True divided light vs. simulated divided light?

lesliebrooklynMarch 1, 2009

We are renovating a 19th century urban house so need to do historically accurate 4 over 6 divided windows. We are replacing windows with double pane to get better energy usage and sound insulation. We are doing Marvin wood custom windows due to landmarks, etc in our town.

There is a big price difference between true divided light and simulated divided light. Will we be happy with simulated divided light? what are the tradeoffs besides cost? our architect is telling us the simulated is quite good now and mullions can be thinner but we dont have any chance to look at difference before we decide.

any and all advice appreciated!

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randy427

Are you sure there's not a dealer close enough to you to see some samples?
If you get the windows with internal grids (between the glass panes), as well as the external (both sides), you'll probably be pleased with the effect. I don't especially like the ones with just external grids.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 1:41PM
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patser

We purchased simulated Marvin wood windows for our garage two years ago. The mullions look like fake mullions. The wood is flat - doesn't have the depth of true divided light. If we had purchased these for anything other than the garage, we would have returned them...basically, they are ugly.

If you are worried about historical accuracy, why not keep and restore your current windows and invest in wood storms? Most of your heat loss occurs through the attic anyway.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 2:55PM
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calbay03

Marvin offers different types of SDL and NOT all of them are flat. We researched this six years ago before we bought when my wife was dead set on getting SDL. The link below takes you to Marvin's site where they show the grille choices:

http://www.marvin.com/?page=Ultimate_Casement.grilles

There are four choices we looked at for our casement. The closest to the real thing is the SDLS that has thick wood pieces inside and matching wood or aluminum outside (depending on window exterior) with spacer between the outside and inside grille. The spacer is cosmetic but fools our eyes to make it look like true divided lite. These inside and outside grille are NOT removable for cleaning so they are beautiful but a pain when cleaning. These are thick and well crafted when we saw them at the dealer. The inside can be stained by us.

Next one down (cheaper) is the same as above but without the spacer between the glass. They are also not removable. This is the only way Marvin can do a decent job at making them really thick and nice.

Next one down (even cheaper) is the removable grille on the inside only. There is no matching exterior grille. This one is flat, thin and ugly.

Finally, there is the grille between the glass only, without any exterior matching grille and this one is really ugly.

In our opinion, the only reason to consider grille is to attend the old-world charm and to do that, only the first two choices come closest to the real thing. Everything else is ugly; just our personal opinion.

I talked my wife out of it because we do not need them so there is no reason to spend the cash. :-)

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 3:17AM
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katybee001

Original Poster
"our architect is telling us the simulated is quite good now and mullions can be thinner but we dont have any chance to look at difference before we decide."
......................
I am new to the forum and do not want to be a pot-stirrer, but I recommend pushing back on whoever's schedule will not allow you to look at a few samples.

We are also renovating in a historic district, but clad windows are allowed. We will go for SDL with spacers in between the glass and (still waiting on a sales quote) are strongly considering the Marvin Signature line, which allows for custom muntin profiles to match the samples we have salvaged from our 1853 brick Federal.

I love the romance of the true divided lite look, but a neighbor of mine went that route and the place is an icebox.

I am still about a week off from making this decision, and I know I am causing my contractor to curse my name. The windows he was steering me towards (quicker turnaround time) just did not have the right feel in their profiling around the case.

This is your house. The windows are a big purchase and a big deal. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 6:48PM
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tube

There are different thicknesses to the SDL. One is 7/8" and one 1 1/8" True divided light with insulated glass only comes in 1 1/8". I think it is WeatherShield that holds the patten for 7/8" true divided lite with insulated glass.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 8:48PM
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galefarm

True divided lites are not as efficient as a a SDL or ILT in the case of Pella. The reason being the edges of the glass are the most energy inefficient, so the goal is to cut down on the edge exposure of glass There are many options available in a simulated situation that makes it look like a true divided lite such as the dark foam spacer that Pella uses

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 7:47PM
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tube

Great point on the spacer. Marvin has 5 different color option IIRC.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 8:26AM
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annemarie29

Has anyone seen Golden, didn't notice if they had a spacer. The grids are aluminum even though window is wood, which worries me. But they seem like good solid windows. So what did you get katybee?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 10:20AM
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pjb999

I have yet to see a fake divider that didn't look absolutely horrible. From a technical standpoint I can see that a single window would be better thermally, but if you want to be accurate, I suspect you need the real thing.

