Compare Replacement Windows: Popular Materials

What to know about costs and benefits of different materials when you compare replacement windows

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As home renovation projects go, window replacement tends to be one that homeowners put aside more often than others. There may be a good reason for this: new window frames is a $5,000 to $40,000 endeavor that can take two decades or more before the savings from lower energy costs make up for the purchase price.

Despite the long wait to recover the return the money on your investment, window replacement goes beyond dollars: it improves the aesthetic look of your home as well as quelling noise and boosting indoor comfort.

If you’re considering an upgrade, compare replacement windows of different materials to find the right fit for you.


Vinyl Windows:

Vinyl windows own about half the share in the window market courtesy of low cost, easy maintenance, and a lifespan of about 20 years. Generally, a vinyl replacement window will cost anywhere from $300 to $700.

To get more information about window replacement price estimates, see our main artilce on the cost of new panes here.

Vinyl windows aren’t necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing option, however, and tend to clash with homes with a classic style, such as unpainted wood shake siding. You can’t paint or stain vinyl siding, meaning its appearance will remain the same since the day you bought it, excluding general wear and tear. Generally, vinyl windows leak air more than other window materials and can warp in extremely hot and cold temperatures, meaning they’re more practical in moderate climates.

Aluminum Windows:

Aluminum windows cost slightly more than vinyl windows, but aren’t as popular largely due to their industrial appearance that doesn’t generally match older homes and fits in with a limited number of modern homes. If you compare replacement windows, aluminum is a better option in many other practical aspects. Aluminum windows insulate more effectively than vinyl against heat, cold, and noise.


Fiberglass is consistently rated one of the best materials for insulation and energy efficiency, but the price tag is about double that of vinyl windows. That said, consumer advocacy groups that compare replacement windows, such as Consumer Reports, have shown that the price is worth it. Consumer Reports states that fiberglass windows “excelled at keeping out cold air and rain when new.” And while the price is slightly below wood, fiberglass tends to be better than wood at resisting rot, splitting, warping, and insects. Generally, it needs less maintenance too.

Wood Windows:

When you compare replacement windows, wood will likely fall below its competition in terms of resistance to the rot, warping, elements, insect prevention, and price--it’s one of the most expensive window materials. What you get in return is one of the most beautiful window styles that’s been popular for centuries. Maintenance is difficult, but a properly maintained wood window can last three decades or more, which is among the longest of any window material.

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