A frame is worth a thousand words
Window frames play an important role in protecting your home from drafts, pests, and the elements. Plus, let’s be honest, the right ones can really add character to a room. But with so many window frame types to choose from, it’s wise to learn their different pros, cons, and costs. Before you overhaul your windows, read on to learn everything you need to know about different types of window frame materials.
7 Types of Window Frames
There are seven main types of window frame materials on the market, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. And, while choosing a window frame for your home may seem like a breeze, the wrong window frame material can:
Increase your energy bills.
Require time-consuming maintenance.
Make your home uncomfortable in the winter or summer.
Create an eye sore if it clashes with your home’s style.
Not to mention, the average window replacement cost averages around $650 per window, so you’ll want to invest in the right window frame materials to avoid paying high upfront costs on the wrong materials for your project. With this in mind, as you browse through your options, consider the pros and cons of each material before deciding on a window frame.
|Material||Qualities||Cost Per Window|
|Aluminum||Cost-friendly and low-maintenance, but a poor insulator that’s prone to condensation and corrosion.||$75 – $400|
|Vinyl||Energy-efficient and low-maintenance, but less natural-looking, flimsy, and may warp or discolor.||$100 – $900|
|Wood||Timeless appearance and great insulation, but high maintenance, high costs, and prone to pests and rot.||$150 – $1,300|
|Fiberglass||Long-lasting, and ideal for fluctuating weather, but higher price and limited customizations.||$500 – $1,500|
|Composite||Aesthetically appealing and low-maintenance, but higher in price and differing quality by manufacturer.||$300 – $1,200|
|Wood Clad||Combines best of wood and rot-resistant materials, but has a higher price and can separate over time.||$250 – $2,000|
|Steel||Modern look, sturdy, and durable, but has a higher price point and is prone to rust.||$400 – $1,500|
1. Aluminum Window Frames
Aluminum offers a flexible option for homes with larger windows, as they’re easy to customize and offer good support for heavy sheets of glass. While aluminum is the most budget-friendly window frame material—coming in at just $75 to $400 per window—it’s one of the least-appealing options for energy efficiency. Aluminum conducts hot and cold temperatures, so you’ll spend more money to regulate your home’s interior temperatures.
Additionally, the exterior is more likely to have condensation, which can develop beads of water that deteriorate the window casing that goes around the frame, leading to rot. Aluminum is also more susceptible to corrosion via salt water and ocean mist. As such, it’s only really suitable for mild or warm climates.
Susceptible to corrosion
2. Vinyl Window Frames
Vinyl window frames are popular and economical because they fall at the lower end of the price point at only $100 to $900 each. But homeowners also love them because they're energy-efficient windows that are fire-resistant and low-maintenance.
Where vinyl window frames fall short lies in their appearance and strength—they’re hard to paint or stain, and vinyl can warp when exposed to high temperatures.
No need to paint or stain
Minimal peeling or cracks
Many style choices
Prevents outside noises
Unable to stain or paint
Less natural looking
Less strong than fiberglass, composite, and metal
Can warp under high heat
May discolor over time
3. Wooden Window Frames
Wood windows take the cake for a traditional look that adds charm to historical and classical homes. Wooden window frames come in many different styles, depending on the type of wood, paint, and stain you choose, making them versatile. At the same time, wood windows require a lot more TLC than other options, as they’re vulnerable to pests, rot, and warping.
Wood window frames come in towards the upper tier of the price point, at $150 to $1,300 per window. You’ll save on the level of insulation that wood has to offer for your home and spend more on maintenance.
Warm and inviting appearance
Saves money in energy bills
Most sound-proof material
High upfront costs
Prone to warping and cracking in heat
Vulnerable to rot
4. Fiberglass Window Frames
If you're upgrading your window frames, fiberglass is a durable, element-resistant material with more to offer than other budget-friendly options like vinyl and aluminum. Fiberglass windows contain an interwoven proprietary blend of glass fibers and a strong resin core, allowing them to expand and contract no matter the weather.
The main downsides are that you have fewer color and design options, and fiberglass is one of the priciest options. Fiberglass window frames cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500 each, but you’ll save on energy costs and maintenance with this option.
Strong and durable
Resistant to extreme weather conditions
High price tag
Few customization options
Less readily available
Prone to UV damage
Harder to install
5. Composite Window Frames
Composite window frames resemble the appearance of wood, but utilize a combination of recycled wood, metals, or plastics to create a more sustainable, natural product. However, since composite window frames contain differing materials by manufacturer, it can be challenging to know exactly what you're buying and which brand to choose.
Composite windows cost anywhere between $300 to $1,200, making them higher in price compared to vinyl or aluminum, but more budget-friendly overall than wood, clad, or steel.
Mimics wood appearance
Requires less maintenance than wood
High upfront costs
Quality differs by manufacturer
6. Wood-Clad Window Frames
Wood clad window frames are wood window frames enhanced with a protective shell made of either aluminum or vinyl. The aluminum or vinyl encasement protects the wood from water damage so that you can still have that stunning, natural wood without the high maintenance that comes with it.
You’ll pay anywhere from $250 to $2,000 for wood-clad window frames. Vinyl-clad wood windows are slightly more affordable than aluminum-clad wood frames.
Great thermal insulation
Cladding can separate
7. Steel Window Frames
Modern homes sometimes need a more industrial touch, and steel window frames offer exactly that. Steel is durable, fire-resistant, and hard to break, making it a great choice for homeowners looking for added security.
This premium option is sturdy, sleek, and often custom-built, so anticipate a higher price tag for steel window frames. Steel windows cost between $400 and $1,500 per window, but they require minimal maintenance and can last over 75 years.
High upfront costs
Susceptible to corrosion
Difficult to cut
How to Pick the Best Window Frame Type for Your Home
The best window frame for your home depends on your budget, style, window size, and climate. Overall, vinyl window frames offer the best value for the price, but if you’re looking for a timeless, modern, or more durable look, you may want to consider clad wood windows, fiberglass window frames, or steel-framed windows.
When in doubt, check with a window replacement company near you that can better guide you as to which window frame works best in your local area.