Compare Wood vs. Vinyl Windows (2023)

By Rachel Newcomb

Jul 07, 2023
Big wooden window with frame and window sill and nature in background.

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Wood and vinyl are two of the most popular window frame materials, but they’re very different in terms of durability and maintenance. Wood windows last longer, but they require more upkeep. Vinyl windows cost less and are more readily available. But many homeowners prefer the look and feel of wood. We’ll compare these two materials to help you decide on the best replacement windows for your home.



Wood Windows: Overview

Wooden windows have interior exposed wood frames. The exterior frames have wooden cores covered with PVC, fiberglass, or aluminum cladding for better weather resistance. Aluminum cladding is a layer of thin aluminum coating. Pine and Douglas fir are the most common varieties of wood used for wooden windows, but you can also find cedar, mahogany, and oak windows.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Here’s what you need to know about wood windows.



Vinyl Windows: Overview

Polyvinyl chloride, also called vinyl or PVC, is what comprises vinyl windows. PVC is inexpensive and easy to produce. As a window frame material, it’s affordable and relatively durable. Most vinyl frames are hollow, but the best vinyl window frames are filled with extra insulation to increase their energy efficiency.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Here are the pros and cons of vinyl windows.



Compare Wood vs. Vinyl Windows

Here are some direct comparisons to help you pick the right type of window for your home.

FactorWood WindowsVinyl Windows

Average Cost

$300–$800 per window

$150–$400 per window


Stocked by fewer manufacturers

Stocked by nearly all manufacturers

Energy Efficiency


Good (when insulated)


Renewable resource



Professional installation recommended



Up to 50 years

Up to 20 years


Regular repainting and sealing

Light cleaning only


Easy to paint and finish

Some baked-in colors available, difficult to paint

Return on Investment





Wood vs. Vinyl Windows: Cost

The specific cost of windows depends on size and type. One double-hung, prefab vinyl window typically costs between $210 and $2,000.* One double-hung, prefab wooden window typically costs between $400 and $900. Vinyl frames are also easier to install because they’re lighter and more flexible, which leads to lower installation costs. So, if your priority is affordable window replacement, vinyl is the better choice.

*Article data courtesy of ACRE Windows & Doors, Fixr, Home Advisor, Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value Report



Wood vs. Vinyl Windows: Maintenance

Vinyl is a low-maintenance material and only needs to be wiped clean occasionally. It’s also not as easily affected by moisture or temperature changes. On the other hand, wood requires regular maintenance. Wood windows must be painted or stained every three to five years to prevent water and insect damage. Vinyl and vinyl-clad wood windows can be painted, but they need to be sanded first. Because paint doesn’t adhere very well to vinyl, even if it’s sanded, they must be repainted every few years. White is the most common vinyl color, but other baked-in color options are available.



Wood vs. Vinyl Windows: Durability

Properly maintained wood windows can last up to 50 years. Aluminum-clad wood windows have the longest life span. Vinyl windows typically last only 20 years or so. Because plastic is susceptible to heat damage, vinyl windows may warp over time in warmer climates. Vinyl frames are pricier to repair than wood windows, typically costing $300 to $600—about as much as the window cost. Repairing a wood frame generally runs between $175 and $300.



Wood vs. Vinyl Windows: Energy Efficiency

Wood is a natural insulator, which makes wood windows energy efficient. Vinyl is also an insulator, but many vinyl frames are hollow, which substantially reduces their energy efficiency. If the hollow parts are filled with insulation, such as ENERGY STAR-rated windows, vinyl can also be an energy-efficient and budget-friendly choice.

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Professional vs. DIY Window Installation

Window replacement or installation is a home improvement job that should usually be completed by a professional contractor. However, in some circumstances, homeowners may consider installing vinyl replacement windows themselves.

Professional Window Installation

If you need to replace all of your old windows, particularly if your house has more than one level, your best bet is to hire a professional contractor. They’ll be able to do the job quickly and efficiently. Additionally, your new windowswarranty may require professional installation. When you’re calculating window replacement expenses for a large or complex project, make sure to budget for labor costs—regardless of the frame material.

DIY Window Installation

If you’re only replacing one or two windows on the ground floor, do-it-yourself (DIY) installation may be feasible. Installing windows yourself will be much easier with vinyl windows, which are lighter than wood and more flexible, which makes them easier to fit into an existing window opening.

At minimum, you’ll need a pry bar, utility knife, hammer, putty knife, power drill, and caulk gun, caulk, spray foam insulation, and the window itself. If you’re planning a DIY window replacement, you must remember to properly seal all gaps. If there are leaks, you could be in for water damage or increasing utility bills.



How to Hire a Professional

No matter what frame material you pick, do some research on local window contractors before you choose one. Here are some things to consider.



Our Recommendation

The best window material for your home will depend on your budget, your tolerance for maintenance, and your aesthetic preferences. Few other materials can match the look of real wood, but it’s undoubtedly more of an investment.

Vinyl windows are less work and less money, but they aren’t as durable or attractive. Many leading window manufacturers offer both materials, so we recommend looking closer at the available window styles to determine what’s best for you.



Wood vs. Vinyl Windows FAQ

Are wood or vinyl windows better?

Wood windows are more durable and energy-efficient, and many homeowners prefer the way they look. Vinyl windows are less expensive and easier to maintain.

Are vinyl windows worth it?

Vinyl is often the most cost-effective, low-maintenance choice in window frame materials, so we find that vinyl windows are usually worth it.

Do vinyl windows increase home value?

According to Remodeling magazine’s 2023 Cost vs. Value Report, a total home window replacement with vinyl windows costs an average of $20,091 and adds $13,766 in resale value for an ROI of 68.5%.

How do windows impact resale value?

Both wood and vinyl replacement windows add value to your home. Wood windows have a 61.2% ROI, and vinyl windows have a 68.5% ROI.

Which window is the most durable?

While wood windows have a longer lifespan than vinyl, fiberglass is the most durable window frame material overall.



How We Chose the Top Window Brands

We researched and analyzed dozens of window manufacturers and crafted a rating system based on each brand’s standard and energy-efficient product offerings.

We spoke directly to representatives at each company to learn how the installation process works and to determine how each brand personalizes its windows.

We closely analyzed each company’s warranty options to ensure their product and labor guarantees match or exceed industry standards.

We assessed the manufacturer’s years of experience and customer reputation and analyzed the 100 most recent Google Reviews for each provider across various locations and branches to ensure consistency.