Windows fulfill essential functions in a home by brightening rooms, supplying fresh air, shielding from rain, and enhancing a house’s appearance when aligned with its architectural style.

If your windows allowed in excessive cold air last winter, causing discomfort and high energy bills, consider replacing them with new high-performance insulating units, which can reduce energy costs by nearly 25%. With spring’s arrival and the availability of federal tax credits for installing energy-efficient windows, now is the perfect time to bid farewell to those drafty old windows.

If you’re unsure about the type of windows to choose, we suggest considering wood. It’s a lightweight, strong, and appealing material. Wood is an excellent insulator, moderately priced, and can be shaped into a limitless variety of forms and profiles. With proper care, it can last indefinitely. The main challenge lies in selecting the right type and style for your home among the numerous options and manufacturers, which can be daunting.

We simplify the vast array of choices and guide you in comparing products, ensuring you get the best window for your investment. If new windows are on your horizon, you won’t want to miss this informative article.


A movable or fixed frame supporting the window glass.


Trim concealing the gap between the jambs and house framing.


The bottom part of the frame, angled to direct water away.


The sides and top of the frame surrounding the window sashes.


The window glass itself.


Thin strips separating the window glass panes.

Sash Lock

Hardware that secures the top and bottom window sashes.

Wood Windows: Essential Information

Pricing for Wood Windows

A standard 36-by-54-inch pine double-hung window with insulated glass costs approximately $270. A custom-made window with high-performance glazing is about $825, while the same window in mahogany increases the price to $2,100.

Durability of Wood Windows

With proper maintenance, a wood sash and frame can last indefinitely. Glazing typically comes with a 20-year warranty against fogging.

DIY Installation Possibilities

It’s best to have a professional install a new full-frame window in a rough opening. However, replacing only the sashes is a DIY-friendly task. Example: Pella Precision-Fit;

Potential Energy Savings

Energy Star-rated windows can reduce your heating and cooling costs by 7 to 24 percent, depending on the type of window being replaced and your location.

Window Terminology

Double-hung windows are classified by the number of panes or “lights” in each sash. For example, a 6-over-6 window has six panes per sash. The double-hung window shown here is an 8-over-12 and is called a “cottage window” because its upper sash is smaller than the bottom one.

Signs It’s Time for New Windows

Consider replacing your windows when the following issues arise:

Extensive Rot

Small areas of decay can be scraped out and filled, but if the sill and jambs are severely damaged, they cannot be salvaged.

Fogged Glass

When the perimeter seal on a double-glazed window fails, condensation accumulates between the panes, obscuring the view and decreasing energy efficiency. At minimum, the window needs a new sash, if not a complete replacement.

Poor Functionality

Is a sash difficult to open or unable to stay open? Windows with weight-and-pulley systems are easy to fix, but sashes with tubular-balance hardware from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s may not be worth saving.

Inappropriate Window Styles

Replacing 19th-century Italianate windows with modern replacement casements won’t enhance curb appeal. Instead, opt for new wood double-hung windows that match the original window’s appearance. The picture above shows how TOH master carpenter Norm Abram restored these 18th-century windows to like-new condition rather than replacing them. Interior storms were installed to make them as weathertight as new units.

Replacement Options: Full Frame


  • Offers the most styles and highest energy efficiency.
  • Upgrading insulation is possible by opening a wall cavity.


  • Hard to install; requires removal of interior and exterior trim and some siding.
  • Inserts from the outside.

Example: Andersen 400 Series Woodwright

Replacement Options: Frame-and-Sash Insert


  • Easiest to install.
  • Trim not affected.
  • Installed from the inside.


  • Most expensive option.
  • Frame reduces the window opening size by up to 1 inch on all sides.

Replacement Options: Sashes Only


  • Least expensive option.
  • Neither trim nor opening size is affected.
  • Installs from the inside.


  • Available only as double- or single-hungs.
  • Requires exact measurements for sill angle and window opening.
  • The existing frame must be square and sturdy.

Deciphering the Label

Labels from the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) make it easy to compare window performance. Computer simulations generate the key numbers for each window.

  • Energy Star

The shaded areas on the map show where the window meets the regional Energy Star performance criteria. This label is valid nationwide.

  • U-Factor

On a scale of 0.10 to 1.20, measures how well a window blocks heat flow. The lower the number, the better the performance in both hot and cold climates.

  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)

On a scale of 0 to 1, measures how well glazing blocks the sun’s heat. The lower the number, the less heat gets in. In warmer climates, aim for a SHGC of 0.40 or less.

  • Visible Transmittance (VT):

Indicates the amount of light that passes through. 0 is opaque and 1 is transparent. Glazing with a VT of 0.60 or more looks clear. A lower VT reduces glare but may slightly darken rooms.

Some labels also rate Air Leakage (aim for 0.30 or lower) and Condensation Resistance (the higher the number, the better).

TOH Tip: Score a Tax Credit

You can reduce the cost of new energy-efficient windows by up to 30 percent, or $1,500 per household, with federal tax credits. To qualify for the credit, windows must have an NFRC-certified U-factor and an SHGC of 0.30 or less, and must have been installed in 2009 or 2010. The credit applies only to window costs, not installation. Keep the “qualification statement” from the manufacturer and your receipts. Note that not all Energy Star windows are eligible for the credit.

