From All Wood Windows/Doors to Stress Cracks

window_painsJuly 28, 2011

We live in a house 70+ years old. All of our windows are original wood double-hung with triple track storms/screens. We have no problems with them and wouldn't think of changing them. We do live in a climate with some hot humid days in the summer and cold snowy winters. We are planning to add a sun room and would like to be true to the house and so our preference is to use all wood double-hung windows 6/6 (SDL with spacer bar) with matching patio doors. Contractors seem to prefer wood/clad and have told us about the inferiority of the new young wood which is not nearly as good as old wood. We first learned about this when we replaced our wood gutters with new wood ones. We accept the inferior wood and the maintenance issue, but we thought that painting a few more windows and doors, especially where the sashes can be removed and the external grids are made of wood and not putty, would not be that big of a deal. Or so we thought.

Our search happened over a period of time. We started looking at a Pella Store as it was relatively close. The salesperson showed us their wood windows and then politely but firmly suggested that we consider the aluminum clad, instead. Clearly, Pella wasn't for us. Next we went to a Marvin distributor and found someone willing to sell us wood windows. They were obviously well made but we were struck at the thickness of the sashes (rails and stiles). It was a very different look from our own narrow windows. We asked to see the wood patio (swinging) door and then the salesperson suggested fiberglass doors from another manufacturer (Thermatru) to go along with the Marvin windows. We left there a little bewildered.

Anyway, next up was a JeldWen distributor which also sold Marvin. We told the salesperson that we wanted wood windows and he told us that Marvin was "the best." When we told him about the thick sashes, he said that you're not the first to make that comment, and showed us the JeldWen Custom a.k.a. Pozzi. The scale of this window was closer to what we were used to, and we thought the historical sill suited our house better than Marvin's heavier historical sill. We looked at the Pozzi wood patio door and were assured that it would hold up in our climate and had a 20 year warranty on the wood (same as their windows). But we still wanted to see the Marvin wood door (10 year warranty on the wood--same as their windows) and he showed that one to us, as well. It actually looked more substantial than the JeldWen (it should be--it's a lot more $). We asked how the Marvin door held up and he said he had the slider version and hadn't had any problems with it.

Finally, we looked at Kolbe & Kolbe. Here we were told that if we wanted a wood exterior, we should go with the optional baked on acrylic finish which was guaranteed for 30 years. But as the salesperson said that, I was looking at the chips out of this finish in the display model. The window itself looked like a pricier Pozzi, and was somewhat stiff to operate.

We decided the choice was between Marvin and JeldWen. Looks-wise, we liked Pozzi better, but were concerned about the mixed reviews on JeldWen. Our contractor weighed in on the side of Marvin, while saying he would do either, but then said he had had some difficulties with seasonal adjustments on a wood Marvin patio door. Where had we heard something like that before? We tentatively decided to go with JeldWen...

Until we read about stress cracks--stress cracks in glass caused by manufacturing defects, structure settling, abrupt temperature changes, and who knows what else. Because of code, we are required to use tempered glass on the windows. Obviously, the doors use tempered glass. And we learned that tempered glass is more subject to stress cracks. Now, the interesting thing about glass warranties is that while seal failure may be covered for 20 years, stress cracks typically are covered a lot less, if at all. In the case of JeldWen, it's 1 year. For Marvin, it's 10 years coverage for "manufacturing defects." For Kolbe, stress cracks are not covered for tempered glass. And just for the fun of it, because another contractor had bid on our project using Windsor Pinnacle Primed wood/clad PVC windows/doors, we looked at their warranty. No coverage for stress cracks.

We do not know how common stress cracks are and whether they strike all types of windows and doors, and all sizes of glass equally. We are also uncertain as to how extensive Marvin's warranty is--for example, would they deny a stress crack claim because they believe it was due to structure settling?

We wonder if our all wood choices have left us barking up the wrong tree.

Any comments would be appreciated.

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In all honesty I have been in the millwork industry for 25 plus and have never seen a company that warranty's stress cracks. As the word implies the stress is generally from something other than the windows which would be why they are not usually warrantied. Anyhow I do not believe they are that common or occur often enough to be concerned with when ordering windows. I would be more concerned in new construction than an older house as older houses have generally done all the settling they will do, which is a major cause of stress cracks.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 8:05AM
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Millworkman is 100% correct. Stress cracks are mostly caused by a buildings settling not due to any deficiencies in the window or the glass. Since a window manufacturer cannot control this, it's excluded from the warranty.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 10:27AM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Unless you home is falling down around itself, most of the structural movement (read...should be slight), is accommodated for during the installation and should not be transmitted into the window.

Every stress crack that I have ever seen has been during shipping as is warranted at that point prior to acceptance of the materials.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 11:07AM
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I just wanted to add in, that window companies that do allow a 1 or more year warranty on "stress" cracks, do not always honor it. They will pass the buck onto the installer, especially if the installer is not "specifically" trained to install that "specific" window.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 12:24PM
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