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Exploring Window Materials: Vinyl, Fiberglass and Wood


on February 1, 2021


When it comes to finding the ideal replacement window for your home, there are many features to consider. From style to price to intended usage, the options available for windows can seem overwhelming.

Some buyers decide that a window reflecting their house’s architectural or interior design is their top priority. Other homeowners place more emphasis on the window’s features, such as energy efficiency. The type of glass may also play a role in the decision.

However, homeowners might not have considered when planning to add new windows is the kind of material used in a window frame and sash.

Pella offers windows made from wood, fiberglass and vinyl. Each material type has specific characteristics that make it unique. Here are important points to consider about different window materials:

Vinyl Windows

The most economical of window materials, vinyl windows present flexible style choices that include many of the same features available in more expensive windows.

  • Energy Efficiency —While most modern windows have a strong focus on energy efficiency, vinyl windows contain some of the best protections against gaps and leaks in window frames. Because they are made from a synthetic material, vinyl windows can be easily welded at the seams and many vinyl windows include steel-reinforced interlocking window sashes to increase energy efficiency and create added wind resistance.
  • Design Flexibility  Vinyl windows bring a wide selection of options so you can find a window that suits your home’s design. Rather than staining or treating the frame, vinyl frames are built in the color you prefer when they’re constructed at the factory. That means a lower likelihood of fading, chipping or peeling paint over time.
  • Low Maintenance — When it comes to vinyl windows, you don’t have to do much once they’re installed — just keep them clean! Normally a basic garden hose, soft cloth and, if needed, non-abrasive cleansers will do the trick. And thanks to their factory-ready finish, there’s no need to worry about refinishing your windows year over year.
  • Long-Lasting Quality — Considering vinyl windows are a competitively priced option compared to wood and fiberglass, homeowners may think that vinyl windows are unable to stand the test of time. But durability is paramount when it comes to Pella vinyl windows. Pella tests their vinyl windows thoroughly. Window designs are submitted to laboratory cycle testing. During this testing process, the window’s function is operated thousands of times to show durability on everything from the window hardware to the frame structure. Then tests analyzing air, water and thermal factors make sure that vinyl frames can fight weather challenges while keeping your home protected. It all results in a window that is robust and sturdy, with fade resistance and stylish exterior colors.
  • Environmental Impact — While vinyl windows are not constructed from natural materials, vinyl window production has come a long way in recent years to be environmentally friendly.  Windows such as Pella’s 250 Series and by Pella feature frames made from advanced polymers that are performance-tested for excellent weathering and durability that keeps families safe and healthy.

Fiberglass Windows

Fiberglass windows are incredibly strong and can stand up to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.

  • Extreme Energy Efficiency — Fiberglass windows can provide significant increases in energy efficiency. Pella® Impervia® fiberglass windows offer energy-efficient options that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR® guidelines throughout the country*. Including optional foam-insulated frames, Impervia can provide even stronger protection against extreme conditions.
  • Composite Strength — Some of the increased energy efficiency in fiberglass windows comes from composite materials used in the frame’s construction. As the name “fiberglass” implies, glass has long been a component of fiberglass window frames. But recently engineered composites, such as Pella’s proprietary fiberglass* material, don’t rely on the old glass particles, combining layers of materials to build even more strength.
  • Color and Texture Options — From a variety of colors to finishes that create the appearance of real wood, fiberglass windows offer choices that fit any home’s style. Finishes can be baked into the frame at the factory to create colors that may endure for years. Fiberglass windows can also feature a resilient powder-coat finish that creates windows with a texture that has the appearance of real wood grain.
  • Cost — While they are a more cost-effective way to get the look of wood windows into your home, fiberglass windows are more expensive than vinyl windows. That makes them a significantly longer-term investment in the beauty of your home. Fiberglass windows are more of a modern look and may not fit the interior of a traditional or historic home as well. 

*Pella's proprietary fiberglass material is the strongest material for windows and patio doors, engineered for lasting durability.

Disclosure: Pella’s proprietary fiberglass material has displayed superior strength over wood, vinyl, aluminum, wood/plastic composites, and other fiberglass materials used by leading national brands in tensile and 3-point bend tests performed in accordance with ASTM D638 and D790 testing standards.

up close wood window frame

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Wood Windows

For those with older, more traditional homes, there’s no match for wood-framed windows. There are numerous reasons to choose real wood:

  • Classic and Contemporary Style — Genuine wood has a natural look and feel that is unlike any other kind of material. From traditional dark woods, like mahogany and maple, to lighter woods, such as oak, pine and cherry wood, an array of options can highlight the look of any home. It isn’t solely older, traditional homes that benefit from the appearance of wood windows. Sleek and modern black wood window frames are a popular choice among many homeowners.
  • A Natural Insulator  Wood frames help keep things comfortable around your home. Since they are a natural insulator, wood windows are also very energy-efficient. Wood windows can help homes stay warm in the winter and protected from the heat in the summer leading to increased savings on your utility bills over time.
  • Protection from Sound and Weather — Wood-framed windows feature the thickest, most dense material for window frames. The heft of wood also offers increased defense against outside noise, as thicker wood will dampen more outdoor noises than other types of window frames.
  • Cost — Wood frames usually have a greater initial cost than vinyl or fiberglass options. However, properly maintained wood frames can last much longer than most other styles. They also bring a tremendous asset to home resale value. And for homeowners who need to match their home’s traditional architecture, the benefits of wood frames are unbeatable.
  • Upkeep and Maintenance — Wood window frames can suffer from damage if left untreated. That’s why it’s vital to check that wooden replacement windows come treated before installation. All of Pella’s wood windows come with EnduraGuard® wood protection, an advanced formula that protects against the effects of moisture.

Whichever material you decide on, replacement windows can help impact a home’s energy efficiency and curb appeal. Ready to begin down the road to new or replacement windows for your home? A local Pella professional will help you to discover the windows that best match your needs, style and budget.

*Some Pella products may not meet ENERGY STAR® guidelines in Canada. For more information, contact your local Pella sales representative.

Schedule a free consultation to find windows and doors for your home.