Cost: Off the Shelf

This option is great for tight budgets and new construction, where you can frame the opening to fit units in just a few standard sizes.

Where to Buy: Home centers and lumberyards.

Styles: Plain-vanilla double-hungs or casements, often without muntins.

Hardware: Painted metal crank.

Glazing: The windows are double-paned, but not eligible for tax credit.

Wood: The wood is unprimed pine.

Wait: You can expect to wait up to three days at maximum.

Price: The price ranges from $270 to $350 and is offered by Jeld-Wen.

Cost: Made-to-Order

This is the perfect option for those who want more size and design options. Mix and match different choices from the catalog, including energy-saving glazing.

Where to Buy: You can purchase made-to-order windows from home centers, lumberyards, and window retailers.

Styles: All window types are available, with different muntin configurations. Hardware options include a few crank styles and various painted or plated-metal finishes.

Glazing: Low-e, triple glazed, patterned, laminated options are available.

Wood: Mostly pine, either bare, factory primed, or painted. Some companies offer clear alder or Douglas fir as well.

Wait: You can expect to wait a minimum of four weeks.

Price: The price ranges from about $315 to $650 and is offered by Jeld-Wen.

Cost: Custom

This option is perfect for non-standard sizes and shapes or for those who want to create an original design or replicate a historic window.

Where to Buy: You can buy custom windows from window retailers.

Styles: There is no limit to the styles that can be created.

Hardware: More crank styles in custom finishes or solid bronze are available.

Glazing: The works, including leaded art glass, are available.

Wood: Oak, maple, cherry, and exotics such as mahogany can be finished to your specifications.

Wait: You can expect to wait a minimum of six weeks.

Price: The price ranges from about $800 and up, and is offered by Jeld-Wen.

Glazing Choices

While vintage single-pane “wavy” glass may provide character, it offers little protection against heat and cold. Modern glazing options provide better insulation, added security, and can even save you time and money on window cleaning.


More efficient than single-pane, double-pane windows can be improved further with heat-reflective low-e coatings and by filling the space between the glass sheets with a denser-than-air gas, such as krypton or argon.


The best option for insulation against the cold, but reduces light transmission and adds weight and cost.


A titanium-dioxide coating reacts with sunlight to loosen dirt, which then washes off in the rain. However, indoor surfaces still require cleaning.


An invisible layer of plastic sandwiched between two sheets of standard glass helps to deter intruders, block sound, and withstand natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes.

Muntin Choices: True Divided Light

These traditional single-pane windows are strong and light and will last indefinitely, but are poor insulators. A separate glass “energy panel” affixed to the outside of the sashes improves performance to the level of a standard double-pane, but is difficult to clean.

Muntin Choices: Simulated Divided Light

Muntins are adhered to the indoor and outdoor surfaces of double-pane glass. More energy efficient than true divided light, but still challenging to clean.

Muntin Choices: Grille in Glass

An aluminum grille permanently sits between two glass panes, offering the look of actual muntins. The metal conducts heat, increasing its U-factor and making the window less efficient. Cleaning is simple, but be sure to choose a grille color you like, as it cannot be changed.

Muntin Choices: Removable Grille

A wood grid on the indoor surface of the window is held in place with metal or plastic clips on the edge of the sash. It’s easy to remove for cleaning and can be replaced if damaged, but doesn’t appear authentic when viewed up close from the outside or inside.

What’s a Clad Window?

Traditionally, paint has been used to protect wooden windows from the elements, but it requires ongoing maintenance to keep the finish intact. Cladding the exposed exterior with vinyl, aluminum, or copper eliminates the work while maintaining the look of wood inside your house. However, this easy upkeep comes with a higher price tag. Prices for a 36-by-54-inch double-hung window start at about $285 for vinyl cladding and about $475 for aluminum, and go up to $1,400 for copper.

Alternatives to Wood: Aluminum

Durable and requires virtually no maintenance beyond an occasional washing. You can choose from several long-lasting colored finishes. However, the metal conducts heat, which can cause inside condensation and lower energy efficiency.

Alternatives to Wood: Vinyl

The least expensive option. It never needs painting but is available only in light colors as dark hues cause vinyl to heat up and expand. It is a good insulator but is vulnerable to cracking in the cold. Additionally, it is not as strong as wood, so sash frames are thick and bulky.

Alternatives to Wood: Fiberglass

Fiberglass is stable in hot or cold climates and insulates better than all other window materials, including wood. It is available in different colors and is easy to paint when dark colors fade. However, it cannot be shaped and milled like wood and is more expensive.

Choose Professional Window Repair With

The window repair experts at take pride in delivering exceptional service and top-notch workmanship, ensuring customer satisfaction by completing window repairs with the highest level of care and attention to detail to keep your home safe from the elements. Before attempting a DIY window repair project, consider the advantages of placing your trust in the professionals at for your home’s window needs. Contact us today and let our experienced team assist you in bringing your windows back to their original splendor and functionality, offering you peace of mind and a stress-free experience.