The material you choose to have your windows made from has a profound effect on your windows. While this may seem like the commonest of common sense, it’s better to know right from the outset what you’re getting into when you pick a particular material for your window frames. Between the associated expense (and its effect on your budget), the structural properties of the material, and the material’s aesthetics, your selection will impact both your windows and, by extension, your home.
Vinyl is one of the most commonly used materials for window frames. Having come a long way from the older, cheaper plastics of yesteryear, modern vinyl is durable, dependable, and, a deciding factor for many, inexpensive and affordable. Vinyl won’t rust or corrode, has good value as an insulator, resists scratches, and will never need to be painted, scraped or stained. It’s also easy to care for, requiring little more than the occasional wipe with soap and water.
Wood, on the other end of the scale in terms of affordability, is probably the most expensive window framing material used today. Nothing quite matches the timeless elegance and beauty of wood, however, and wood is exemplary in its ability to provide insulation. Caring for your wood windows can be rather involved, however, and without regular maintenance wood will deteriorate.
Aluminum is a good and inexpensive alternative to vinyl and wood. Though aluminum requires a larger outlay than vinyl, aluminum’s structural strength and durability, coupled with its ability to maintain structural stability despite its light weight, makes it particularly suited to specialty windows, where the desired shape of the window might prove problematic for vinyl or wood.
Last, but certainly not least, composite materials such as Fibrex serve as a remarkable catch-all category when it comes to window framing materials. Fibrex in particular – a composite made from wood fiber and certain thermoplastic resins – combines the best features of its component materials and provides better performance than just about any other material. Combining the durability and low maintenance needs of plastic with the beauty of wood and a strength rivaling that of aluminum, choosing Fibrex can hardly be called a compromise choice; for many, it’s the best, if not only choice.
So you have the frame and the style, but all you have is a plain window. What else can you do with it? More on this in Part III.