Vinyl and wood are among the most popular window materials on the market. Both materials have unique characteristics that can be beneficial to homeowners, so picking the right window material can be a challenge. Knowing the advantages of each can be very helpful.
Comparing Vinyl and Wood Windows
The differences between wood and vinyl are significant.
Vinyl is made from high-quality extruded polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Typically vinyl windows are white or tan in color. They require little maintenance and have a smooth texture that is easy to clean. Vinyl is highly durable because it is water and rot resistant.
Wood is the classic window material. Until just a few decades ago, the majority of windows sold in the United States were made of wood. Wood has a warmth and beauty that is not easily replicated by any other material. Wood also requires regular maintenance in order to continue to function (1, 2).
Homeowners who neglect their wood windows may need to replace them much sooner than homeowners who take regular care of their windows.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl and Wood Windows
- Energy efficiency. Wood is an excellent insulator and does a good job of protecting interior spaces from cold and warm weather.
- Beauty. Wood windows have natural beauty that appeals to many homeowners.
- Value. Home buyers are attracted to well-maintained wood windows, which means they can improve your home's resale value.
- Expense. Wood simply costs more than vinyl. While wood windows do add value to the home, many homeowners are unwilling or unable to afford the upfront costs.
- Maintenance. Painting and sealing wood is necessary on a regular basis. Wood windows that are not well maintained will begin to rot over time.
- Relatively Inexpensive. As a general rule, vinyl windows cost approximately 25% less than wood windows. In fact, the cost of vinyl has actually dropped over time, even while the technology has improved.
- Easy to maintain. Vinyl windows require little maintenance. It's a good idea to clean and inspect them on a regular basis, but they do not ever need to be painted or sealed.
- Attractive. Vinyl is tidy, neat and attractive. It has a modern look that appeals to many homeowners.
- Many color choices. Vinyl can come in a variety of colors to match the home's interior.
- The look of wood without the expense. Vinyl windows are available with natural looking wood grain finish to provide a balance of good looks, durability and value.
- Threat of color damage. In conditions such as prolonged extreme heat, lower-quality vinyl can fade and discolor. Be sure to discuss materials with your contractor before buying.
- Quality can impact durability. Not all vinyl is equal in quality or durability. Homeowners who install vinyl in their home should take care to ensure that they order vinyl from a reputable dealer or window installer.
Are These Windows Energy Efficient?
Both wood and vinyl are very energy efficient. Wood is slightly more energy efficient if it is properly maintained. However, wood that has not been well maintained will leak and develop drafts just like any other type of window (6).
Homeowners hoping to increase their home's efficiency with the installation of good windows can do so by installing windows with low-E coating on the glass.
This type of coating can deflect heat to keep it out of the house during the summer and in the house during the winter. Low-E glass can significantly improve the energy efficiency of the home (7).
What is the Importance of Quality Materials?
Whether you're buying wood or vinyl, it's critically important to purchase quality materials for your windows. Wood can last indefinitely as long as it is repainted or sealed on a regular basis, while vinyl can do the same if they're well-made (8).
Talk to your window installer to find out how long you can expect windows to last before having them installed.
What is the Cost Range of Wood Versus Vinyl?
The cost of installing new windows can span a range depending on features, window type and other considerations.
Shopping around and getting quotes from different installers can help homeowners get the best deal, but it's also important to take quality into consideration.
The cheapest windows are not always the best windows. Good quality windows can save the homeowner money over time through reduced utility costs and a longer service life.
How to Clean and Care for Windows
Wood windows need regular maintenance to stay functional. Wood must be resealed and repainted before the old seal or old paint wears off.
To repaint or reseal the windows, the old finish must be sanded down. Once the wood has been sanded and cleaned, the new finish can be applied.
Repainting or resealing windows is painstaking work. Care must be taken to ensure that the window is not painted shut and that the paint is not allowed to dry on the glass.
Vinyl windows must be inspected and cleaned on a regular basis, but they do not require the same time-consuming maintenance routine needed for wood windows. Homeowners with little time to devote toward home maintenance are typically attracted to vinyl windows for this reason (11).