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Affordable and maintenance-free: vinyl replacement windows

When it comes to buying replacement windows, experts say, vinyl windows are perhaps the most popular choice. They're relatively inexpensive, require no maintenance and have a good insulation value, comparable to that of wood replacement windows. Unlike wood, they won't warp or rot if exposed to moisture. Expect to pay from around $200 to $700 per window, depending on size, frame style, glass (double- or triple-paned, for example) and other features. Most major window manufacturers, such as Pella, Andersen and Marvin, sell vinyl windows. Lesser-known companies that sell low- to mid-priced vinyl windows include Survivor and CertainTeed.

There are some drawbacks to vinyl replacement windows. Because vinyl isn't as strong as other materials, frames must be made thicker than other types of frames. While vinyl is generally durable, several home renovation experts caution that inexpensive vinyl replacement windows can crack or warp in extremely hot or cold temperatures. Furthermore, dark-colored frames can fade over time.

Although vinyl window frames can't be painted, they are available in a wide range of colors.  Some manufacturers offer surface treatments like wood veneer or laminates that can be painted or stained, as well. Vinyl replacement windows are also less energy efficient than wood or fiberglass windows. Their tendency to warp in temperature extremes can make the frames less airtight over time as well.

A final consideration is whether or not vinyl replacement windows will increase the value of your home. Experts are divided on this issue. Some realtors and homeowners say it depends on the age and style of the house, while others, such as About.com's home renovation guide and the editors of DoItYourself.com say wood or clad-wood replacement windows increase the resale value of a house more than vinyl windows do. As About.com home renovation guide Lee Wallender writes, "Wood replacement windows appeal to home-buyers. There's nothing like the look of a nice clear-coated wood window."

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