A Beginner's Guide to Window Materials

Replacing all of the windows in a typical home can be an extremely costly project, but the energy savings can make it worthwhile in the long term. It will also add value and aesthetic appeal to your property, but given the cost and the amount of work involved, you'll need to think carefully about the available options. Although double-glazing and insulation are among the most important factors to consider, you'll also want to choose the right materials.


In modern homes, vinyl tends to be the material of choice for windows and, in some cases, doors as well. Vinyl presents some significant advantages, including minimal maintenance requirements and good thermal performance. It is also the cheapest of all materials. Unfortunately, they present little in the way of customisation options since they cannot be painted, and they are only available with a limited set of finishes. They're also not particularly suitable for older buildings since they tend to look completely out of place.


When it comes to appearance, wood is undoubtedly the favourite option. It offers a natural beauty, making it far more suitable for older buildings or any other properties with a more rustic look. Wood also offers good thermal performance, and there are numerous options available. On the downside, wooden windows require a great deal more maintenance, and they typically need treating and painting every few years to maximise their lifespan. However, well-made wooden windows should last longer than almost any other material, provided they are properly maintained.


Fiberglas windows are rapidly becoming more popular thanks to their excellent thermal performance, durability and appearance. They can offer a similar appearance to wood, albeit without the high maintenance requirements. You can also paint fibreglass windows to get the perfect finish that you're after. They're durable, making them an excellent choice in harsh conditions. Unlike wood, fibreglass does not warp, sag or turn brittle in extreme weather. On the other hand, it tends to be among the most expensive of all the options.


Due to their relatively low thermal performance, aluminium windows are a popular option for outbuildings and other areas that are not usually meant to be heated or cooled. However, they present some important advantages, such as minimal maintenance requirements, excellent durability and high strength. They also come in a range of colour options. Aluminium windows are ideal in situations where cold isn't a factor, such as in outbuildings or homes in warmer climates. You can also improve the thermal performance by using insulating material between the two panes.


Wood-clad windows present a compromise between vinyl and wood in that they are primarily constructed from wood, albeit with a layer of vinyl or aluminium on the exterior. Although they provide the appearance of purely wooden windows on the interior, they have an exterior finish similar to that of vinyl windows. On the other hand, they are quite cheap, and like vinyl windows, they require minimal maintenance. They're also available in a range of colours and styles, although it is not possible to paint them.

Choosing the optimal material for your replacement windows will largely depend on your budget and the building itself. If you live in an old building, particularly one that is protected, your options will likely be much more restrictive. However, it is also important not to neglect the other major concerns, including thermal performance, glazing and the costs and complications of installation.