Here's how to pick the picture-perfect replacement window frames for your home
Whether the problem is damaged glass or unsightly frames, one thing is certain—your windows have seen better days. If it's time to replace windows or build new ones, you have to decide which window frame material is best for your home. Check out these seven types of window frames to help guide your selection.
1. Vinyl Window Frames
Replacing your window frames doesn’t have to put a hole in your wallet. Vinyl window frames are among the most popular choices due to their overall affordability and the lack of maintenance required to keep them looking nice. Expect to pay between $100 to $900 on average for each vinyl window frame.
And, according to Energy Saver, you can even fill vinyl frames with insulation, which makes them more energy-efficient than standard frames. This extra thermal protection is possible due to the hollow, multi-chambered cavities within your vinyl frames. They also offer good moisture resistance.
The main disadvantage of vinyl window frames is their appearance. If you’re a homeowner looking for aesthetics, you’ll find that vinyl windows usually come in just a few colors, with white being the most popular.
2. Aluminum Window Frames
You may ask yourself, aluminum vs. vinyl window frames—which is more affordable? Aluminum frames tend to cost a bit more, falling between $200 and $900 per window on average. But aluminum frames are lightweight yet durable, and like aluminum, require nearly no maintenance, making them a popular option.
It’s important to note that aluminum is a poor insulator because it conducts heat very rapidly. This is bad news for anyone looking for an energy-efficient frame.
However, there are ways to mitigate some of your aluminum window's conductivity. For example, upgrading to double-glazed windows or installing window films can help.
3. Fiberglass Window Frames
Perhaps the most durable window frame option, fiberglass is significantly stronger and harder than vinyl and wood. It also costs more, coming in between $800 and $2,000 per window on average.
This material resists fading and cracking for much longer than vinyl because it is less likely to expand and contract. One study suggests that fiberglass is eight times as strong as vinyl and twice as strong as aluminum. Fiberglass also offers excellent thermal performance, as it contains a hollow cavity for insulation like vinyl frames, making it another energy-efficient option.
Fiberglass does have cons, however. For one, it’s more expensive than vinyl and aluminum frames—as much as 10 to 30% more costly. It also requires more maintenance and may need repainting over time if you choose to paint your fiberglass frames.
4. Wood Window Frames
If you’re hoping for a natural and traditional look, you can’t beat wooden frames. Wooden window frames look beautiful and can match your interior and exterior décor for a seamless look. Additionally, wood is an excellent insulator, which makes these windows very energy-efficient. Wooden window frames cost between $650 to $1,000 per window, putting the cost for this window style above that of vinyl and aluminum windows but under that of fiberglass windows.
The downside to wood is that it requires maintenance to keep it looking good. You have to stain and seal the frames over time, and wood is also subject to natural factors like mold, rot, and termites. So this initial cost is only a portion of what you’ll end up paying in the long run.
To make the entire installation or replacement process for wooden frames easier, it’s a good idea to consult with a local professional window installer. You’ll also want to consider the cost of replacement windows for when it’s time to upgrade any old, wooden boards.
5. Composite Window Frames
It’s the best of both worlds when you opt for composite window frames, which resemble the beauty of natural wood thanks to their material of wood fibers, particleboard, resin, or fiberglass. Since these frames use a combination of materials, you’ll have the same thermal resistance you’d get with wood without the moisture-related mold and decay.
The cost of composite windows varies greatly depending on the type of materials used, but most fall between $350 and $1,200 on average per window.
Whether you choose a frame that is manufactured using aluminum and wood or one that uses vinyl and wood, the material is incredibly stable and energy-efficient. Another benefit of composite window frames is that they don’t require regular maintenance, so you can still get that wooden aesthetic without the price tag that comes with routine care.
Keep in mind that you’ll pay more than aluminum or vinyl frames if you’re hoping to have a strong, long-lasting composite frame.
6. Wood-Clad Window Frames
Wood-clad or clad wood windows are similar to composite windows in that they use a combination of wood and other materials. Unlike composite windows, however, wood-clad frames have solid wood on the innermost part. The outer part usually contains aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass. Expect to pay between $250 to $2,000 per window on average. Wood-clad frames that use fiberglass as an outer material will cost more than frames that use more affordable options, like vinyl.
Just like with your composite frames, wood-clad frames offer a good combination of strengths. You get that natural wood coming in from the inside, a strong outer component, and sound insulation.
At the same time, you will still need to do some maintenance work by ensuring the interior wood is in tip-top shape over time. Maintenance includes refinishing the wood and potentially repainting the window frame—or replacing it, if needed.
In some cases, you might need to replace the inner wood or the glass itself. A local window glass installing pro can help you factor in costs and make the best decisions for your windows.
7. Steel Frames
Steel windows are a durable and long-lasting choice that some owners love. In addition to their strength, steel windows have a sleek and distinctive look that really sets them apart. On top of that, steel windows come in a lot more colors than typical metallic ones. Red, blue, white, black—the choice is yours. You can ask your window manufacturer what type of color they offer. Installing steel windows costs a little more than standard vinyl or wood window frames. They run about $950 on average, though the price can range between $400 and $1,500 depending on how many steel windows you need, and their size.