Vinyl vs. Wood Windows: Compare and Contrast

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When you're looking to purchase new windows for your home, vinyl windows and wood windows both vie for your attention. Both wood and vinyl have strong points. Wood windows possess a classic charm that vinyl can only hope to impart. Yet for the majority of homeowners, vinyl's low cost is itself a charm that beats wood's aesthetic allure. Which type of window works best for your home?

What Vinyl and Wood Windows Are

Vinyl Windows

Vinyl windows are made largely of high-quality extruded polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Some metal and other types of plastics are used for the sash mechanism.

Wood Windows

Wood windows are usually wood on the inside (typically pine or Douglas Fir). Exteriors are wood covered with extruded aluminum, PVC, or fiberglass.

Colors and Finishes

Vinyl Windows

Most vinyl windows are white. Rich, dark colors that do not fade have traditionally been hard for manufacturers to achieve. Most colors beyond white or tan are considered premium and will cost more.

Wood Windows

One chief value of wood windows is that the inside frames can remain a natural wood color, if desired. Exteriors and interiors may be painted any color.

Maintenance

Vinyl Windows

Vinyl replacement windows never need painting or sealing. One downside of this is that, if you do want to paint your vinyl windows, it's more difficult than painting wood windows.

Wood Windows

Wood-exterior windows need painting or sealing, not just at the time of installation, but throughout their lifetime. Painting wood windows is an exacting task and must be done frequently. Wood windows with aluminum cladding never need painting.

Insulating Factor

Vinyl Windows

Vinyl is a poor conductor of heat and cold and this is a good thing. However, vinyl window frames are often hollow. Cold air will pass through the hollow spaces. Be sure to look for insulated window frames.

Wood Windows

When it's cold outside, feel the frame of a wood window. You'll find that wood-framed windows are excellent at inhibiting the transmission of cold or heat from the outside. So wood is a great energy-saver.

Cost

Vinyl Windows

Vinyl replacement windows are about 20-percent cheaper than wood windows, according to Remodeling's Cost vs. Value Report.

Wood Windows

Wood windows are costlier. Whether it is the law of supply and demand, the price of beauty, or just the fact that fewer companies make wood windows, wood windows do tend to be more expensive than vinyl windows.

Appearance

Vinyl Windows

With the addition of better colors besides just white and tan, vinyl windows are considered more attractive than they were in the past.

Wood Windows

The point of wood windows is usually to keep the interior natural or stained, with sealer on top, thus keeping the wood grain visible. Vinyl simply cannot duplicate this. Or, if you wish to have the look of solid colors, you can paint wood.

Turnaround

Vinyl Windows

Vinyl windows are plentiful from many different manufacturers, so it is not difficult to obtain them on schedule.

Wood Windows

Wood windows have dwindled to a 16-percent market share, so manufacturers and retailers do not prioritize them. Thus, it may be slower to obtain wood windows over vinyl.

Resale Value

Vinyl Windows

With vinyl windows, you'll see close to a 73-percent return on investment when it comes time to sell the home.

Wood Windows

Wood windows have a slightly lower resale value by just a couple of percentage points.

Which Should You Buy?

Vinyl windows are all about saving money and keeping maintenance duties at an absolute minimum. If you're trying to save money on your next window purchase, it's hard to beat vinyl windows.

Wood windows are all about style and providing long-term value and beauty to your home. If you have a historic home or a home that needs to maintain value for a long time, wood windows may be your best choice.

  Vinyl Windows Wood Windows
Defined Plastic framed windows except for metal used for the operating mechanism. Interior wood with exteriors covered with extruded aluminum, PVC, or fiberglass.
Colors and Finishes Mostly white, though some other colors are available. Bare wood or primed wood that can be painted any color.
Maintenance Easy to wipe down and maintain. Need regular painting on the outside, unless covered with metal or plastic.
Insulating Factor Poor to fair, especially if the frames are not insulated. Excellent. Wood insulates well and is a great energy-saver.
Cost Close to 20% cheaper than wood windows. Nearly always more costly than vinyl windows.
Appearance Fair appearance, though it helps to purchase windows that coordinate with the home or surroundings. Excellent. Wood windows can be painted any color.
Turnaround Excellent. Vinyl windows are plentiful and usually are readily available. Might be slower to obtain than vinyl windows.
Resale Value Excellent resale value. Slightly lower resale value than vinyl windows.