Vinyl window frames are the most popular replacement window frame material in use today. But that doesn't mean there aren't other effective and efficient options. For many years, wood frames were the standard. You can still choose wood frames today but they are typically offered with aluminum cladding. That means that the wood frame is covered in a thin layer of aluminum, like a protective shell. Here are a few of the pros and cons of this style of frame.
Added Durability: With aluminum cladding you get all the great qualities that people love about wood but with added protection. The aluminum layers protects against harsh weather conditions. Don't be fooled by aluminum's light weight and thin width. It's one of the strongest materials on earth; so strong in fact that the airframe for the F-16 fighter jet is made mostly of high-strength aluminum alloy. If it can protect a military fighter jet, it's more than capable of protecting your windows.
Energy Efficiency: In addition to added strength and durability, aluminum cladding is also a good insulator and that's great news because so is wood. Both materials provide low thermal conductivity and great resistance against heat. What that means for the homeowner is that your house will stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter with fewer heating and cooling costs. Since windows are a large source of energy loss, it's important to choose frames with good energy efficiency.
Low Maintenance: Although solid wood window frames are beautiful, they are needy. In order to keep them in top shape for years, they have to be consistently maintained or they will start to rot and degrade. That means they need to be sanded and re-stained or re-painted whenever the current coat of stain or paint begins to deteriorate. That can be a burden. However, with aluminum cladding, there is no need to re-stain or re-paint which drastically lowers the maintenance requirements of your wood frames.
Aesthetics: Although aluminum cladding adds protection and good thermal qualities, it does affect the look of the frame. Though the cladding can be made to look like wood, for some, there's just no substitute for the natural wood aesthetic and the aluminum cladding just isn't the same. That can be a big disadvantage.
Cost: Another disadvantage of aluminum-clad wood windows is the cost, especially when compared to vinyl. The average cost is around $1500 per window, compared to vinyl which averages around $550 per window.
If you are considering a window replacement for your home, look into the pros and cons of all your options and consult with a professional near you.