Fiberglass Windows vs Aluminum Clad?

AliciaKSeptember 18, 2012

My husband I are purchasing a new house that is in desperate need of new windows. The current 36-year old windows are wood and have badly rotted throughout due to deferred maintenance (house has been vacant for 3 years). I've had three window install companies and one window restoration company out to look at the windows and all four companies have recommended that the windows be replaced instead of trying to repair them.

I had initially planned on putting in aluminum clad Lincoln windows, as that's what we had installed in our current home a few years ago and haven't had any issues. However, someone mentioned that Fiberglass windows (Marvin) would be another type to consider. I've been researching the pros and cons of both and have read mixed reviews on everything.

The outside of the windows will need to be a cream color and the inside needs to be stained wood - I'll have them stained to match the rest of the trim in the house. We'll be looking at a total of 23 windows, 2 6ft sliding doors, and 1 8ft slider. I've uploaded a picture of the exterior of the house in case that helps anyone with recommendations or opinions. The windows are much bigger than they look in the picture - the windows on the main floor are 38"x78" (rough opening) and upstairs is 36"x63".

We're looking at replacing the windows in 2 phases - 10 windows and 1 slider now, and the remaining at a later date. I've received quotes from Pella and Lincoln on aluminum clad, and Marvin for both fiberglass and aluminum clad. Marvin has been the cheapest to replace the windows doing either style. Lincoln was about $15,500, Pella was $18k, and Marvin was $12,200 for fiberglass and $14k for aluminum.

I've looked into Marvin some and can't quite figure out what the difference is between Infinity and Integrity (I'm sure it's something very obvious that I'm just missing) - can anyone tell me the difference? Anyone have recommendations and why on fiberglass vs aluminum glad? Any brands that stick out as being better? Brands to avoid? This is a house we plan on being in for a long time so I don't want to go with something that won't hold up. (This first round of windows that we're doing now get the brunt of the weather exposure). I live in Indianapolis, IN if that helps.

Thank you!


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Infinity ad Integrity are both fiberglass not 100% sure of the differences but the Integrity is and always has been a full frames window aimed at the new construction housing market. Infinity was originally made as an insert window but has recently been introduced as a full frame unit but still marketed towards the replacement industry and sold through authorized window replacement dealers. I have a hard time believing aluminum clad Marvin's are only $1800 more than Integrity, something is not correct there. If Integrity is truly that much less than Pella and Lincoln, buy them as I would not use either of those two windows on a dare in my hose.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:18PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Millworkman nailed it.

The Infinity is a bit prettier too in the all Ultrex version but if you are going with the wood - Ultrex, the Integrity is nice.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 8:23AM
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First, if you read some of these threads, the pro's that comment on this board make this one of the few truly valuable resources on the web. Second, below is a link to installed fiberglass/stained wood photos from Marvin. These are Ultrex/Wood. They may help.

Here is a link that might be useful: fiberglass with stained wood interior

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 12:25PM
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I'm a 1st time poster to this forum, and am new to windows in general. My question is similar to Alicia's (nice house), but I am considering Anderson A-Series Fibrex to Eagle Talon double hungs. Marvin is out for me, can't get the look I want due to limited options, but have heard good things about wood-Ultrex on and outside this forum. Like the pros on this forum, I am concerned about the Fibrex composite as I'm not fond of polymers.

I spent a loooooong time on the phone today with Anderson / Eagle reps. I was told that the A-Series windows contain both Fibrex and fiberglass.

My question generalizes this discussion: is aluminum clad, in the better windows, better in general than the composites?

My setting: I live at 5,300 ft, at the base of the Gallatin Mountains in Montana. Our west side gets harsh weathering so I am to replace all the windows on the west side and change the look of the house at the same time. Later I will change all the remaining window in the house.

I have decided on one single and three-mulled double hungs in the Anderson A-Series but have reservations about the Fibrex. Plan "B" is to look at Eagle Talon.

Options I have chosen are:
26 5/8" x 26 13/16" Unobstructed Glass ;
3 high x 3 wide grilles inside & out, 3/4" wide
Divided light spacers between the panes
Low-E4 SmartSun glass
Oil rubbed bronze hardware
Unfinished pine interior wood (to be stained by my contractor)
TrueScene Insect Screen (1/2 window)
I had hoped to pull the trigger on this order this week but await the advice of this forum. Please stop me before I make a mistake on any of the above. I have researched windows for weeks but remain confused due to well-intended but erroneous information from people outside this forum.

Thank you,

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 2:02AM
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FWIW, when I got my quote, I was also surprised how close Marvin Ultimate and Marvin Infinity were (with Infinity being just a tad less than Ultimate).

