Window Estimates - Comparing Costs of Different Styles of New Frames

Pros and cons of different window frame materials, listed in order from lowest to highest expected window estimates

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The need for window frame replacement can arrive seemingly without warning. It starts with a small rise in energy costs and soon leads to windows that are challenging to open and leak air like a sieve.

If you’re considering buying a new style of window frames for your home, the decision can have a significant impact on your wallet as well as the aesthetic appearance of your home. If you have older wood windows, replacing old frames with the original styles can be expensive. But new materials introduced in the last several decades, some that resemble wood and other materials, can often be found at far lower prices than traditional styles.

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

Because window estimates can vary at an enormous range due to size, quality, and features, the following list is in order of lowest cost to highest rather than assigned dollar values.


Vinyl windows have the lowest window estimates of available options and have surged in popularity in the last 15 years. They’re cheap to manufacturer--and to buy--because the windows frames are essentially molded vinyl with a hollowed center.

Despite being hollow, vinyl windows are largely protected from the elements. They resist denting, insulate better than most other styles, but can warp in extremely cold or hot temperatures. Therefore, this style is recommended for moderate climates. Properly cared for vinyl windows have a lifespan of about 20 years.


The second cheapest style available, aluminum windows defend well against the elements, and insulate against heat, cold, and noise better than vinyl windows. They have a defined industrial appearance that could clash with the appearance older homes but fit in well with more modern styles.

Aluminum windows typically last between 15 to 20 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders.


Cellular PVC frames are like the cubic zirconia of windows and an excellent option for homeowners who want to emulate the look of real wood while saving money with far lower window estimates.

Unlike real wood, cellular PVC is low maintenance and resistant to rotting, splitting, twisting, warping, the elements, and insect damage.

And with a lifespan of 25 years, cellular PVC lasts just a few years less than real wood.

It’s biggest fault: it’s not real wood.


Fiber glass window frames are among the strongest and highest rated materials for energy efficiency.

Fiberglass, like cellular PVC, is an excellent pretender of other materials, including wood. Costs are higher than the previously listed materials, but fiberglass carries lower window estimates than wood, while requiring less maintenance and being more resistant to rotting, splitting, twisting, warping, the elements, and insect damage.


Wood window frames are the original style for windows popularized centuries ago and have a classic look that many consider the most beautiful. However, they carry higher window estimates than modern materials and are more susceptible to damage. That said, a properly cared for wood window should last 30 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders, making its lifespan one of the longest.

Proper maintenance is no easy task, however. Wood windows are susceptible to damage from the elements and can warp, rot, split, and be transformed into homes for insects.


Steel windows are to aluminum windows what wood windows are to cellular PVC. Steel windows are far superior to aluminum windows, but have a similar industrial appearance that’s better suited for modern buildings rather than classic homes.

Steel is practically impervious to the elements, insects, rotting, warping, leaking, and just about any other normal event you can conjure up. And they require less maintenance than any other style of windows, requiring little more than a wipe down with a rag and water to remove dirt and grime. On the downside, steel windows have the highest window estimates of any all standard materials.

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