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Choosing Replacement Windows: Wood vs. Vinyl

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Richard, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    RICHARD: I just purchased a house about a year ago and I want to replace the windows and I’ve had five contractors come in and the big debate is whether I should get wood replacement windows or vinyl replacement windows.

    TOM: OK, it’s very difficult and challenging to try to compare apples to apples when you have window contractors come in, so let me give you a couple of tips. First of all, are both of these windows Energy Star rated?

    RICHARD: Yes.

    TOM: OK, this is good. The second thing is that what you need to get from both contractors is the NFRC label for either window. The NFRC label – that stands for the National Fenestration Rating Council and it’s a way to compare apples to apples. There are standards there that are stamped onto this label – for example: UV transmittance — how much, you know, UV protection it has; how much light gets through; how much air infiltration gets through – and you can use the standards on these labels to compare apples to apples. Beyond that, you know there are great vinyl windows and there are great wood windows and sometimes the best are the combination. I mean personally I like – in my house I have some Andersen windows that are vinyl on the outside and wood on the inside that sort of give me the best of both worlds. But it becomes more of a cosmetic decision after that. But what I want you to concentrate on is energy efficiency and using those standards as the way to determine just that.

    RICHARD: I did look at the NFRC ratings and one of the windows – the vinyl window – has an excellent NFRC rating compared to the vinyl outside and the wood inside. And I’m considering going with the vinyl window and, you know, they – all five contractors have – most of them have said to go with the vinyl over the wood windows.

    TOM: Well then maybe you want to go with the vinyl. If you want to have the look of wood inside you can certainly trim it out with natural wood trim on the inside. You could use, you know, a natural wood sill and wood casing.

    LESLIE: And you know, when you’re dealing with maintenance, you know, if you’ve got a wood on the interior window, you know, you’ve got to restain or repaint or at least do some upkeep. With a vinyl it’s a simple cleaning matter.

    RICHARD: That’s the big negative that the guys were telling me. I had five of them come over and that’s pretty much the big negative with the wood inside was that I would have to maintain it and that’s what’s kind of leaning toward the vinyl. But there seems to be so many choices in vinyl, too, that, you know, it’s just mind-boggling there’s so many companies and I don’t know which one to choose.

    TOM: Well, I think you’re doing the right thing by comparing the NFRC labels. The second thing you want to do now, it comes down to labor because as good as the window is, if the window is not put in properly it’s not going to insulate your home correctly. You’ll get a lot of air infiltration around it. So I would do my homework with the window companies themselves. I’d get some lists of past customers. I’d physically call those customers and interview them and make sure everyone is properly insured and then make your decision from there.

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