Beside a picture of Albert Einstein, a newspaper ad for “beautiful vinyl windows” declares: “It doesn’t take a GENIUS…to buy the right windows.”

“RESTORE IT RIGHT!” fires back an ad for a competing firm that installs only wood windows – “the perfect fit for your custom home.” So which replacement windows are really the right choice? Vinyl? Wood? Some other kind? Or none at all?

It may not take an Einstein to decide, but it does take some careful thinking. The right choice depends on the style of your house and what you’re expecting from your new windows. And, in many cases, replacement isn’t the best choice.

For example, if you’re planning to replace your windows solely to reduce your energy bills, you may be disappointed. In an average home, the vast majority of heat is lost through walls and ceilings, not through windows.

Therefore, simpler measures such as heavily insulating your attic and your heating ducts – perhaps even replacing an old and inefficient furnace – will show much more dramatic energy savings than new windows will.

If you have old wood windows that don’t operate properly anymore, replacement still might not be the best solution. Though few people realize it, most older wood windows can be repaired for less than it would cost to replace them with new ones of equal quality. What’s more, replacing basically sound wood windows with vinyl ones may come back to haunt you at resale time, since wood is still considered the premium window material.

Perhaps you’re looking to new windows to give your house that elusive “updated look” of magazine lore. But beware once again: Window trends regularly come and go, along with people’s preferences for colors, divided light patterns, and all the rest. It wasn’t so long ago that putting “modern” aluminum windows in an old Victorian house was considered an improvement. Successive fashions for bright aluminum, bronze-anodized aluminum, and white-painted aluminum windows have all come and gone since then. At the moment, vinyl is king, but for how long, no one can say.

Therefore, if you’re still dead set on having new windows, then let the style of your house guide you in choosing replacements. In general, your best course is to replace the originals with a more energy-efficient version of the same material. If your budget won’t allow this, tread carefully among the other choices.

Most traditional homes built with wood windows will also look OK with cheaper vinyl replacements, whose thick frames somewhat resemble traditional wood window construction. However, vinyl windows will look bloated and clumsy on postwar homes originally fitted with steel or aluminum windows, because those old windows were intentionally meant to look light, slender and elegant. In this case, stick to using new double-glazed aluminum windows in a finish as close as possible to the original.

Architecturally, the only foolproof window choice is one that looks reasonably close to the windows your house was built with. So if you must replace, choose your windows to suit your house, not to suit current fashion.

***

What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

Show Comments Hide Comments

Comments

Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Success!
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
We're giving away 3 free ICLV tickets at Connect Now next week. Register and attend live for your chance to win!REGISTER×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription