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Choosing the Right Windows

Today's window frame materials offer a variety of benefits including style, energy efficiency, interior livability, low maintenance, and convenience. Here's what's out there now.

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    • Windows 101: Wood

      Wood, the traditional window frame material, is admired for its natural beauty.

      What we love:

      -- Usually made in stock sizes

      -- Energy efficient, an excellent insulator

      -- Can last several decades if properly maintained

      Keep in mind:

      -- Will deteriorate if exposed to weather

      -- Periodic repainting or restaining required

      Price: Middle of the market; unusual shapes and sizes are often more expensive

    • Windows 101: Aluminum-Clad Wood

      The outside face of wood windows is sheathed in aluminum to protect the window from the elements.

      What we love:

      -- Offered in dozens of colors and clear anodized and copper finishes

      -- Generally low maintenance; does not need painting

      -- Factory-finish warranties extend to 20 years

      Keep in mind:

      -- Can corrode when exposed to salt air

      -- Wash glass and frame with standard cleaners

      Price: Usually costs more than conventional wood

    • Windows 101: Solid Vinyl

      Solid vinyl windows are the most popular form of replacement windows.

      What we love:

      -- Available in many sizes and shapes

      -- Limited number of colors

      -- Homogenous color hides scratches

      -- 20- to 30-year warranties

      Keep in mind:

      -- Vulnerable to temperature extremes

      -- Clean surfaces annually with soap and water

      -- Quality varies dramatically

      Price: Typically most affordable frame (less than half of a comparable wood-frame window)

    • Windows 101: Vinyl-Clad Wood

      Color-stabilized PVC wraps the exterior side of wood window frames to lower maintenance.

      What we love:

      -- Won't peel, warp, or rot

      -- Generally low-maintenance

      -- 10- to 20-year warranties

      Keep in mind:

      -- Brittle in cold weather, so susceptible to cracking and storm damage

      -- Wash glass and frame with standard cleaners

      Price: Costs more than all-wood windows

    • Windows 101: Fiberglass

      Fiberglass is a top choice in homes because it's long-lasting, strong, and stable.

      What we love:

      -- Made in a variety of colors; can be painted

      -- Can hold large expanses of glass

      -- Won't warp when exposed to extreme temperatures

      -- Self-extinguishing in fire

      -- Can last about 50 years

      Keep in mind:

      -- Not yet widely available

      -- Highest R-values; R-10 with optional foam insulation

      Price: 25-30 percent more expensive than premium solid vinyl

    • Windows 101: Composite

      Composite windows combine pine and wood fibers to create a material with the appeal of wood and the easy care of recycled plastic.

      What we love:

      -- Stable material that doesn't bow or crack

      -- Can be embossed to resemble natural wood

      -- Allows for thinner frames and grids

      -- Low-maintenance, clean only periodically

      -- 10-year warranties on frames; 20-year warranties on glass

      Price: Between solid vinyl and wood

    • 7 of 7
      Next Slideshow Gabled Dormer Windows

      Gabled Dormer Windows

      Lighten up your second story and give your exterior some extra architectural detail with gabled dormer windows.
      Begin Slideshow »

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