Utterly confused about installing Marvin Ultimate Insert Window

mindstormJanuary 18, 2009


I'm back with more questions about the Marvin windows we got (wish I'd just gotten the Loewen I'd really wanted, at this point in time).

We are needing to replace one window that has failed and is currently stuck open - while the north-east goes through -10degree days, thanks very much!

Well, we ordered a "Marvin Ultimate Insert" aluminium clad replacement window as it sounded from long analysis like it would be the way to go for a replacement in an old house without disturbing old horse-hair plaster walls or without disturbing the exterior too much which is all in great shape, actually. There is no indication of any rot, the window opening looks sound. There is a storm window outside also.

Having received it, I've been looking it over to understand the installation and I am completely and utterly baffled. This thing seems like it is designed to slip into the window opening without ever having to directly touch too much of the house. Is this correct?

I was utterly surprised to see no nailing fins for one thing.

Having spent an age reading about the necessity for proper window and door installations to ensure good insulation from air infiltration and - perhaps even more important - to ensure a good seal against water penetration, I don't see how, if they followed the Marvin instruction, the installers would effect the house wrap when the old window comes off, or how we'd make a decent seal against water penetration without the nailing fins. Marvin's instructions seem to suggest - if I understand it correctly - that a 1/2" thick bead of caulk (sealant), directly exposed to the weather (NE: -10deg temps, snow, sun, rain etc.) would be all we'd have between the house's window-opening framing members, and the replacement window's frame itself.

Can anyone explain to me if

(a) if I've understood the "Ultimate Insert " instructions correctly,

(b) this is a halfway decent window concept at all and lastly, and

(c) assuming that this "Ultimate Insert" stuff is alright, is there a sure way of installing this that will ensure that in 5 or 10 (and ideally more) years we don't have a case of house-rot on account of a dodgy window and/or installation? We don't have any rot or any such thing of the window. But then, we do have exterior storms that we were thinking (hoping) to remove and that would certainly expose the frames to more moisture.

Thank you,

Extremely nervous home-owner.

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Yep! The concept is that you should have "blind stops" remaining from your old windows - that your new window pushes up against as it is installed from the inside of the house. And yes caulking the back of the stop (or i guess the face of the replacement)and then pushing the replacement up against it (and screwing/securing the replacement thru the jamb)is how it's done.

After the window is completely secured it is best to go back, now from the outside and caulk the same seam again. Goofy? Kind of, but that's how it's done. If the part of the new window that hits the blind spot is clad, you may want to check around for the best caulk/siliconized caulk that will adhere best to alum & Wood...and of course freezing temps.

Also, i assume there is some sort of sill angle/adapter?? Make sure to use it properly, i'm not that familiar with Marvin installs.

Just for the record, my buddies from the Montreal area find our practice of installing replacement windows this way in the U.S. appalling! It sounds like you agree with them.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 12:10AM
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It sounds like you bought the wrong window. "Inserts" use the existing double hung window frame - and replace the old ropes/chains and weights with a new spring counterbalance. You also keep the old interior and exterior trim. Basically you end up with two frames.

Depending on what type of window you currently have an insert may or may not work. How old are these Marvin windows?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 12:10PM
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macattac, This procedure sounds very cagey to me. But it sounds like you and people who buy insert windows are sanguine about it. That is hard to resolve with the frequent exhortations to seal the house with flashing and tape and whatnot, is it not?

Dennis, I fear that I agree with you that I think I bought the wrong window because this Insert concept sounds like pure bunkum - if I understand the installation concept.
I don't know what you mean when you ask "how old are these Marvin windows?" - the only Marvin window I'm speaking of is a month old and is sitting in my basement awaiting a decision on what I need to do with it. The dead window isn't a Marvin. It is a currently defunct window of indeterminate origin. Interestingly it was one of the three windows in our 85 year old house that was not original - a replacement window in fact, that had failed. All the original ones work and work well. The three replaced ones - not so much. This particular one is all dead. But it isn't a Marvin.

Anyhow, my point is that two frames or twenty, shouldn't the new window get installed into an opening (which is now the old window's frame) that is sealed and wrapped? And shouldn't the installation be secured in to that wrapped opening with something like that nailing fin? That just slipping one rectangle (the new window) into another window and abutting "blind stops" - which to me sounds like something just behind the exterior trim - with caulk isn't very impressive.

