The basics of DIY windows

Upgrading your home's windows helps you improve both its security and energy efficiency. DIY windows are among the most common home improvements, but even so, many homeowners aren't fully aware of all the options available to them. When it comes to do-it-yourself windows, you should start by understanding the relative advantages and drawbacks of wood, vinyl and aluminum windows. These are the three most common materials used to make residential window frames, and each of them has unique performance characteristics.

Wooden Window Frames

This traditional window frame material is prized for its natural beauty. While you may have heard that wooden windows aren't a good choice for energy efficiency, you can boost their ability to impede thermal transfer by using weather stripping. They do require special varnishes and protective coatings to resist the elements, but that's a price you have to pay for their beauty. In addition to their upkeep, the main drawback of wooden windows is that they are relatively expensive.

Vinyl Window Frames

Today, most vinyl window frames are double-glazed. These windows deaden sound extremely well, and provide excellent insulation. Compared to wooden window frames, vinyl is also very low-maintenance. However, it doesn't have the visual appeal of wood, though you can get vinyl frames with faux-wood finishes. In addition, you need to use good judgment when comparing manufacturer claims. Not all vinyl window frames are made equal, and if you choose a product with a rock-bottom price, chances are you won't get the insulation and energy efficiency benefits you expected.


Aluminum Window Frames

If you're looking to maximize the amount of natural light you let into your home, aluminum window frames might be the best choice. Because aluminum is so strong, these window frames are relatively thin, maximizing the glass area. However, be warned that aluminum actually conducts heat out of your home, so you're likely to experience energy losses in winter. Condensation can also be a problem with aluminum window frames.

Finally, be aware that there are hybrid windows available on the market. For example, you can also get windows that combine wooden frames with steel or aluminum reinforcements to give you the best of both worlds. These products tend to be the most expensive, though, because of the added labor needed in the manufacturing process.