Wood vs Vinyl Windows

Replacing the windows in your home can lower your energy costs significantly while making your windows more functional and attractive. Drafty windows that rattle, stick, or are warped, can reduce your home’s value and make it very uncomfortable.

Replacement windows come in a plethora of materials, styles, and glass types, and the most popular window frame materials are vinyl and wood. Both materials have positive characteristics, but their looks and functionality are different. Here are the significant differences between wood and vinyl windows to help you make the appropriate decisions when choosing the best window material for your home.


Wooden windows can last for decades if you maintain them properly. They need regular scraping and painting to keep them in top shape and to prevent rotting and warping. And when you do this, wooden windows can last long.

Vinyl windows require lower maintenance, but they don’t have a long history like wood. Early vinyl windows cracked or warped just after a few years, and they were to be replaced regularly. But in recent years, vinyl has improved in its performance and durability.

These improvements have existed for less than a decade. Currently, vinyl may be more durable than wood. Experts think vinyl windows will last longer than wood if the vinyl is thick with an angled exterior seal that prevents water from pooling on the frame.


In terms of appearance, wooden windows have the most options with a more traditional and classic look. Usually, wooden windows are installed in historic homes where the windows’ appearance matters a lot.

Wood comes in different species, with pine being the most common and least expensive. You can also find wooden windows in a wide range of species such as mahogany for style and looks, and cedar for durability. Exotic wood is more durable but more costly.

You can paint wooden windows in any color or stain them to show off the pure grain of the wood. Wooden windows can also have vinyl or aluminum cladding on the exterior to reduce maintenance costs while the interior keeps a visible, authentic wooden grain.

For appearance, vinyl windows have more options. Most vinyl windows have a smooth finish that gives them a plastic appearance.

Vinyl windows come in a wide variety of colors and styles. They have more customization options and are available in a broad range of frame thickness and sizes. This can affect how they look and perform.

To keep them functioning and looking at their best, wooden windows need some maintenance. You need to keep them dry and clean. You also need to scrape off any stains or peeling paint and restain or paint them to protect the wood. Wood windows that have been fitted with aluminum or vinyl on the exterior require very minimal maintenance than wooden windows.

Vinyl windows are very low maintenance. You can quickly clean smooth vinyl windows with a cloth, and they don’t crack, peel, or rot. Vinyl windows with faux wood grain are more challenging to maintain since faux wood grain gathers debris and dirt quickly and is harder to clean. However, they don’t need any regular staining or painting.

different styles of vinyl windows

You should check all windows regularly to ensure that the exterior caulk sealant remains in place. Also, replace any missing or cracked caulk to maintain the window’s energy efficiency and integrity.

Energy Efficiency and Insulation

Both vinyl and wooden windows can be energy-efficient. Energy Star considers both of them to have proper insulation. However, vinyl can be more energy efficient and insulated since they are filled with argon gas. Inspecting each window for an Energy Star label will help you ensure that the window is energy-efficient irrespective of its frame material.

In wood windows, energy efficiency may deteriorate over time. If you don’t maintain the wood well, it may rot or warp, and this can create air gaps for cold and hot air to pass through.

Vinyl contracts and expands much more than other materials, including glass and wood. If poorly installed, this contraction and expansion can cause the frame to warp, and this can lower its efficiency.


Vinyl is less expensive to purchase and install compared to wood. It will cost you between $530 and $740 to buy a 48-inch vinyl sash window, and it will cost you around $250 to install the same window. This comes to $780 to $990 per window.

It will cost you between $760 and $910 to buy a 48-inch wood sash window. The cost of installing a wooden window is slightly higher at about $300, so the total cost would be between $1,060 and $1,210 per window.

Since most homeowners install about ten new windows at a time, vinyl will cost between $7,800 and $9,900, and wooden Windows will cost between $10,600 and $12,100 for the entire project.

Vinyl Vs. Wood, Which is Better?

The answer to this question depends on your needs. If you want a cost-effective and low maintenance option, vinyl windows are more suitable. However, if you will alter the color of your windows every year, wooden windows will suit you. Either way, both wood and vinyl windows will offer you the energy-efficiency your home requires.

Once you have decided on which type of window to go for, consult a window expert to give you a quote for your project, and to get your windows fitted by a pro.

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Window Resource started with one goal in mind - to help people become up-to-date on all things windows. Windows play a major role in your home's looks, value and energy efficiency so it's important to make the right decision when getting new ones installed. We'll cover just about every topic there is so you can make the best decision. Still don't see what you're looking for? Contact us and we'll answer any questions you may have.