If it's time for some residential updates, replacing your windows is a great way to go. New windows can improve your home's appearance as well as its energy efficiency, helping you save on fuel costs. But not all window types are equal, and the many options can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Before making a final decision, take a look at the pros and cons of the three main types of windows so that you can make an informed decision about what's best for your home and budget.
Pros. These windows tend to be highly affordable, sometimes costing half the price of other popular choices. They are also energy efficient, so they could bring your energy costs down over time. They are low maintenance because they don't need to be painted or stained, and they are resistant to damage from rotting, scratching, dings, and dents. Fifty percent of the time, they are the material of choice when homeowners decide to replace their windows.
Cons. Vinyl windows can't be painted. So while they do come in a variety of colors, once you make your choice, you're pretty much stuck with it for the long haul. They can also fade over time, especially if exposed to a lot of sunlight. Another thing to keep in mind is vinyl windows will not go with every type of exterior. In other words, if you live in an historic home that's made of wood, you may want to consider an alternative—like restoring your wood windows—in order to maintain the integrity of the property.
Vinyl windows can last up to 15 years when properly cared for.
Pros. One of the biggest advantages of wood windows is their ability to insulate. They work 1,800 times better at insulating than aluminum windows. Another perk of wood is its esthetic value. It holds incredible appeal in its classic elegance and sturdy, natural look. Many people consider wood windows to be the best "green" choice since wood is a renewable resource. And you can paint and repaint your heart out if you ever need a change in color.
Cons. The first drawback of wooden windows is their cost, as they usually require a higher up-front investment than other materials. They also need regular maintenance to protect them from damage. Dirt and soot tend to become acidic, which can hurt the finish and the frame. As a result, they should be cleaned thoroughly twice a year. Also watch for areas where the finish or paint has worn away, and re-apply both as needed. Wooden windows are also a magnet for insects, particularly termites. A good exterior paint or layer of finish should protect your investment from most insects. And lastly, because they absorb moisture fairly easily, they may not be the best choice for those who live in a humid or coastal climate.
When properly maintained, wood windows can last up to 30 years.
Pros. These windows are much better than wood at resisting moisture, making them a better choice in wet climates. Although they are light in weight, they are still quite durable simply because they have rigid, narrow frames. They are less expensive than other options and very easy to install, making them a popular choice for commercial structures and high-rise buildings.
Cons. Because they are metal, aluminum windows are exceptional thermal conductors. What this means is during the winter, they won't hold in the heat very well and are likely to form condensation pretty easily. Therefore, if you live in a cold climate, you should probably go with wood or vinyl. Aluminum windows can also accumulate dirt and other organic contaminants over time, causing the finish to disintegrate and making your windows stick when you try to open them. Therefore, they need to be cleaned regularly with a soft cloth and mild soap.
Aluminum windows should last around 15-20 years. But again, a lot of this will depend on the weather and how well they are maintained.
To get the most out of your investment and to avoid costly mistakes, consult with a contractor from a company like New Jersey Siding & Windows Inc who is knowledgeable about window replacement before taking on any major updates for your home.