Full frame window replacement worth it?
My house was built in 1999 (Northeast Nebraska) with some commodity vinyl windows that I think were "budget" grade. They may have been okay at the time, but probably nothing more than that. They are trimmed with a drywall return, vinyl siding.
I'm looking at replacing them with fiberglass windows (4 double-hung, and 3 sliders/gliders). I'm looking at $1,167/window installed, or about $1,600/window installed for full-frame installation, which is about 37% more for the full-frame install.
I can afford to have the full-frame installation done, but would the benefit be worth the cost? I imagine there's room for improving the insulation around the window. It's also important to me that the installation looks like a natural part of the house and not a "retrofit". It also seems like that would be a chance to square things up if needed, and replace any flashing/caulk or other sealant between the window and the house to keep the rain out. I also think a more traditional trim would look better than the drywall return. I'm thinking that taking things down to the frame will present an opportunity to make sure things are done right from the frame out, which should reduce the possibility for future problems.
Is my understanding of the benefits correct? Is a full-frame replacement the way to go, or is it overrated? The installation has a ten-year warranty, on top of the lifetime/20 year warranty of the windows.
Thank you in advance for your input.
Never going to see a pay back on that investment.
That price is about double what it would cost around here.
I'd just retrim them and make sure there sealed up inside and out.
Might want to remove a piece of siding to see if they used window tape around the nailing fins.
What window are you looking at?
If your going to do this get more quotes from a local GC or local contractor.
Do not bother with any of the box stores, or high over head window company's.
Pella would be one of the last ones I'd want installed.
Send me a PM and I' give you a web site to look at that has thousands of complaints against them.
I prefer the Marvin fiberglass lines, or something higher performance like Inline. You could also consider premium vinyl unless you are against it for appearance purposes.
Regarding the installation, if your existing windows are vinyl you have no choice but to do a full frame install, as you cannot put a new window in an existing vinyl frame. I'd ask the sales rep to give you a breakdown of what you are getting for each of those prices in terms of installation. I suspect the lower price is an "express" install, where they just buzz off the fin of the existing unit, and install the new one sans fin. I prefer a more comprehensive installation in cases like this, as most new construction installations that I see from the past 20 yrs or so are leakers and need to be addressed... See the pic.
Either way, you'd be well served to get another bid or two.
I also looked at the Marvin Infinity line. I like the windows and the company, I just got an uneasy feeling from their sales personnel. If I went with them, I feel like I'd have to be especially meticulous about getting everything in writing. The guy who came to my house said the installation warranty is 5 years, but when I stopped in to their store another sales guy told me 3 years. Things like that. It makes me wonder a little how good of a job they do hiring installers/contractors if they only do a passable job of hiring salespeople. I had Marvin quote their Infinity windows with full frame installation, and it was considerably less than anyone else I had bid it. It sounded a little too good to be true.
I also had a highly recommended local contractor give me a quote. He installs only Ply Gem Lifestyle windows. His was the lowest bid of all, but he doesn't want to do a full frame installation due to the existing windows having a drywall return. I'm not sure why that should matter (I'm also not a contractor), but his method of replacement was to cut the existing windows from the nailing fin, install the windows flashing/sealing/insulating (etc) where possible, new brick moulding on the outside, and using quarter round to trim inside where the frame meets the drywall wall. Better than an insert installation...I think...but he made it sound like a lot of trouble for something that isn't a true full-frame installation. I also don't like the idea of using quarter round to hide the seam of a less-than-desired installation method, plus his windows/installation would result in a larger loss of visible glass surface than I'm willing to accept.
I had Renewal by Andersen give me a quote, and it was what I've been led to believe it would be based on everything I've read. A sales pitch better suited for a time share, a presentation that focused on deriding non Fibrex windows at least as much as he focused on the merits of his own product. Plus the what-would-it-take-you-to-sign-up-today approach. The RaB seemed like a really good window, but their bid was 40% higher than the next closest bid, and nothing about them convinced me they were 40% better.
Pella's pricing was only slightly higher than Marvin until the full-frame installation was factored in. In fact, every bid I got that included a full-frame installation was a disproportionately bigger up-charge than Marvin's full-frame increase. What has me leaning towards Pella is that the people there have seemed solid all around. The sales guy I'm working with knows the product and seems to understand the intricacies of the installation, and is willing to respond to every question or clarification in writing, etc. There's an element of peace of mind that I get from them, which counts for a decent bit for something I want to be done right the first time.
With each contractor, I've checked for local BBB accreditation/grades and on Angie's List, and all of them rate very highly with lots of reviews and very few complaints with the most common complaint being cost. In terms of brands and models, I've looked at Consumer Reports (with a grain of salt) plus in any corner of the internet I can find. Lots of passionate, religious debates about window brands, and occasionally some objectivity.
What I gather is that the 37% upcharge for the Pella full-frame installation is atypically high, and something I won't recoup over the life of the windows (or at least for as long as I plan be in this house). I need to decide if the other benefits of that installation method are worth it to me.
That is a lot to address... here we go:
- Like I mentioned earlier, there is no way to do an "INSERT" install in your application. The PlyGem guy is probably talking about downsizing the window to sit inside the drywall return, essentially shrinking the window as you said. I am NOT an advocate for that type of install.
- On Marvin, the Infinity is their "private label exclusive" product geared to sophisticated sales operations, hence the experience that you've had. Nice window, but you can also look at the wood/ultrex Integrity. You should have better luck finding a dealer/contractor that fits the profile that you are looking for.
-RBA: sounds consistent with most feedback I hear. Solid window, nothing special other than that it is pretty attractive. 10 yr warranty is a downer.
-Regarding the installation upcharge being something that you won't recoup: I have to take issue with that. Will one install method recoup $$$ in terms of energy savings? NO. Could it be CATASTROPHIC to get a poor install: Absolutely! I see a few jobs every year where the only way to fix air and/or water leakage issues is to completely reinstall the window(s).
-On objectivity, my best recommendation is to forget all of the sales fluff and slanted review publications, and look at the independently tested thermal and structural performance ratings of each product. Great barometer for quality, particularly when looking at vinyl windows. In that regard, the Plygem lifestyles is OK, but I'd list Okna Himark, Softlite, Sunrise, and a few others as the cream of the crop of vinyl windows. Look at U-values, solar heat gain, and air infiltration ratings.
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