Compare Vinyl vs Wood Windows

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Comparing Vinyl vs Wood Windows

Vinyl vs Wood Windows

If you are deciding between vinyl vs wood windows here are four factors to take into consideration in order to determine which is a better option for your home. We will compare these frame materials in the following categories:



Energy Efficiency

Cost / Value

Dane - Site Editor - Page Updated In November, 2023

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Vinyl vs Wood Windows Comparison

Strength Comparison

In terms of strength, both of these materials are strong enough (for most residential purposes). Vinyl is probably the stronger of the two and this would tend to grow over time as wood breaks down. (As an organic material, wood has more contraction expansion issues than other frame materials and this will loosen the corner joints over time -- this is why the warranty on woodclad/windows is usually 20 or 25 years, while vinyl is nearly always lifetime.)

Neither of these frame materials is as strong as fiberglass or aluminum -- and in fact aluminum blows the doors off of all of the window frame materials. Regardless, both vinyl and wood are plenty strong for most residential purposes (window frames are non load bearing so they aren't ask to do all THAT much.). The one caveat here is very large openings, which require very large windows. Vinyl and wood frames can cause bow over time. Most good installers will only sell you as large a window as they think their frames can handle. They will usually place two windows side by side to handle very large openings.

Style Comparison

Both of these materials come in a large selection of styles and grades. But even the nicest looking vinyl window can't match the look of real wood. Woodclad, with its unique woodgrain, is stunning to look at - adding a real sense of style and beauty to a home. But you will also pay for this privilege - woodclad windows are considerably more expensive than vinyl. However, there is a workaround if you want the benefits of vynil and the beauty of wood.

Many high end vinyl manufacturers offer interior veneers, which mimic the look of real woodgrain. These used to look pretty cheesy, but they have come a long way - it's often difficult to see the difference between the two unless you inspect them closely.

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Energy Efficiency Comparison

When it comes to energy efficiency, high end vinyl/windows blow the doors off of any sort of woodclad option. Lower end vinyl/windows are going to be fairly comparable to woodclad series. Performance data that homeowners should look at when it comes to replacement windows include air infiltration, U-value, design pressure, solar heat gain coefficient, visible transmittance, condensation resistance. (I listed those in order of importance.) For me, air infiltration is by far the most important indicator of energy efficiency as it measures the amount of air that a unit allows in. Each of these components is explained in detail on our page that covers energy efficient replacement windows.

A big part of the reason that woodclad is less efficient than vinyl is due to the nature of the materials. Wood is an organic material and as it expands and contracts over the years, it warps very slowly. Vinyl, on the other hand, expands and contracts much less. Corner welds on vinyl/windows are heat welded, whereas wood-clad welds are glued and iron-nailed together.

Cost / Value Comparison

Woodclad windows are the most expensive windows on the market (with the exception of Renewal By Andersen costs, which are also very high). Homeowners can expect to pay $1200 to $2500 plus fully installed for wood/windows.

Conversely, vinyl windows are the least expensive windows on the market pound for pound. These will run $400 to $1200 fully installed for vinyl/windows. As you can see, the high end of the vinyl/window market is the very low end of the wood/window market. To learn more on pricing, check out our window replacement cost page.

Bottom Line

When it comes to deciding b/n these two options, price and aesthetics are going to be the biggest issues to look at. Wood/windows are quite beautiful, but also very expensive. Vinyl/windows are quite ordinary looking, but very cost effective. My advice is this: if you have to have wood/windows (like "I simply have to have real wood windows in my home!"), then buy woodclad. If you don't "have to have" wood/windows, then do yourself a favor and go with vinyl and save yourself some money. To check sample prices on these different materials, try our windows cost calculator.

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Homeowner Questions And Answers

If you have questions on this subject, we have answers - well I hope we do at least! Ask us a question and we'll do our best to answer it.

Dane - Site Editor

Vinyl Windows vs Wood Cost S.F.

Hi Dane, you are seriously a wealth of information! I appreciate your response and the amount of detail. If you don’t mind me taking up a bit more of your time I’d like to get your thoughts on something delicate.

