What are the Differences Between Wood, Vinyl and Aluminum Windows?

Windows TypesProperty owners interested in obtaining the best value for their money often want to know the differences between wood, vinyl and aluminum windows. Today, anyone refurbishing property or engaging in new construction also potentially saves money by paying close attention to this issue.

Three Excellent Products

Today, manufacturers use a variety of basic components to construct attractive windows. During previous generations, wood predominated in the United States in window frames. Then during the late 1960s and early 1970s, vinyl became a widely used material, too, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Recently, aluminum, steel and fiberglass also increased in popularity in some places.

Regardless of the material you decide to utilize in your project, it remains important to consider that every one of these components carries potential advantages and disadvantages. The nature of the building, its location, cost factors and environmental risks may all inform your decision to select one material over another.

Lovely Wood Frame Windows

For many years, builders in the United States depended heavily on wood frame windows during residential construction. Prior to the 1940s, in fact, a construction crew erecting a home typically custom-designed the structure’s windows using wood. This means that many older homes require tailored replacement windows; they do not use typical “standard” window sizes in many cases.

Wood offers beauty and, often, good insulation, too. Skilled carpenters can shape and mold this material into many interesting shapes. Today some house preservation organizations urge residents of historic homes to consider repairing rather than replacing very old wooden windows.

The negative aspects of wooden window frames include:

  • Wood sometimes rots
  • It may sustain termite damage
  • In some climates, wood will gradually warp and lose shape

Although large wooden windows usually involve considerable weight, today many manufacturers prefabricate glass into wooden windows for shipment to a final destination elsewhere. They frequently use sophisticated glazing techniques to enhance energy saving features, according to the Department of Energy.

Keeping the differences between wood, vinyl and aluminum windows¬†in mind can assist people as they estimate new construction costs. Many windows today are completed at factories as entire units and then installed in specially-framed locations at the home, not “built from the ground up” as in earlier eras.

Low Maintenance Vinyl Windows

The development of versatile polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ushered in a new era in home siding and window manufacturing. This plastic product shapes readily into many forms. It retains color throughout the frame, and thus (unlike wood) does not require painting or finishing after installation. Many homeowners appreciate the low maintenance aspects of PCV windows.

Additionally, PVC does not weigh as much as some other materials. It can withstand rain and snow well, too. Vinyl enjoys great water resistance and it resists scratches and abrasions.

Disadvantages of vinyl include the inability to easily change its color and the problem of low strength. Vinyl is not as strong as some materials and sometimes breaks during harsh weather, for instance.

Corrosion-Proof Aluminum Windows

Aluminum gained popularity recently as a window frame material, because it resists corrosion well. This metal also bends easily at factories into a variety of excellent window shapes, from rectangles to ovals to arches. It possesses strength and can withstand some harsh environmental conditions. Since aluminum weighs less than many metals, it transports more easily than some other types of metal frames.

Manufacturers can cover metal frames with durable powder coatings to apply an array of different colors. Alternatively, property owners sometimes repaint the metal if they prefer a change in decor. Aluminum window frames enjoy especial popularity in China today.

One distinct disadvantage of aluminum involves the higher thermal conducting power of metal. Especially if a builder uses thick aluminum frames in a structure, the windows may not insulate well. Perhaps in part for this reason, aluminum windows tend to employ very thin frames.

Hybrid Frames

Today, some window designers fabricate windows that combine one or more of these materials in the frame. For instance, it remains fairly common in the United States to find window frames that use wood on the interior and vinyl on the exterior.

Hybrid combinations of materials can offer benefits in some cases. A window frame consisting partly of wood and partly of vinyl may provide easier exterior maintenance and at the same time resist breaking more effectively.


Today the main types of windows on the market all possess advantages and disadvantages. By remembering the differences between wood, vinyl and aluminum windows, a homeowner enjoys the ability to select the best products to maintain an attractive, safe living environment in any geographic region.

Related Resource: Installing Aluminum Windows