Replacement windows: wood vs. vinyl

We're considering replacement windows for 50 year old wood frame windows and some not so old aluminum frame windows. The old wood windows are difficult/impossible to open and somewhat leaky despite the storm windows. We figured that we wanted wood frame windows with some weatherproof exterior (e.g. aluminum clad wood). We've talked with two window places so far, and the window guys strongly prefer vinyl windows to clad wood windows. They claim that the vinyl windows will last longer, as indicated by the superior warranty. Both of the window guys claim that they personally installed vinyl in their houses.
The clad wood windows are definitely more expensive. And of course after installation I'd have to paint the interiors. The ones we got an estimate for (Semco) are also somewhat more difficult to open and close than the vinyl (BF Rich, Vytex).
Does anybody have any thoughts on the question of clad wood vs. vinyl? Will the vinyl *really* last as long as the clad wood? I had heard years ago that vinyl was not a good structural material and that vinyl frame windows wouldn't last. But the warranty is better on the vinyl. (One of the guys who gave me an estimate has been in business since 1908 so it seems like they might still be around for warranty service. The other one has been around since the 80's.) I assume that the maintenance of aluminum clad wood and vinyl should be the same: none.
We're not sure we can tolerate looking at vinyl inside the house, and another curious option that has come up is vinyl with wood veneer on it. Any comments on this sort of product?
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wrote:

The window brands you mentioned are unknown in our area. They may be good quality or not, but window makers come and go, some often unable to survive long because of quality or installation issues. It would be prudent to research the companies involved for longevity as well. Major firms like Andersen are offering replacement windows and sashes at competitive prices and could be a good benchmark for comparing bids. Good luck.
Joe
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wrote:

You dont mention brands I know. Off brand cheap can be trouble. Consumer reports had an old article on maybe 20 windows tested that included construction, use and durability. There are alot of ratings for tests used to determine window performance of frame and glass, id suggest you learn and use them. Glass is not equal and warrantys count, but instalation can cause a warranty to be worthless from day one as I personaly found out. www.energystar.gov might help you learn and pick whats best.
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I have looked at the article consumer reports published a couple years ago. They systematically rank vinyl windows as inferior to wood windows on their ability to resist wind and rain. (No vinyl window scores an "excellent" on any of these tests.) But they don't review any vinyl window that the local dealers sell. If premium vinyl is better then perhaps the problem as the CR only looked at the low end of the market. They do also tend to rank vinyl windows as more durable than wood frame windows (based on a test that lasted one week).
When you say that installation makes the warranty worthless do you mean that the windows were incorrectly installed? What did they do wrong? I didn't see much on energystar.gov of note. Pretty much all the windows have the same insulation statistics because everybody is trying to meet the tax credit requirements.
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adrian wrote:

Guess I'm old fashioned, but I still can't regard vinyl windows as real windows. Maybe if somebody can show me a 50 year old vinyl one that still works, I may change my mind. I routinely see 100 year old wood windows that still work. Sure, they take more PM, but if you do the upkeep, they basically last forever.
-- aem sends...
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re: When you say that installation makes the warranty worthless do you mean that the windows were incorrectly installed?
Sure. Let's say the installer has a 1/8" gap on both sides of the window and screws the frame tight to the rough opening, bowing the frame. In addition, the window was mounted at an angle, twisting the frame out of square.
So a few years later, after being under stress for all that time, the seams start to let go and the window frame fails. The company sends out an inspector who calmly denies your claim stating on his report that "The window was not installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions."
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On Tue, 28 Apr 2009 06:55:40 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@cam.cornell.edu"

    In my experience high quality wood, vinyl and vinyl clad windows all have long lives and look good. All cheap windows are not high quality. Not all expensive windows are high quality.
    Many windows are local brands and often the design of the current product has changed over the years so it is even difficult to judge the current product based on the results of the older lines.
    I would suggest asking to see installations they did 10 years or more ago, ideally with the same product design as they are selling today. A the very least, ask they why they recommend this or that window design and don't accept a blanket statement, ask for specifics, like the fiberglass breaks down under long exposure to light or the wood need frequent maintenance etc.
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I think you just answered your question. It's your preference.
G.S.
On Tue, 28 Apr 2009 06:55:40 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@cam.cornell.edu"

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wrote:

others to good to "tolerate" vinyl???
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My preference is for windows that will last a long time, will continue to operate, won't decline in efficiency, and won't leak air now or ten years from now. Unfortunately, these things are not evident when I look at a window. Are you saying that clad wood and vinyl are absolutely equivalent on these measures and that therefore I can make my decision based entirely on aesthetics or cost?
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snipped-for-privacy@cam.cornell.edu wrote:

