Why Wood Is Better Than Vinyl For Windows

About half the residential replacement windows sold in the US are made of vinyl. At first glance, vinyl seems to make sense. Manufacturers are justified in their claims that it insulates well and never needs painting. But vinyl isn’t nearly as rigid as other window materials such as wood and fiberglass. Worse, vinyl begins to soften and distort at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that is easily reached in the space between a window and drape on a sunny day. Although all window materials expand and contract as temperatures rise and fall, vinyl moves more than twice as much as aluminum, wood and fiberglass. Vinyl expands seven times farther than glass with each degree. That action can pop seals between the frame and the glass. Last year Environmental Building News, a newsletter for contractors and architects, evaluated all framing options used in windows and advised readers to avoid 100 percent vinyl window frames because of their durability problems.

Anderson Corporation, the worlds largest manufacturer of windows, has never made an all vinyl window for sale in the US. “Vinyl simply is not suitable for use on its own as a window material,” says Mike Compeau, a spokesman for the company. Vinyl windows have been on the market for only 15 to 20 years. According the Hakim Elmahdy, the chief window expert for the Canadian government’s Institute for Research in Construction, “There is not enough data or track record for these windows to say, yes they will last for 50 years.”

Noted Architect Robert A.M.Stern says,” We won’t spec a house with vinyl windows. We won’t even use a vinyl-over-wood window. We only use windows that are framed in wood. And we paint them or stain them. We don’t leave a natural finish. The paint seals the windows.”

Wood windows do require maintenance, but so do all other windows. Fortunately for wood windows, if maintained properly they can last for centuries. Vinyl and aluminum clad replacement windows are difficult to repair and are usually replaced again in much shorter time. Vinyl does expands & contract and breakdowns, while aluminum cladding fades due to ultraviolet sun damage. Parts are difficult to source for modern windows, and finding someone to work on them is difficult. With traditional wood windows, their design is simple and repairs are always possible with an experience craftsmans.