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Old 04-17-2011, 09:23 AM   #1
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How to choose new windows?


My parents are ready to replace their 35-year-old wooden windows on their '70s house. We do not plan to do this replacement ourselves, they will be hiring a contractor to do it.

What are the things to look out for when picking new windows? I assume vinyl double-pained are the way to go?

What manufacturers? Pella? Anderson?

Is it a safe assumption that even brand-name windows from HD or Lowe's will be of inferior quality than ones purchased through a contractor?

What's the best way to go about finding a company to do it? Just word of mouth?

Thanks. Never been involved in replacing windows before, so I am curious as to what advice people will have.

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Old 04-17-2011, 10:44 AM   #2
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How to choose new windows?


Quote:
Originally Posted by secutanudu View Post
My parents are ready to replace their 35-year-old wooden windows on their '70s house. We do not plan to do this replacement ourselves, they will be hiring a contractor to do it.

What are the things to look out for when picking new windows? I assume vinyl double-pained are the way to go?

What manufacturers? Pella? Anderson?

Is it a safe assumption that even brand-name windows from HD or Lowe's will be of inferior quality than ones purchased through a contractor?

What's the best way to go about finding a company to do it? Just word of mouth?

Thanks. Never been involved in replacing windows before, so I am curious as to what advice people will have.
Ask around and find the busiest, booked solid, renovation contractor in your area and ask him/her about windows. He/she will stop work for a minute and help you. He/she may not have time to get to your project for a year or two but will recommend someone good. His/her sub may want a few extra bucks to place new windows into the exact same openings. It is not a big deal.

However, make sure you are up for surprises like having to replace some rotted framing if the windows in place now failed into the walls.

Under no circumstances should you buy windows from a box store. And, not saying they are all bad, but the subs the places hire are not finding work for a reason. Do you want them installing your windows?

I just replaced most of the windows in my Godparents house with nice gas filled, wood framed Pella's but would have gone with Anderson's in a heart beat also. My aunt is up there but active and loves that she can tip the windows in to clean both sides.

I guess it depends on what your folks can afford and what they want. Obviously thermal insulation. What other features?

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Old 04-17-2011, 09:52 PM   #3
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How to choose new windows?


Quote:
Originally Posted by secutanudu View Post
My parents are ready to replace their 35-year-old wooden windows on their '70s house. We do not plan to do this replacement ourselves, they will be hiring a contractor to do it.

What are the things to look out for when picking new windows? I assume vinyl double-pained are the way to go?

What manufacturers? Pella? Anderson?

Is it a safe assumption that even brand-name windows from HD or Lowe's will be of inferior quality than ones purchased through a contractor?

What's the best way to go about finding a company to do it? Just word of mouth?

Thanks. Never been involved in replacing windows before, so I am curious as to what advice people will have.

Hello! I work in the window and door business as an installer, and will do my best to help you out.

First off, both Home depot and Lowes sub out their install work. I HIGHLY recommend you stay away from them both, otherwise you could potentially fall into the dark hole of "installed sales". Which is a very bad place to be. You may be intrigued by their prices, but it's usually not worth the potential hassle.

IMO vinyl double pane low-e (argon filled if you're in a cold area) is the way to go, unless you're specifically looking for a wood window. I have installed dozens of different manufacturer windows and personally I've had the least amount of problems installing Milgard windows. They are generally manufacturered well have everything you want in a vinyl window.

That being said, do some research. What kind of locks do you like? What about the "look" of the window? Many vinyl windows look different and you might like one look over another, sometimes the low-e glass is slightly different color from different manufacturers, is that a problem? Do you not like slightly green glass? Blue? Etc.

I suggest you find a good window company (kudzu, angieslist, etc can maybe help you here?) Word of mouth is usually best. Finding a good window company is probably the biggest step, once you do that, they can answer all the questions you could possibly have.

Good luck!

Edit: One HUGE thing. You mentioned you have old wood windows, this could potentially be a huge issue for you as in the 60's and 70's they used lead in the paint. Recently here in San Diego, CA in order to replace those windows the company must be Lead certified and do a clean install. The entire area must be tarped/plastic'd off and the installers have to go in with a full suit and mask to remove the windows and replace. Then clean the area thoroughly with wipes and hepa vac, etc. The area must then be tested for Lead and pass the inspection. This extra work unfortunately can translate to much higher costs to the consumer. I don't know if this applies in your area or not, you may be able to opt out of that requirement, but if you have kids, you might not want to. Something to think about.

