Replacement Windows - I have a headache...

giantcrazyOctober 20, 2010

I'm looking to replace about a dozen of my 20 year old aluminum windows in my brick two story home in NYC.

I've had one window installer come out and give an estimate, roughly $420 a window to get the Alside Sheffield windows. After doing some searching, it appears these windows aren't the greatest quality.

I'm trying to determine my options here, and have a lot of questions. I'm not sure what the differences between quality and reliability between wood, metal and vinyl replacements, and what the expected lifespan of the windows is.

For example - if I buy vinyl replacements and I'll need new ones in 10 years, then paying double for wood that will last 20 makes sense. If those same vinyl perform better (from a sound and leakage air perspective), maybe not.

So, I'm hoping to learn:

- what's the difference between an equivalent grade (not the cheapest, nor most expensive) wood vs. vinyl vs. aluminum replacement window?

- what is a decent vinyl replacement window that would be better than the Alside Sheffield, within reason from a budget perspective (if it's nicer but costs 3x as much, it's out of the ballpark)

- how long will the replacements I install now last?

Thanks - sorry if the post is confusing, but this really has me stumped. I fully expected the window distributor to try and sell me another window when I questioned the quality of the Alside, instead I got a sales pitch on how wonderful they are.

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What makes you think a quality vinyl window will only last 10 years?

What price do you consider within reason?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 5:51PM
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It's tricky replacing metal windows that are installed in brick houses. If it was, let's say, a wooden double-hung window, then the new replacement window would fit inside the existing wood frame. However when replacing metal windows they have to be torn out altogether. Now how is the vinyl window installed so there is no chance of water leakage into the framing? If the new window is just slid into the brick opening, how is it properly waterproofed? It can't be. There's no nailing fin on a replacement window. Impossible to caulk. Impossible to use Vycor. Contractors just slide them in, four screws and wrap the outside with coil stock.

I have no clue what kind of shape your existing windows are in. If they operate OK and have a thermal break, one option is to just replace the glass.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 8:46PM
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jocobe, it is not that difficult as a replacement window is basically a new construction unit without flanges. Once the old unit is removed, vycor wrap the opening, then you would probably use a sill receptor and possibly a head receptor. The unit would get screwed in like you mentioned but you would use backer rod and caulk around the outside edges to fill the gap after shimming the new unit. And from my angle 20 year old aluminum windows were probably an inexpensive line to start with so changing the glass is a very unlikely option in my opinion.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 9:03AM
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"it is not that difficult as a replacement window is basically a new construction unit without flanges."

Only if you have brick veneer and some framing already present to attach the new window.

Masonry house are a real PITA.

Wood bucks are used most of the time to give the window something to attach onto, but they eat into the window size.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 9:15AM
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What makes me think they'll last 10 years? I have no idea, to be honest. I've got no idea what the life expectancy of the windows is, for any of the ones I've seen.

I've seen plenty of 'limited lifetime guarantees' and 'for as long as you own your home' type literature, but I've read stories where people have had trouble getting certain things covered (or cases where people have been told that the window is covered, but they'd have to pay for shipping and installation to the point where the warranty is almost meaningless).

Is there an average lifespan of a vinyl window?

Maybe it's me, but I thought that aluminum would be more durable than vinyl. My windows are aluminum though, and they've warped to the point where they're impossible to open and they leak large amounts of air. Probably a number of factors, but the window salesman who came out said that that's typical of aluminum windows, even though they're likely only 20 years old. And of course that salesman was selling vinyl windows, so it's hard to tell whether or not that's a fair statement or biased.

For reference, the Alside Sheffield windows that I was quoted ran about $420 a piece installed. They don't sound very expensive, and the references on the company indicate that they're reliable and do good work. It sounds like each window probably costs in the neighborhood of $200. Having read a few reviews of the windows that were less than favorable, and seen reviews of Alside on this forum that aren't flattering, I'm wondering whether I should be looking at more expensive vinyl, or if vinyl is just too flawed and I should be considering something else.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 1:21AM
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"Masonry house are a real PITA"

Use masonry brackets(straps) or drill into the masonry and use anchors

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 8:59AM
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I am curious to an answer on this as well.

Just had a Renewal by Anderson salesman stop by and basically knock all the alternatives...vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass. (renewal by anderson sell composite frames btw)

I'm sure most of it was sales jargon, so would like to know what the real-world difference is.

Will each frame option be able to offer me a replacement window that will last 20+ years with no broken seals or fogging?

If so, then it would all come down to looks and price, right?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 2:17PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

RBA can't sell on the merits of their product so they must try to destroy other.

There is not much of anything special about that product and if they are selling against vinyl, they are selling against themselves given that their window is 70% vinyl resins.

Performance, warranty, and value are sub-par. It is a pretty window but you will get better performance out of premium vinyl or fiberglass.

Anything in the premium category will happily last 20 years.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 8:50PM
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Windows - can you give any examples on what you would consider "premium" vinyl or fiberglass windows? I am curious about this thread also.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 9:18PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Fiberglass - Marvin, Inline

Vinyl - Simonton, Soft-Lite, Gorell, Okna, Sunrise, Plygem.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 10:15PM
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Windows, just a quick question for you, we have commented on many of the same threads and I am sure you have read my opinions on the Plygem company in general. I am aware that the other names you mentioned are quality vinyl window lines but I am curious in the fact that you mean that Plygems actually does make a quality vinyl window?

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 8:07AM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

I should probably edit that portion out because that is a carry over recommendation from another board.

I have recommended it in the past out of deference to another contractor that I am friendly with because he says that he has used them them good success. I have only used a couple of products in the Plygem holdings group and I was not floored by their performance or quality.

Certainly the other names on that list are very good.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 9:14AM
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Thanks for the info, I have been doing a little research to educate myself on vinyl windows thanks to you and skydawg and the Plygems name was not one I ever associated with quality so thanks for confirming that for me.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 10:12AM
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