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Is aluminum superior to wood frames in my window replacement project of my West Seattle condo?

Is aluminum superior to wood frames in my window replacement project of my West Seattle condo?
Is aluminum superior to wood frames in my window replacement project of my West Seattle condo?
By BettyLoucal May 07, 2017


No one window frame material is superior to all others, but truth be told, aluminum and very definitely vinyl are likely to last longer than wood frames, particularly in the moist climate of the Pacific Northwest. Having said that, longevity is not the only important characteristic of a window frame, and with a little care and attention, wood frames can be both functional and beautiful in the right setting. Indeed, wood preservatives and treatments for wood in general can significantly increase the life of a window, even through decades of wet winter weather. What’s more, there are now available on the market a number of ‘hybrid’ options. You can buy window frames that are wood on the outside – preserving that quaint wood look – and vinyl on the inside, and most particularly, with the structural framework of the window. That way, you can ‘have your cake and eat’ it, as they say, enjoying the benefits of a supremely strong window frame as well as a class look to the exterior of your home. If they wood does eventually weaken somewhat, you don’t have to worry about structural, functional or airtightness failures, because the wood content of the window frame is largely cosmetic.

Window frames have come a long way in one generation

Mostly as a result of extraordinary advances in window manufacturing techniques, windows have become very sophisticated. It seems to have happened in a few decades. High accuracy, robot-driven factories now spit out infinitely superior quality window frames, panes and whole window units. There are perhaps now too many choices on the table. The average consumer will benefit from the help of a windows and doors installation expert who can help them wade through the impossible list of choices, both in terms of manufacturers and window types.

What strikes me about window manufacturing today is the ‘fit’. Even a relatively cheap, off-the-shelf window you might be able to purchase at a home supply store fits beautifully. The window slides perfectly within its frame, and the assembly of it is a work of precision. Form there, you can go up to quite a high level of sophistication, and top of my list is noise insulation.

Noise insulation and the modern window

It seems like no neighborhood in the Sound is immune to the rising level of car, truck and airplane noise these days. Personal GPS systems are taking drivers through what were quiet neighborhoods in the constant search for that short cut from one side of town to another. As more and more people move to the Puget Sound chasing job opportunities or to grow their own business, the more these quiet neighborhoods are being invaded by cars, trucks and buses. Sound levels are increasing – and my get worse for another few years – to the point that a person’s front room peace and quiet is being stolen. What to do! What to do! The answer might be simpler than you think. Consider double and triple glazed windows as the perfect solution to the new level of traffic noise.

An old, leaky single-paned window lets in a remarkable amount of noise. I know this from first hand experience when, in the first house I owned, I had to replace the windows on the front, sun-facing side of the house. The whole job was done in less than a day, and what I noticed when I got home that evening was, I could not hear any external noise. I thought instinctively, was there a road closure or something? Such was the change in ambient street noise reaching my ears in the front-facing rooms of my home. The new windows – which, by the way, were relatively cheap – all but eliminated street noise. The change was remarkable. I could see the occasional truck or big van zoo by, but silently. It was only clear to me then that most of the ambient in-house noise must have been leaking in through the old windows.

You might not need triple-glazed windows all over your house, and a lot of the noise abatement comes from the quality of the seals withing the window unit, but triple glazing can really take it to the next level. Triple glazed windows off a little more of everything. Noise, heat and privacy protection are worth considering.

How long do you intend to keep your house?

If you are in your thirties, and you plan to keep your house until you die, then doing a quality job on any window replacement project will be worth it. The thing is, not all investments in a house will give you a 100% return on investment if you are planning to sell your house next year. Yes, such things will always help you close the deal on a house sale, but might not affect the house price in the least.

If you are planning to stay in your home forever, then you will have the time to enjoy that investment over and over. If you are planning to sell the house next year, you might simply want to do a minimal replacement project in order to simply preclude any window issue from appearing on the house inspector’s report if and when the time comes.

The first house I bought, the previous owners clearly had been making improvements for the long term, including a number of beautiful wainscoting projects throughout the house, but had only gotten half way through the work. We got a discounted price for the house because ‘half the interior of the house needed serious updating’ but paid no extra for all the work the previous owners had managed to complete. He had, we learned, lost his job and had to move to Texas to find a new one. Had he instead done a minimal job on the whole house for the same money, he would most certainly have secured a higher sales price when the time came.

If you are planning to keep your home for the long term, think quality. Do each job well, even if it takes longer. That way, you’ll only have to do each part once, and you’ll get to live in a better quality home.

More next week!

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