Best Inexpensive Windows?

kendog2April 6, 2012

We're considering replacing a few of our windows and I'm hoping for some opinions about which brand to choose.

I really appreciate this forum and all of those who share their knowledge here. I've learned that there is no such thing as a good quality inexpensive window. While I would love to purchase higher end products, the reality is that we can't afford it. Our current windows are the originals - 20 year old aluminum dual panes. We had not planned to replace any of them in the near future. However, we're replacing drywall returns with wood trim and adding interior casing around the windows in our living room and kitchen. When we replace the windows, we will use the new construction type. The only reason for purchasing windows now would be that we don't want to have to remove the new wood jambs and casing later in order to replace the windows.

We're considering Milgard Style Line, Jeld-Wen (entry level from Home Depot) or Pella from Lowes. The Milgard and Jeld-Wen are similarly priced. I don't have a price for the Pella from Lowes yet. I called an independent Pella dealer. His prices were double the cost of the other brands.

Here is a photo of our kitchen windows.

They are only 22 1/2" wide. Would it be best to choose a window with a slim frame so that the amount of glass is not reduced?

We get a lot of wind in our area. It would be nice to have windows that don't let in as much dust. Our climate is Southern California High Desert so rain is very rare. Would a cheap vinyl window be better than the old aluminum windows we have now? Thanks for any advice and sorry for the multiple questions.

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rather than wasting money on low end windows because thats what an inexpensive window is, you would be much better off saving that money and using it for your childrens college fund.
low end windows are made for rental properties and house flipping to be quite honest.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 10:06PM
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100% agree with mmarsel above.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 2:11AM
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What you are describing is a high end window. What do you think is the difference between a high end and a low end? Cheap windows deteriorate faster meaning they will need to be replaced sooner. Why would you go thru the expense of redoing all the wood trim and then put a cheap window in the opening?

Cheap windows also leak a lot of air, so if you want something that will be air tight, you will have to invest in a quality window.

I have never understood why someone would say they can't afford to put in a good window. What's expensive is putting in cheap ones and then having to replace them again in a few years after the lesson has been learned once again, that cheap products are low priced for a reason. And don't even get me started on the quality of workmanship you will likely get from Blue or Orange.

Please don't take this the wrong way but, if your only goal is to save money, then just leave your existing windows and tape plastic wrap on them. Then spend the money you saved on attic insulation or something that will actually give you some long term benefit.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 8:16AM
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another point to make regarding low quality windows.. whenever a customer tells me " anything will be better than what we have or we will be moving in a few year" , i tell them this.
if you have single pane windows, new low quality windows might make a difference but its only a matter of time before you are back to square one due to warping, seal failures, and air leakage. that said, on a very cold day, you will feel the cold air from day one on a new lower quality window coming through the meeting rails.
cheaper is always more expensive. also, cheaper windows can actually detract from the value of your home. any home inspector worth his salt can pich that up. also, a homeowner can tell as well as they look cheap.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 10:57AM
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Since no one has answered your question yet, I will. I would choose the Milgard if I only had those three choices. You have a lifetime warranty and you aren't that far from their Temecula location. And yes, it would be better than your existing aluminum windows. Check the weeping system as far letting dust in. If you can see the weeps from inside with the window closed, you are going to continue to have a dust problem when the wind is really blowing.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 12:10PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

How are you going to go new construction? Are you removing all the exterior around the window? True new construction means that you are setting in a nailing flange window.

I agree with eastbay in that the Milgard offering is the best of that bunch.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 7:49PM
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Thank you all for your opinions. I expected to hear that we shouldn't go with the inexpensive windows. We could wait until we can afford good windows to do the interior window trim. However, I would hate to do that because we've already purchased the casing (for a very inexpensive price:) We'll be doing the labor ourselves so it will be more of an investment of time than money.

I forgot to mention that the windows we're considering replacing are in the most sheltered location of our home. They're under a large overhang so they're not exposed to any rain. They are at the back of our home. The wind almost always blows toward the front of the house.

Eastbay 10, thank you for sharing your opinion about the Milgard windows. I'm leaning toward that brand. I went to Lowes today and asked about the Pella windows. The saleperson said that they carry Jeld-Wen, Pella and Milgard. He said that he would choose the Milgards because they have a nicer fit and finish than the Jeld-Wens. The Pella is much more expensive than the Milgard but very similar in quality. He doesn't think the Pellas are worth the extra cost. The Milgard line they carry is Montecito. Another place gave me a quote for Milgard Style Line. Any opinions on whether the Style Line or Montecito is better and what the differences are?

