Product Comparison: Vinyl Windows vs Wood Window Replacement

Jul 14, 2022

Considering Wood Window Replacement? We break down the pros and cons of vinyl windows vs wood, and the hidden cost of wood windows.

Wood windows have a long history of durability and performance, but as the saying goes, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

Historic wood windows were made of heartwood – the densest part of the tree trunk, and thereby the most durable and best insulating material available at the time. Over the centuries, as old-growth timber was depleted, window manufacturers turned to younger new growth lumber. Easily identified by having fewer rings per inch of wood, new-growth lumber usually comes from fast-growing species grown on tree farms. Because of it’s less dense structure, new growth wood is more susceptible to warping and bowing, and to pests like termites.

Right: This image is of a window made from old-growth timber. You can see the rings of the wood are tight together, keeping the window strong. However, while the wood is strong, the window still failed due to old single pane glass and a faulty pulley system.

Old wood windows
Brittany M.
Greenville, OH
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“Excellent! Had windows installed in a timely manner and noticed a big difference in temp in the house. Our house was built in the ‘50s so no insulation throughout the house, and had old single-pane windows and always felt a draft. Since getting new windows, we have no drafts and are a lot warmer.”
Tabitha B.
Tipp City, OH
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Now that the windows are in, it feels like we’re the talk of the town! We had four or five different people come out to give us quotes, and the people we spoke with from Improveit – it felt like we had known them forever. Our installer, John, communicated very well, and answered all our questions before we knew to ask them.”
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How Long Do Wood windows Last?

New wood windows don’t have nearly the life expectancy that old wood windows once had. Generally, wood windows are expected to last about 20 years before needing replacement, which often comes as a surprise to owners of historic homes that still have operational windows in their 100-year-old homes. These homeowners know their windows need to be replaced for a variety of reasons, but new wood windows are rarely the best replacement option.

Vinyl windows vs wood

In order to get the full 20-year lifespan out of new wood windows, homeowners should prepare for considerable maintenance requirements. Wood windows need regular staining or painting (usually annually) to continue looking their best. Additionally, as wood expands and contracts with the seasons, cracks can form in the material requiring sanding and wood filler to repair imperfections.

Right: This image is of a wooden window where annual maintenance was not kept up with.

These maintenance steps can be challenging work, but it is essential. Left unmaintained, wood windows can deteriorate quickly. Continual exposure to the elements means cracks will worsen over time, compromising the integrity of the window frames. This can lead to seal failure and reduced functionality as sashes become hard or impossible to move in warped window frames. Top it off with peeling paint, and you lose the aesthetic beauty of wood windows as well.

The Hidden Cost of Wood Windows vs Vinyl windows

According to the Zonda Cost vs. Value report, the average cost to replace 10 wood windows is $24,388. This figure is 20% greater than the cost of vinyl window replacement, and doesn’t take into account the hidden cost of wood windows vs vinyl.

Regular maintenance like the steps outlined above can be pricey and time consuming for do-it-yourselfers, (not to mention the dangers of working on a ladder). But hiring out the work every year can be even more expensive. Be sure to calculate this into the cost of owning wood windows.

Lower energy efficiency is another issue. The U.S. Department of Energy says wood window frames insulate “relatively well,” but that insulated vinyl frames provide a “thermally superior” performance compared to wood. Choosing energy-efficient windows can lower your overall cost of ownership, so be sure to maximize your material selection here.

Multiple replacement costs are another issue with wood windows. Even with a 20-year life expectancy, wood window manufacturers will only offer limited warranties for their windows. Coverages may last for 10 years or less, and things like bowing and warping components are often excluded altogether. With this in mind, homeowners that select wood will likely have to replace their windows more than once during the life of their home.

Benefits of Vinyl Windows vs Wood

When it’s time to replace your wood windows, vinyl replacement windows are truly the ideal option to overcome these challenges.

Low-maintenance vinyl is easy to keep clean, and never requires painting. Historic home owners (and preservation boards) may worry that vinyl windows take something away from the classic style of older homes, but choosing the right window grids and exterior color options alleviates that concern.

How long do wood windows last
Before: Old Wood Windows on a home built in 1858 in Woodstock, OH
Benefits of vinyl windows vs wood
After: Gorgeous Performax54 vinyl windows by Improveit

Vinyl windows like Performax54 also feature insulated frames and sashes, plus high-efficiency glass and spacer technology that maximizes energy efficiency in a way that wood windows simply can’t match.

Because of their ability to withstand the elements, vinyl replacement windows have an expected lifespan of 40 years, but be sure to look at warranty details too. For instance, Improveit’s full lifetime warranty on Performax54 windows covers parts, labor, and broken seals, and can be transferred to a new homeowner if the home is sold. With a warranty that robust, Improveit customers know they’ll never have to replace their windows again!

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