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All Wood vs. Clad Windows

Posted by ttla (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 17, 11 at 0:19

We're remodeling a 1920s CA Spanish Revival house. Our architect, GC, and all the windows sales people strongly recommend going with an aluminum clad for maintenence and performance. I can't help but feel that this is the same as recommending vinyl siding for the same reasons. I told my husband that I bet we would look back on this and remember that time when "everybody" was getting a clad window.

We're considering NOT taking their advice and going ahead with a wood window that will need some maintenence every couple years. We have very mild CA weather.

Have any of you gone through this? It seems like nobody is buying a wood window anymore, but I have a hard time believing that. Advice? Warnings? Regrets?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

We live in Chicago where maintenance needs are a little more demanding than CA. We went with wood windows two years ago, replacing vinyl that some PO had installed, and we have no regrets.

If you want to be sympathetic historically - don't waste your time/money on clad/vinyl/aluminum.

Why are wood windows still being made if no one is buying them???


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

Why are you replacing the windows?

The replacements are NOT going to last as long, even if they are repairable wood and maintained.
Modern wood is not nearly as good as 1920 wood.

Much of the energy savings from replacement windows comes from the weatherstripping.
You can weatherstrip the old windows just as well.


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

Yes...you didn't state the condition of the current windows. If they are not completely rotted out, restoration is an option, whether you do it yourself or hire someone.

Don't jump the gun and assume that a remodeling project must include new windows. Once you rip them out, they are gone forever. Read through the posts in this forum and you will see so many people talk about "the idiot previous owner" who replaced all the windows with cheap replacements.


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

Sorry, I didn't specify what we currently have. Well, we're another who purchased a house where the previous owners replaced the windows with the absolute cheapest of cheap white vinyl windows.

We have to replace them. Well be starting construction in a week or two and need to decide on our windows ASAP. We've been assuming clad windows, and have done all our research on different makers, but aren't entriely happy with that option. So my question still stands. Clad vs all wood?


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

Definitely go with all-wood windows. With your mild weather, maintenance won't be a big problem, whereas, once the cladding on a window fails, you will have to replace it yet again. Check web sites for the proper style of window: number of panes, whether they are double-hung, casement etc.
If your architect is versed in restoration and not just 'remuddling', he can help with that--but there is NO substitute for checking yourself. Call or visit websites of historical societies in your area for advice on styles.
Your contractor will most likely get a rebate or something pushing you toward certain windows, and that might go for the architect as well--so I'd take their advice with a huge grain of salt.
Furthermore, if your window openings are still the original shape, make sure you get windows to fit, rather than alter the shape of the opening to fit a standard size--I live just north of a university neighborhood, and there are so many houses around where the landlords replaced nice old windows with stock sizes, boarding up any leftover space for arches, curved lintels, etc. In old houses, window size was a crucial part of the design, and modern stock sizes just aren't the same dimensions.


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

There are also windows that are wood on the inside and aluminum clad on the outside, if you're really concerned about maintenance.

But personally, we opted for wood. We're also in CA (and in a rainyish part of it) and only two of the windows in our 95-year-old house were rotted and needed to be replaced (both on a wall that is particularly subjected to rain/wind because of the layout). The others are in good-to-great shape, so I don't think wood is a maintenance problem here.


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

Compared to wood windows, clad windows have nil maintenance costs but projected lower lifespans because any damage that occurs under the cladding cannot be repaired. I quit using all-wood windows because I got tired of repainting them every two- three years. So strong is the aversion to regular maintenance, I've seen many whole house replacements of quality wood windows with cheaper all-vinyl casements, or even with aluminum sliders.

For historical consistency, wood is preferred on an older home. Original windows around here are going strong at 100-years plus.


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

"I quit using all-wood windows because I got tired of repainting them every two- three years."

The short time would indicate a problem in preparing and applying the paint.

A well done paint job should last at least 5 years, and 10 is more likely.
Very harsh conditions demand extra prep work.


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

"With your mild weather, maintenance won't be a big problem, whereas, once the cladding on a window fails"

What brand of windows do you use that this occurs?


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

I agree with brickeye...I'd say 10 years easy if done right. I redid many of the original 2 over 2 double-hungs in my (now ex's) old 1860 farmhouse about 7-8 years ago....a full stip to the bare wood job, sashes, frames, everything, reglazed all the glass, etc.

I am still at the house all the time getting my kids, and they still look AWESOME, almost like they did when first redone. And that's with upstate NY weather, too (they do have storms though).

Now if I could only find the time to do that in my new 1870's Victorian I'd be loving it (it too has all the original windows).


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

The short time would indicate a problem in preparing and applying the paint

You're right. On reflection, I realize it was only one city home and one cottage in a severe climate: snow above your knees well into April some years.

The National Association of Homebuilders estimates aluminum clad windows to have a lifespan of 15-20 years.

There's a tremendous variation in window quality, even amongst clad windows. After six years in our last home, there was not the slightest sign of cracking or weathering in the vinyl-clad casement units. They were only clad on the exterior, so the inside wood could be painted by subsequent owners.

Here is a link that might be useful: Life Expectancy of Housing Components


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

I am not recommending the following brand, but if it happens to be one you're considering, you might try ordering them through the non-profit boston building materials co-op. I know it sounds crazy, since you're on the west coast, but as a non-profit there is minimal markup compared to what you'd pay to get the windows through other sources. If the deal can be done by phone and email, it would probably save you a lot of money, and the windows would be coming from the factory regardless of where the middle man is located.

I have to replace a few non-original windows in my house. I'm pretty far out from ordering yet, so I haven't settled on a supplier, but for price, I plan to consider what the BBMC offers. I could swear they also sell an all-wood window made by a smaller local shop, but I don't see it on their website.

Here is a link that might be useful: One brand of all-wood windows


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

"The National Association of Homebuilders estimates aluminum clad windows to have a lifespan of 15-20 years."

As opposed to an all wood window that can actually be repaired and made to last almost indefinitely.

"There's a tremendous variation in window quality, even amongst clad windows. After six years in our last home, there was not the slightest sign of cracking or weathering in the vinyl-clad casement units. They were only clad on the exterior, so the inside wood could be painted by subsequent owners."

The problem is that without removing the cladding (and thus destroying the window) they cannot be inspected for hidden damage.
They may look fine on both sides, but already have significant rot in the wood behind the cladding.

Of course you can always consider periodic replacement as maintenance.


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

I am in a similar situation but have harsher weather to contend with. I wish I could restore my original wood windows but it is just not a possibility. I am going all wood after doing a LOT of research on this forum and several others. I don't need to be historically accurate per se, but I just did not like the look of any replacement windows- even the higher end Marvins. As the local sash and window maker said: "Maintenance-free means non-maintainable." His prices were better than Marvin too. I put aluminum clad in my last house and had no problems but knowing what I know now, there's not a chance.
Good luck!


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

without removing the cladding (and thus destroying the window) they cannot be inspected for hidden damage.

Although that's true, it's far from a certainty. But if you find cracks in the vinyl cladding, then it's likely damage is brewing.

There's no question that well-made wood windows can last the economic lifetime of the home. I have owned a number of 80-100 year-old homes with double-hung wood windows in fine shape. The greatest desecration was to see other homeowners remove and replace them with aluminum sliders.


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RE: All Wood vs. Clad Windows

"if you find cracks in the vinyl cladding" it is not hidden damage, is it?


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