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Wood vs. Vinyl Windows: What’s the Difference?

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Author Icon Written by Jessica Wimmer Updated 04/05/2024

Wood and vinyl are the two most popular window frame materials. Wood has a classic look and feel, but vinyl is less expensive and requires less maintenance. Below, we compare these two materials based on installation costs, energy efficiency, durability, and more to help you decide which kind of replacement windows is best for your home.

Difference Between Wood and Vinyl Windows

Wood and vinyl windows differ in terms of frame material. Both are available in a variety of window styles and designs. Price, appearance, durability, and maintenance are the major differences between the two.

What Are Wood Windows?

Wooden windows have wood frames often made of pine or Douglas fir. You usually only see exposed wood on the indoor side. The wooden core is typically covered with fiberglass, vinyl, or aluminum cladding on the outdoor side. Clad wood windows hold up to the elements better because exposed wood is susceptible to rot and water damage.

Pros Wood is more durable and easier to repair than vinyl. Many homeowners prefer the natural beauty of the wood grain to the look of plastic. Wood is an excellent natural insulator that makes for an energy-efficient frame.
Cons Wood windows cost significantly more than vinyl windows. Wood requires regular maintenance in the form of repainting and sealing. The return on investment for wood replacement windows is lower than for vinyl replacement windows.

What Are Vinyl Windows?

Vinyl windows are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl windows are among the most inexpensive window replacement solutions because the material is readily available and easy to produce. Despite the low price, high-quality vinyl windows are durable and energy-efficient.

Pros Vinyl windows are less expensive and easier to find than wood windows. Vinyl is a low-maintenance material that doesn’t require painting. The resale value of vinyl windows is higher than that of wood windows.
Cons Not everyone likes the look of vinyl window frames. Vinyl frames can warp and fade in extreme temperatures. Vinyl is difficult to paint or customize if you want to change your decor later.
New Windows in Home
Window Replacement

Window replacement typically costs $300–$2,000 per window, depending on the window type.

View looking out a casement window from the inside of a house that has turquoise interior walls
Window Repair

Window repair typically costs $177–$623, but it can vary based on the type of repair.

Picture of a man cleaning a window with a yellow cloth
Window Cleaning Cost

Window cleaning typically costs $80–$430 for an entire home.


Compare Wood vs. Vinyl Windows

Wood and vinyl are trusted window replacement choices. Here’s how they compare on key factors.

FactorWood WindowsVinyl Windows

Average Cost*

$150–$1,300 each

$100–$900 each


Available from fewer manufacturers

Widely available

Energy Efficiency


Good (when insulated)


Professional installation recommended



30+ years

15–20 years


Repainting and sealing needed every few years

No need to paint or refinish


Easy to paint and finish

Some baked-in colors available; difficult to paint

Return on Investment (ROI)**



*Cost data sourced from HomeAdvisor

**ROI data sourced from Remodeling Magazine’s 2023 Cost vs. Value Report

Cost of Wood vs. Vinyl Windows

Wood costs more than vinyl for the same size and type of window. Wood costs an average of $150 to $1,300 per window, while vinyl windows fall in the range of $100 to $900. Vinyl windows are easier to install, so the project may not take as long and may come with lower labor costs. Availability could also be a factor. Nearly all top window brands sell vinyl windows, while fewer sell wood windows. You may need to pay for shipping to get the wood windows you want.

Maintenance of Wood vs. Vinyl Windows

Wood windows require more upkeep than vinyl windows. Because wood is susceptible to rot, warping, and water damage, it must be sealed and painted to keep moisture out if it isn’t clad with weatherproof material. This needs to be done every few years, which offers more opportunities for customization and updating your windows’ appearance.

Vinyl, on the other hand, is nearly maintenance-free. However, you’re stuck with the look you purchased. While vinyl can be sanded and painted, it doesn’t hold paint well, so you would need to repaint frequently. It’s better to make a choice from the available baked-in vinyl color options and stick with it.

Durability of Wood vs. Vinyl Windows

Wood windows have a longer life span overall if you maintain their upkeep. They can last up to 30 years or more, and wood frames are easier and less expensive to repair. Vinyl is durable, but exposure to heat, UV rays, and weather will eventually cause it to warp, fade, or crack. Vinyl windows typically last up to 20 years.

Energy Efficiency of Wood vs. Vinyl Windows

Insulated window frames prevent heat from transferring indoors in summer and outdoors in winter, making it easier and less costly to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Wood is a natural insulator, so wood windows are more energy-efficient than vinyl windows. Vinyl-clad wood windows are exceptionally energy-efficient and require less maintenance. Vinyl windows with hollow frames that are filled with insulating material are also ENERGY STAR rated for excellent performance.

DIY vs. Professional Window Installation

We recommend hiring professionals if you need new windows installed throughout your home or on upper stories. You may be able to replace a window yourself in some circumstances.

DIY Window Installation

Professional Window Installation 

Installing a replacement window on the ground floor of a home is within the skill set of most DIYers. Vinyl windows are better suited to this home improvement project because they have more frame flexibility and are easier to fit into an existing opening.

First, you’ll need to remove and dispose of the old window, carefully removing the sash and jamb liners. Then, prep the frame and new insulation by caulking the opening before installing the window. You’ll need caulk, putty, paint, and primer. Expect the process to take four to six hours.

For larger projects, complex windows, or upper-floor window replacements, we recommend hiring a trusted window installation provider. A poorly installed window can be leaky and drafty, which could compromise your home’s energy efficiency and raise your utility bills. Hiring a pro reduces the chances of drafty windows. Additionally, the warranty offered by some window manufacturers may be voided if the unit isn’t installed by a professional. You’ll pay extra for labor, but this cost may come with additional peace of mind.

How To Hire a Pro

Here are some questions to ask potential window installation companies. We recommend getting information and quotes from at least three contractors before making your choice.

Are your employees bonded and insured?
Do you have a current contractor’s license?
Do you have references from satisfied customers?
How long will the work take? Can I have an itemized estimate?
What are your customer ratings like on Trustpilot and Google Reviews?
What is your current Better Business Bureau rating and accreditation status?

Our Conclusion

When deciding between wood versus vinyl windows, the best window material for your home depends on your budget and aesthetic preferences. We find that insulated vinyl windows are the most cost-effective option for homeowners, and they balance price with good durability and efficiency. However, if you have more room in your budget and prefer the look of natural wood, wooden windows come with a number of benefits. Take durability and long-term energy savings into account when estimating the cost of window replacement.

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FAQ About Wood vs. Vinyl Windows

Which is better, wood or vinyl windows?

The best windows for you depend on your needs. Vinyl windows are less expensive, lower maintenance, and more widely available than wood windows. Wood windows tend to have better energy efficiency, durability, and aesthetics than vinyl.

Are vinyl windows worth it?

Vinyl windows could be worth it for many homeowners. Replacing a home’s windows with new vinyl windows has an average return on investment of 68.5%. This is higher than many other home improvement projects, such as a midrange bathroom remodel or a new asphalt shingle roof.

Do vinyl windows increase home value?

New, energy-efficient vinyl windows increase home value. The exact amount depends on the quality of the windows and the local housing market.

How do windows impact resale value?

New vinyl window replacements cost $20,091 on average and have a resale value of $13,766 (68.5%). New wood windows cost an average of $24,376 and have a resale value of $14,912 (61.2%).

Which type of window is more durable?

Wood windows are more durable and easier to fix. However, you must keep up with maintenance in the form of regular repainting and sealing.

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