Inman

Best windows: vinyl, aluminum or wood?

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series.

Last time, we talked about choosing replacement windows that suit the style of your house — whether the type is casement, double-hung, slider or something more exotic. This time, we’ll look at the different window materials available, and which choice is best for your project.

First, however, comes the fundamental question about window replacement: Does it really make sense for you? The answer, in many cases, is no.

If you’re replacing your windows solely to lower your utility bills, for example, forget it. Energy loss through windows comprises only a small fraction of overall energy loss throughout the house, and you’ll be far better off investing your money in additional attic insulation or even, in many cases, a more efficient furnace.

Even if you think your current windows are in terrible shape, you may wish to get an estimate on repairing rather than replacing them. This is especially advisable if you’re lucky enough to have a prewar home with original wood windows — in this case, replacement windows will almost certainly detract from its market value. Bear in mind that window replacement is generally an iffy investment, since it has a very long payback period. It’s also one that can radically change your home’s appearance — often for the worse.

If you’ve determined that replacement is for you, however, here’s a rundown of the different window materials commonly available. Remember, we’re not talking about the window type — double-hung, slider and so forth — but actual material.

As long as your budget allows it, the simplest rule of thumb for choosing window material is to replace like for like — aluminum with aluminum, wood with wood. In 10 years, after the latest window fad has come and gone, you’ll be glad you did.

Read Arrol Gellner’s blog at arrolgellner.blogspot.com, or follow him on Twitter: @ArrolGellner.

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