Wood vs. Vinyl Window Frames & Sunrise windows
By fiderioandsons Dec 16, 2013
How to Compare Vinyl and Wood Window Frames:
The main factors people consider when choosing replacement windows are durability, cost, appearance, and energy efficiency. It can be difficult to compare vinyl to wood because the quality of a window frame will determine its energy efficiency and durability more than the material itself. There are many grades of windows (ranging from cheap, low-end, to custom high-end) and many manufacturers within each category for both wood and vinyl. This post will compare the performance of high-end wood to high-end vinyl and low-end wood to low-end vinyl.
Durability: The strength of a window frame depends on the material and the fastening technique. In terms of material, aluminum windows are the strongest, but we don’t recommend them for replacement windows in CT because they conduct heat and are less energy efficient. The strength of wood and vinyl window frames varies based on quality. Wood has some natural strength, but high quality vinyl frames are much stronger. Not all vinyl windows have a sturdy construction, though. Low quality vinyl is actually weaker than low quality wood.
The construction is just as important as the material itself. This is where vinyl replacement windows have a real advantage: A high quality vinyl frame will be custom fit and fusion welded to form a one-piece frame. Fusion welding works by heating, melting, and joining all four corners to create a one-piece system. This is not a possibility for wood frames (they would catch on fire) so they must be mechanically fastened.
There are several methods for joining wood frames (see below.) The simplest methods use nails, corner brackets, and other hardware to join the four pieces. Wooden Dollies can also be used strengthen corners. More advanced woodworking techniques, such as mortise and tenon joints, dovetail joints and half lap joints provide a bit more strength, especially if used in conjunction with other hardware. Advanced joinery techniques can produce wood corners that are stronger than vinyl that is fastened with hardware, but it is expensive and still cannot achieve the same strength as a weld. All vinyl frames from sunrise windows feature fusion-welded frames and sashes that last longer and perform better than wood windows. Sunrise Windows come with a lifetime, non-prorated warranty.
[Images: nail joint via – greenfret.com // corner bracket via – netplaces.com // Half lap frame via- diy4beginners.co.za // mortise and tennon frame joints via – wsdt.office-on-the.net ]
Energy Efficiency: Replacing your windows can significantly increase the overall energy efficiency of your home and save you money. If you choose windows that meet energy star requirements, you can recover 10% of the cost through energy tax credits. The energy efficiency of a window will depend on air infiltration, the insulating properties of the frame, and the insulating properties of the glass:
Wood is a good insulator, but because it is a natural material, it is not as size stable as manufactured materials. Just like floorboards and furniture, wooden window frames shrink and expand with fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Wood shrinks in the winter in Connecticut as the relative humidity decreases. When a wood window frame shrinks, it creates a gap between the sash and the mainframe where cold air can enter your home. High quality wood frames are treated to mitigate the effects of temperature changes, but over time it is nearly impossible to prevent distortion. Vinyl windows are not prone to shrinkage, and windows from Sunrise also feature a triple weather-strip barrier between the sash and mainframe to prevent air infiltration.
Frames that insulate well should have low thermal conductivity and a high R factor. A standard 4′ wood frame has an R factor of 5.0. The energy efficiency of vinyl window frames depends on quality. Higher quality vinyl window frames are filled with materials that have a high R value. Sunrise vinyl windows are constructed with polyurethane foam-filled extrusions and have an R factor over 7 for truly effective insulation. Other PVC windows vary in terms of their energy efficiency.
Checking window ratings is the best way to determine energy efficiency, but in general high quality vinyl frames are the best. Wooden frames have natural insulating properties and may perform better than low quality vinyl windows. We still do not recommend wood frames for ct windows because even well-treated wood cannot withstand our variable climate for very long and will need to be replaced.
This post is focused on window frames, but the glass is important as well. For more information, read our post on what window ratings mean
Appearance There is no question that wood is beautiful, but rotten wood is not. It is particularly difficult to maintain the fresh, warm appearance of wooden window frames since they are exposed to radical temperature and moisture changes. If you choose wooden window frames, you will need to re-treat and re-stain them regularly to protect them and preserve their appearance. They are also difficult to clean, and can be a source of mold growth. Wood grain technology from sunrise windows makes their vinyl frames barely distinguishable from real wood. Some people even prefer the simple clean look of solid vinyl. Either way, no maintenance is required to keep them looking as beautiful as the day they were installed. You will never need to paint or refinish them and cleaning is easy. Sunrise windows offers a variety of interior and exterior finishes (see below.) Another aesthetic bonus (if you have a nice view) is that Sunrise vinyl frames provide you 30% more viewing area.
In conclusion, wood may initially be more attractive than vinyl, upon close inspection, but there is nothing attractive about warped, rotting, moldy, discolored wooden window frames with peeling finishes, and it requires a lot of work to avoid that look. Vinyl windows are also attractive -take a look at our portfolio and see for yourself.
If you compare equivalent grades of vinyl and wood window frames, vinyl is a better value. Beyond initial cost, vinyl windows also last longer and the maintenance cost is lower. Vinyl window frames from Sunrise windows save you money in 5 ways: the initial cost is less, they will cut the cost of your energy bills, they qualify for energy tax credits, they have a lifetime warranty, and they do not require regular maintenance, such as painting and refinishing.
The only category in which wood comes out as the winner is appearance, but only initial appearance. In terms of long-term appearance, cost, energy efficiency, and durability, high quality vinyl window frames are better. Low quality vinyl window frames are plainly low quality. Fiderio & Sons is a full service remodeling contractor and we are licensed to install Sunrise windows. Reviews of sunrise windows confirm the reasons we prefer Sunrise over other manufactures. It would be a pleasure to assit in making your home more comfortable this holiday season. Please call with questions or to request an estimate.