Windows are essential components in your home. The frame around the window supports the entire window system. Without window frames, the panes of glass have nothing to hold them in place.
The frame material and composition vary greatly depending on the style of your window, your geographic area, window budget, and desired design.
What Is a Window Frame?
Frames hold the glass in place and keep the windows themselves firmly inside the wall of a building. The window frame includes either an operational or stationary framework as well as the head, sill, and jamb.
Non-operable windows have relatively simple frames, but operable, multi-pane windows have complex frames with numerous moving parts.
Why Are Window Frames Important?
The main function of a frame is to hold the panes of the window in place—with the aid of spacers—and hold the window into the wall of a building.
Taking into account the frame as well as the glazing when choosing a window is vitally important in ensuring that the energy efficiency of the window is suitable.
So, why does the window frame material matter?
- Energy-Efficient Windows: The importance of a frame is obvious when you have old, drafty frames that leak around the edges and your HVAC bill skyrockets. A well-made window frame keeps your windows energy efficient and protects your entire home.
- Durability: The frame material determines how long your windows will last without rotting, warping, or cracking.
- Style: The frame also determines the look of your window. When aesthetics is important, your window frames can make a huge difference.
Types of Materials Used in Window Frames
Hundreds of years ago, wooden windows were the only option. Today, there are five main players in the window frame industry. From trusted wood windows to the newcomer, composite – each one has significant benefits to being used in today’s construction market.
Wooden window frames have been a staple in construction for centuries. Wood always offers a beautiful, warm, and classic appearance. However, they are higher maintenance than other materials. Wood is commonly used on double-hung windows.
- Wooden windows will last for many years with proper maintenance.
- These window frames are very durable and energy-efficient.
- You have a variety of wood species from which to choose, each providing a beautiful and unique look.
Vinyl is the main player on the window frame market today. It is made of UV-resistant PVC and is both durable and affordable.
Vinyl is a popular option for awning windows.
- Vinyl window frames have a very long lifespan and require very little maintenance.
- They are moisture-resistant, so you do not have to worry about mold or rot.
- The color on the frame will not fade and does not need to be sanded or painted.
This is an extremely strong material that requires very little maintenance but is often more expensive than other frame types. A fiberglass frame is a popular option for casement windows.
- Fiberglass window frames are eight times stronger than window frames made from vinyl.
- Fiberglass is a natural insulator, and these windows have low thermal conductivity.
- Fiberglass windows come in a variety of styles, sizes, and color options available to you.
Aluminum is often used for window frames in multi-pane systems because it provides both a slim profile and durability. It is a very affordable option and won’t warp or crack over time. They are, however, vulnerable to corrosion and aren’t the best energy-efficient option.
- Aluminum windows and their frames are very durable and will not crack, peel, or warp over time.
- They are easy to maintain and can be painted if you’d like to customize the appearance.
- Their slim profile gives them a sleek and attractive look.
This is a mix of wood and PVC, making them stronger and more durable than any other material alone. They provide the strength of wood and the low maintenance of vinyl windows.
A composite frame is very popular for sliding windows.
- Composite frames are more resistant to decay and moisture than wood window frames.
- They are available in a wide variety of colors and styles to match any home design.
- Composite windows are made from leftover wood products, which makes them more eco-friendly than other frames.
3 Common Types of Window Frames
There are three types or styles of window frames. These types can be found using any of the window frame materials. They are used based on the type of construction and whether you’re replacing old windows or installing new ones.
- Nail-in: These are for new construction projects. If you’re building a room or adding a wall or building a new home, your window frames will likely be nail-in or nail-on frames.
- Z-Bar or Flush Fin Window: These frames will completely surround the perimeter of the new or replacement windows. They are ideal for window replacement because they won’t damage the exterior of the home or the inside walls.
- Block: A block frame is non-finned, which makes it ideal for either retrofitting or new construction only.
Full Frame vs Divided Frame
When you are replacing your windows, it’s important to answer a few basic questions.
Is your window in a load-bearing wall?
Are you wanting to keep the original look of the home?
Are you looking for increased energy efficiency?
The answers to these questions will help you determine whether you need a full-frame or a divided frame.
A full frame requires completely removing the existing window. From brick to brick, all of the hardware, casings, jambs, frame pieces, etc. must be completely removed.
This is the best way to increase energy efficiency, update your look, and ensure that any issues you’re having with your windows are resolved completely.
A divided frame is actually smaller sections of glass that work together to create one window. These are very helpful when you want to maintain the authenticity of the home, or you can’t remove the entire window at once. There are three different types of divided frames.
- Authentic Divided Windows: In an authentic divided window, there is a small piece of glass between each divider. These are quite expensive and are a lot of work to create.
- Attached Grid Window Frames: This is actually a full pane of glass with dividers glued to the surface to give the appearance of divided windows in a more affordable and efficient style.
- Faux Grid Frames: These are grids that actually sit in front of the window and are part of the frame itself, not the glass. They don’t give a very authentic look, but they are easier to clean and relatively simple to install.
3 Factors to Consider Before Selecting Your Window Material
There are more window materials on the market than ever before. While this can be overwhelming, it’s actually great news! More materials mean you can choose the one that is suited perfectly to your climate, style, and budget.
- Climate: If you live in a humid area, forgo wooden windows that will warp quickly and aluminum, which can corrode in moisture. Instead, opt for vinyl which is strong and requires very little maintenance.
- Architectural Style: If you live in a historic home, the style of the home plays a huge role in the windows. For example, if you have a Victorian-era home, wood windows are a beautiful and authentic choice.
- Budget: Vinyl windows are one of the best choices for budget-friendly windows while wood windows and composite are both more expensive.
FAQ’s About Window Frames