Framed vs. Frameless RV Windows: What is Better?

RV windows primarily come in two different types: framed and frameless. Are frameless windows better than framed windows? It’s not always cut and dry, as each one has various qualities that make it superior in some instances.

CharacteristicsFramed WindowsFrameless Windows
Frame VisibilityVisible frame and sealNo visible frame or seal
VentilationScreened pane has total exposure to the outside airCan only be opened outwards 6 inches
Upfront Cost Of WindowLower Higher
Cost Of MaintenanceHigher (UV damage)Lower
InstallationMore Difficult (seals and frames)Easier to install
RepairsEasier to repair glass, less likely to breakGlass more susceptible to damage
UV ProtectionSusceptible to UV damageTypically are UV-tinted

Keep reading for help deciding on which windows are the best for your RV and what adjustments can be made to get the most out of your RV windows.

Are Framed or Frameless Windows Better?

With framed and frameless windows, there is no clear favorite as far as which one is better. There are several key differences between the two, but for now, the main difference between framed and frameless RV windows is this:

  • Framed windows: Come with a trim ring and seal that is visible
  • Frameless windows: Do not come with a visible trim ring

Differences also include cost, insulation, ease of installation, and the quality of ventilation that you will get from each type of window. 

In the sections below, you’ll learn about the pros and cons of framed and frameless windows and why it’s best to have both types of windows on your RV.

Why It’s Best To Have Both

This is ultimately not a battle of one vs. the other, as you may already have seen if you’ve ever been in a trailer that has both. There are certain scenarios in which it is best to have frameless windows and others where framed windows work better.

Slideout Sidewalls: Framed Windows

If you look at a picture of an RV, you’ll often notice a framed window at the sidewall of a slideout. This is because they will catch more breeze at this position than a frameless window, which will only deflect the breeze. With vertically-orientated framed windows at each sidewall, you’ll be able to enjoy a nice cross-breeze.

Sides Of The RV: Frameless Windows 

You’ll often notice frameless windows at the side of the RV. In this spot, the window will be more aesthetically pleasing from both the inside and outside of the RV than a framed window. The scenery outside the RV will be more visible. You can relax on your couch while enjoying the view without having to peer through a sliding pane.

Bedrooms: Framed Windows

You probably care less about exterior views from your bedroom. You’ll also want to have plenty of privacy, which is something you’ll get more of if you have either a framed window or a UV-tinted frameless window. 

Framed windows on either side of the bed will allow a nice cross breeze to occur in the bedroom. You may need to add an awning to these windows. Otherwise, you may wake up to rain coming through the framed windows.

Pros & Cons Of Framed RV Windows

If you are curious about what a framed window looks like, you can follow this link to one of the more popular framed windows on the market. Here are the pros and cons of these types of windows:

Good Air FlowRequire Awnings For Rain
AffordabilityUV Damage to frame/seal
Less Easy To BreakInstallation Process
InsulationMay not be UV-Tinted

Pro: Good For Air Flow

Framed windows give you good ventilation, as long as they are sliding windows. For this reason, you’ll often see framed windows positioned across from each other. It’s a lot easier to get a good cross-breeze going with a sliding framed window than with the frameless alternative. As long as you have an awning, you can keep framed windows open, rain or shine.

Con: You Need Awnings For Rain 

Unfortunately, sliding framed windows do require awnings for rain. If you accidentally leave one open during a storm, then things may get a little wet. This can be fixed with a window awning. Some owners like having the awnings. They shield you from the sun, and the pitter-patter of raindrops on top of the awning can be relaxing.

Pro: Affordable 

Framed windows are a standard for most RVs and campers, and they are generally more affordable, especially if they are single-pane windows. You’ll find many different types of framed windows on the market, including both horizontal and vertically-shaped windows.

Compare the price of the two windows above to the price of a frameless RV window. The pricier options are dual-pane or UV-tinted.

Con: UV Damage To The Seal

You will likely have to replace the seal for a framed window at some point. This is not an expensive or difficult repair by any means. You can find new sealing materials for a relatively low price, as is evidenced by this GeoCel Pro Flex RV Flexible Sealant

The frames are susceptible to UV damage from being in direct sunlight all day, every day. This can cause the sealing materials to break down and the frame to change color. This is less likely to occur in modern RVs, though, since the advent of UV-resistant materials.

Pro: Less Likely To Break 

Framed windows are less likely to break due to their stability. You could have a foul softball hit a framed window, and one hit a frameless window, and the framed window may be less likely to break if the ball were to make contact with the frame and not the glass. Frameless windows do not have this protection.

Con: Installation Process

The installation process for framed windows is a little bit more involved. If a framed window is not installed correctly, then there is a chance that water damage could occur.  As you can see here in this instruction manual, this framed window has eight different screws around its perimeter. These must be driven into place in a specific recommended order.

Pro: Double Pane Windows, Better Insulation

Framed windows are also often double paned windows, with the bonus of a fixed pane and sliding pane. Double pane windows have two panes of glass rather than one, which makes them better for regulating the temperature inside the RV.

This makes them a better choice for RVs in extreme temperatures, hot or cold, where you are relying on your HVAC system to keep your RV comfortable. There’s also the fact that framed windows are better for ventilation, so when temperatures outside do become more comfortable, you can take full advantage by airing out your RV.

Con: Might Not Be Tinted

Many frameless windows are UV tinted, but this might not be the case with framed windows since they are the more “traditional” option. UV-tinted windows are advantageous because they can protect furniture from fading. Tinted windows also help keep the interior temperatures down during the summer. 