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 3:36AM
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What do you mean you by "Marvin is out for me, can't get the look I want due to limited options"?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 9:36AM
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I am currently shopping Marvin windows and have determined this:
Marvin Ultimate windows are their premiere line. The are heavy aluminum clad outside in numerous colors and wood inside, painted, stained or bare.
Marvin Integrity are fiberglass either in and out or fiberglass out, wood inside. Supposedly very close in quality to the ultimate at a better price. Offered in numerous outside colors and when wood inside can be white or bare.
Marvin Infinity is all fiberglass and meant as replacement only. Probably intended to compete with the expanding vinyl replacement business, but with quality.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 6:53PM
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Ultimates are also available in all wood interior and exterior.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 7:48PM
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Cladding eventually leaks and the wood rots.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 11:24AM
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millworkman ( on Sat, Sep 22, 12 at 9:36 What do you mean you by "Marvin is out for me, can't get the look I want due to limited options"?

I'm glad you asked this question since it invites me to revisit the issue. I was wrong. When I wrote that I had been to the Marvin website but did not find what I was looking for. Since then I went back to the website and found more information. I then went to my dealer, who found additional information on the recently revised software that the dealers have. I also obtained a Marvin catalog (Part #19980519), then spoke to Marvin reps on the phone today about Marvin Ultimate windows.

The short story is Marvin has lots of options and lots of information, but you have to probe the website to find a great deal of it. I did, indeed, find all the options I wanted in their Ultimate double hung.

I will go with Marvin aluminum clad rather than composites (Anderson Fibrex or Integrity Ultrex). I was not able to find objective information on the Fibrex -- I did find numerous opinions, but not objective data, and certainly nothing that was independently verifiable.

For anyone thinking about Marvin window, it is essential that you go to your dealer and get a quote, then use the initial quote to tweak the options until you build the window you want. The quote (a pdf file) will contain a list of the options chosen, dimensions, and also an image of what the window will look like.

Don't be afraid to insist on the options you want, Marvin has them. I found that no single source, neither my contractor, dealer, the Marvin website, nor even the Marvin reps have all the information, so you have to keep pushing for answers. And, if the answers do seem right to you keep pushing.

The rep I spoke with did not like the phrase "Marvin Integrity windows." He said that Marvin and Integrity are separate. The Integrity catalog says "Integrity from Marvin." That is "from," not "by," Marvin. I don't know what is the corporate structure of Marvin, Integrity and Infinity.

I remain usure of what is considered high end, wood, aluminum clading, or composites. It appears to me that the ultimate high end windows are all wood, and that Al-clad is preferred over composites. I would like to hear what others on this forum think.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 10:21PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd


Andersen does a very good job of protecting the Fibrex materiel from any real scrutiny and they are extremely stingy with their material data and structural performance.

Perhaps the most telling fact about the Firbrex material is that very fact (i.e. the clandestine data). The warranty on the material is also questionable. If it is really superior to vinyl, wood, etc...why only a 10 year warranty?

You are correct that Marvin has created some separation between the brands. It is a bit odd sometimes but that was their approach.

I am not sure what the evaluation tools are for creating that ordering of materials are, however, certainly from a price standpoint you are correct: Wood, composites, vinyl is the usual order for pricing.

If you can find the window look you want in the Integrity series, it should be more cost effective than the Ultimate equivalent.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 7:29AM
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I was puzzled mainly due to the fact that in the years I sold Marvin there really was nothing buildable that they would not manufacture(may cost but they would make it). They do truly do all they can to keep the companies separate as the manufacturing is done not only in separate facilities but another state as well.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 10:42AM
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As WoW alluded to, the Fibrex material window products are deliberately protected. Ultimately, the material is primarily composed of vinyl, and from what I've seen, offers medium-grade vinyl performance numbers. IMHO, it is a product that exists not because it is superior in any way, but simply because it is different. It will never rot out and has a nice appearance. It is not a bad product, it is just not worthy of paying a tremendous price premium IMO.
On what would be considered an "ultimate" high -end product, it really depends on your definition of that. Price, beauty, and richness, will definitely go to the wood product, as do name recognition and reputation. If performance comes into the equation, then things shift toward higher end vinyl and fiberglass or composite products which are generally not household names like Pella, Marvin, and Andersen. In reference to your earlier comments on the objective data, the thermal and structural performance ratings are what you are looking for to determine energy efficiency, and to some extent, quality as well. Unfortunately, there is no PERFECT product that combines beauty, price, performance, and longevity/warranty, so you'll need to prioritize those items to determine the best fit for you. Given what you've said so far, it sounds like you are on the right track with Marvin. You won't find a better wood window IMO.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 3:44PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

+1 Well said HomeSealed.

While I agree that it should never rot out (in theory), I think they are worried about degraded structure overtime. I have see the cross cuts and they are not that impressive.

I wonder why they wouldn't play chess with the warranty upgrade like Marvin did.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 4:48PM
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