Lowes had Pella windows on display. To my inexperienced eye, they looked great. Ours don't slide well and have tracks that are nearly impossible to clean. When we do clean them, they fill up with dirt again within a couple of weeks. Our aluminum windows have lasted 20 years but some of them don't stay up anymore. If we keep them, we would have to spend about $40 per window to repair them.

What do you guys think about buying inexpensive windows just for the sheltered areas in the back? Later, we could replace the front windows with a better quality product.

I know I sound like a real cheapskate. However, we can't ignore our financial situation. I know too many people who have taken out large home equity loans for home improvements only to lose their homes. We're in the middle of a major bathroom renovation. Once that is done, we plan to start on the kitchen. Compromises will be made there as well. Although I'd love get new kitchen cabinets, we'll have to settle for repainting the old ones and will be doing all of the labor ourselves. I have to admit that I'd rather live with inexpensive windows than an ugly bathroom and kitchen.

Windowswashington, yes we will cut the exterior in order to install the new construction windows.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 8:55PM
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i have put in many cheap windows that don't leak, ,no seal failures or warped sashes.I would avoid the Pella and Jeld-Wens since there are better cheap windows.The Lowes here sells Ply-Gem and Reliabilt,These are both better windows.
Typically you can buy a better window for not much more.$40 to repair the windows sounds good to me if the rest of the window is servicable and meets your needs.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 1:12AM
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Todd, no offense but as a pro, why would you ever install " cheap windows" for your customers. i would never do that. also, how do you know they didnt leak air ? i guarantee if you called a few of those customers or stopped by on a very cold day, you would feel the cold air. i also bet that after a few years alot ofnthe those sash' s wouldnt line up due to warping.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 1:41PM
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I have a Silverline 9500 in my basement, it has been there for 5 years with no problems and no air leaks. I do get back to some of the houses I have done and problems have quite minimal. The biggest problems with cheap windows is that a lot of them are installed by someone with no experience or the wrong experience. It is quite common to see them with visable daylight between the frame and sash or installed out of square. As a window professional I do advise customers on quality, but some of the cheaper windows have served well if installled professionally. I also do installs for other companies and my job is to install the window only .What is the cheapest window you would install?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 2:33PM
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We are starting a job this week removing cheap windows purchased 7 years ago due to bowed meeting rails. Several windows are bowed so bad they cannot be locked. The bowing had nothing to do with a poor installation. It had to do with the homeowner buying cheap windows. The grids are misaligned also. They are spending another $11,000 to replace the cheap windows they paid $6500 for 7 years ago. Now they have spent $17,500 for new windows.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 8:41PM
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What brand and model of windows are they? Did anyone contact the manufacturer on replacing the sashes under warranty? I have replace bowed sashes from high and low end manufactures alike and many rotted wood sashes and frames from respected companies.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 11:59PM
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The windows are lifetime warranted for spliting cracking, chipping and peeling. Not for warping. The manufacturer has been out to see the windows. They said the grids are within specs and the bowing is due to the opening out of square and the installer forced the windows into the opening. They claim that's what caused the bowing. It isn't and the installation is fine.

You know Toddinmn, you are the only installer I have ever encountered who never has problems specific to cheap windows but at the same time has more problems with quality windows than other installers. Why is that?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 12:14AM
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They are Jeld-Wen windows.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 12:15AM
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As I stated, "I have had problems with both high end and low end windows". As I also stated I would stay away from Jeld-Wen.As I also stated the biggest problems with cheap window is cheap installations.I have replaced more Marvin's due to rot more than I replaced bowed sashes on vinyls. This may have more to do with who I was working for at the time then the actual product itself.I believe there was just a post about a Marvin grid having to wide of a gap that was replaced more than once and still is not satisfactory.I have never had a problem with Silverline,Atrium or Simonton standing behind there product and they all almost always send out replacement sash or parts with no questions asked.Have you tried talking to Jeld-Wen on the owners behalf, sometimes it takes more than one try.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 1:25AM
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Maybe it's because we are further South but brittle vinyl and sashes bowing are not that unusual.

