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Window Box Basics - Choosing a Window Box

 So the window box is finally making a comeback. Thanks to new materials on the markets ranging from architectural grade plastics to composites and fiberglass putting something on your house that traditionally rots is now a lifelong solution. For this reason the housing industry in general has been seeing a transformation throughout the early 21st century where higher quality materials with longer lasting properties allowing for a re-emergence of the craftsman style home. Now the task becomes figuring out which windows will look good with a window box to add the most curb appeal to the home all while being functional. 


Step 1: Overall appearance and choice of material. These two decisions go hand in hand. In most scenarios this is a simple game of just trying to match the box to your home so you should be thinking about color if it applies. It is most typical to paint a window box to match the home to get the most custom and high end look, however, not all materials are paintable such as vinyl and fiberglass. Picking one of those as a material may end up locking you to a few factory finish colors without a chance to change the color down the line. Here are some pros and cons to different types of materials worthy of consideration: 


1. Redwood or Cedar. Although this article is dedicated to alternative materials there is still a chance that picking a high end wood makes sense for you. The advantages of these two woods is they tend to have greater longevity over time with resisting rotting and if a stained wood look is what your house is calling for then real wood is still the best choice for an authentic look. However, there are a few emerging companies that are pioneering staining composites and plastics to offer all the benefits of materials that don’t rot with the complete look of a stained wood finish. These products can be very expensive still and hard to find. 


2. Vinyl. A rot proof material that usually comes in white and maybe 2-3 other factory finish colors. Most of the time vinyl is pre-colored during the manufacturing process so these boxes will use colored plastic which sometimes fades over time and doesn’t have the same look as high quality paint on the house. This material is attractive due to its low cost and longevity, however and makes for a good option for most people. 


3. Fiberglass. This material is the current gold standard for indoor planters. For outdoor window boxes it does lose some of it’s appeal. Fiberglass is a strong material and is usually available in a wider range of factory colors than vinyl. It has a great, high quality look, but can be susceptible to winter freezes since it’s such a rigid material. It’s important to keep in mind that water expands when it freezes which can crack some materials like hollow plastics, fiberglass, or even some woods. 


4. Cellular PVC, sometimes called architectural-grade PVC. Cellular PVC is making a case for being one of the best materials for outdoor planters due to its versatility. This is a solid plastic with a matte finish. Unlike vinyl, it can hold paint well and has the look of wood. It is generally considered an upgraded version of vinyl. This material gives a lot of flexibility in terms of longevity and paintability. Because of its plastic features it can often expand and contract enough to make it winter resistant as well which means less maintenance and moving boxes around through the different seasons.   


5. Wrought Iron.  The look of a wrought iron window box is still too distinct to be replicated with plastics and composites, however, the liners inside these "cages" are more commonly made now in composite PVC or vinyl.  There are different qualities of iron here so beware.  Some of the cheaper metal baskets may be made from thin metal that easily sags, bends, or breaks.  If possible look for the nicer cages which are made from thicker metal for a more rigid form.  They'll look nicer and hold up better over time. The coco fiber works great as a liner but keep in mind it will need to be replaced yearly.  A solid liner may offer a longer solution with less maintenance and replacement.


Step 2: Thinking about curb appeal and functionality. The next step is figuring out which windows make the most sense. Quite often it’s the front windows or the back windows. The front windows will make the most sense if you’re shooting for curb appeal. But this will also lock you into picking flowers and arrangements that are maximized for that. For a lot of people the back porch window box is the new way to garden. Putting window boxes on the back windows that are easily accessible from a back deck or even putting specialized flower boxes that attach to the rails has become a new trend.  


Step 3: Enjoying the window boxes for all months of the year. There’s no doubt that a window box can really transform a house during the Spring and Summer months with a flowing arrangement of color and curb appeal. It’s also important to think about how the boxes will be used in the fall and winter months. If the boxes are made of good materials and can be left out in the colder months then that’s an extra benefit. This could allow you to plant different species that thrive year round and not just warm and hot months. It may even allow you to express your creativity through holiday decorating with Halloween, thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and/or Christmas themes.  


About the Author

Matthew Buquoi is the owner of Flower Window Boxes, a composite PVC window box company specializing in custom PVC window boxes.

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