Kolbe vs. Eagle

soilenthusiastJanuary 3, 2014


We're doing a window replacement at our new home (before anyone asks - restoration is not an option - original windows were already removed and we're dealing with terrible sliding aluminums) and I think we've narrowed down our choices for wood interior - aluminum exterior clad to Kolbe or Eagle. I looked at Marvin - they are superior for sure, but also too much money for us.

Most windows will be casements with hand cranks.

I've read a lot on this forum. I think Kolbe appears to be a slightly better product in terms of craftsmanship and they're around the same price. But most important is long-term performance. Reading on the internet is frustrating since people complain that Kolbes leak and have ruined their homes. Hard to tell if Kolbes have serious problems, or these are just the very rare defects that are bound to occur with any brand. I know Kolbes are installed at high-end homes all the time, and I can't imagine they're all leaking.

Looked like Eagle had some quality issues a while back, but they've been addressed in recent years. I can live with either window, but just wondering if anyone has any long-term experience / stories about these brands and if there are recommendations in either direction.

Thanks so much!

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Personally I rate Kolbe a small step behind Marvin and while I have never been an Eagle fan I have heard they are much better since being acquired by Andersen but I am not a huge fan of them either.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 7:33PM
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Here in MN alot of the problems with wood windows stem from glazing failures and rot at the bottom rail of the frame. The windows get condensation which rots the wood and causes seal failures. This problem is not so much on the Andersen that use a vinyl sash in wood frame. If you're prone to condensation and using wood I would consider triple panes or go with an upgraded glazing spacer .

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 12:13PM
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I would take Kolbe over Eagle or even Marvin.

When reading about rot issues there are a couple of things to keep in mind. EPA has made a lot of changes to the wood preservatives and that has cause a lot of the problems. To my knowledge none of the companies make their own wood preservative and PPG was the main supplier for most of them. If you Google Marvin + PPG + Lawsuit you will get some articles. Most class action lawsuits are sealed so it really hard to get information, but PPG paid out lots of money to Pella and Marvin for the class action lawsuits.

Pretty much everyone changed preservative in the last 5 years, so rot issues that you read about from 10 years ago really aren't relevant to the products today.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 1:10PM
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"Pretty much everyone changed preservative in the last 5 years, so rot issues that you read about from 10 years ago really aren't relevant to the products today." -Windowgeek

Are you suggesting that a wood window installed today will last much longer than a similar version from 5 or 10 years ago given the same environment? I feel sorry for your clients if that is what you are peddling. Guys like you were saying the same things 10 years ago, and will probably be saying it again 10 years from now. There is no magic bullet for wood windows. They NEED attention and maintenance to last. That is not necessarily a bad thing, some wood windows are great, but I take issue with leading consumers to think that they will be a "set it and forget it" type of option, and that there is a night and day difference between the rotted unit from 10 yrs ago and the one coming off the assembly line today.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 3:52PM
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Did I suggest that wood windows don't need attention or maintenance to last?

And "yes" the wood preservatives and processes used today are better than what was used prior to 2008. I have been in test facilities where window frames have been sitting submerged since 2008 while cycling through temperature changes (heat/freeze cycles) and show no rot or mildew growth and very little discoloration. I was last there in August of 2013. Do you really think companies like PPG are sitting around doing nothing? The companies that make wood preservatives are just as innovative as any other competitive industry. They have had to adjust with changing environmental regulations and building codes and many of those changes have not gone very well.

No window is maintenance free, and I never claimed that any of them were.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 4:35PM
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Considering your statement that "the rot issues from 10 years ago really aren't relevant to products today", I'd say yes, you were implying that they do not require the same attention. I appreciate your clarification on that.
While I will not argue that there isn't improving technology in wood preservatives, I believe that you are overselling it pretty substantially. I regularly see windows post-2008 with mildew and discoloration. The problem is, most consumers are completely ignorant to the fact that the fast-growth wood used today--preservatives or not-- will simply never perform/last like their 80 yr old windows did. I can't tell you how many times I hear people say ," Well my current wood windows lasted 50, or 70, or 80 years, why wouldn't I buy wood windows again?" There are some phenomenal solid wood window products out there, but they are not the "big 3", and they don't belong in anything less than multi-million dollar homes at the price they fetch.
Despite how it may come across, I'm not trying to be argumentative, but characterizing the "wood rot" problem as something that was a blip on the radar and has since been fixed is wildly inaccurate. To be fair, I will say that the much tighter homes built in the past 20 years are partially to blame, but the building community seems as though it is starting to figure that problem out.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 5:51PM
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We have local suppliers who import sashes with IG glass from Mexico and then build the frames here in town. The range of quality in the wood industry is just like it is in any industry. Those windows will probably rot out in a matter of a few years. I was at a project two weeks ago that was 10 years old and falling apart. Million dollar home with Windsor windows and you can see light around many of the DH sashes. I see lots of "never rot" type frame material that falls apart in a few years, even though it doesn't rot. A few freeze/thaw cycles and the glues start to fail from the expansion and contraction of the material.

