All Wood Windows (no clad)

ttlaMarch 17, 2011

I just posted on The Old House forum, but figured I might be better advised by posting here.

We're replacing all of the windows on our 90 year old house. We live in a very temperate climate. Our GC is advising aluminum clad for maintenence, but I really think I'd like to go with an all wood window and do the necessary upkeep. I like the look better, and I feel like aluminum clad windows on an old house is like aluminum siding.

I keep hearing the warnings of "oh the maintenence" if I ever mention all-wood windows, but I don't really take it to heart. People have had wood windows forever!

So, do I dismiss the sales people and my GC and go with a wood window, or are they really right? Is maintenence an absolute nightmare? Should I just get the clad?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would visit a showroom or showrooms that carry top of the line wood windows and look at a wood and wood clad window side by side. The better clad wood windows have replicated the "look" of mill work with their cladding down to matching casings and the like.
I am not a big fan of wood only exteriors because many times the homeowner even with the best intentions lets the maintenance get away from them or mother nature simply takes over.
If your home is well protected (and it sounds like it is from the age) you might be one of the few candidates for an all wood.
Go into it with an open mind. The cost between all wood and clad is minimal and there are a plethora of colors to choose from and there are more manufacturers that only make wood clad.You can see where I am going with this. Good luck but I agree with your GC and the sales people that you have spoken to. In the end I think you will be happier with a good quality low maintenance wood clad window.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 6:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you do decide to go with an all wood window, please take a look at Kolbe and Marvin and I would recommend(if it is in the budget) have the supplier quote the product with SOLID WOOD sills and casing NOT FINGER JOINT, and once you get the product immediately primed the unit again with an oil based primer and the top coat with a high quality latex based paint. In my experience the part of the wood windows that cause the most trouble the soonest are the most exposed pieces and of those the parts with Finger Joints rot and or fall apart first.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 8:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you already have wood windows, why are you replacing them with different wood windows?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 12:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Why do the windows need replacement?

I just gave a customer a proposal to restore 5 curved windows with arched top (curved two ways).

No one else they talked to had any other 'fix' besides replacing them with flat windows with only an arched top.

The old windows are actually not in that bad a shape (especially for being about 150 years old).

A couple have more damage than others, but nothing that cannot be repaired.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 1:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wood is not what it used to be! If you can not restore & keep the windows you have, i would not recommend all wood exterior windows. There are many wood windows with aluminum,fiberglass, vinyl & even cellular PVC. Most can be ordered with brickmould or flat trim to mimic a wood double-hung.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 12:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"There are many wood windows with aluminum,fiberglass, vinyl & even cellular PVC."

And they are projected to have about a 30 year life.

There is simply NO way long term to prevent water from getting behind the 'cladding.'

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 9:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Windows on Washington


Where do you see the data that the projected lifespans are 30 years. I am not challenging you on this, just wondering if you can email me some data on that fact.

Water will always, via bulk or capillary action, get behind cladding.

The goal is to give it a drainage path and ability to dry to outside.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 10:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Data is all over the place.

No matter how much you try you are not going to get the moisture out fast enough.

Here is a link that might be useful: Life expectancy

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 12:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Windows on Washington

Thanks for the link.

I think most people would be happy with 30 years out of any building material and especially with the advancements in technology.

Inside that 30 year life expectancy, I imagine that the hardware and glazing will be the weak link depending on the material in question.

If you have a rainscreen type wall, there are plenty of opportunities for the water to drain out properly and dry to outside.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 7:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I think most people would be happy with 30 years out of any building material and especially with the advancements in technology. "

The mortgage is paid off just about when you need new windows?

As for the "advancements in technology" most of the improvements in windows are in the weather stripping.

Windows, even the best of the multi-layer IGUs are still a massive low R-value hole in the house.

Notice how the window companies give 'U' values instead of R values?

It is really an attempt to hide how bad even high performance windows are.

R-value is 1/U-value.
That U-value of 0.3 is an R-value of 3.

You would need to have a U-value of about 0.08 to even approach a 2x4 wall with R-13 insulation.

Improved weatherstripping can be fitted to most double hung windows.
This greatly improves their performance by reducing infiltration.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 10:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Windows on Washington


I think the bidding should start at 30 years. That being said, can you name me another exterior building material that lasts 30 years that is made today in normal new construction (roofing, cladding, windows, etc).

Yes, premium wood windows should last that long with maintenance, however that is not even close to what is used in new construction. The cheapest stuff in the construction spectrum is used in new construction. Most asphalt roofs that we replace are less than 15 years old.

30 years out of a window is not bad.

The technology has come leaps and bounds in the last 30 years. The standard for 30 years ago would have been single pane with a storm window. We are miles away from that now sealed IGUs, Low-e, and inert gas fills. That is just the industry standard.

What will be industry standards for 30 years from now will probably be thin film solar, evacuated IGUs, radiant windows, etc.

The weatherstripping and air tightness has come miles since 30 years ago with different interlocking mechanisms and advancements in the seals.

It is not the window companies that assign the U-Factor but the NFRC that established that term. While I agree it is a made up term in an attempt to distinguish the window industry, it is merely a term assigned to what is an operable vs. stationary building material.

Most reputable window companies and installation companies will happily disclose that U-Factor is merely the inverse of R-Value.

Average 2x4 wall is no where near R-13 when you look at whole wall R-Values.

Whole wall 2x4 wall R-Value is less than R-10 on average and there are windows in existence today that are U-0.10 (R=10). They are expensive but there are more cost effect windows that are out there today that are U-0.15 or R=6.7

Quick Rule-of-Thumb for Glass Performance Options

Single Pane - R1 or U1
Single Pane and storm window - R2 or U.5

Dual Pane, clear glass - R2 or U.5
Dual Pane, LowE coated - R3 or U.33
Dual Pane, LowE coated, Argon fill - R3.5 or U.29

Triple Pane or dual pane with storm, all clear glass - R3 or U.33
Triple Pane, one lite LowE coated - R4 or U.25
Triple Pane, two lites LowE coated - R5 or U.20
Triple Pane, two lites LowE coated, argon fill - R6 or U.17
Triple Pane, two lites LowE coated, krypton fill - R6.7 or U.15

When you look at what the realized affect on total wall R-Values are based on the windows being the weak point, it is much more impactful than you might suspect.

80/20 split of wall to window area assuming an R-Value of the wall of R-10.

Single pane wood (R-1) total wall R-Value = 3.6
Single pane wood with storm (R=2) total wall R-Value = 5.6
Double pane insulated Low-e (R=4) total wall R-Value = 7.7
Triple pane insulated Low-e (R=6.7) total wall R-Value = 9.1

These are not small differences if you figure you can change your total wall R-Value by almost 3X.

The more insulated the wall gets, the more negative impact that a poorly insulated window has on the total wall R-Value

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 10:06AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
new construction vs "replacement" windows
I am somewhat confused from reading various company...
Window in a shower?
We are planning a remodel of our second floor master...
Sunrise or Thermal windows and doors
I'm trying to decide between Sunrise windows and Thermal...
Whistling in windows with big gusts
Hello, I had new Okna 500s installed this past spring...
Window Decision Time
Hi all, First, let me thank all of you for the information...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™