I have never had anything to do with Jeld-Wen and they have already made their decision after visiting the homeowners property. Frankly, the homeowner has been worn down and just wants good windows. The existing windows also leak water because the welds have become seperated where the stile meets the sill and has caused damage to the interior drywall. I have no idea what we will find once we remove the Jeld-Wens. I can already see signs of mold.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 1:38AM
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Thank you for your input. Do you like the Ply-Gem and Reliabilt brands better than Milgard? Of the three, which do you like best? All Milgard windows come with a full lifetime warranty. I hope it covers warping. It's helpful to know that not all warranties cover all types of damage. I'll definitely read the fine print before making a final decision. My brother-in-law has had Milgard windows for twelve years and loves them. His are Classics which were replaced by the current Tuscany Series.

I learned that the Milgard Montecito is similar to the Tuscany and has even sight lines. The Style Line has a slimmer frame. The operating windows are smaller. Our kitchen windows are only 22 1/2" wide x 46 1/2" tall. Any opinions on whether this size window (see photo above) would look better with in a slimmer frame with uneven sight lines or a heavier frame with even sight lines?

Ecostar and Toddimn, thank you for the warning about Jeld-Wen. I have crossed them off my list.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 1:45PM
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Walk away from HD & Lowes and go somewhere where they will treat you like something other than a number. Try your local lumber yard or similar place and your money will stay local.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 3:38PM
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I have not seen a Milgard,Ply-Gems top window is better then Atrium/reliabilt. There lower windows are comparable.lifetime warranties are the norm in vinyl windows these days, some just honor them differently?Most of your money is going to some big window company that probally is not local. Lumberyards in my part don't carry much for vinyl windows, perhaps check siding suppy companies. I did price Lowes on their Ply-gems and they were very copetitive.What do mean by even/uneven sightlines?Do you mean a cottage/oriel style window that has one sash taller then the other?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 1:57AM
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Kendog, being that you are considering Milgard I would assume that you are out west? The Plygem units out there are not those made by Great Lakes that Todd was referring to. That is a solid window, but I have not heard as many good things about their offerings in that region. From what I've seen, Milgard and Simonton seem to be a couple of the better offerings out there.
@Todd: sightlines refer to the width of the glass. To achieve even sigtlines many manufacturers will make the lower sash wider so that the glass is the same width as the upper. Others will make the sash thickness the same, resulting in more glass on the lower which would be "uneven".

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 2:56PM
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We live in the High Desert area of Southern California. I don't think we have a local lumberyard here. I'm not aware of any siding places either. The economy is so bad here that if such places exist, they would be out of business by now.

I plan to go to a local glass place to look at some Milgard window displays. Hopefully, I can get a better idea of the differences between the lines they offer. While I'm at it, I'll ask if they carry Simontons, Ply Gems, Reliabilt or other brands. I'll check back and let you know what I learn. Thank you all again for your helpful suggestions.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 4:35PM
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When you look at Simontons, inquire about the Asure line. It's fairly new but is a better buy than the Reliabilt.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:38PM
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Interesting that you like Reliabilt and recommend them but warn consumers to stay away from Jeld-Wen. You do realize that Reliabilt is made by Jeld-Wen, don't you?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:42PM
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My apologies, I had forgotten that the Reliabilt doors are made by Jeld-Wen. The windows are made by Atrium.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 11:27PM
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EcoStarRemodel, thank you for the tip about the Simonton windows. Unfortunately it appears that the Asure line is only available from the mid-west to the eastern states. In our area, these are the lines that are available:
DaylightMax (7300)
Madeira (7500)
and Vantage Point (available only from Home Depot)
Do you like any of those choices?

I saw the Milgard windows today. They look great. On the slider windows, the bottom track comes out to make cleaning easier. The saleslady told me that Milgard makes their own vinyl and that it is very good quality. The lifetime warranty covers everything except the screens.

I was hoping to be able to see the difference between the Style line and Tuscany windows. However the glass shop had only a Tuscany single hung and a slider in the Style line. It would have been easier to compare them if the window types were the same.

I probably prefer the Tuscany. Not sure I like the way the Style Line has smaller glass in the operating window. It looks about 2" smaller than the stationary window. If money were no object, I would buy casements instead of single hungs for our kitchen and living room. The contoured grids were much prettier than the flat but they're also almost twice the width which might obstruct the view too much in a small window.

Would it look mismatched if we did grids in the living room but not in the kitchen? (The living room is next to the kitchen and both rooms can be seen at the same time.) How about if we put casements in the kitchen and single hung windows in the living room?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 1:58AM
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Sorry, I forgot you were in the West. I have no direct experience with the Simonton 7300 and 7500 other than feedback from other contractors that sell them. Most of that feedback is very positive.