I suppose the internal dividers provide some security, which is why I like my french doors that have them but with a door that has a handle on the lock inside I guess the point is moot.

I've seen other windows with stick-on dividers, if it was my house, I'd take them off and enjoy the uninterrupted view

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 2:44PM
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swampwiz

This is interesting. If historical accuracy is important, then I think you need to just bite the bullet and get the true divided light. I am about to spec out windows for my project (see my latest post) and the only reason I am getting mullions at all is to assist in the mechanical operation of the window (i.e., the mullions become another finger pull.) I plan to get the (Monarch) PDL.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 5:24PM
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kully

One option not mentioned is a window by Brosco that I have in my home and am very pleased with. They make a true divided light with a storm panel on the outside. It gives the full true divided light profile, with the energy efficiency of a thermal pane. One disadvantage is that they do not, to my knowledge, offer a clad exterior option. They were installed over ten years ago, and the original paint (one coat over the factory primed exterior) is still holding up fine. I live in NH, so energy and maintenance concerns play a big role in my choice of windows. I recommend this option be considered in the range of choices.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 7:33PM
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awm03

Because I'm feeling pedantic today:

"Muntins are often confused with "mullions" (which separate complete window units).... Many companies use the term "grille" when referring to a decorative structure of wood or other material that is put over a single pane of glass to make it look as if there were muntins separating multiple panes of glass...." (Wikipedia "Muntins")

Here is an example of three windows mulled together. Each window has muntins to divide six panes; two mullions separate the windows:

And here's a close up of a simulated divided light window, which is what we have and are really happy with. You have get close to see the middle divider:

Below is a link to a good article on simulated divided lights vs. true divided lights & the cost difference:

Here is a link that might be useful: Chicago Tribune article

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 6:21PM
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brickeyee

"Muntins are often confused with "mullions" (which separate complete window units).... Many companies use the term "grille" when referring to a decorative structure of wood or other material that is put over a single pane of glass to make it look as if there were muntins separating multiple panes of glass...." (Wikipedia "Muntins")

You are of course correct.

And folks wonder why they do not get what they though they asked for and (worst case) end up in court.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 6:56PM
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VDH123

An important point worth noting regarding True Divided Light (TDL) windows is that each pane of glass will be set at a slightly different angle. The magic of a TDL window if this slight "faceted" effect, the light reflects differently from each pane of glass so a TDL window brings more life to the facade of a building. Like a well-cut gemstone, this faceting creates the sparkle.

No matter how well executed the addition of muntions set over a single pane of glass, the window will always cast a flat, uniform reflection. This is why all SDL windows always look a bit "off".

TDL windows are expensive, but if they you can afford them, they make a huge difference in the appearance of your home. Otherwise, before replacing, strongly consider improving your existing windows.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 9:09PM
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EngineerChic

VDH123 brings up a good point about the reflection off the glass. SDL, actually any external grille, is much better than "grilles in glass" because it breaks up the reflection, though it can't create the sort of faceted effect VDH mentions.

We're going with 6 over 1 with SDL, it is a way to get the look without spending quite as much money. As I drive around & look at windows I've noticed that the upper sashes seem to show the unattractive reflection pattern of an unbroken pane more often than lower sashes. Maybe it's the angle of the sun in this corner of the world that spares the lower sash from looking as bad without exterior grilles.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2011 at 7:20AM
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JacquesDemers

There is a very interesting post on the Woodstone Architectural windows and doors blogspot about the importance on choosing True divided lites

here is a very important detail about SDL

"Most SDL IG manufacturers making the claim of superiority only warrant the replacement of the IG, not the window or door in which the IG is installed. And they typically honor the IG warranty only to the manufacturer purchasing the IG unit, not to the end consumer.

This explains why many SDL window and door manufacturers warrant their products to the consumer for shorter periods of time, even when the SDL IG is warranted to the manufacturer for longer time periods.

Always read the warranty. "

Here is a link that might be useful: Woodstone True divided lites

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:31AM
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windowsonwashington

Woodstone appears to make a very nice window but you post makes about zero sense.

Nearly every wood manufacturer in the world has a longer IG warranty than they do frame warranty.

While your company appears to make some nice products, I find no mention of warranty on their site.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 10:53AM
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JacquesDemers

I have some experience with their products and when I saw this on their blog, I thought it would be apropos for the discussion. Their website is a little rough, but I found the warranty information listed under "process" - the warranty covers both the millwork and IG for 20 years for some types of wood. They claim that's because they make true divided light windows in that article.

