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May 29, 2024

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    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.

    *Costs in this article sourced from contractor estimates used by Fixr and Angi.

    What are Window Frames?

    A window frame is the structure that surrounds and supports a window pane. They can affect the aesthetics of the home and the window’s overall energy efficiency, while also providing protection from the elements. Window frames require weather-stripping, drainage systems, and sealants to keep out rain, drafts, and snow. They come with in a variety of different types, colors, and styles, so you can find the best window frame for your home’s design and budget.

    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 TypeProsConsCost Range per Window*Best For
    VinylMost affordable, durable, low-maintenanceNot as “classic” or aesthetically pleasing of a look, may warp$100 to $4,500Homeowners on a tight budget
    WoodHigh aesthetic appeal, excellent insulation, preferred by many homebuyersHigh maintenance, prone to wood rot and pests$150 to $2,650Homeowners after a classic look who don’t mind maintaining the natural material
    AluminumCost-effective, durable, easy to customizePoor energy efficiency$200 to $1,200Homes with larger windows
    FiberglassEnergy-efficient, noise-resistantDifficult to install, limited design and color options$200 to $2,500Homeowners concerned about extreme weather conditions or temperature changes
    Wood-cladAesthetically pleasing but low-maintenance compared to traditional woodHigh price point$250 to $2,000Homeowners who love the look of wood but want low-maintenance frames
    CompositeMimics the look of wood, long-lasting, rot-resistantHigher upfront cost, quality can vary significantly$300 to $1,200Homes in wet areas
    SteelAnti-theft, modern, long-lastingHigh price point, prone to corrosion$400 to $5,400Homeowners worried about break-ins or fire

    *These average costs are only rough estimates of standard window materials; 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

    crisp, white vinyl window frame against white wall
    Image Source: Canva

    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. However, some types of vinyl windows can cost up to $4,500.

    Low-maintenance
    Cost-effective
    Last 20+ years
    Good insulation
    Less natural or classic looking than wood
    May discolor or warp

    Wood Window Frames

    dark wood window frame overlooking snowy trees
    Image Source: Canva

    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. The option to enhance the wood’s appearance with paint or stains is a bonus as well.

    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 $150 and $2,650 per window.

    Classic, beautiful appearance
    May last over 50 years with proper maintenance
    May lower energy bills
    Energy-efficient and eco-friendly
    Paintable and stainable
    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

    silver aluminum window frame against white wall
    Image Source: Canva

    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 $200 and $1,200 per window, making them a more cost-effective choice compared to options like steel or wood.

    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

    several white fiberglass window frames overlook a sunny parking lot
    Image Source: Canva

    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, which can make them an excellent choice for windows with thick glass .

    Fiberglass Frame Costs

    On average, fiberglass frames cost between $200 and $2,500, putting them in the middle to high price point range for window frame replacement.

    Read about the cost of hurricane windows, a heavy duty window that uses fiberglass in as a frame.

    Cold and heat resistant
    Waterproof
    Noise-resistant
    Low-maintenance option
    Energy-efficient
    Higher price point
    Susceptible to UV damage
    More challenging to install
    Fewer customization options

    Wood-clad Window Frames

    dark wood-clad window frames against white wall
    Image Source: Canva

    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. This allows you to enjoy the beautiful look of the wood as much as possible.

    Wood-Clad Window Frame Costs

    Typically, wood-clad window frames cost between $250 and $2,000.

    Almost maintenance-free
    Recyclable
    Aesthetically pleasing
    Energy-efficient
    Customizable

    Looking for more details on prices? Read our cost guide on wood replacement windows.

    Composite Window Frames

    white composite window frames open to a reddish brick wall and green background
    Image Source: Canva

    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 $300 and $1,200 on average.

    Seamless look
    Eco-friendly
    Great insulator
    Mimics the look of wood but requires less maintenance
    Rot-resistant
    Expensive
    Quality varies by manufacturer

    Steel Window Frames

    black steel window frames with white panels
    Image Source: Canva

    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 $400 and $1,500 per window. However, some can cost up to $5,400.

    Fire-resistant
    Highly durable
    Sleek, modern look
    Recyclable
    Energy-efficient
    Lasts many decades
    Not as affordable
    More susceptible to corrosion
    Difficult to cut, making customization more challenging
    Heavy

    How Can You Select the Right Window Frame For Your Home?

    Before you select a window frame material, it’s important to consider many different factors. First, will you be replacing one window or several? If you’re replacing just one, you’ll likely want it to match your existing windows and décor, so this could influence your decision. If you’re replacing several, you might want to take this opportunity to go with a new design or material.

    To select the right window frames for your home, you should think about:

    • The right material for your climate. Fiberglass, wood, wood-clad, and vinyl are excellent choices for sunny climates. Wood-clad, fiberglass, and vinyl are great selections for areas with cold weather or snow.
    • Maintenance requirements. All window frames require care, but certain types can require maintenance more often. Steel, for example, is more prone to corrosion, while wood-class is low-maintenance compared to traditional wood frames.
    • Budget. Window frames range in price between $100 to $5,400 depending on the location of the window, the size, and the material. Many window companies offer payment plans to help make this purchase more affordable.

    What Type of Window Frames Are Best for Energy Efficiency?

    Some of the best options for energy-efficient window frames 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. You may save 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.

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    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 polyvinyl chloride (PVC).


    How Can You Extend the Life of Your Window Frame?

    Choosing the right material for your climate is essential to a long-lasting window frame. Regular maintenance can also help make sure your window frames last a long time. Homeowners should use appropriate cleaners for the frame’s material and check windows annually for caulking problems, drafts, and leaks.


    Article Update Log
    5/29/2024
    Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Hilary Cairns.
    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Amy DeYoung

    Amy DeYoung

    Contributor

    Amy DeYoung has a passion for educating and motivating homeowners to improve their lives through home improvement projects and preventative measures. She is a content writer and editor specializing in pest control, moving, window, and lawn/gardening content for Today’s Homeowner. Amy utilizes her own experience within the pest control and real estate industry to educate readers. She studied business, communications, and writing at Arizona State University.

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    Hilary Cairns

    Hilary Cairns is a writer with 12 years of professional writing experience. She has covered a diverse set of topics such as custom home building, plumbing, HVAC, energy efficiency, and others. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz with a bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing, she discovered her passion for helping businesses and organizations deliver impactful content that changed lives. Originally from New York, Hilary now calls Florida home (along with 2 cats). When not immersed in her writing work, she enjoys playing video games, reading Stephen King, and researching her (and her friends') genealogy.

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