When it is time to purchase windows for your home the main question is: What would be the best choice — wood, aluminum, steel or vinyl?

When you go to a salesman, of course they will tell you that their product is the best. But how do you know for sure which product is the right choice? Go with the foremost expert on replacement windows in Hawaii, Matthew Houar, who started selling windows in 1976 and was the first to manufacture vinyl windows on the island.

“In 1976 when I started, 72 percent of all residential replacement windows sold were aluminum,” he said.


Houar then opened his own vinyl window factory in 1981. When asked what the difference is between all the types of windows, he said that it depends on where you live (whether the climate is hot or cold).

There are five different main types of windows: aluminum, wood, steel, fiberglass and vinyl. Here is the difference between these products and how they compare for Hawaii homeowners when purchasing new windows.

• Aluminum: Considered the king in the ’70s and ’80s, aluminum is good because it’s a cheap window to buy and sleek in style. It also has good strength without mass. Seventy-three percent of all replacement windows sold are aluminum, but its downfall is salt air.

Salt air surrounds Hawaii and it’s not good for aluminum windows, that’s why the warranty standard in the industry is one year, which is not reassuring as a year goes by quickly. This of course does not mean that aluminum windows will fall apart after one year, but consider the warranty when purchasing windows and remember there is always a reason products are warranted short or long term.

• Wood: These are the most beautiful windows made.

However, consider the following issues with wood windows.


The first issue is that all wood windows are made of what is called clear lumber or finished lumber. In Hawaii, we also refer to this as nontermite-treated wood. Sure, these are the most beautiful windows made, however, to termites, non-termite-treated lumber is “termite dessert,” according to Houar.

Secondly, every five to eight years homeowners will need to paint the exterior of wood windows, as well as stain the inside of wood windows to have a chance that they may last 10 to 12 years. Don’t we paint enough parts of our homes already? The warranty is normally between one to fi ve years.

• Steel: As strong as it sounds, steel is very expensive and bulky, and used mostly for commercial applications. Most steel windows were installed in the 1940s and 1950s in Hawaii. According to Houar, there are almost no steel windows being manufactured, and the warranty is between one to five years. Houar recommended to not install steel windows in Hawaii due to the salt air.

• Fiberglass: This is the new breed of windows. Houar likes to call fi berglass windows a synthetic. Fiber-glass windows started about eight years ago in Hawaii and roughly two to three years before that on the mainland. Fiberglass may sound like a great idea at first (handles salt air and termites do not eat it), however, the use of fiber-glass has shown that it’s not stable or strong on its own (mainly used for surfboards and boats, which require being filled with foam or coat exterior for durability).

Fiberglass also is an unproven product, in that it is very expensive and has maintenance issues. Fiberglass, like wood, needs to be painted and maintained to look good. Warranties vary, but in Hawaii, the warranty is normally five years.

• Vinyl: This is the best window option. Remember the saying, “Vinyl is final”? Vinyl windows are maintenance-free with a lifetime factory warranty. Vinyl will not chip, crack, peel, fade or stain. And, Hawaii’s salt air will not harm vinyl. But remember not all vinyl is the same; just like any other product, there are good grades and cheap grades of vinyl. So be akamai when you buy and look at the options. Good vinyl windows have a lifetime warranty in Hawaii.

Take it from the expert when he says vinyl windows are the best choice for Hawaii homes. Seventy percent or more of all replacement windows sold are vinyl, and aluminum is now less than 7 percent of the market.


If you are looking for windows and want to “buy local,” Houar and his son Michael own Tropical Wholesale, a local business serving Hawaii for more than 35 years. The company has a showroom at 1351 S. Beretania St. where you can find the best vinyl windows and vinyl siding products available that are all made in the U.S. The hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 593-2000 for a free in-home estimate.

CONTACT 593-2000 • 263-1252
ADDRESS 1351 S. Beretania St.
WEB twoahu.com