Exterior Appearance of Vinyl Replacement Windows
This is a huge consideration when shopping for
vinyl replacement windows, but it receives surprisingly little attention.
The exterior trim or lack thereof will affect the appearance of
your house for years to come. It will determine whether your
new vinyl windows look like they belong on your house or look like a cheap
The Integrated Flange
The integrated flange creates a wide flat exterior frame around your vinyl windows.
The decorative flange simulates the look of wood molding.
One of the most common and least expensive
options is what I call the integrated flange. It's a 1 to
4 inch wide strip of vinyl that's a built-in part of the window
frame. In other words, the frame and trim are all one integrated unit.
The flange hides the rough edges of the installation much like the
plastic plates that surround a light switch. The flange is sealed
to the exterior of your house with caulk. Since the flange and the
frame are integrated, there is no need to attach the two parts. That
means there's little risk of seams wearing out or air leaking in around the windows.
The main disadvantage of the integrated flange is its appearance.
Since the flange is made of the same vinyl as the rest of the frame,
you're limited to the same color choices for your trim that you get
with the rest of the window. This usually means white or almond and
nothing else. Also, the flange and the frame together can be very
wide, leaving your windows with a giant white or almond border around
them. The width of this border can be jarring, especially on smaller
windows like the ones commonly found in bathrooms. We found the overall
look of the exterior flange to be cheap and unprofessional. Houses
that have it seem to cry out "I had vinyl replacement
windows installed and they don't match the style of my house."
The Decorative Flange
Another vinyl window trim option we encountered is what
I'll call the decorative flange. It's a more stylish variation on
the integrated flange. It too is made of vinyl and integrated into
the frame. But instead of being a simple flat strip, it is contoured
to look like a piece of wood molding. It looks pretty sharp, but you'll
probably be limited to the two standard color choices of white or
almond. Also, it may be hard to find. Only one of the five companies
we considered offered this option.
Installing the exterior coil wrap.
Another major option to finish your vinyl windows is called
coil wrap. Coil wrap is a thin sheet of aluminum that has been coated
with vinyl on one side. It comes in a variety of colors from off-white
to forest green to bright red. It usually has a faux wood grain texture
stamped onto it. I asked several salesmen why it was called coil wrap,
but they couldn't tell me. The best I can figure is that it comes
coiled up in a box until it is wrapped around your window frame. Anyhow,
after your new vinyl windows are put in place, the installer uses a special
device to bend the coil wrap into a "U" shape. Think of
it like a hollow 2x4 piece of wood. The formed coil wrap segments are then placed on all sides of your new windows. The coil wrap
is usually about two or three inches wide (they can pretty much make
is as wide or thin as you want). It sticks out from the surface of
the house by about half an inch. It attaches to the vinyl window frame
and the exterior of your house with caulk—a LOT of caulk (more
on this later).
The end result is that your windows look like they have wood frames
around them. We chose an off white color that matched our garage
door and the rest of the trim on our house. This offset the stark
white of the vinyl frame and resulted in an appearance that we are
very happy with. It looks far better than the old windows which
had a thin strip of aluminum that met the stucco of our house with
no decorative border. The main down side of coil wrap as far as I
can tell is the large amount of caulk used to install it. Caulk
is prone to collecting dust over time and it can be difficult to
clean if it gets dirty. Also, the large bead of clear caulk that
surrounds our coil wrap could pose a problem if we ever want to
paint the outside of our house. Another potential problem is that
the coil wrap frame could be easily dented since it's a hollow piece
of thin aluminum. In any case, we're happy we chose coil wrap for
In our experience, most companies offer just one type of trim,
so the style you want may determine the company you choose.
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