Wood vs Vinyl: Which Window is the Best?

If you want to replace your windows, you’ll quickly find out that there’s a lot of debate about wood vs vinyl windows.

vinyl or wood windowsYour home’s windows can make a significant difference to the décor, climate control and resale value of the property. You can also claim federal tax benefits for upgrading your windows to become more energy-efficient.

But what type of windows are the best for your home?

Over the past three decades or so, almost half of all windows sold in the USA were made of wood. All of a sudden, the sales of wooden windows have dropped – some sources say to around 20% of windows sold. It seems as though vinyl windows have taken over the marketplace.

To help you weigh up your options in the vinyl windows vs wood windows debate, we’ve taken a look at the different qualities of both materials, and laid out a point-by-point comparison of these two types of windows.

What is a Vinyl Window?

Vinyl windows are made out of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC has become an increasingly popular construction material since the 1970s, because of its strength and durability.

Vinyl windows are affordable, have great insulation properties that keep your home temperature comfortable, and will stay looking good for years without maintenance. Vinyl windows used to be manufactured in white only, but now come in a number of color choices to suit your home décor.

Despite these great properties of vinyl windows, many homeowners still prefer wooden windows. Is this choice based on nostalgia for tradition and craftsmanship, or is it based on other factors as well?

What’s So Good About Wood?

Wood windows are undeniably great-looking, and can be a major selling point if you’re looking to put your home on the market.

wood-windowsYou can choose windows made out of more expensive woods like oak or mahogany, which will add a great deal of high-end cachet to your home.

Most wood windows have a warranty of up to fifty years that can be transferred from homeowner to homeowner.

Cladding on the exterior of your home will protect the windows and maintain your interior temperature.

The downsides of wood windows are: their higher price, and their maintenance requirements – windows that aren’t cladded on the outside will need repainting every few years.

Vinyl vs Wood Windows – Pros and Cons

Maintenance

Vinyl replacement windows will never need painting or sealing.  Window manufacturers even have a saying for this: “vinyl is final”!

Wood windows will need painting and sealing right throughout their entire lifetime – unless they are fitted with cladding. Wooden clad windows vs vinyl will need very little maintenance – but cladding can be costly.

Energy Efficiency

Vinyl doesn’t conduct temperatures well, which is a good thing for maintaining the microclimate inside your house.

vinyl-bow-windowsHowever, vinyl window frames are often manufactured with hollow spaces that allow cold air to pass through.

Wood windows don’t allow much, if any, transmission of cold or heat from the outside world – so they’re great for saving energy costs inside the home.

Design

Vinyl windows used to come in white only – now other colors are available, but tend to be more costly.

Wood windows are available in a range of colors, depending on your preference. Light wood is popular in many coastal homes, while rich dark colors are usually selected for traditional or ultra-modern house designs

Price of Windows

Vinyl windows are generally about 25% cheaper than wood windows. Wood windows are more expensive because of the costlier materials and manufacturing processes involved.

Labor costs

A vinyl window weighs less than wood, and needs less expertise to install.

Wooden windows can be very heavy, depending on the style and the wood type. Many homeowners prefer to hire an installer who is highly experienced in woodwork and carpentry. A professional with this type of expertise might charge more than an average window installer.

Here you can see the main pros and cons of vinyl windows vs wood windows at a glance.

FeaturesVinyl WindowsWood Windows  
Maintenance

Maintenance-free ("Vinyl is Final")
Maintenance required every few years (unless cladded)
Energy efficiencyEnergy efficient

Extremely energy efficient
Design
Relatively limitedHighly customizable. Almost unlimited color, hardware, and grille combos
Durability
Usually last 15–20 yearsCan last 30+ years, especially with cladding on exterior
PriceAffordable:  $150 to $400 per windowCost varies by brand etc:  $300 to $800 per window
Labor costs$150 to $250 labor per window

$200 to $300 labor per window

Conclusion

If you have an older classic home, you might have been told not to replace your windows at all! However, this isn’t an option for most homeowners.

If you compare the cost of wood vs vinyl replacement windows, it’s not hard to see why vinyl is becoming increasingly more accepted at all levels of the housing market.

With wooden windows, you can expect to get busy with a paintbrush and can every few years – or pay for expensive cladding. Vinyl windows don’t need much maintenance, if any.

Wood windows will make potential buyers take notice of your property, while vinyl windows are basic and functional. If you just want a set of windows that looks good and keeps your costs down, vinyl is a fine choice. Looking for more wow factor and curb appeal? Then wood is good!