Last edited by Jkslate; 04-17-2011 at 09:57 PM.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:14 AM   #4
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How to choose new windows?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jkslate View Post
Hello! I work in the window and door business as an installer, and will do my best to help you out.

First off, both Home depot and Lowes sub out their install work. I HIGHLY recommend you stay away from them both, otherwise you could potentially fall into the dark hole of "installed sales". Which is a very bad place to be. You may be intrigued by their prices, but it's usually not worth the potential hassle.

IMO vinyl double pane low-e (argon filled if you're in a cold area) is the way to go, unless you're specifically looking for a wood window. I have installed dozens of different manufacturer windows and personally I've had the least amount of problems installing Milgard windows. They are generally manufacturered well have everything you want in a vinyl window.

That being said, do some research. What kind of locks do you like? What about the "look" of the window? Many vinyl windows look different and you might like one look over another, sometimes the low-e glass is slightly different color from different manufacturers, is that a problem? Do you not like slightly green glass? Blue? Etc.

I suggest you find a good window company (kudzu, angieslist, etc can maybe help you here?) Word of mouth is usually best. Finding a good window company is probably the biggest step, once you do that, they can answer all the questions you could possibly have.

Good luck!

Edit: One HUGE thing. You mentioned you have old wood windows, this could potentially be a huge issue for you as in the 60's and 70's they used lead in the paint. Recently here in San Diego, CA in order to replace those windows the company must be Lead certified and do a clean install. The entire area must be tarped/plastic'd off and the installers have to go in with a full suit and mask to remove the windows and replace. Then clean the area thoroughly with wipes and hepa vac, etc. The area must then be tested for Lead and pass the inspection. This extra work unfortunately can translate to much higher costs to the consumer. I don't know if this applies in your area or not, you may be able to opt out of that requirement, but if you have kids, you might not want to. Something to think about.
I agree with you on Milgard, they also offer a Stainless Steel Hardware package which is a must for casements and awning windows if your near the coast.

Itís also worth mentioning that their customer service is the best Iíve ever seen with a window manufacture. I have a couple of stories where they went way beyond the call of duty to make things right.
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Old 04-18-2011, 05:29 PM   #5
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How to choose new windows?


Vinyl windows won't offer the beauty of wood, but they will be better in performance, maintenance, price, etc, etc. Some highly regarded brands are Gorell, Softlite, Sunrise, Plygem, and Okna... Few things to look for: Sloped sill (as opposed to "pocket" /weep holes), manufacturing tolerances (you should be able to shake the sash in a double hung with little to no "slop"), weatherstripping (type and amount).... Without going too much further into detail, there are some companies that are universally regarded as high quality, such as those listed above. As far as the company themselves, stick to a local window/exterior specialist as opposed to a general contractor. As mentioned, check out reviews, Angies list etc, go look at some of their work, and ask them to go through their install procedure. One thing to look for is the use of low-expansion foam instead of fiberglass, labor/workmanship warranty, etc. STAY AWAY from high-pressure sales companies and the box stores.
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:19 PM   #6
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How to choose new windows?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jkslate View Post
Edit: One HUGE thing. You mentioned you have old wood windows, this could potentially be a huge issue for you as in the 60's and 70's they used lead in the paint. Recently here in San Diego, CA in order to replace those windows the company must be Lead certified and do a clean install. The entire area must be tarped/plastic'd off and the installers have to go in with a full suit and mask to remove the windows and replace. Then clean the area thoroughly with wipes and hepa vac, etc. The area must then be tested for Lead and pass the inspection. This extra work unfortunately can translate to much higher costs to the consumer. I don't know if this applies in your area or not, you may be able to opt out of that requirement, but if you have kids, you might not want to. Something to think about.
This applies anywhere in the US, and there is no opt out option. The only way around it is to DIY on the entire process. If not, a Certified firm and Renovators is a must....that is unless lead paint is not present. This can be found out from a certified firm when they do the test. Everything must be disclosed also in future sales of the property.
I went through the training a few months ago. With the proper funding now, this is the law. EPA fines are not petty either.

In our state of MN, we can't even get a permit on a home pre-1978 without being certified.
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:23 PM   #7
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How to choose new windows?


