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Supplement, November 2000




The Changing “Face” of Wood Windows

by Kristine Winter

Wood windows continue to be a popular choice among homeowners.Windows and doors, like many other products within the building industry, have undergone tremendous change in the types of materials used in manufacturing. Throughout our 50-year history, we have enjoyed a deep tradition in crafting some of the finest wood windows available. As one can imagine, it was a bittersweet day a few years ago when the first vinyl window rolled off the line at our plant. Changing market demand and our own desire to be a full-service provider led to the addition of our Next Dimension vinyl window line. As the vinyl windows rolled off the line, we could only wonder what the future would hold for the wood window industry.

Today, the demand for uPVC windows continues to increase. Advances in technology have added even more new materials to the mix, including fiberglass, composites, wood fibers and more. Some may have thought the demise of the wood window was close at hand. However, wood windows continue to be a popular choice among homeowners, builders and architects. Why? The wood window industry has combined past successes with the technology of today to meet the demands of an ever-changing marketplace.

Wood windows and doors offer benefits other materials cannot provide. Nothing frames a spectacular view better than the beauty of fine wood. What other material allows for a variety of finish options? Wood can be painted or stained in any color desired. It also allows for greater design flexibility. The sizes, shapes and combinations available in wood windows are limited only by our imaginations. Everything else is a close second to wood’s superior insulation factor. Wood, nature’s best insulator, combined with the technological advances in insulating glass, makes for a window that rates highest in efficiency. Homeowners can dream big when choosing wood windows.

Where wood windows take the hardest knocks is with the issue of maintenance. Wood manufacturers make no secret of the fact that wood windows require a little more attention than their uPVC counterparts. However, the bad rap given to wood windows has been a little harsh. Advances in treatments and finishes have extended the life of wood

The Legend Series offers the look and feel of a wood window.One of the biggest advances over the years in the wood window market has been the addition of vinyl and aluminum cladding on the exterior of wood windows. These exteriors have done well to protect the window from nature’s wrath. However, for those people who still relish the aesthetic beauty of wood, these materials take away from that look. They also limit the use of exterior brickmolds. So, it seems the history of wood windows has been represented by a series of tradeoffs—low maintenance and protection for look and beauty.

These tradeoffs are fast becoming a thing of the past. The trends for the wood window industry include providing the best of both worlds—using alternate materials in combination with wood for beauty and protection.

“Like most wood window manufacturers, we are taking the most susceptible parts of wood windows and replacing them with CPVC or composite materials,” said Phil Weber, our senior design engineer. Our company uses a recent product innovation—cellular PVC (CPVC)—in combination with wood in the design and construction of our primed wood product line. CPVC is a plastic, but unlike its uPVC cousin, CPVC is a solid extruded vinyl. CPVC looks like wood, is paintable and is installed like wood, so nails can be pounded through it. The resurgence of traditional architecture in today’s home building has left designers in a quandary. They want the look of traditional wide or decorative casing, however, they are not willing to sacrifice the low maintenance. CPVC allows the use of wide or decorative exterior casings in almost any style and complements wood windows very well. And best of all, CPVC allows for the traditional look of wood without the worry of potential rotting and warping if it’s not painted every few years.

We have increased the use of CPVC by manufacturing windows whereby the entire window exterior—including the sash—is constructed of cellular PVC. This window line, called the Legend Series, offers the look and feel of a wood window, is paintable, offers all the benefits of CPVC and comes with a 25-year warranty.

While CPVC is very flexible and can be molded into radius shapes, it is not as rigid and does not have the strength of wood. In response to that, industry leaders are developing additional extruded composite materials. These composites, which are similar in strength to wood, allow the product to be stained while still eliminating the potential of rotting and warping.

We can be certain the use of CPVC and other “non-wood” materials will continue to play a major role in the design and manufacturing of wood windows. The wood window industry knows it must change with the times. Wood continues to offer many benefits, including aesthetic beauty, superior insulation and design flexibility. We believe these age-old benefits, combined with today’s new technology and low maintenance features, will keep the wood window’s future bright.


Kristine Winter is the marketing communications manager for Windsor Windows & Doors based in West Des Moines, Iowa.


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