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Window Frames

What You Need to Know

Faulty Window Frames waste money. But which Frames are best: wood, vinyl, aluminum, or fiberglass? This article explains the pros and cons of each.

When investing in energy-efficient replacement windows, it is wise for a homeowner to consider the frame's thermal performance. Many window frames are energy deficient, losing a substantial amount of heat. This can lead to condensation.

Two things determine the thermal performance of a frame:

1. Design
2. Materials

Frames are available in a variety of designs and are made from many different types of material.

First, Check The Ratings

The first place to start is to check the rating of the window you're considering. There is no need to guess how energy efficient a window is. The exact energy efficiency of any window can be easily checked at the NFRC (National Fenestration Ratings Council) website. This takes all the guesswork out of determining how energy efficient any given window is.

But what should you look for?

R-Value, U-Value, And U-Factor

When comparing the energy efficiency of windows, you can look for one of three things:

1. R-Value
2. U-Value
3. U-Factor

The higher the R-Value, the more energy efficient the window is. Conversely, the lower the U-Value, the more energy-efficient the window is. U-Factor is just another word for U-Value. NFRC lists windows by both R-Value and U-Factor. The NFRC has rated the Bristol Double Hungs with a 0.21 U-factor (very low), making it one of the most energy efficient windows available.

Get The Whole Window Ratings,

Not The Center-Of-Glass Rating

It's best to first check the rating of a window yourself rather than take the word of a manufacturer or salesperson. Why? Sometimes a company will give you an R-Value or U-Factor that is a Center-Of-Glass Rating. A Center-Of-Glass-Rating is always better than a Whole Window Rating. The NFRC gives you the Whole Window Rating. This is what you want.

Prevent Air Leakage With Quality Frames

Quality frames, along with proper installation, caulking, and weather stripping, will prevent Air Leakage.

Framing Materials

The framing materials of a window determine not only how energy-efficient a window is, but it also determines how long a window will last and how much upkeep will be needed. Some windows are made from wood, while others are made of either vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass, or a combination thereof. There are pros and cons to each.

Aluminum Frames


  • Strong
  • Ideal for openings which require customized frames.
  • Can hold large, heavy, or odd-sized glass panes.


  • Very Energy Inefficient, Especially in Cold Climates
  • Contributes to Condensation
  • Corrodes Easily
  • High Maintenance

Wood Frames


  • Energy Efficient
  • Little Condensation
  • Easy to Paint or Stain


  • Requires Considerable Maintenance (Periodic Painting, Staining, Sanding, etc.)
  • Cracking, Warping, Rotting, Termites

Aluminum-Clad and Vinyl-Clad Wood Frames

Aluminum-Clad and Vinyl-Clad Wood Frames are wooden frames covered with either aluminum or vinyl.


  • Energy Efficient
  • The Look of Wood Indoors
  • No Painting Outdoors


  • Frames may rot if moisture reaches the wood.

Plastic-Wood Composites

Some window frames are manufacturef from vinyl waste, wood scraps, polyethylene, and other recycled products. They may contain as little as 50% wood fiber.


  • Strength
  • Resistance to moisture


  • Difficult to recycle.

Vinyl Frames


  • Flexible,Easily Customized to fit most openings
  • Virtually Maintenance Free
  • Don't Need Painting-Color Uniform Throughout
  • Don't Corrode, Swell, or Shrink,
  • Thermal Performance Varies
  • Inexpensive


  • Not Very Strong
  • May soften, twist, bow, or warp

Fiberglass Frames


  • Excellent Insullator
  • Won't Warp, Swell, Shrink, or Corrode
  • Maintenance Free
  • Strong and Durable
  • Can Hold a Large Expanse of Glass


  • Not Widely Available
  • Long Term Performance Still Unknown
  • Expensive
  • Some Colors Fade Easily


A high-quality frame will last longer and be more energy-efficient. We believe the best option is a vinyl frame reinforced with aluminum because it is energy efficient, long-lasting, and virtually maintenance free.

This is one of many reasons why Heart Land Construction is proud to recommend The Bristol Window. Consider the following features of an average size* Bristol Double-Hung Window:

Frame Features

  • Exclusive PVC Virgin Vinyl Extrusions - dimensionally thicker with strategically designed insulating chambers
  • 15 + feet of exclusive HDR frame/sash composite reinforcment
  • 1/2" deep full length knife-edge "Z" interlock
  • Exclusive 4-point steel deadbolt security locking system
  • Patented flexible wind/air windjammer seal on sash jams
  • Superior block and tackle load bearing balance system
  • Unique removeable sash balance shoe and lock
  • Zamek Zinc die casted sash pivot pins
  • 3" dual point installation alignment clip system
  • All hardware is dual anchored into vinyl and dense HDR
  • Sash seats into head 3?4" when closed
  • Bottom sash flexible rubber weatherseal
  • Sloped step sill with weep holes with 5 air barrier locations
  • 31+ feet of Quiet Mylar Fin and Fin Seal weatherstripping

*Average size=32" X 54"

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