Installing new replacement windows can make a dramatic difference in any home by giving it a fresh new appearance, improving security and offering an extra defense against the harsh New England weather. Typically, homeowners face a decision between four of the most popular window materials on the market: vinyl, wood, aluminum and fiberglass.
In today's industry, vinyl is the most recommended and used material for replacement windows. This is due to it's durability, energy efficiency and low cost. Vinyl frames are specifically designed to be resistant to sunlight. This means that despite extensive exposure to the sun, the vinyl will not begin to break down. This is an advantage because it increases the stability of the frame. Typically vinyl frames do not require any special paintwork. They are also very moisture resistant which means they will last longer. Similar to fiberglass frames, these have air pockets inside which may be filled with insulation. If insulated, the frame will be more energy efficient. The main disadvantage of vinyl is the lack of color selection.
Wood frames offer fairly good performance in terms of insulation. However, this material comes with several large disadvantages. Wood is generally very sensitive to temperature changes. This means that the stability of the frame is compromised as the material swells and contracts according to the weather conditions. In addition, wood requires a fair amount of maintenance. There are methods to reduce the amount of maintenance required. By applying aluminum or vinyl cladding, you can decrease the time and energy dedicated to maintaining wood frames. Typical maintenance involves painting the frames on a regular basis.
Aluminum is the most popular choice for historic architecture, so it is commonly found in older Connecticut and other New England homes. Aluminum requires minimum upkeep and offers superior durability for climates that experience severe weather, especially if you opt to purchase rust-free aluminum or install a layer of cladding. This material has several advantages. Aluminum is a very strong while being extremely light. Aluminum frames also require little to no maintenance on your part. For those who don't have a lot of time and energy to maintain their windows, this can be a huge advantage. In addition, these frames are very easily customized so you can get something to meet your specific needs.
However, aluminum comes with a few disadvantages as well. The thermal resistance of aluminum window frames is very low. This means that this window will conduct, or transfer heat at a fast pace. The result is that aluminum windows serve as a poor insulating material. Some aluminum windows come with what is called a thermal break. This is a simple strip of plastic which sits between the inside and outside portions of the window and helps reduce the heat transfer. Many homeowners choose to turn a blind eye to this, however, because aluminums' strength can make up for the heat loss and gain in hurricane- or snowstorm-prone climates.
Fiberglass is increasingly becoming a more popular option for homeowners, and is projected to be as prevalent as vinyl in the near future. Composed of small strands of glass and epoxy resins, fiberglass resists expansion and contraction caused by heat, therefore making it an extremely strong and stable material. The main advantage of fiberglass frames is their thermal resistance. This type of frame has internal air pockets built into the frame. These pockets are then filled in with insulation. This means that fiberglass frames offer better energy efficiency than both wood and un-insulated vinyl. In addition, they can be painted a different color should the homeowner choose.
Other materials such as vinyl do not easily allow for these types of modifications. When fiberglass first came onto the replacement window market, there was some concern over the strength and temperature resistance characteristics; however, over time these worries have dissipated. Unfortunately, this material is still relatively expensive and is not always easily obtained
Installing new windows is not an easy task and if you are a window novice, it is better to seek help from someone who knows what they are doing. Whether it is a specialty Connecticut window contractor or the home-improvement know-it-all neighbor, a perfect installation gives your home more security and thermal protection. If you choose to hire a contractor, make sure you ask for references, estimates and detailed contracts and warranties before officially beginning any project with them.
If you need any assistance with an installation or repair, call on Fiderio & Sons today!