I also understand that Amerimax Windows get favorable reviews.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 7:32AM
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Amerimax? Another mediocre vinyl window. I was a actually at someone's house yesterday and the guy had replaced the 1st floor windows with Amerimax and still had the aluminum windows upstairs. He said before 5 years was up they were letting in dust, condensing between the glass, and difficult to operate. Said he should have just kept the old windows because the new ones are worse than the old ones now.

I have installed Simonton and Amerimax in 8 states out west. While I believe Simonton Prism to be better, I've seen the same results eventually.

At the risk of angering some on this board, I would never put vinyl in my house again, and am glad to not have them in the house I now live in. It is very few vinyl products that will hold up, and the high altitude sun out west is not kind to vinyl products. After years of experience with vinyl, I'm personally rejecting it as an option in anything I do in the future, personally or professionally. Other opinions will differ, and they have good points to make, so lets not have an argument :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 12:59PM
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Milgard makes fiberglass windows too. I didn't ask the price. I probably don't want to know.

Does anyone know if picture windows could be ordered with frames that match well with casement windows? It just occurred to me that we really don't need all four kitchen windows to open. (We hardly ever open any of them.) Looking at the photo above, do you think it would look okay to have picture windows on the sides and casements for the two center windows? Would it look better to combine the two center windows into one big casement window or to leave them separate?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 9:45PM
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You will probally need to add a header if the 2 windows are combined.This would add alot of extra work to the interior and exterior of the home. I prefer all windows in a house to be of the same type otherwise it looks like you added on here and there.I would install double hungs over single hungs since they are typically as better window within the manufactures offerings and usually are not much more money. I would also install double-hungs over casemnets because of personal preference.I would check if they offered smaller coontoured grids and grids in all or none at all.
I believe Amerimax has the dreaded pocket sill design or was that Vinylmax?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 11:21PM
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Most manufacturers make a casement picture window that is a perfect match to an operable casement. We order casement/picture/casement configurations frequently. Most will also offer them in 1/4-1/2-1/4 and 1/3-1/3-1/3 set ups where the operable and non-operable casements at mulled by the factory. Most also offer a field mull kit.

1 Like    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 12:30AM
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Thank you Toddimn and EcoStarRemodel. Toddimn, thanks for the warning about the need to install a header if we combine the windows. We'll definitely look into what is involved before deciding if we want to go that route. I went to another window store that had a better variety of display windows. They carry only Milgard. Milgard seems to have the corner on the market in this area.

After seeing the both the Style Line and Tuscany windows, I would definitely choose Tuscany. The Style line have thin, unimpressive frames and look very similar to our aluminum windows. The Tuscany frames are much beefier, more like a wood window. The uneven sight lines in the Style Line windows doesn't look good to me. The operable windows have glass that is at least 2" smaller, whereas the Tuscany windows have matching glass sizes. The Tuscany locks are nicer and the weepholes are covered. Montecito is the same frame as the Tuscany. The Montecito lacks a few of the nicer features of the Tuscany and doesn't have the glass breakage warranty. The saleslady told me that the price of the two lines is almost the same ( usually within $2 to $5) so she doesn't ever sell the Montecito. Home Depot gave me a quote for Montecito windows. That might be one good reason to buy from a window supplier rather than Home Depot.

Neither window store that I visited had any double hung window displays. I would be interested to see one. I was told that the double hung windows have thicker frames than the single hung. I don't think I would want an even thicker frame for our narrow kitchen windows so the double hung might not work for our home. I guess the single hung could look mismatched since the screen is only on the bottom but I wonder if it would be annoying to have to look out a screen at the top?

I will do the contoured grids just in the top of the windows. They don't come in a smaller size.

EcoStarRemodel, the window salesperson said that they can order picture windows with frames to match casement windows. She suggested making the two center windows into one picture window and putting casements on the sides. That way the view in the middle wouldn't be obstructed by the center bar of a double casement. However, she said that the picture window in a casement frame would cost almost as much as a casement window.

I didn't realize that all of the windows in the house should be of the same type If that's the case, then I wouldn't want to go with casements. We would need 13 of them which would be way too much $$$. Would it also look weird if we combined the two center kitchen windows into a picture window with single hungs on all the other windows?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 4:38PM
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It is hard to see what would look best without seeing more pictures.All of the window don't need to be the same type, it is just something I notice and don't care for. Certain size windows often dictate what type can be used, so sometimes you are forced to go one way or the other.I think double/single hungs would look good in your application from what I can see from your picture. My guess is you'll need a header for the picture windows.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 11:19AM
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