Window Cladding

Clad windows can bring longevity and leak protection to remodeling projects.

May 31, 2000

With windows, it's what's on the outside that counts. Because all-wood windows are less durable to the elements and require more maintenance, development of "clad" windows - windows with wooden interior components and exterior sheathing of stronger materials - were developed. In the past five years, sales and popularity of clad windows have grown, and manufacturers are expanding their lines to include products that can even be used in historic remodels.

"The numbers say that the clad market is growing," says Mike Koenig, manager of material development for Andersen. "And vinyl windows as a class are also growing. This is something that consumers want."

 

Practical Application

When Dean Brenneman, the principal architect for Brenneman & Pageenstecher, had to design a remodeling project for a traditional home located in a heavily-wooded area, he turned to clad windows to ensure that his handiwork would last. The Maryland-based residential architecture and building firm chose to use clad windows that would resist decay in the moisture-laden woods.

"When working in the traditional vein, clad windows can be a dead giveaway," he says. "You have to look very carefully how well a window manufacturer represents the traditional details in their clad products. With the ability to give an aluminum-clad product any color you want, you can fully integrate the window, especially if it has clad exterior details."

Brenneman has used clad windows with exterior casings in the shape of brick, stucco and other profiles to maintain historic and traditional looks when remodeling homes. In cases where a pre-made clad product doesn't quite meet aesthetic needs, he'll also add wood details.

"Generally, clad products work out," he says. "But we can also do a hybrid. We'll use a clad frame, but then add real wood painted to match. You can mix and match, using the clad product for what it does best and still use wood in the same project if you need to."

Most clad windows fit into one of two categories: vinyl or metal. As a general rule, vinyl-clad windows are more durable and more cost-effective, and metal-clad windows offer more color and style versatility.

"Aluminum is very durable, and it offers a great advantage in that it comes in multiple colors," says Bob Eckert, residential marketing manager for Weather Shield. "Vinyl is often a nice option, too. It gives the customer a low-maintenance exterior. Vinyl-clad windows are very popular for their affordability."

Vinyl-clad windows are typically made from extruded PVC material. Because this material can be fused at the corners, vinyl-clad windows are especially leak-resistant. The PVC material is exceptionally resistant to weather and is the least expensive of clad window types. Yet vinyl is difficult to color, and painted vinyl requires regular maintenance. Fiberglass-clad products are also being introduced to the market.

"Consumers are generally pretty sensitive to the maintenance characteristics of products," says Greg Millerd, the Southwest region wood-clad window representative for Milgard. "They want maintenance-free exteriors, and if they can find a product that can give them the aesthetics they want with the maintenance of vinyl, then they're game for it. The biggest issue, for most people, is cost."

According to Mike Koenig, manager of material development for Andersen, it's important to consider each individual project's needs before choosing what type of window material might work best. Here are qualities to consider when specifying window products:

On the other hand, aluminum windows offer more color options for consumers concerned with appearance. According to Jennifer De Boef, market manager for Pella, tan, white and brown remain popular color choices for window cladding, but deep greens, off whites and brick reds are being requested more and more. Because aluminum windows are painted with the same process that many automobile manufacturers use to paint cars, aluminum-clad products never need repainting. Custom colors can also be ordered, and the pre-painted aluminum windows still surpass all-wood windows in durability and weather resistance.

"The main benefit is low maintenance," says John Tracy, national sales manager for Caradco. "The exterior does not need to be repainted, scraped or sanded. And if a primed exterior is used, then you can paint it whatever color you want."

Aluminum windows can also include features specifically inserted to achieve a more historic or realistic appearance. Brick mold casing, attached to clad windows, helps replacement projects blend in on an historic home. "We're sending out more windows with that casing to replacement and remodeling applications," says Tom Sinning, dealer sales manager for Marvin. "It doesn't look like a patchwork remodeling job - the windows look identical but are now energy efficient and low-maintenance."

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