Wood will cost more and require more maintenance and painting. I'm installing energy star vinyl replacements and using vinyl trim on the outside to cover where the aluminum combos were. I always go for paintless products. I hate paint. I have vinyl siding and aluminum trim to top it off. If I had shutters I would get prepainted vinyl. I hate paint.
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snipped-for-privacy@cam.cornell.edu wrote:

One thing to look for --- can the glass be replaced in the sash/window frame --- or do you have to go back to the manufacturer, if they are still in business and if they still make the vinyl profiles that fit your windows. Since double pane insulated glass has a finite life, sometimes they can fail after very few months, the ability to replace the glass will allow the windows to continue to be useable and not require replacement. If the glass is fused or heat welded into the sash/window frame, I would run not walk from the product, because you never know if the supplier will be around next year, whatever the installer says.
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On Tue, 28 Apr 2009 16:36:19 -0400, "EXT"

frames that need to be dismantled to get the glass out. I prefer units where a small vinyl peice pops out to allow the glass to be removed. If removed carefully they can be re-used many times (if they are quality vinyl - cheap crap will crack) even if the propfile is no longer available. Going with a major brand profile (like Rehau) gives you a better choice. I believe my windows were built by Euro-Vinyl , using Rehau Profile stock.
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On Tue, 28 Apr 2009 06:55:40 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@cam.cornell.edu"

vinyl on the inside. I think Fenergic was one manufacturer (Warwick Quebec) but I can't say for sure . They were one of five suppliers the company I worked for dealt with, and they did provide some rather unique solutions. There is alco aluminum capped vinyl IIRC.
As for wood vs vinyl, I had the choice and went with high end vinyl. It will never split, warp, or rot. Cheap vinyl is a different story - it might not last over 20 years. I think my Rehau product is almost 20 years old now and every bit as good today as the day it was installed. Not a single pane has lost a seal yet either (SurLite units out of Concord Ont).
I also have one Bonneville "ThermoWood" window that I put in because it was a stock item at the "borg" when the original window needed replacement NOW. A crappy window in comparison. It is wood cored vinyl, or vinyl covered wood, however you want to look at it.
My patio door is also a vynyl outer, wood core construction, kinda like a golf ball!!. It has stood up well but it's on the south side so doesn't get the weather abuse it would on the other side of the house. Only problem is the weatherstrip got all hard and fragile and I have not been able to source a proper replacement.
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On Tue, 28 Apr 2009 06:55:40 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@cam.cornell.edu"

In the desert wood, dries up. New homes have vinyl windows, unless it is a custom home and wood is the choice.
For easy installs -- Check:
http://www.certainteed.com /
Andersen would be my preferred window, bar none!
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On Tue, 28 Apr 2009 06:55:40 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@cam.cornell.edu"
...

    No need to. The windows I have are wood frames with vinyl cladding on the outside. Looks and feels good with no painting.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

I've followed this thread from inception but deleted previous posts. I find it odd that one would clad wood with either aluminium or vinyl, neither of which breath which timber needs in order not to rot.
Here in the UK, there has been a major business for the last thirty years, and I suspect will continue to be for many years to come, of replacing timber framed single glazed windows by initially in the 60s and 70s aluminium framed doubled glazed windows. This quite quickly went out of favour because of the interior condensation and cold spots caused by the aluminium.
During the 70s, uPVC (vinyl) replaced aluminium as the frame of choice, avoiding the cold spots.
The estate I live on was built between 25 and 30 years ago. The majority of the windows at that time were timber framed either single or double glazed. Mine were timber with double glazing. Over the years, the seals on the double glazing started to fail and rot of the timber, though a lesser issue, started to become a problem. I, like many of my neighbours, chose to replace all the windows with vinyl frames and double glazing. Result - lower exterior noise, warmer rooms without cold spots, no condensation and no need to use ladders to paint the exteriors.
I've lived in the house from new (1982, I think) and am now an Old Fart. I don't want to climb ladders to paint the exterior and live in hope that my decision was right!
I have no problem with vinyl on the interior, though I have chosen to have wooden cills to the windows. Just looks better for me when the curtains are closed!
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wrote:

    The windows I have and was referring to are only clad on the outside, not the inside so they do breath.
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On Tue, 28 Apr 2009 06:55:40 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@cam.cornell.edu"

What about vinyl wrapped wood? The vinyl protects the wood against moisture damage. I like wood too, but when wood gets soaking wet, it twists, warps, and swells. Wood has better insulating properties than metal or vinyl so they sweat less in winter. I have aluminum frame windows and they can sweat when outdoor temperatures fall below 20.
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