The “Big Three” materials for replacing your windows are vinyl, fiberglass, and wood. The question is… which is the BEST for Nashville homes?
Each of these window materials brings something unique to the table. So we’ve created a comprehensive breakdown of the pros and cons of the different window materials to help you make the right decision.
Let’s get started…
Wood windows can look positively gorgeous. They give off a certain elegance that other windows often have a hard time matching.
But their beauty comes with a big price tag: Wood is by far the most expensive window material. A wood window can cost more than DOUBLE that of a superior-quality vinyl window… and provide nowhere near the same energy efficiency, performance, and longevity. Expect to pay over $1,000 per wood window.
If you go with wood windows, also be prepared to put in some labor. Wood windows require regular scraping and painting to keep their looks. If you elect exterior cladding to get rid of this maintenance, be aware that every manufacturer of these types of windows has a class action suit against them because the CLADDING DOES NOT WORK! Wood is also the window material that is most prone to warping, rotting, expansion and contraction, and insect infestation.
Bottom Line: Wood windows are a good choice if you want a classical look and don’t mind the heavy cost and constant maintenance.
Fiberglass is a stout window material that can replicate the look of wood when it’s properly finished. Fiberglass requires less upkeep than wood, so it’s a solid compromise for Nashville homeowners who want a wood look without as much maintenance. That said, fiberglass windows do need to be painted, which means you’ll need to perform necessary touch-ups and repaint jobs when the paint chips.
Fiberglass windows tend to be in the middle of the pack in terms of energy efficiency. They usually insulate better than wood windows, but they typically are not as efficient as high-quality vinyl windows. This is due to how fiberglass windows are built. While the frames of vinyl windows have fusion-welded corners, fiberglass windows do not; instead, they are often fastened together with screws. This means the joints of a fiberglass window frame are not as watertight and airtight as a vinyl window frame.
When it comes to price, fiberglass windows are also in the middle. They’re not as expensive as wood windows, but they can cost up to 50% more than vinyl windows of comparable quality. This is due to the more costly materials it takes to build fiberglass windows. Expect to spend anywhere from $800 to $1,200 for a good fiberglass window.
Bottom Line: When properly finished, fiberglass windows look great. They do, however, come at a substantial cost when compared to vinyl windows of similar quality.
Vinyl is the most popular window material on the market. Due to vinyl’s popularity, there are many vinyl brands to choose from–and they can wildly vary in quality. That’s why it’s important to know what separates a good vinyl window from a bad one.
An easy way to determine the quality of a window is the “box test.” Many poor-quality vinyl windows have a boxy, plastic look. They look this way because the manufacturer went cheap when creating the window and disregarded aesthetics in favor of saving money. If a vinyl window looks low quality on the outside, it’s likely low quality on the inside too. Expect to repair and replace low-quality vinyl windows much sooner than you’d like.
This brings us to price. While cost isn’t always an accurate way to measure the quality of some products, it’s usually a foolproof way to gauge the quality of a vinyl window. When you see those advertisements for $189 windows, you can be sure the window is low quality. And don’t be surprised if this type of window ends up costing more like $375-425—companies who advertise sub-$200 prices often use bait and switch tactics. (The truth is, $189 windows are “unicorn” windows; everyone has heard of them, but nobody has ever seen one!) Simply put, there is just NO WAY a window company can manufacture and sell QUALITY windows for less than $200. These “bargain-priced” windows are typically used for low-cost rental properties and are lucky to hit a three out of ten in terms of energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency is also a good indicator of a vinyl window’s quality. Energy Star has guidelines for window energy efficiency for different regions of the country. Window energy efficiency is expressed in numerical ratings on the NFRC label of a window’s glass. (If the window doesn’t have an NFRC label, take your money and run far away!) To learn how to read these labels and know the energy efficiency requirements for replacement windows in Nashville, visit our Window Energy Efficiency page.
Bottom Line: When it comes to low-quality vinyl windows, you get what you pay for… which isn’t much. While you may save money on the front end, you will pay MUCH more than you should down the line in utility costs, repairs, and premature replacement.
It’s amazing how much components and craftsmanship can determine the quality of a vinyl window. While low-end vinyl windows should be avoided at all costs, high-quality vinyl windows are often the absolute best choice for homeowners.
High-quality vinyl windows offer the best looks, performance, and longevity for the value. High-quality vinyl windows are made with virgin vinyl and are reinforced for true durability. They come with outstanding warranties and provide unrivaled energy efficiency.
If you’re looking for beautiful curb appeal with no upkeep, high-quality vinyl windows can’t be beat: They include attractive frames and a large amount of glass for stunning outdoor views. And since vinyl is a low-maintenance material that requires no painting, you won’t have to worry about your windows chipping, warping, cracking, or rotting.
High-quality vinyl windows are a larger investment than low-quality vinyl windows (naturally), but their prices are much more reasonable than that of wood and fiberglass. Prices for high-quality vinyl windows often range from $450 to $600 installed, depending on the accessories and energy features you choose.
Bottom Line: High-quality vinyl windows provide unmatched energy efficiency, curb appeal, and performance for the value. While they don’t cost $189 like some companies would have you believe, high-quality vinyl windows are rated one of the best home improvement projects for return on investment.