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Originally Posted by HomeSealed View Post
Vinyl windows won't offer the beauty of wood, but they will be better in performance, maintenance, price, etc, etc. Some highly regarded brands are Gorell, Softlite, Sunrise, Plygem, and Okna... Few things to look for: Sloped sill (as opposed to "pocket" /weep holes), manufacturing tolerances (you should be able to shake the sash in a double hung with little to no "slop"), weatherstripping (type and amount).... Without going too much further into detail, there are some companies that are universally regarded as high quality, such as those listed above. As far as the company themselves, stick to a local window/exterior specialist as opposed to a general contractor. As mentioned, check out reviews, Angies list etc, go look at some of their work, and ask them to go through their install procedure. One thing to look for is the use of low-expansion foam instead of fiberglass, labor/workmanship warranty, etc. STAY AWAY from high-pressure sales companies and the box stores.
How does that work? Plygem around here is all high pressure sales and a huge markup with their own "installers". Do a google search.
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:38 PM   #8
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How to choose new windows?


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How does that work? Plygem around here is all high pressure sales and a huge markup with their own "installers". Do a google search.
Honestly, it depends where you go. Around here, Softlite and Sunrise are the big "high-pressure, high- price dealers". I've heard the same about Plygem, Gorell, Okna, etc in other markets... Manufacturers would sell a snowball to an eskimo if they could, so the integrity of the dealer is really market-specific... I'll even take it a step further and say that anyone approaching $1k per window is a rip-off. A high quality product and install should be in the range of $400-$800 ea.
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:44 PM   #9
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How to choose new windows?


...BTW, "their own installers" is total bs for any and all window companies, other than those "rinky-dink" local manufacturers. Even then, you would be hard-pressed to call them a manufacturer (ie: Wasco, Stanek, Champion) as all they do is purchase components manufactured by other companies and assemble them. It's like Toyota calling its vehicles "American" just because its Japanese design and Japan sourced parts are assembled in the US.
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Old 04-20-2011, 09:36 AM   #10
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How to choose new windows?


Great advice Homesealed. Your advice is right on when you say to choose windows with sloped sills rather than pocket/weep holes.

I purchased six large double hung windows and all of them leak in the fusion welded corners of the pockets. The manufacturer refuses to believe that his windows leak. I performed a test on the pockets (I call it a tray) and found that all six leak. I blocked the weep holes and very carefully added colored water to the tray and after an hour or so, colored water had leaked from the tray welded corners onto the framing below the window.
I have offered to demonstate the leaking but the manufacturer has not replied.

Yes I have advice too - Only buy from a well established reputable manufacturer. Spend the extra time to research thoroughly.
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Old 04-20-2011, 01:54 PM   #11
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How to choose new windows?


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Great advice Homesealed. Your advice is right on when you say to choose windows with sloped sills rather than pocket/weep holes.

I purchased six large double hung windows and all of them leak in the fusion welded corners of the pockets. The manufacturer refuses to believe that his windows leak. I performed a test on the pockets (I call it a tray) and found that all six leak. I blocked the weep holes and very carefully added colored water to the tray and after an hour or so, colored water had leaked from the tray welded corners onto the framing below the window.
I have offered to demonstate the leaking but the manufacturer has not replied.

Yes I have advice too - Only buy from a well established reputable manufacturer. Spend the extra time to research thoroughly.
That is a terrible situation that you have there, and is the main reason why pocket sills are undesirable. Have you taken pictures and shown them?
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:56 PM   #12
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How to choose new windows?


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That is a terrible situation that you have there, and is the main reason why pocket sills are undesirable. Have you taken pictures and shown them?
Yes I sent pictures cleary showing the leakage but they want to believe that it is the installation.
I was told that they have sold ten thousand of these windows last year and none leak. That almost sounds too good to be true.
The manufacturer told me to put on jamb extensions, foam in the windows and install the trim/mouldings. He should have just told me to close my eyes and all would be ok! I suggested that I would not do that as it would be impossible to determine whether or not the problem had been corrected.
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Old 04-20-2011, 06:23 PM   #13
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How to choose new windows?


Thanks for all the great info. I will get some more info from my parents as to what exactly they are looking for, and I am sure I'll have more questions.
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Old 04-29-2011, 11:37 AM   #14
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I would recommend you meet with your local building inspector for a suggestion, since they inspect the work after it done, they might have some suggestions either good or bad.
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Old 05-01-2011, 03:37 PM   #15
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I'm not a fan of vinyl windows too many issues down the road.
I've replaced 7 year old wood windows because they were rotted out. Even junk vinyl doesn't do that.... Bottom line is regardless of material, there is quality, and then there is junk. A high quality vinyl window really can't be beat in any area other than looks.

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