Wood rot from the any of the major manufacturers is probably not a major issue at this point. I don't claim to know what wood preservative everyone uses, but there are only a couple of major suppliers, and there is not a lot of difference in what everyone is using. It is a very specialized industry with only a few key players.

I have spent most of my time on the commercial side of the industry where field testing for air and water infiltration is common once the unit is installed. I have worked on commercial projects with over $1.6 million in windows and doors and residential projects with $500K in the windows and doors (house was $8 million). We have sent product off to independent test labs to be tested before we issue contracts to a window vendor. I have toured the manufacturing facility of Marvin and Pella. I have had a large project that was part of a class action lawsuit for wood rot.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 7:02PM
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Those sound like some great projects, kudos to you. Not quite sure how that is relevant to the issue at hand though.
Wood window salesman have been saying that rot is a "non-issue" ever since it became an issue. When I see my business of replacing 10 yr old wood windows (from high end to low end) start to dry up, then I'll believe that there is a magic potion that makes this sponge wood actually last.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 8:45PM
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I use both wood and high end vinyl windows and i will tell you with certainty, wood causes PROBLEMS.. Dont get me wrong, wood windows have a purpose but energy efficiency, durability, and air tightness are not one of them. I made the switch to high end vinyl and never looked back.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 9:02PM
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I never said wood rot is a "non-issue". I said the problems that were causing wood rot 10 years ago have been fixed and those issues are no relevant today. The wood might rot for a variety of other reason that I don't know about, but the large scale preservative failures of the late 90's though 2000's is no one of them for the premium manufacturers. Do the small shops built windows use the same systems? I have no idea but I doubt it.

A couple of years ago I did a LEED Silver high school with clad wood, vinyl was never an option. Maybe all the vinyl peddlers can name me some LEED accredited commercial projects where vinyl has been selected. When I see projects where low maintenance, high energy efficiency, and very long life cycle are required, vinyl is never chosen. But maybe I'm wrong. Surely you guys can list a few commercial projects that used vinyl. Talk is cheap. Lets see some projects.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 4:35PM
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Location: Northwest Arkansas - heating & cooling environment

Custom build: Garrell plan, several eyebrow windows. 18 month occupancy

Eagle: Talon double-hung

Performance: During recent bitter cold, VERY pleased with environment near multiple 'walls of windows'. Comfortable while sitting near windows, no condensation.

Really appreciate UV protection as we only have woven blinds in bedrooms.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 5:01PM
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Talk is cheap indeed. Do you support all logic behind our federal government lately? If not, who cares about leed requirements , commercial projects, etc. Again, completely irrelevant to the subject at hand. We are talking about the products that will perform best and last longest in a residential home. Based on independent, third party ratings, along with my own professional experience( and everyone that I've every met and/or spoken to), a premium vinyl window will perform better, and for a longer period than a common wood unit. End of story.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 11:08PM
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LEED is not a Federal government program! The USGBC is a non-profit organization. They are independent 3rd party! You really don't have a clue.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 12:29AM
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You are correct and incorrect all in the same statement.

LEED is not a program at all. It is the set of standards by which the USGBC measures buildings and assigns their performance grades.

The USGBC is not a "Federal" program in that it is not run by Federal employees but to say that it does not exist as a result of government involvement is completely disingenuous in addition to being an outright falsity.

Between tax credits and certification fees, the USGBC is garners a good portion of its operating expenses both directly and indirectly from the government.

There was an article that demonstrated the average cost of a Federal building was raised by over $150K in LEED and USGBC expenses.

The state of Ohio estimated an additional $131 million in additional cost for constructing schools since 2007.


Earning in 2012 = 76 million
Expenses in 2012 = 49 million

Now..if we were going to have the argument about an institution, where they get their moneys, and if they are, in effect, Federally/Government funded, shouldn't they have something to show for their standards?

