Four Pillars of a Great Replacement Window Experience: Window Frame (Part I)
In our continuing series on the Four Pillars of a Great Replacement Window Experience, we’ve discussed the importance of the Design and Installation of your new windows. In the next two parts, we’ll discuss the history and characteristics of different frame materials and how they can affect your ultimate window satisfaction. In this post, we’ll cover some of the first window frame materials: Wood, Steel and Aluminum. In the next, we’ll discuss Vinyl and Composite window frames.
Your Window Frame
Over time, many materials have been used for the window frames: wood, metal, plastics and composites. Each of these materials have different characteristics with regard to durability, energy-efficiency and maintenance needs.
One of the original window frame materials, wood window frames have been used to frame window glass for hundreds of years. Because many people love the classic appearance of wood on the inside of their homes, there are many wood window frame manufacturers today. The features that make wood a classic window frame material include its classic warm appearance, its relative energy efficiency compared to metals, the ability to shape it with traditional woodworking tools to match many architectural styles and its ready acceptance of paint and stain to match nearly any decor. Among the drawbacks of wood as a window frame material are its regular maintenance requirements to protect it from the elements (scraping, painting and sealing), and its tendency to rot and be subject to insect damage if not properly protected.
Steel is a much stronger material than wood, providing the benefit of being able to make much thinner window frames and expose more window glass and better views. Although strong, steel is used infrequently in residential windows today because it has a number of drawbacks, most notably, its exceptional ability to conduct heat and cold from outside to inside a building. With exposure to the sun, steel window frames can get dangerously hot in summer and with exposure to cooler temperatures, can get frigidly cold in winter. This tendency to bring outside temperatures inside, drives up heating and cooling costs for home and building owners. If you’ve ever lived in a building with steel window frames (as I have) you’ll recall that it is not uncommon for steel window frames to build up inches of ice on the inside of the frame. This would occur as the moisture in the home’s air condensed on the cold steel window frames and froze there. As a ferrous metal prone to rust in contact with moisture, steel also requires a great deal of annual maintenance. To keep the steel from rusting, it has to be painted, sanded and repainted nearly every year.
Aluminum is still used as a window frame material in some applications, usually commercial, but has mostly fallen out of favor as a residential window frame in most areas of the U.S. As a strong metal, aluminum has some of steel’s strength so it can be used in thin profiles and less of its weight, making handling and installation simple. However, aluminum is still a good conductor of heat and cold, so it is not a good choice where energy efficiency is a concern. Some years ago, a glazing techniques called a “thermal break” was developed to help reduce the transfer of exterior temperatures to the interior, but aluminum window frames are still cold in winter and warm in summer and drive up heating and cooling costs for homeowners around the country. Aluminum is not as prone to oxidation (aluminum’s version of rust), aluminum window frames can be left their natural silver color, however, many homeowners find this color objectionable as it does not match their home’s architectural style or their personal taste in decor. Aluminum window frames are available in a limited number of paint colors from manufacturers, including white, brown and tan.
Coming up next: Vinyl & Composite Window Frames
In our next article we will discuss two of the most popular window frame materials used today: Vinyl and Composite Window Frames.
Contact Us for more information
For more information on Renewal by Andersen of Virginia and Washington, D.C.’s replacement window frames, contact us at 1-877-915-9940 or fill out the short form on this page. We’ll be happy to answer any of your questions or set up an appointment to meet with you in person to show you.