Pros & Cons Of Frameless RV Windows 

If you are curious about what a frameless window looks like, you can follow this link to one of the more popular frameless windows on the market. Here are the pros and cons of these types of windows:

Deflect RainPoor Air Flow
Improved SealEasier to damage
Unobstructed ViewsHarder To Repair

Pro: Frameless Windows Look Awesome

As far as looks go, it doesn’t get much sleeker than frameless windows. From the outside, everything blends, so it looks like the windows are part of the trailer. Functionality is necessary too, but it is hard to beat the visual appeal of a frameless window on an RV.

Con: Can Be More Expensive

This is not always the case since you have single-pane vs. double pane and tinted vs. non-tinted to consider as well, but generally, frameless windows will cost a little more than framed windows. The maintenance costs may be what get you, especially if you have to repair or replace a damaged window.

Pro: They Deflect Rain

Frameless RV windows are opened by pushing them outwards. As a result, they can deflect raindrops. You won’t have to worry about accidentally leaving these open during a rainstorm, and you certainly won’t have to purchase any awnings to keep things dry.

Con: Less Air Flow Than Sliding Windows

You will not get as much airflow from frameless windows as you would with sliding frame windows. This is an unfortunate result of the way that the window is opened outwards, which cuts away at breezes in addition to deflecting raindrops. 

That being said, there are some scenarios where frameless windows get better airflow. Depending on the wind direction, a frameless window may be able to catch a breeze from the side of that window located on the sidewall of the RV and not the slideout wall. 

Pro: Improved Seal

The seal for frameless windows is located underneath the window, rather than being exposed to the exterior like the seal for framed windows. This means that it is less likely to become damaged. Even though frameless windows have a higher up-front cost, you may save money in the end if you don’t have to perform very much maintenance on the seal throughout the window’s lifetime. 

Frameless windows have also eliminated the fading issue that can occur in framed windows, many of which still do not have UV-treated frames. 

Con: Glass Damage Due To Impact

Since there is no frame, these windows are more likely to receive damage on impact. Many types of dual-pane frameless windows are perhaps a little tougher than single-pane frameless windows, although these still may not be as resistant to breakage as a framed window. 

Also, if there is any damage, you may not be able to repair it to the likeness of the other frameless windows on your rig. You may have to go to a glass professional who may or may not be able to replicate the glass. In the end, you may have to buy a new window entirely.

Pro: Unobstructed Views

Frameless windows are aesthetically pleasing from the inside of the RV as well. They offer a truly unobstructed view of the outside, which is something that framed windows can’t do. You’ll probably want at least one frameless window in your RV for this reason. Imagine being able to wake up a sunrise over the lake or a view of a snow-capped mountain off in the distance.

They also allow more sunlight into the RV. It is for this reason that frameless windows are usually UV-tinted. Otherwise, the direct sunlight could cause the furniture inside the RV to become faded over time.

Con: Harder To Repair

Several components of framed windows are easy to access if you need to make any repairs. The frame, seal, fixed pane, and sliding pane are all easily visible and can be removed if need be. 

If a frameless window breaks, you may be able to repair it, but it may be harder to remove the window to make the necessary repairs. The seal for the window is also under the window, meaning that it is not immediately visible.

Should I Replace My Framed Window With A Frameless Window?

Now that you know the pros and cons of each, you may feel inclined to replace a framed window with a frameless window and vice versa. This can be quite the process, though, since you’ll have to find a way to change out the seal and ensure that there is enough room for the window.

If you feel that you have the wrong type of window in any location, you should be advised that there are several adjustments that you can make to get the most out of your window without having to go through the process of trying to make the conversion.

UV Tinting For Framed Windows

You can always upgrade to a tinted window like this one, and this will be a permanent fix for the UV issue in framed windows, where direct sunlight can damage the seal and frame of the window and even cause furniture to become faded over time.

Alternatively, you can also upgrade your window shades or add window shades with products such as RecPro Pleated Shades. These effectively block out the sun’s damaging UV rays, although they won’t necessarily do anything for the seal. You also won’t be able to look out of your window while the blinds are down. This is why there are several advantages to making the upgrade to UV-tinted windows.

Awnings For Framed Windows

It’s nice to be able to enjoy the improved airflow from framed windows, but it’s not so nice to wake up to water damage because you left your windows open overnight. Fortunately, there are many different styles of awnings available for framed windows. 

These can make your RV more aesthetically pleasing, in addition to their functional purposes: 

The only downside you may have noticed is the price tag on the above awnings. It’ll be cheaper than having to replace or upgrade your RV window, but you can see why it is advantageous in this scenario to just have frameless windows if you want to keep them open all the time. On the other hand, you do have improved airflow with framed windows.

Can You Make Frameless Windows Open Wider?

Frameless windows are aesthetically pleasing, but they often can only be opened outward 6 inches. This doesn’t work when you are trying to get a good cross-breeze going. Is there anything you can do to make the frameless windows open wider?

You may be able to make your adjustments to the hinge and spacer, being extra careful not to damage the window. There are better ways than this to increase the ventilation in your RV, though.

You might consider upgrading your roof vent covers if you haven’t done so already. This Camco High Flow Ventilation Cover allows you to keep your roof vents open, rain or shine. This can promote better airflow in your RV in a way that is cheaper and ultimately a bit easier than trying to replace an entire window.

Final Thoughts

The main difference between framed and frameless windows is the fact that you don’t have any visible frame or seal on frameless windows. This makes them much more satisfying to look at than framed windows, but they do provide less ventilation than sliding framed windows, meaning you may find yourself switching the HVAC system on a particularly warm or cold day.

In the article above, you’ve seen that there are several pros and cons to each type of window. The key is knowing which window works best in a given scenario. For example, framed windows work better on the sidewalks of slideouts due to their ability to facilitate a good cross-breeze. Frameless windows tend to offer much better views of the scenery outside. The sections above will help you make informed decisions before you make any big window renovation decisions on your RV. 

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