There are many different species of wood to choose, from pine to fir to mahogany to oak and all the way up to the exotics. Wood can be paint grade, stain grade, laminated, natural, primed, PVC coated or completely finished in a stain or painted finish. Wood is nature’s natural insulator. Wood windows due to the manufacturing process typically come in standard sizes and can be made custom at a premium price. Wood windows can either be wood inside and outside, or pre-painted or clad on the exterior with Aluminum or PVC and wood on the interior. Wood windows allow you to change the interior paint colour whenever desired. Pricing for wood is typically on a scale from one to ten can be in the 9-10 range.
Next we have uPVC, Unplasticized Polyvinyl Chloride, a lightweight, easy to work with, basically maintenance free product that is economical and energy efficient with very similar insulation properties to wood. PVC is a poor conductor of both heat and cold, thus your heat stays inside in the winter, while your air-conditioning is able to keep the air cooler in the summer. Vinyl windows offer a very efficient option. It’s difficult to find something easier to take care of than that which is virtually maintenance free. Vinyl windows never require painting and are easily cleaned with soap and water. They do not corrode, and will not swell, chip, peel, rot, or rust. Relatively little energy goes in to the manufacture, and the scrap is recyclable. It is comforting to know that not much must go to the landfill. The technology has advanced so far that vinyl windows now can be prefinished on the exterior with painted or bonded colours that are specific to uPVC and will not crack or flake. The selection ranges from the light pastel colours to almost black (Carbon). Interiors can be made to look and feel like real wood grain but without the cost and maintenance. Today commanding the major percentage of the market, uPVC is the material of choice for most replacement window projects. Vinyl windows are built to last.
Aluminum at one time was the material of choice, due to its strength, durability, ease of manufacturing and minimal maintenance. Aluminum can be prefinished in an assortment of painted colours or anodizing. Today aluminum windows are typically used in warmer climates due to their lack of insulation properties or in commercial installations because of their strength and durability.
Along comes Fiberglass, extremely strong, energy efficient and paintable. Fiberglass is a durable and long lasting window framing material that can be painted. It is the strongest window material – about 3 times stronger than aluminum and about 9 times stronger than vinyl. Fiberglass window frames are produced similarly to vinyl, however where vinyl is extruded (or pushed) through a form to process, Fiberglas is pultruded (or pulled) to create the similar form. Fiberglass essentially does not conduct heat or cold, increasing efficiency. Quality Fiberglas frames are composed of at least 60% glass, an easily recyclable material. The high glass content makes for a very tough product. It also means the expansion and contraction rates of both the window panes and the frames are similar, increasing the life of the window unit’s seals and materials. Fiberglass is similarly priced to metal clad wood.
Now we have composite windows. Composite is a generic term that can refer to any type of mixture or combination of chemically bonded blends of wood and plastic resins. At best they hold a combined 1 to 2 percent share of the market. Composite frames offer the best qualities of both vinyl and wood. They offer the strengths of both wood and plastic with thermal properties similar to those of wood. Composites offer better moisture and decay resistance. Wood fibre and/or scrap is combined with the resin and extruded to form the frames. These reused wood products would have been otherwise discarded.
Energy Star Efficiency!
With my 35 years experience my advice to you would be, if you are looking for a quality, energy efficient, low maintenance, reasonably priced window that will serve you well into the future uPVC Windows are the answer. Today uPVC windows are high tech, available in colours, and come in just about any style imaginable.