How do vinyl windows compare with wood windows? What are the differences of vinyl vs wood for replacement windows?


Let's start by saying that vinyl and wood are great construction materials that can be used to create very energy efficient windows. There are many different styles and designs of vinyl and wood windows. It's difficult to say that one is "better" because each window has it's advantages and disadvantages. It's important to know about each so you can decide which is best for your home.


Vinyl vs Wood

Vinyl Window Foam Filled Frame

Both vinyl and wood are natural insulators making them energy efficient and great solutions for replacement windows. The main benefits of replacement windows are energy efficiency, maintenance freedom, aesthetics and return on investment. For each of these benefits, vinyl and wood have their benefits and drawbacks.


Energy Efficiency

Vinyl and wood are both energy efficient materials.  Both have very similar high insulating values and are two of the best materials available for replacement windows.  Either option is a great choice.



Maintenance is one area where wood and vinyl really differ. While wood windows can look beautiful when initially installed, wood windows require maintenance. Periodically Wood Windows would need to either be painted or stained to prevent decay and rot as the wood is exposed to the elements. Wood can also swell and twist over time causing stress on the sash and frame. On the other hand, vinyl windows are virtually maintenance free. Vinyl windows can be cleaned with soap and water and never require painting or sealing.  Vinyl has a major advantage over wood in maintenance, upkeep and future costs.



There are many different grades and styles of vinyl and wood windows.  When comparing similar grades between vinyl and wood, the windows can appear to be very similar.  However, the best wood windows can be beautiful when installed where the best vinyl window will not be able to look as good as the best wood window. Of course, the best wood windows are much more expensive over vinyl windows.

Although, vinyl windows manufactured today with new wood grain technology can look just like wood (see photo). Many homeowners cannot even tell the difference.

It’s important to consider how a window will look in 5 or 10 years.  Typically, the best a wood window will look is the day that it is stained. After that it will require periodic maintenance to keep up its appearance. A vinyl window will look as good in 10 years as it was the day it was installed.  Overall, wood probably has a slight edge in appearance, but it comes at a price and with maintenance.



In general, wood windows are typically 2-3 times more than vinyl windows with similar performance and energy efficiency.  Wood windows can deliver that custom look that some higher end houses need for resale value. For a majority of homes, vinyl delivers the best bang for the buck because most homeowners want energy efficiency and maintenance freedom from a window that looks great.  Over the last decade, vinyl windows have dominated the marketplace and it looks that will continue for the foreseeable future. 

As always remember the final decision rests with you. Evaluate the amount of maintenance that you want to do. Think about which of the two will give you the best value for your home (remember resale cost and maintenance). Then you can decide whether vinyl or wood windows are best for your home.