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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    Default Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    I want to have double-pane windows installed in my early-1970s redwood house. Everyone who has come out and given a quote -- from Home Depot to local businesses -- only talks about vinyl trim, which I don't think will look right on this house in the woods. What are the downsides to wood or aluminum (which is what exists now)?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    Fayette County, Ohio
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    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    Aluminum transmits temperature. Wood requires maintenance but is all I would own.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    The type of frame is your choice. If you replace all your windows - you want to have them all the same. Look at your neighbors windows and see which type is the most popular in your area.

    Now to your other point: most contractors want to install vinyl windows. The reason is in their labor cost. There are two ways to replace windows: 1. custom build a window to fit your rough opening. 2. Modify and re-frame the opening to meet standard size. They suggest option 1, because their labor is less and profit margin is larger. It's that simple.

    Tomorrow I'm replacing a window. The rough opening is not a standard size, so my labor will include:
    - Remove old window, including the aluminum frame.
    - Increase the opening a bit to fit a 96x48 window, including re-doing the wall framing.
    - After setting the new window (Pella @ $270 + Tax), re-do the flashing, stucco, drywall and paint.

    Now you see that a custom made vinyl window that sells for $700-800 is a better deal for the contractor, especially if you buy 6-9 windows at once.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    Have you considered having the widows reworked for double pane glass instead of replacing them?

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Houston, TX
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    236

    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    Find similar houses to yours and look at their windows to see what you like as well. If you like the appearance of vinyl, go for it.

    I know as I drive through a lot of "new" neighborhoods built in the last 25 years or less in Houston, I see a lot of windows that look awful to me. Most are vinyl and just do not hold up. Where I live in a mixed historic neighborhood, the painted wood windows tend to look great.

    More maintenance, but can look good for 110 years(though my windows are useless outside of letting in light and keeping out most of the rain).
    It's this old house, not this built after your dad was born house.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    Quote Originally Posted by JLMCDANIEL View Post
    Have you considered having the widows reworked for double pane glass instead of replacing them?

    Jack
    Jack,

    The channels in the old aluminum windows are narrow, so you can't fit double pane glass in them. You better off doing it, like we call it "new construction" and replace it all.

    The process is quick: 4-5 hours demo and install (me and a helper) plus whatever it takes to finish the stucco (3 applications) and drywall. The house and window supplier are local, just 5-10 minute drive for me. I mentioned Pella, but there are also off brands (just as good) selling for $200 only (that's for 8' wide x 4' high window).

    This demonstrates the cost of replacing a window for the contractor, so one can see how much profit there is and why companies push for vinyl, where their cost is even lower than new construction. In vinyl there are no additional visits (no stucco and drywall repair).

    Then if the homeowner wants to replace 6 or more windows, it becomes very lucrative.

    Another problem with vinyl: the window makers use recycled vinyl, something that doesn't hold up after a few years.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    Quote Originally Posted by dj1 View Post
    Jack,

    The channels in the old aluminum windows are narrow, so you can't fit double pane glass in them. You better off doing it, like we call it "new construction" and replace it all.
    dj1 the OP said "What are the downsides to wood or aluminum (which is what exists now)" Does that mean the current windows are aluminum or wood?

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  8. #8
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    Jul 2010
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    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    Quote Originally Posted by JLMCDANIEL View Post
    dj1 the OP said "What are the downsides to wood or aluminum (which is what exists now)" Does that mean the current windows are aluminum or wood?

    Jack
    Yes Jack, the OP asked if there was something wrong with aluminum and wood windows because all her estimates were for vinyl.

    So my answers showed that these contractors recommended vinyl because they make more money with less labor installing vinyl.

    BTW, the window that I installed today is in. I have two more short visits to finish the drywall mud, the stucco and paint.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Portland, Oregon, formerly of Chicago
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    1,587

    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    Vinyl is less work to install because they can be economically made up to exactly fit the old opening. Why would you want to spend undo labor altering the opening, both interior and exterior, if a window can fit right in?

    Granted, there are manufacturers of wooden windows that will custom build to size, but the price goes up greatly. I would agree that you can't beat the aesthtics of wood, especially on the interior, but aestetics costs monetarily and in future labor.

    There is also a third variant: fiberglas. Fiberglas is much more stabil than PVC plastic and it can be painted to custom colors. It can also be painted to dark colors, which PVC should never be painted as the elevated heat build up from the sun will warp it and cause the seals to break.

    My present house has plastic windows and I am completely happy with them. This old painting contractor does not miss the periodic painting of them either! When plastic windows are trimmed out with wooden surrounds, their appearance is quite nice as far as I am concerned.

    Like most things, there is a great range of quality in plastic windows. It is a good idea to do your research and ask what the advantages are one against another.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Vinyl, wood, or aluminum frames?

    "Why would you want to spend undo labor altering the opening, both interior and exterior, if a window can fit right in?"

    Ordjen, the simple answer: because it pencils out for me, as a small contractor. If I take my measurements to a window maker, my best price will be double of off the rack std size. In the example I mentioned, a 8'Wx4'H window was about $250 and a custom 93"Wx50"H window would have been $500, leaving me no room to make it work for me, as the homeowner is willing to pay only around $700 for this window and labor.

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