Choosing the best window frames for your home can be a daunting task. When selecting frames, you’ll need to consider the overall cost, energy efficiency, aesthetic appeal, and more.
This guide on the seven types of window frames, complete with an in-depth breakdown of their features (including moisture resistance, weather resistance, energy efficiency, and cost), will help you find the right window frames for your home without overspending.
What Are the Different Types of Window Frames?
Each type of window frame comes with its pros and cons, different price points, and unique features. This breakdown of the seven top window frame types can help you assess which is best for your home.
|Window Frame Type||Pros||Cons||Cost Range per Window*||Best For|
|Vinyl||Most affordable, durable, low-maintenance||Not as “classic” or aesthetically pleasing of a look, may warp||$100 to $900||Homeowners on a tight budget|
|Wood||High aesthetic appeal, excellent insulation, preferred by many homebuyers||High maintenance, prone to wood rot and pests||$600 to $1,300||Homeowners after a classic look who don’t mind maintaining the natural material|
|Aluminum||Cost-effective, durable, easy to customize||Poor energy efficiency||$300 to $1,000||Homes with larger windows|
|Fiberglass||Energy-efficient, noise-resistant||Difficult to install, limited design and color options||$400 to $1,100||Homeowners concerned about extreme weather conditions or temperature changes|
|Wood-clad||Aesthetically pleasing but low-maintenance compared to traditional wood||High price point||$500 to $1,500||Homeowners who love the look of wood but want low-maintenance frames|
|Composite||Mimics the look of wood, long-lasting, rot-resistant||Higher upfront cost, quality can vary significantly||$400 to $1,400||Homes in wet areas|
|Steel||Anti-theft, modern, long-lasting||High price point, prone to corrosion||$400 to $1,500||Homeowners worried about break-ins or fire|
*These average costs are only rough estimates of standard window installations; these figures are meant to provide a starting point for budgeting window costs, which vary significantly and depend on a variety of factors. Learn more about our Cost Analysis Methodology here.
Vinyl Window Frames
Vinyl window frames are one of the most affordable types of window frames. Made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), they offer good insulative properties. Many homeowners prefer vinyl window frames because they can customize and paint them to fit with their home’s aesthetic.
View our list of Top Vinyl Windows.
Where To Use Vinyl Window Frames
You can use vinyl window frames just about anywhere. However, many homeowners prefer installing them on their doors because they’re durable and offer excellent insulation.
Vinyl Window Costs
Vinyl frames typically cost between $100 and $900 per window, making this one of the most affordable options for homeowners needing new windows.
Vinyl Window Pros & Cons
- Last 20+ years
- Good insulation
- Less natural or classic looking than wood
- May discolor or warp
Wood Window Frames
Wood window frames are timeless and classically beautiful, making them one of the most desired window frame choices for homeowners. However, they require a lot of maintenance, including refinishing, adding sealants, and regularly checking for pest infestations.
Despite these cons, many homeowners still opt for wooden window frames because of their charming look and the option to enhance the wood’s appearance with paint or stains.
Where To Use Wooden Frames
Wooden frames are weather-resistant and provide good insulation, making them an excellent choice for exterior windows.
Wood Window Frame Costs
On average, wood window frames cost between $600 and $1,200 per window.
Wood Window Pros & Cons
- Classic, beautiful appearance
- May last over 50 years with proper maintenance
- Energy-efficient and eco-friendly
- Paintable and stainable
- May lower energy bills
- High price point
- More prone to pest damage
- More susceptible to wood rot
- High maintenance costs such as refinishing (which homeowners should do every five to 10 years)
Aluminum Window Frames
Aluminum frames give the home a modern style while providing plenty of support for larger windows. They have a subtle, lightweight look that many homeowners enjoy. Just know that your energy bills may go up if you switch from a more energy-efficient window frame to aluminum which naturally conducts cold and hot temperatures.
Where to Use Aluminum Frames
Aluminum frames are ideal for homes with larger windows because they provide ample support for heavy sheets of glass and can be customizable. These window frames are also ideal in mild or warm climates.
Aluminum Window Frame Costs
Aluminum window frames cost between $300 and $1,000 per window, making them a more cost-effective choice compared to options like steel or wood.
Aluminum Window Pros & Cons
- Last 40 to 50 years with proper maintenance
- Sturdy and weather-resistant
- Low-maintenance option
- Typically use at least 15% recycled materials
- Not energy-efficient because they conduct heat
- Prone to condensation and corrosion
Fiberglass Window Frames
Fiberglass window frames are made from a mixture of resin, glass fibers, and additives, resulting in a strong frame that won’t expand or contract. As a result, fiberglass is a highly energy-efficient choice and one of the strongest materials available for frames.
