Confused about what windows to buy

j4inoJune 13, 2013

I purchased an old home (1940s) and I need to replace the original windows. First, I thought I wanted to replace them with wood windows as to not lose the "charm" of the house. Do you think vinyl windows will look less "charming" than wood windows? I also had the impression that wood windows would be better quality.

Second, I have a couple recommendations of people who install windows in my area. One man owns a company for many years and he recommends MI vinyl windows. His company is a one stop shop: sells windows and installs them. He also sells JeldWen, Anderson, and Marvin. I trusted him until I started reading the reviews of the MI windows. The reviews are horrible!! He told me they came with a lifetime warranty, but this doesn't sync up with what the MI website says: limited lifetime. Anyone have anything to say about MI? He has been in the window business for so long, he said he installed MI windows in his own home, why would he recommend them to me if they are bad?

Another man that came recommended to me only installs vinyl windows. He said vinyl is much better than wood and he can buy the windows at wholesale price from a local company. But this local company is so small, I can't find any reviews of their windows. When I asked him about Anderson windows, he said you pay a lot for the name and it is a poor quality window compared to vinyl.

I'm sooooo confused. Wood vs vinyl vs. fiberglass? who should install them? what window brand to choose?

I live in northern NJ. And i'd like to do this without breaking the bank too much. Although, I will be living in this home for a long time and I want to do it right.

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First off i am skeptical that your contractor is a true window contractor. Why?
MI and jeldwin both make low quality vinyl windows. Of course he is goung to say he's installed many and everyone is happy bla bla bla. Truth is, they are cheaply made and have very high air infiltration rates. Also stay away from any window sold at jome depot or lowes such as Silverline/ American Craftsman, Pella Vinyl and Alside excalibur. Windows are an investment, spend your money wisely or else you are going to be very unhapoy and wind up doing your project twice. The above mentioned windows are also very cheap looking.
You really should invest in a higher quality vinyl window. these windows outperform wood windows both structurally and from an energy efficiency perspective. they also look nice and are engineered very well. Best of all, there is no maintenance.
Higher quality windows that most pro's consistently recommend are the following brands: they should be available in your area. You can try a google search of these brands in your state. All these windows fit very nicely in an older home without compromising the old traditional look, especially the Okna 800.

Okna Windows ( 500 or 800 EnviroStar ) , the 400 is still solid as well.
Soft Lite Windows ( Elements window)
Sunrise Windows ( Vanguard )
Gorell Windows ( 5300)

This post was edited by mmarse1 on Thu, Jun 13, 13 at 23:24

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 11:10PM
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I live in Northern NJ too and struggled with the same question - wood vs. vinyl! After doing many months of research and getting first class feedback from this forum, we ended up replacing our entire windows with Okna 800s - and couldn't be happier.

We have a Tudor style home and aesthetics were very important to us as to maintain the old world charm etc.

Funnily enough we actually had someone drop by our home this last weekend to ask which manufacturer made our windows.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 7:00AM
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I agree with both posts above. Mi and jeldwen are builder grade, and that does not carry the same connotation that it does in the gmc truck ads, lol. You sound like a discerning buyer, so look at some higher end products.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 1:56PM
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Wood vs vinyl vs fiberglass? The answer is it depends. What are your priorities for the project? I can say that I would start with premium vinyl as it will offer the best bang for the buck in performance, warranty, maintenance, etc. From there, is you decide that the look/feel is not quite meeting your needs, you will move up in price in wood, fg, and composite options.
In northern NJ, I'd highly recommend talking to Paul at AGM. Excellent company and he carries the top products available. Given your circumstance, I'd take a close look at the Okna/HiMark 800 and the Starmark composite.
Either way, I'd stay away from "budget vinyl" which would include the product that you mentioned in your post.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 3:21PM
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Thank you, everyone for your input. I spoke honestly to the contractor again and told him my concerns about MI (for example, bad reviews I have been reading on the internet). He said that MI makes a builder grade window. But he wouldn't sell me the low end MI vinyl window. He said that he sells 5000 MI windows a year and has great feedback with their higher models. Anyone at Garden Web have an input to this? He also said he sells three other brands of vinyl windows so I will see if any of them match what you guys are recommending. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 5:03PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

I am always suspect of a company that happily makes several lines of suspect quality and then one window of really good quality.

That is a personal observation, but those are my personal feelings.

