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Manufacturers are increasingly turning to hybrid frame designs that use two or more frame materials to produce a complete window system. The wood industry has long built vinyl- and aluminum-clad windows to reduce exterior maintenance needs. Vinyl manufacturers and others offer interior wood veneers to produce the finish and appearance that many homeowners desire. Split-sash designs may have an interior wood element bonded to an exterior fiberglass element. We are likely to see an ever-increasing selection of such hybrid designs as manufacturers continue to try to provide better-performing products at lower cost. It may be important for a homeowner to learn about these materials from the perspective of maintenance requirements and options for interior finishes. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to estimate the thermal properties of such a frame from simple inspection. The best source of information is an NFRC label that provides the thermal properties of the overall window.

Most people are familiar with composite wood products, such as particle board and laminated strand lumber, in which wood particles and resins are compressed to form a strong composite material. The wood window industry has now taken this a step further by creating a new generation of wood/polymer composites that are extruded into a series of lineal shapes for window frame and sash members. These composites are very stable, and have the same or better structural and thermal properties as conventional wood, with better moisture resistance and more decay resistance. They can be textured and stained or painted much like wood. They were initially used in critical elements, such as window sills and thresholds in sliding patio doors, but are now being used for entire window units. This approach has the added environmental advantage of reusing a volume of sawdust and wood scrap that would otherwise be discarded.

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