I won’t saddle you with the details but I am living in a real meh area of San Francisco. Definitely not hoity-toity. All the neighbors have vinyl windows, we have vinyl (installed years before we moved in so maybe at least 20-25 years old), but because the house was built in 1927, SF says we have to put in wood clad. Home Depot was here today and for 5 27x57 windows across the front of the house they quoted about $16,500 for Anderson E Series. And of course, the legendary red-tape of dear old San Francisco makes my knees buckle.

So if you’re still reading, here is my dilemma. I don’t think my neighbors would report me if I popped in new vinyl windows without permits. But I wouldn’t think a window installer works that way, leaving me with rando contractor who may or may not be skilled at replacing windows but is willing to do the work without pulling permits.

I’m noise sensitive and live with a busy street with buses and trucks rumbling by and have the highway noise in the back. I definitely think my health has been affected by noise pollution and I’m trying to do what I can to mitigate it, but I don’t have the money to do it to SF’s standards. Your thoughts if you have any. If not and you’re annoyed by this, it’s also ok to not respond! -Sheila

Sheila - Homeowner - from 2023

[Site Editor's Answer]

Sheila, I have to say, that's a bit of a pickle. The E series is nice, and very expensive as you have learned. I agree that you can probably get away with putting in vinyl windows (especially because from the outside they are going to look very similar to a wood window with an aluminum or vinyl cladding). But how do you find a good contractor who has access to a good vinyl window on the west coast and is willing to do the work "on the sly" as it were. (Andersen Windows Prices)

First off, I would certainly get a few more bids -- not necessarily because you want to use them, although some window companies might put in the windows and not bother asking about the historical designation or requirements...I think a few bids would answer this question and you just play dumb if they ask you about requirements in the area. The bids will also give you a better sense of price and what's even available in your area. S.F. is a tricky area from the little I know of it...

If that doesn't pan out you just need to find a good window installer in the area. I'll bet reddit, next door or other forums specific to SF would dig up some names. Or ask the neighbors who they used.

Let's go this route(s) first and if you find a solution, great. If not, get back with me and let's keep digging around. We'll find a solution -- it just might take some time!

Dane - Site Editor - from 2023

Vinyl vs Wood Windows

Hi Dane, my name is Komal and I live in North Brunswick, NJ. I came across your website after 1.5 years of searching for a trust worthy window installer or company that would replace my twin single hung 1980’s, new construction, flanged, nail finned, aluminum framed with a aluminum capping and a pocket install. (Window Capping Cost)

Well, I can’t find anyone because either they show are untrustworthiness, are extremely over priced ($3-$8K quotes for 2 windows) even though I am not looking at vinyl vs wood windows replacements….or they have a window minimum of 4 or more….

After searching for this long - I am frustrated . Unfortunately, we don’t get
Anlin in NJ otherwise this might be easier. I am writing in hopes that you can help me with some questions.

(1) Do you know which brand uses good quality Vinyl that won’t fade or be destroyed by the sun and rain beating down on it? No one advertises what their vinyl or composite is truly made out of and then i read negative reviews about Okna 800 series for overall poor quality and then fading too. The exterior must be dark brown or bronze with grilles. Going for double hung. Are Provia any good? I’ve read so many complaints on the BBB website on them.

(2) there is only one dealer near me that carries the Sunrise and Ideal, but they have a 4 window order minimum and are untrustworthy. Then there is Taylor Rae construction, but they charge nearly $4k for sunrise for 2 windows! Is there any chance that you know any reliable, trustworthy installers or companies that won’t cause me to go into debt for 2 replacements??

Komal - Homeowner - from 2023

[Site Editor's Answer]

Komal, most good vinyl companies have quality products that won’t fade much over time. The darker colors can be problematic though and expensive. You may want to hold off until you have more replacements needed though…here are some recommendations for you.

Dane - Site Editor - from 2023

Making The Switch From Andersen

Hi Dane, I am looking to replace 38 windows that are old Andersen’s. I was originally thinking we had to have hoity toity woodwindows. But, I am now entering the fiberglass or vinyl camp. I would love your recommendation list. I am getting a Marvin Infinity series and also an Apex vinyl bid. I also was considering Quaker. These are all casements, if that helps direct your recommendation. Quaker Windows Reviews

Thank you so much!

