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War of Woods: Sometimes Vinyl Windows Just Go Against the Grain

War of Woods: Sometimes Vinyl Windows Just Go Against the Grain

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September 7, 2010

It's become the modern-day feud: wood windows versus vinyl. Instead of the Hatfields and McCoys, it's the Oak Street Boys against Polly.

Both sides have avid advocates, and both sides make strong points.

Vinyl Window Cost

The strongest argument for vinyl windows is the price. Vinyl window cost is a fraction of the cost of good wood windows--maybe half or less--especially if you want stain-grade wood for your windows.

Other arguments for vinyl: They involve a fraction of the maintenance of wood: technology has produced a product that now can withstand all weather, including the barrage of summer UV light. They seldom, if ever, suffer condensation problems. And these days, they are so reliable I have them installed in my upper end homes, and nearly everything below that.

Wood Has Solid Support

The strongest argument for wood is aesthetics. What brings more beauty to a home than wood--beautiful hardwood floors, redwood or cedar decking, and windows. Sure, the vinyl window cost is considerably less, but who wants plastic when you can enjoy the beauty of real wood.

Early wood advocates made a strong argument that, aesthetics aside, vinyl windows simply were inferior--they did not hold up to weather, deteriorating within several years if they were on the "weather" side of the house.

Technology has made that argument moot, and the increased quality of vinyl windows has somewhat splintered the once united wood-advocacy front. Many of them now agree that modern vinyl windows have value.

Extra care

If aesthetics have won you over, and you have fallen in love with wood windows, despite the lower vinyl window cost, keep in mind that they are a little more delicate to install. If you are a consummate DIY'er and insist on installing windows yourself, you have to be very careful, and if you are hiring a windows contractor to install them, quiz your bidders on just how they handle wood windows.

Dirty greasy hands are an anathema to a quality paint finish on wood, and workers have to be aware of that. And if the wood is going to be stained and covered with polyurethane, it is absolutely imperative that no latex caulking gets on the wood--the two compounds live in mutually exclusive worlds and polyurethane will have nothing to do with latex.

As far as the war of woods, both sides have won battles, and the conflict is far from over.

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