Anyhow, having spoke to Marvin today, they told me about flash panning and frame extenders and jamb and sill panning. Does anyone know if these things enhance the sealing qualities of the installation?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 2:40PM
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Sorry I misunderstood - I thought you said that you had Marvins and one had failed.

I think inserts make a lot of sense - but I just bought $10,000 of them! For me it allowed me to keep all my interior woodwork intact. I also replace a single window with a double and used two inserts for that so all the windows would match. The contractor just framed the new openings and sill and installed the inserts in the new frames. The inserts don't have nailing fins but mine came with trim pieces that get caulked to the exterior trim - seems to seal fine to me.

What kind of window is this replacing? Does it have weight pockets or some sort of spring balance? Can you just rip the whole thing out and replace the whole window and the interior and exterior trim?

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 9:50AM
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Weather or not you believe in them, Insert windows and or vinyl replacements(which are actually very similar in function) are a very viable part of the today's window industry. All of the major wood manufacturers are currently making an "Insert" window, Marvin, Andersen, Pella(cringes at the mere mention)and they all install basically the same way. If you were unaware of how they installed that's on you for not doing your homework, but without ripping out the frame and installing a new construction window your choice are limited to about what you purchased.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 10:35AM
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Insert windows are a less expensive option to full frame new construction windows, but their relative worth is contingent on the quality of your existing wood double hung frames and the quality of the installation of the new insert.

If your existing double hung window frames are out of square or deteriorating, then the insert application is more prone to water and air infiltration over time. Shims, non-expansion insulating foam, and a skilled craftsman can correct most problems.

Nailing fins and insert windows are mutually exclusive, as the insert window utilizes a compact operating window in its own frame to be inserted into the pocket created when removing an old double hung's sashes, stops, and jamb hardware. The insert window frame becomes, essentially, a step of trim to be transitioned with moulding and/or caulk.

Note to DIYs: Quit blaming the product and / or company reps when, in reality, your project's problems usually arise from insufficient research and experience.

Mindstorm- How much did you pay yourself to handle this project? You got what you paid for.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 8:32AM
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You are right. I should blame insufficient research. Mine and I accept full culpability. I am however, inclined to warn others who may be thinking of replacing windows that they should pursue every avenue available to them NOT to do what I did and get an insert. I should have figured out that an insert window would be unacceptable - to me. I'm sure you're comfortable with the idea. For my part, I would never get one again. There is no way that it could be as robust as a proper in-place installation.

As per a previous poster, apparently the Canadians agree with me - and Loewen makes no such creature.

This was not a DIY job. We hired a very good window installer to do the job and he just finished it today. How much? I don't feel it is any of your business, but if the window was about $800, the installation was close to one and a half times that. Expensive enough for you?

He did a very good job - insulated, shimmed, sealed, screwed in etc. It looks very clean and like a very good installation. Unfortunately for me, (a) I can't stand the sight of the frame of the insert window which is unavoidable in this insert business, (b) I don't actually like the look of Marvin's thick and chunky frames and (c) I can't imagine he could have done a better job, but I have no delusions that the caulk he put in and that is [all that is] responsible for sealing the opening will last the lifetime of the window.

Actually even as I say (c), I understand he did put in some additional protections to shore up and seal of the opening. However, that is not what these types of windows are designed for - he went over and above because he knew that we were having such acute misgivings about ordering the insert. And I stand by my assertion that insert windows are just a bad concept. I do wish I'd internalized the trade-offs before I ordered one in lieu of a "new construction".

I also wish I'd ordered the Loewen (which ONLY makes new construction windows) instead of the Marvin.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 8:36PM
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I am getting ready to order a few Ultimate Clad Double Hung Window Inserts. I have installed new construction windows and look forward to using the inserts to save on demolition and repair work. I wonder if its compatible to use with my present storm windows and screens.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 10:35PM
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Posted by Mike (mtnvview@hotmail.com)

Mike - my recommendation would be to do what should have started this tread and talk to your Marvin dealer and get the the installation instructions. They spell out exactly how it is done and what is needed.

This will enable you to make the right decision and not purchase the "wrong" window.

What should have been pointed out to mindstorm and any one else that intends to use an insert window is that sash or sashes in a frame are going back into an opening that previously had only a sash. Therefore you are losing glass area and closing down the opening. In the case of the Marvin product, it is about 1 1/2" total in width. On a larger window, no big deal. On smaller opening, big deal. Generally it is something you get used to but you need to know what you are getting in order to be really happy. Do your homework or you may regret it!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 9:26AM
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