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How to Compare Replacement Windows

Windows are one of the most important elements of the home. They allow you to bring the natural light into your home's interior, they can add character and style to your home's design, and protect you from the harsh effects of weather and the outdoors. There are several things to consider when deciding on the correct windows for replacement in your home, including appearance, cost or price, maintenance, security, ventilation, energy efficiency and security. Finding the right combination for your home is an important first choice.

Below is our cheat sheet for comparing replacement windows in your home. Each window type and window frame is compared and contracts -- so that you can get a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses for all the different types of windows.

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Comparison of Window Frames & Materials

Aluminum Window Frames

Appearance: Fair (opinions on what looks good will always vary) - looks "industrial."

Cost: mid range -- more than vinyl, less than wood and PVC.

Maintenance: Little maintenance required.

Security: solid -- very difficult to pop out this frame once it is properly in place.

Bottom Line: Aluminum window frames are a solid and sturdy choice for homes and businesses that place a high premium on security and low maintenance. Read more on aluminum window frames.

Cellular PVC Window Frames

Appearance: Pretty good, looks fairly similar to wood. Definitely a modern looking material (as opposed to real wood.)

Cost: Low to mid in replacment window price range.

Maintenance: Very little maintenance required, this material is very strong and light.

Security: Good, one of the stronger materials on the market.

Bottom Line: This durable, economic wood-alternative composite offers consumers the advantages of wood and vinyl; with better performance and longevity. Read more on cellular pvc window frames.

Composite Window Frames (made from different materials like ground-up vinyl, sawdust and wood chips bound by epoxy.)

Appearance: Solid with the right manufacturer.

Cost: Mid to high, composite windows represent the higher end of the replacement window market.

Maintenance: Low, composite windows are durable, energy-efficient and low-maintenance.

Security: Good, a strong window frame.

Bottom Line: Composite replacement windows offer a wide range of benefits for homeowners. Air-tight, rot-proof and strong, composite windows excel in energy efficiency. Read more on composite window frames.

Fiberglass Window Frames (they make up less than 1% of the window frame market)

Appearance: Solid, fiberglass windows come in different shapes, styles and sizes and can be purchased with various combinations of gas fills, low-E coatings and grids.

Cost: Mid range, they cost, on average, 10% to 30% more than vinyl windows.

Maintenance: Easy to maintain because they won't rust, are weather resistant, aren't susceptible to bugs and won't warp, corrode or rot.

Security: Good, the durable material is nine times stronger than vinyl and three times stronger than aluminum window frames. Read more on fiberglass window frames.

Bottom Line: The durability, versatility and energy efficiency of fiberglass makes it worth every penny that you will pay over the cost of vinyl.

Wood Window Frames

Appearance: Excellent, wood windows are considered the best looking window frame.

Cost: Mid to high.

Maintenance: Difficult to maintain and can rot, warp and decay over time.

Security: Good.

Bottom Line: Wood replacement windows offer classic beauty and style but at a price (in both maintenance and actual cost). Read more on wood window frames.

Steel Window Frames

Appearance: Modern, industrial.

Cost: Expensive and the number of manufacturers is relatively small.

Maintenance: Relatively low.

Security: Excellent.

Bottom Line: Steel is one of the strongest building materials available, is durable and versatile but is expensive to install. Read more on steel window frames.

Vinyl Window Frames

Appearance: Standard, many of these window frames look quite nice.

Cost: Low to mid price range.

Maintenance: Extremely resilient, vinyl windows are built to last: they will not corrode, swell, chip, peel, rot, or rust.

Security: Good.

Bottom Line: Vinyl windows are priced to accommodate every budget, are easy to customize, and come in an assortment of designs, ranging from curved, bay, or picture windows to small casement windows, that complement any architectural style. Read more on vinyl window frames.

Comparison of Types of Windows

Casement Windows (hinged on one side and open outward with the help of a crank)

Aesthetics: great, casement windows are beautiful and very traditional.

Cost: mid to high; an Andersen Casement Window (top of the line brand) will run you $350 to $1,050.

Maintenance: good, very little maintenance required.

Ventilation: good, can be cranked or slid open to let in lots of breeze

Energy Efficiency: usually good.

Security: mid to poor, if not properly closed they are a security risk.

Privacy: they need a window treatment for privacy.

Bottom Line: The simple functionality, ease of maintenance, and classic lines of casement windows make them a popular choice for new construction and replacement windows. Read more on casement replacement windows.

Hopper Windows (small window that has a hinge at the bottom and tilts open at the top)

Cost: mid range if purchased in stock sizes.

Ventilation: Great, allow for maximum ventilation within a small space (such as basements and bathrooms)

Energy Efficiency: Good on newer hopper windows, which form a tight compression seal when closed.

Security: Poor, often installed low to ground and can allow access into the home.

Privacy: Poor, without a proper window treatment

Bottom Line: Hopper windows are a niche window that allow great ventilation for basements and bathrooms. Read more on hopper replacement windows.

Patio Windows

Aesthetics: Good.

Cost: Mid to high range

Ventilation: Good, as they are often in french doors that open wide.

Energy Efficiency: Good if patio doors have proper sealing.

Security: Good, if doors are properly closed.

Privacy: Poor, patio windows let in lots of light and also any prying eyes.

Bottom Line: Patio Patio windows are a specialty window that let in a large amount of light and comes in a wide variety of designs, sizes and styles. Read more on patio replacement windows.

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