options like Pine.
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The following comparisons are useful for determining the right material for your home, budget and needs. See how each stacks up in these most critical categories.
|Wood is best for…||Vinyl is best for…|
|Longevity||Low Cost Materials|
|Visual Appeal||Low Cost Installation|
|Colors and Painting||DIYers|
|Historic Homes||Low Maintenance|
Due to supply, demand and ease of manufacturing, these two materials have very different upfront costs.
- Will not need to be replaced as soon as other alternatives, so investment may balance out in the long-run.
- $300 to $800 per window.
- Are more expensive to produce and are manufactured by fewer companies, which drives up their price.
- $150 to $400 per window.
- Has a low-cost manufacturing process, which translates to low material pricing.
- Will need to replace sooner than alternatives, so expense of replacement may balance out with investment in wood.
Energy efficiency is top of mind for homeowners and buyers alike, and windows have a significant amount of influence on how efficient a home is. Which material performs best as an insulator and energy saver?
- Known as one of the best window materials for insulation and energy efficiency overall. Completely inhibits transmission of heat and cold.
- If damaged due to weather conditions, rot and general disrepair, any resulting gaps could allow heat and cold transfer.
- Does not conduct heat or cold and is a good insulator. Foam-filled frames enhance insulation as well.
- A small amount of temperature exchange can happen with hollow-core frames.
You may not expect installation costs to differ from one material to another, but there are factors that make the process more or less difficult and involved for each.
- $200 to $300 labor per window.
- Heavier (20 to 30 pounds) and more difficult to install
- $150 to $250 labor per window.
- Lighter (8 to 12 pounds) and easier to install.
Window replacement costs an average of $300 to $700 per window among all types available. If you want a quick and simple replacement, you’ll need a window type that you can pop in without complication. See which of these two options is more of an “instant” install.
- Has a more complicated, involved installation process and is heavier.
- May need to make modifications to fit.
- May need to do finishing work, such as sanding and staining.
- Has a quick, less involved installation and is light.
- No sanding or painting required—installed as-is.
Window installation is a complicated project. If you’re going to give it a try, you might want to make it easy on yourself by choosing the easier material to install.
- Heavier and more difficult to install.
- Higher cost of materials upfront.
- Lighter and more DIY-friendly.
- Lower cost of materials upfront.
The way your new windows look can change the way your entire home looks. Some homes would benefit from more customizable options.
- More customizable, paintable and stainable.
- Majority of people see this as a beautiful and timeless option.
- Can easily change hardware and color.
- Now available in greater variety of colors and finishes than basic white and tan.
- Available in woodgrain laminate.
- Can’t be painted.
- New colors and finishes may cost more.
If you think your style is going to change and you’re going to repaint these new windows at any time, the material you choose will determine whether or not that is even possible.
- You can easily paint this material any color.
- A variety of species are available for natural looks.
- You cannot paint this material
- More colors are available than before, but you will be stuck with that color for over 20 years.
Are you the kind of person who enjoys tending to details, like painting and staining? Or would you more of the “set it and forget it” type? If you’d rather set it and forget it, there’s a definite winner here.
The typical cost of window repairs ranges within $150 and $500. This includes fixing broken panes. The cost of repairing the frame itself ranges from $200 to $600. If you want to save money on such repairs, read on for the facts about these two materials.
- If well-maintained and sealed, this product can last over 50 years and will not require as many repairs as a poorly maintained product.
- This product is susceptible to weather conditions and it can chip, rot and break. Excessive rot would warrant complete replacement.
- Doesn’t rot or warp and is extremely resistant to elements. Unlikely to crack or dent, unless struck with force.
- Most common repairs will be to the hardware.
Durability is a hotly debated topic, when it comes to these products. Wood will last longer, which makes it more durable in that sense. But vinyl will not respond to environmental conditions as readily and is more durable throughout its shorter lifetime.
- Extremely durable and can last 30+ years.
- Wears and needs sealing and maintenance in order to keep up durability and appearance.
- Won’t warp, rot or rust. Does not need sealing or extensive maintenance.
- Has a typical lifespan of 15 to 20 years.
If you’re looking to sell your home within the next 5 to 10 years, you’re likely interested in the potential return on investment for each option.
Wood – According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report, these products have an ROI of 69.5 percent nationally.
Vinyl – According to the Cost vs. Value Report, these products have a 74.3 percent ROI nationally.
If you’re scanning through the pros and cons thinking that you’d like the low-maintenance and weather-resistant exterior that vinyl offers with the longevity of wood, you should consider vinyl clad wood windows. These products have wood frames wrapped with vinyl. They won’t be as maintenance-free as vinyl, but they will be nowhere near as high-maintenance as wood. The interior-facing portion of the frame is wood, so you can paint it and enjoy the elegance of the material indoors.
- No painting or sealing.
- Lower maintenance costs.
- Many colors and styles available.
- Great insulators.
- Classic look of wood on interior.
See how these two materials stack up against other popular window options.
Compared to the two materials explored in this guide, fiberglass has some definite pros and cons:
- Material costs: $600-$900 per window.
- Thinner frames than both.
- Lifespan of up to 50 years.
- No warping but will fade.
- Difficult to install.
- Extremely durable.
Aluminum is another popular window material and you may want to consider its advantages and disadvantages:
- Material costs: $150-$400 per window.
- Thinner frames than both.
- No warping but may rust.
- Not good insulators.
- Eco-friendly and can be recycled.
- Extremely durable.
Composite window frames are made from a mixture of two or more materials like wood, plastic, metal and vinyl. Fibrex is a brand of composite material from Andersen Windows that is made from 40 percent wood fiber and 60 percent thermoplastic polymer.
- Material costs: $200-$1,800 per window ($200 being the Andersen 100 Series Fibrex normal double hung window and $1,800 being the fully customizable Renewal by Andersen line of Fibrex).
- Great insulator and energy saver.
- Extremely durable.
- No warping, rot, corrosion or peeling.
- Eco-friendly and uses sustainable materials.