Where To Use Fiberglass Window Frames
Fiberglass frames are moisture-resistant, making them ideal for homes in stormy, rainy areas. They’re also thinner than other window frame types, making them ideal for windows with thick glass.
Fiberglass Frame Costs
On average, fiberglass frames cost between $400 and $1,000, putting them in the middle to high price point range for window frame replacement.
Fiberglass Window Pros & Cons
- Cold and heat resistant
- Low-maintenance option
- Higher price point
- Susceptible to UV damage
- More challenging to install
- Fewer customization options
Wood-clad Window Frames
A wood-clad window frame is a popular and desirable option for homeowners looking for a classic style and durability. These wooden frames are clad or covered in a tougher material on the exterior, such as aluminum or vinyl, allowing you to enjoy the look of natural wood with little maintenance.
Where To Use Wood-Clad Window Frames
Wood-clad window frames are best for high-traffic areas, like living rooms or bedrooms, so that you can enjoy the beautiful look of the wood as much as possible.
Wood-Clad Window Frame Costs
Typically, wood-clad window frames cost between $500 and $1,500.
Wood-clad Window Pros & Cons
- Almost maintenance-free
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Cladding may separate over time
Composite Window Frames
These window frames are made from a combination of recycled materials, including plastics, metals, and wood. They’re long-lasting, rot-resistant, and excellent insulators, which may lower your energy bills over time.
Where To Use Composite Window Frames
Composite window frames are ideal for homes in wet climates because they’re rot-resistant. They’re also durable and provide reliable insulation, making them suitable for areas with extreme temperatures.
Composite Frame Costs
Composite frames cost between $400 and $1,400 on average, putting them at one of the highest price points for window frames.
Composite Window Pros & Cons
- Seamless look
- Great insulator
- Mimics the look of wood but requires less maintenance
- Quality varies by manufacturer
Steel Window Frames
If you enjoy an industrial, modern look, steel window frames are an excellent choice. They’re difficult to break, durable, and fire-resistant, making them a safety-conscious choice for a home. Steel window frames are often custom-built, so they require a higher upfront cost. However, you’re likely to get your money’s worth as these types of window frames can last more than 75 years.
Where To Use Steel Window Frames
Steel window frames are a good choice for any windows that need reinforcement. For example, a steel frame would be an excellent option if you’ve previously had a break-in or are worried about someone entering the home through an easy-to-access window.
Steel Frame Costs
On average, steel window frames cost between $500 and $1,500 per window.
Steel Window Pros & Cons
- Highly durable
- Sleek, modern look
- Lasts many decades
- Not as affordable
- More susceptible to corrosion
- Difficult to cut, making customization more challenging
What Type of Window Frames Are Best for Energy Efficiency?
Some of the best energy-efficient window frame options are vinyl and wood. However, fiberglass window frames are the most dimensionally stable, as they contain air cavities filled with insulation to increase their energy efficiency even more. They also don’t expand or contract, so they won’t warp and create an air leak.
How Do You Measure a Window Frame for Replacement?
Start by measuring the width of the window’s base by extending your tape horizontally. For casement windows, open your tape vertically to measure the height from header to cell. Measure the width and height measurements of each window you plan to replace to get a rough estimate of how much it’ll cost to purchase the window frame.
Are Full Frame Window Replacements Worth It?
Replacing your old windows is usually a significant investment. However, the return value of improved insulation, higher curb appeal, and reduced energy bills make this a wise long-term investment that may save you anywhere from 7% to 15% on your annual household energy bills. Start looking at your favorite window frame options at reputable window companies like Champion, Renewal by Andersen, and Window World to collect further cost information.
Ready to buy your new window frames? Get a free estimate from one of the industry’s best window providers below.
FAQs About Different Types of Window Frames
What Are the Best Windows for Sunny Climates?
The most energy-efficient window frame is fiberglass, which is perfect for a hot climate. Wood, wood-clad, and vinyl window frames are other strong contenders. It’s best to avoid aluminum frames as they conduct heat and are less energy-efficient in hot climates.
What Are the Best Window Frame Materials for Snowy Climates?
The best window frame materials for snowy climates or cold weather are wood-clad, fiberglass, or vinyl, as they’re all moisture-resistant options. Avoid traditional wood frames because they’re prone to wood rot.
What Is the Most Common Window Frame Material?
Vinyl window frames are the most popular and common window frame materials for most homeowners because they’re relatively affordable and made from durable PVC.