Here is a link that might be useful: Woodstone Warranty

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 1:50PM
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windowsonwashington

Jacques,

You will forgive my incredulity when you registered today to post up this blog.

There is zero foundation to the idea that a simulated divided lite is somehow inferior to a true divide lite from a durability standpoint.

Most wood manufactures have a 10 year warranty on their frame materials. This is fairly commonplace.

Unless required by specific historical ordinance, there are numerous options to duplicate that wood look with a better warranty and at a better price point.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 3:57PM
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JacquesDemers

But, Windowsonwashington, again, what happens when something breaks the glass in a simulated divided light window? The damage isn't covered by the warranty and the cost of repair is very expensive. If the glass in a True Divided Light window breaks, only the glass has to be replaced.

And I apologize if I seem to be pushing something on you. I'm only passing on what I've learned. It is interesting, though, that the duration of the window warranty I pointed out to you is twice as long as the warranty you say 'most manufacturers' provide.

That seems pretty good to me. But then again, that's just me.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 5:42PM
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windowsonwashington

Having replaced about 30,000 windows in the last 8 years and only replaced 2 sashes for breakage, I am not sure I would hinge my decision on whether a window was more or less serviceable.

Most wood window manufactures with and SDL option will just replace the entire sash.

If it is a non-operable window like a picture window, it can either be de-glazed or altogether replaced.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 6:27PM
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JacquesDemers

Windowsonwashington, that's a lot of replacement windows.

And I agree with you. If the glass in an SDL window breaks or scratches, or the insulating glass seal fails, most replacement window manufacturers will replace the entire sash. But if you happen to have a window like the one in the picture, or some other historic window, let's say with unique stain or paint, hardware, restoration glass, or other design features, replacing the sash is easier said than done. Perhaps that's why the other manufacturers you mention provide such a short warranty.

Like the Woodstone folks say, using SDL on a vinyl or aluminum replacement window is one thing. But if you're investing in accurate historic windows for a period home, you better think twice about using SDL windows. After all, if I wanted my house to look good so I can sell it one day, or leave it to my children, I sure don't want to have to tell everyone that the windows have to be replaced every ten years'or even every 20 years for that matter; unless, of course, I happen to be in the window replacement business.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 7:55AM
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windowsonwashington

Many SDL equip windows have the same glazing bead construction that a true divided lite window might and are also serviceable.

While I like the idea of true divided light, the lack of a sealed construction and inert gas fill does not allow that type of glazing to be as efficient as more modern glazing.

In historic applications, you should be restoring the existing windows in most cases regardless.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 8:50AM
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millworkman

While you cannot really argue the aesthetics of a TDL versus a SDL unit, as wow states the beading on SDL comes pretty dam close from the better window companies. In addition to the exact reasons mentioned above to go to any quality window manufacturer and purchase TDL windows you will pay a huge upcharge over SDL's (especially Gothic as shown above). Not saying SDL's don't already add considerably to the cost of the windows because they do, however you can still replace the glass in custom curved windows with SDL's as opposed to replacing the entire sash.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 9:54AM
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therburke

I broke one of the mullions in my true divided lite 100 yr old casement window. It has the profile of a chair molding, 7/8" high by 3/4" wide (see picture). Does anyone know where to get such a molding?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 6:23PM
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millworkman

A real lumberyard should have that and it would be called a muntin bar if memory serves correctly.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 7:30PM
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HomeSealed_WI

I'd try someone specializing in historic renovations or a custom millwork shop.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 7:30PM
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windowsonwashington

+1

Both good suggestions above.

I would plan on probably getting a custom millwork shop to turn that out for you.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 8:36PM
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Longarche

True divided lite windows will have a greater chance of seal failure because they will have more lineal feet of seal than the single seal around a single insulated glass unit used for SDL; additionally the maxim "the more parts a system has, the greater the chance of failure" applies - if there is a chance of seal failure with one continuous seal, there would be six times the chance of failure with the TDL units.

I know that being historically accurate is something that you can't escape in certain neighborhoods but the history to which you conform is the history of overcoming economic realities - muntins were created to join multiple, hand-blown pieces of glass into larger window units. The more glass you had, the wealthier you must have been (think Versailles). After the advent of float glass, the look of luxury was the larger pieces of glass. So, muntins are a vestige of a the past, and grids between the glass are simply absurd.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2014 at 3:49PM
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