Cory - Homeowner - from 2023

[Site Editor's Answer]

Cory, my list is mainly vinyl to be honest — that’s what 70% of Americans buy so I tend to concentrate on that material. However, Marvin makes one of the best fiberglass windows in the business in the Elevate and Essentials series, but they aren’t cheap. But definitely get a Marvin windows cost quote and see what they come in at…

Apex makes a solid window as well. It’s a supped up Alside 8000 series more or less - they won’t cop to that, but that’s a different story :) Worth a bid as well. Apex Energy Solutions Reviews

Woodclads are tricky for me. They tend to wear out after 20 years (unless you really take care of them) so they don’t offer the best good long term value (in my opinion). I always suggest at least looking at faux vinyl wndw series before you buy woodclad — they’re pretty amazing to be honest — but you have to buy from the best to get something that mimics that wood look in a vinyl…

Dane - Site Editor - from 2023

Faux Vinyl Window Options

Thanks so much Dane. Wow.... So nice to have someone to turn to who is willing to share their knowledge. Very much appreciated. Soooo. I'm looking for vinyl outside / wood inside. Is that what you're saying -- there is an interior wood-finish? Or is interior vinyl but looks like wood?

Thanks again!

Terri - Homeowner - from 2023

[Site Editor's Answer]

Hi Terri — yes essentially I’m saying that wood-clad series doesn’t often hold up well over time — that’s why they typically come with a 25 year warranty — that’s the time the manufacturer assumes the product will last. Take a look at Marvin, Andersen, and Pella for woodclads — they can be quite pricey and do require periodic maintenance.

Vinyl with a wood laminate interior mimics the look of wood — take a look at the brochure and you will see where they use the wood laminate — you can’t tell it’s not real wood until you are quite close…something to think about.

Dane - Site Editor - from 2023

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Vinyl vs Wood Windows Question

Hello, we currently have an over 100 year old farm house with the original windows still installed. We are looking to replace them with new wood -frameds. We are also replacing siding on the house an have a bit of a tight budget. 16 units total. My question is should we go with a lower end and premium window? We are not sure how long we will be at the house but are trying to keep all designs decisions as close to historical as possible. Hence the wood-cased. What are your thoughts?

Timothy - Homeowner - from 2022

[Website Editor Answers]

Timothy, my recommendation would be to buy a vinyl series with a woood-laminate interior. This will provide the look of wood, while giving you the benefits of much improved energy efficiency, longevity, and cost when compared with a real wood-clads. Wood-clads are super pricey and they will breakdown after 20 to 25 years (unless you take very good care of them). It's nearly impossible to get woodclad windows on a budget -- or if you do, you'll be getting a window that won't last even those 20 years.

Dane - Website Editor - from 2022

Pella Vinyl vs Wood Windows

My husband and I are looking into replacing all the windows in our home (about 25 total). I have contacted Pella and they are coming this week to provide a quote. Anderson is also in my area but I haven't contacted them. We are in the East TN area. Would you please provide a few recommendations of companies who install quality vinyl series? Obviously, all their websites and brochures say each is great. Any landmines/pointers you have would also be greatly appreciated. Pella Windows Reviews

Teresa - Homeowner - from 2016

[Site Editor's Answer]

Teresa, I always start out by at least recommending that consumers look at vinyl -- or at least understand the downsides of woodclad options like Pella and Andersen. Wood windows are undoubtedly beautiful, but they are very expensive, require staining or painting every 5 to 10 years, do not offer as good energy efficiency numbers, and carry a 10 to 20 year warranty. Vinyl windows are not nearly as attractive, but they are quite a bit cheaper, require no maintenance, can be very energy efficient, and usually come with a limited lifetime warranty.

Obviously, a good quality vynil window is required for these benefits to shine through. For homeowners who like the look of interior wood (most are wood-clad on the outside using a fiberglass, aluminum or vinyl), some top manufacturers use wood laminates that at one time looked very cheesy, but today can be hard to tell from the real thing.

I'm not quite sure what's in your area, but I will give you a list of window brands to search for to see if any are sold through local companies. If you go to google they should come up fairly easily. Get some bids and compare. Feel free to get back to me with the brands and per bid price/details, and I'm more than happy to give you my opinion.

Top tier: Okna, Sunrise, Soft-Lite, Zen, HiMark, Polaris, Kensington

Mid tier: Simonton, Wincore, Milgard, Stanek, Vytex

Dane - Site Editor - from 2016

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Related Topics: Vinyl vs Fiberglass Windows

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