Clad-wood windows are made of wood but have a layer of vinyl or aluminum bonded to the exterior, so they don't need to be painted or sealed. The interior, which is wood, can be painted or stained to match your décor. The cost of clad-wood replacement windows should be only slightly less than that of all-wood windows (about $250 to $1,000 per window), but maintenance costs (and time) will be significantly lower. Virtually all of the major window manufacturers offer clad-wood windows.
Clad-wood replacement windows have some drawbacks. For example, vinyl-clad windows cannot be painted and are only available in a few colors -- most are white, tan, or off-white. Aluminum-clad windows can be painted, but they are vulnerable to scratching and denting. Nevertheless, under normal circumstances, either vinyl- or aluminum-clad window frames should be very durable, according to experts.
Clad-wood replacement windows may also be more energy-efficient than all-vinyl windows, say the editors of ConsumerReports.org. In a 2009 review, editors tested clad-wood, fiberglass and vinyl windows and found that as a group, the clad-wood and fiberglass windows were better at minimizing air leakage than vinyl ones were. Wood also retains its shape better than vinyl does when exposed to extremes in temperature, so it remains more airtight over time.
Although they may not appeal to traditionalists as much as all-wood windows do, clad-wood replacement windows offer the best of both worlds: the look of wood windows on the interior, but with less maintenance required.