Let me start off by saying this:

I think the idea of "Green" building is great and should be incorporated to modernize and make our building more efficient and better stewards of the environment. This applies to energy, material usage, air quality, water management, etc.

Now, that being said, lets talk about LEED and the USGBC:


If you are going to continue to quote a system and set of building practices as the feather in your cap, perhaps you should actually have some data to show that their input has a positive benefit on construction.

LEED is, to this point, just the opposite. LEED buildings have been shown to be much more expensive to build and...wait for it...USE MORE ENERGY!!!

To top it all off, the LEED standards don't even require validation of energy usage. They are based on projections rather than measurements.

Another good read:


Here is a link that might be useful: USGBC response and rebuttal

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 9:58AM
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Ok, I'm not a window expert nor anything other than a common consumer.
To the OP, in 2003 we built a $500k home in the St Louis area, and had all Kolbe windows. We had a 22' wall of windows two stories high, half fixed, half casements. By 2009 about 1/4 of the windows in that room had lost their seal and were fogged up inside. We contacted Kolbe and they replaced every one without any discussion or argument whatsoever.
So all I can say is that they stand behind their product and I'd buy them again. Hope this helps your one residential decision.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:16AM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Kolbe is a good company.

One of the top 3 wood windows in my opinion.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:51AM
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LEED is not a Federal government program! The USGBC is a non-profit organization. They are independent 3rd party! You really don't have a clue.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 1:54PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Is there an echo in here...?

WG...who was that for?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 1:58PM
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I stated USGBC was a non-profit. Which is what they are. They are a 501C organization. That is how they are classified. They may very well make money. They may very well get tax credits. All of that is irrelevant to the fact that they are classified as a non-profit. All non-profits receive tax credits and exemptions, that is the reason for the non-profit classification.

None of this is relevant to the conversation. Yes LEED can add to the cost. It can add a lot to the cost. Explain how that is relevant to the to what I said? No, I don't like LEED, but that is irrelevant as well. You don't have to seek accreditation to use the standards. Anyone can build to the standard and just not do the paperwork, which is what we typically see. We built a project that was to Passive House standards, but we don't have a Passive House architect or anyone certified in our area, so it is not technically a Passive House.

I can build to the LEED base standard without any significant cost. Platinum is a different story.

IF the use of LEED is causing everyone to go off on tangents then we can not use it. I don't care. You very rarely see vinyl products in high spec jobs. The only high spec job where we have used vinyl, we used Unilux. Technically I would call Unilux vinyl clad steel since they had so much steel reinforcement in them. $100K for the window package of a 3,000sqft house.

Where do we see vinyl? Track builders, multi-family jobs, rental property.... Why? Because it is cheap. Do I see vinyl being used by big builders in 500K homes? All the time. Why? Because the home buyers are uneducated and don't ask about windows. Are some vinyl windows better than wood windows? Absolutely. There are crappy wood windows on the market just as there are crappy vinyl.

I love it when someone says "premium vinyl". What exactly does that mean? Its a very subjective label. Every vinyl peddler I have met refers to their product as premium vinyl. Everyone who walks into my office tells me theirs is "premium". I had the Pella rep in my office with their "premium" 350 Series vinyl. It's definitely beefy'er than most and they polish the corners so they don't look like cheap vinyl welded corners. When he priced the project he had to start changing thing because they just can't make all of the composites we needed do to size limitation of the product.

Who makes a vinyl French door? Nobody. Why? Because the material isn't strong/durable enough for high traffic areas, and by the time you add enough steel reinforcement to the product you have spent 2x the money of a clad wood or fiberglass product. They make sliding doors where all the weight rests on the rollers.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 2:48PM
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Kolbe makes a great window and it would be my choice of the two. I'd also disagree with the comment that wood rot is no longer an issue, but getting farther and farther off on a tangent is not going to solve that debate. Time to let this one die...

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 3:31PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd


Kolbe is a good window.

I would only add this to the conversation as the statement was made that some vinyl windows are better than wood and the inference being that vinyl is only better than the "crappy" wood windows.

If you surveyed the top 100 performing double hung residential windows out there today based on the following:
-Thermal Performance
-Performance Grade (DP)
-Air Infiltration

A vast majority of them would be in vinyl.

This discussion wasn't about vinyl to begin with but back the original point, in wood...stick with Marvin or Kolbe as a first tier, Andersen/Eagle as a second tier.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 3:47PM
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Kolbe in my opinion is a better product and the company stands behind their product through any issue as mentioned above.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 4:33PM
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