If you are happy turning out garbage for 75% of the stuff, why should I think that the last 25% is any good?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 5:30PM
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My feelings are the same , even if he sold 100,000 . MI Windows are garbage and he sounds like a contrctor who caters to budget mined consumers opposed to quality oriented consumers. I woukd never offer MI to any of my customers.
Im shocked that this contractor would offer such a low end offering, i would bet that the other three brands are just as bad, just a guess.
Typically a contractor who offers low end windows wont have access to the higher end brands, he would have to become a dealer but i doubt he would meet the criteria.

This post was edited by mmarse1 on Fri, Jun 14, 13 at 19:11

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 6:41PM
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Per HomeSealed - we used Paul at AGM; first class guy, first class company! We couldn't be happier.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 9:11PM
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And if you ask him he would probably be willing to sell you a bridge that is pretty close to your location as well. Plus 3 on what wow and mmarse1 have said Look for someone else.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 9:11PM
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J4, id recommend that you broaden your search to some additional products. You will not get a good impression of what vinyl can offer by looking at a builder grade choice.

This post was edited by Karateguy on Sat, Jun 15, 13 at 7:37

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 12:42AM
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I just replaced 14 MI Windows on Saturday that another contractor installed 4 years ago, they were their " top of the line" 1650 series. Total Garbage !
The windows were warped and the customer said cold air would leak through during the winter; although she was concerned that the hot air from the outside leaked in during the summer causing her air conditioner to go into overdrive.
After removing the MI Windows we cut the windows in half to see what they looked like on the inside. Very thin/ flimsy walls, no wonder they warped.
Perhpas this was 14 of the 5,000 your contractor installed?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:25AM
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I've seen MI windows in a model home at a home builders show and they had failed low-e coatings on them and they just looked horrible. But it seems like the point has been drilled in here.

Vinyl windows do not have the same look and aesthetics as wood windows. Fiberglass windows by Integrity are kind of a compromise between the two and tend to fall in that price range as well (mid priced).

Shop around on some aluminum clad windows. Try to stay away from roll formed glad. Go with extruded aluminum cladding.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 1:41PM
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I too am looking at windows for a major renovation and it's so confusing. I will share with you what I've learned so far.

1. It seems like many window companies carry name brands just to get you in the door. Then they do the "bait and switch" and try to convince you to buy their "favorite" window. Usually a vinyl window of mediocre quality. I'm pretty sure that they make a lot more money on these (higher profit margins and markups) than the name brands.

2. Even though many of these companies advertise and claim that they carry the brand names, when I pushed to order them or get price quotes, they were unable to supply them, and tried to convince me they weren't as good as the others they had.

3. The largest builder's supply in our city carries Marvin windows, but tried everything they could to get us to buy their brand instead. We would have bought the Marvins but the pricing they gave us was way beyond what they should have been. We believe that they overpriced them in an attempt to push us onto their brand. (We had asked for price quotes on both). This backfired because we wanted a quality window at a fair price. We moved on to another building supply company. Unfortunately, this first building supplier is the sole distributor for Marvin in our area. So Marvins are out.

4. We ended up at another building supply who sells Anderson windows. Best experience we have had by far. They gave us great pricing and knew what they were talking about. They didn't try to talk us out of what we wanted. We have decided to go with Anderson Eagle windows. These are very high quality wood windows with aluminum cladding. If you have not seen them, you should check them out. In some of the less important areas of our house, we are going with Anderson 100 series windows to save money. They are able to match them up to the Eagle windows for a seamless look. The 100s are very reasonably priced, and I believe they are better than vinyl. The true divided light grids look much more convincing than any of the vinyl windows we have seen. They look really great for the price.

Consumer Reports gives Marvin and Andersen top ratings for a reason. Their highest ratings went to the wood clad windows.

Good luck!

This post was edited by TXBluebonnet11 on Mon, Jun 17, 13 at 20:10

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:00PM
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That is why you need to find a reputable window dealer, not one of the supply house type places like your mentioning. CR while an OK rating company is not nor should it ever be considered the end all or be all source. Marvin is an excellent window and Andersen, depending on the series is a solid window or complete crap!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 9:28AM
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Andersen make a good wood window ( woodwright), however, Andersen vinyl is absolutely horrible. They sell under the name silverline or american craftsman, total garbage.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 10:26AM
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