Window Replacement – Wooden-frame Windows vs Vinyl Windows?

Window Replacement | Madison WI | Sims Exteriors & Remodeling
Windows taking advantage of natural light make a room bright and cheery – especially when high-tech glass and the right frame material makes them efficient, too.

When heating bills rise, moisture forms on glass and you feel a draft in the room it is time to consider window replacement. After even a mild Madison WI winter these unwanted clues to inefficient windows are obvious. There are thousands of homes in Dane County with windows dating back 50 years or more. What may have been the ultimate technology then, doesn’t measure up today. When any of these symptoms show up, it’s time for new windows.

It’s easier to decide you need new windows than choosing the ones that are right for your home. For most homeowners looking at high-quality replacement windows the choices are between wooden-frame windows and vinyl windows. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Vinyl windows have stepped up to become the most popular choice. Once accounting for more than half the new windows installed in Wisconsin, wooden-framed windows have dropped to around 20%.

Are vinyl windows that much better? Not necessarily. Wooden-framed windows are solid wood – they are typically pine or fir – with some clad in aluminum, vinyl (PVC) or fiberglass. Vinyl windows are a product known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

What Changed Window Replacement Buying Habits?

Buyers have swung away from wood windows toward vinyl windows based on four major factors:

  1. The quality of vinyl window products increases all the time
  2. Maintenance – homeowners want as little maintenance as possible
  3. Initial cost – the craftsmanship that goes into wooden windows comes at a price
  4. Energy efficiency – windows have always been a place in the house where energy escapes

Compare the two for potential maintenance, initial cost and energy efficiency:

Window Replacement | Madison WI | Sims Exteriors & Remodeling
The kind of glass, how it is framed and what’s between the panes makes all the difference when it comes to saving on energy costs.
  • Wooden replacement windows – unless they are clad in vinyl or another material, wooden windows need painting or staining on a regular basis. Because of the craftsmanship and hand-made aspects of high-quality wood windows, the initial cost can be significant. Another reason for paying more for wooden-frames is that wood is an excellent insulator. In is the best frame material for keeping desired temperatures in and undesired elements out.
  • Vinyl replacement windows – vinyl windows are said to be “maintenance-free” which is close to the truth. Vinyl never needs paint or stain but it does need regular cleaning. Vinyl windows are about 18% less expensive than the same size, shape, etc. made with wooden frames according to Remodeling magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report for Madison. Vinyl is only a fair insulator. Many vinyl window frames are hollow and cold air passes through these empty spaces.

Additional studies point out that approximately 25% of your heat is lost through the roof and 35% escapes through walls and gaps around windows. This figure underlines that importance of proper installation or replacement windows by skilled, trained and experienced professionals.

Window Efficiency – It Is All About Glass

The energy efficiency of any window is depends more upon the glass inside the frame. Double-pane designs are better than single-pane windows. Triple-pane glass is better yet. Some high-tech versions include special insulating gas between the window panes. Glass allowing certain kinds of solar rays to enter and exit the home is beneficial – to overall comfort and monthly bills. Look for these features in either wood-frame or vinyl-frame replacement windows:

  • Insulating gas – using a safe, inert gas such as Argon between panes of glass reduces heat flow better than just air.
  • Glass coatings – glass that’s tinted with a Low-E Coating reflects incoming solar heat. In winter it reflect heat back into your room, in summer it reflects it away from the house. There are different types of coatings qualifying as Low-E. Selecting the right Low-E Coating for the Madison area’s climate makes a difference.
  • Tinted glass – in addition to a Low-E coating, windows can be tinted in a variety of colors. The best choice for your location depends upon which direction the most windows in your house faces and how much direct, intense afternoon sunlight the windows receive.
  • Custom window screens – window screen vary in their ability to shade windows and interior rooms. The right screen has an impact on energy efficiency, especially in the summer.

Window Replacement – Rely Upon Professional Advice, Installation

Selecting new windows for your home is a big decision. There are different materials to consider, installation challenges, maintenance and resale value. Not to mention the whole dynamic of energy efficiency. Beyond frame materials there are dozens of hardware features, styles and options to consider.

Replacement window professionals offer two tips to keep in mind as you review all the choices:

  1. Read the documentation on each window carefully so you compare your options on equal terms – if you don’t understand the details, ask a professional.
  2. Do not expect to recoup your initial cost of new windows and installation fees in immediate energy savings. Make the right choice and you’ll see monthly savings, but don’t expect to see bills cut to a fraction of what they are today. It takes time. On the other hand, you can expect a solid return on your window investment when you decide to sell the house.

When you’re ready to review all the pros and cons of wooden windows vs. vinyl windows Sims Exteriors & Remodeling is ready to walk you through the many choices. Call 608-825-4500, or email us. With decades of experience installing windows in the Madison area, we know how to do everything exactly right. Professional window replacement ensures quality performance for years to come as you enjoy a comfortable Madison WI home.

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