What are the differences between vinyl, wood, composite, fiberglass and aluminum replacement windows?

When shopping for replacement windows, the choices can be overwhelming. Which type of window will provide you the best efficiency, with the smallest investment, and require the least maintenance? How do you know what the right choice is for your home, as there are so many choices on the market? Chances are each contractor will recommend the product line they sell, as opposed to a line that may be better suited for your home.

Today, energy-conscious homeowners want to minimize the costs of heating and cooling their homes, and selecting the right windows is a crucial step. So how far should you go when choosing energy-efficient windows? The key is understanding your options, and making sure you have checked the credentials of your contractor.

You can buy the best window on the market, but if it's not installed properly, you'll find yourself replacing your windows again in just a few short years. It is a good idea to identify the type and brand window you would like to install in your home, and then find a contractor that is certified and trained to install that window. Or find a contractor that has a good reputation, that is licensed and insured, and that a family member or friend has recommended, and then ask what product lines they carry.

In reality, if you purchase the right window, and have it installed by a reputable and trained installation contractor, you shouldn't have to buy another replacement as long as you live in your home.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the standard 5 choices — vinyl, wood, composite, fiberglass and aluminum.

Vinyl Windows - If you're looking for a low-maintenance replacement window, look no further than vinyl. Vinyl does not rot nor deteriorate, even when faced with the wrath of Mother Nature. It holds strong year after year because it's made from a plastic material called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC won't rust, corrode or separate.

If you're seeking a classic wood look, vinyl windows can be ordered with a simulated wood grain interior to provide a similar appearance. Vinyl windows have a vinyl sash and frame corners that are airtight. This keeps the cold air out, and the heat in during the cold winter months, and vice versa in the summer, providing energy savings all year long.

The best part about vinyl windows is that they're nearly maintenance-free. You won't have to retouch them with paint or stain. Soap and water will do the trick for a good cleaning, not causing any damage.

When it comes to cost, vinyl windows are the biggest bang for your buck. They are built to last, and are inexpensive when compared to the other options, but buyer beware. Not all vinyl windows have the same quality.

Vinyl windows are versatile, and come is a wide variety of styles, sizes and exterior colors. When beginning your search for the right type of window, keep an open mind.

Wood windows are like a sports car — charming and polished when first purchased — but if you don't keep up with the maintenance, over time, they can easily turn into a rotten piece of junk. Wood windows not only look elegant, they are also durable and solid. Wood doesn't attract condensation, so when your home is more humid than the outdoors, you shouldn't have moisture building up on the glass. If installed properly, wood is also one of the best materials for insulation.

Unlike vinyl, wood windows require maintenance; whether it is a paint or stain touch up, or a repair to the weather barrier coating. Wood also has a high tendency to warp, expand, contract and rot, if not properly treated. If you live near the coastline, wood windows are the worst option because of the salt in the air. Wood is a living object even after being cut down from a tree, and therefore absorbs the moisture in the air like a sponge.

Ever have a problem with termites? These guys will love eating away at your delicious wood windows. However, as long as you maintain your windows, it should be manageable.

Overall, the cost of wood windows is one of the more expensive choices. However, wood will not rust, and can last you a lifetime. But back to our sports car analogy, it's all about the maintenance.

Composite or fiberglass windows are the newest option in the replacement window market.  They're made from materials similar to car bumpers and are heavy duty, durable and meant to last. However these windows typically carry a high price tag, similar to wood windows.

They come with the same options that most vinyl windows come with like interior wood grain and custom exterior colors, and boast similar energy efficiency ratings as most vinyl windows. Composite and fiberglass windows can be painted to suit your décor, unlike vinyl. They are also maintenance free. If you're looking for a natural looking window with high performance ratings, and have the extra money to spend, a composite or fiberglass window is a great choice for any home on Staten Island.

Aluminum windows have come a long way in the last few years, but if you own a home with aluminum windows built prior to the 1980's, you should consider changing your windows sooner than later. Their cheap quality is prone to drafts, rust and corroding.

Aluminum windows manufactured now aren't as poorly crafted. They are a lot stronger, and will last if properly taken care of. However the biggest drawback is they cost more than vinyl, although they are still less expensive than wood.

Like vinyl, aluminum windows are also low-maintenance, which gives them a good selling point. However, if energy-efficiency is high on your priority-list, look elsewhere as aluminum naturally conducts a lot of heat and is bone chilling during the winter making it a poor choice for homeowners that live in the northeast.

Aluminum isn't prone to warping, but it can eventually corrode, especially if you live in a coastal environment. To lessen the risk, you can buy corrosion-resistant paint.

When it comes to deciding which replacement window is best for you, make a checklist of what matters and write a pro and con list. Identify what is most important to you and start interviewing contractors. Be cautious of contractors that offer deep discounts, or pressure you to sign and won't take no for an answer? Chances are they are ripping you off and not satisfying your needs, rather their own.

or any questions about your remodeling project, you can contact HIC of Staten Island by e-mail at hicofstatenisland@gmail.com

John Kolbaska, President
The Men with Tools
(347) 815-4151