Fiberglass, vinyl; vinyl, fiberglass...what to choose?

gaylOctober 27, 2010

We are getting a lot of conflicting information. We are building a high-end home and most likely will have white windows both inside and out, and want the least maintenance possible. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so have some weather, but not as drastic as some areas of the country. Recommendations?

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I'm a professional window cleaner and run into both styles almost every day. I would pick fiberglass if it were my home, but that's not to say it that much better. Any modern window will get dirty and will eventually(after several years) Need to be replaced/renovated. The best thing you can do for yourself and your home is choose a very established window company( Pella, accent, many many more) that will be in business long enough to honor their lifetime guarantee. Also, Have a professional clean them ATLEAST once a year.

Here is a link that might be useful: Denver Window and Gutter Cleaning

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 5:59PM
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So, WHY would you choose fiberglass?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 12:09AM
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The biggest advantage fiberglass has over vinyl is it is paintable and is less prone to expansion and contraction. Many people looking for wood windows end up with fiberglass due to it's similar pricing but lower maintenence. The biggest drawback with fiberglass is it tends to have a higher air infiltration rate than vinyl and it is much more expensive.

The advantages of vinyl are it's lower cost and overall better energy performance. However, a word of caution on vinyl. Vinyl window prices can range from as little as $189 installed up to $750 installed. The general rule of thumb with vinyl is you usually get what you pay for. Buy cheap and you will very likely regret it 5 or 10 years later. OTOH you don't have to spend $750 to get a good vinyl window. If you do some shopping you can find some of the better products in the $450-$650 installed range. Fiberglass is usually about double the price of vinyl on the average.

This is not a complete list but some of the better fiberglass windows are Marvin, Milgard, Owens Corning and Inline.

Some of the better vinyl windows are Simonton, Okna, Softlite, PGT, Gorell and Sunrise. There are others but these are the ones I'm familiar with.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 7:02AM
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Epiarch Designs

I am usually against vinyl only because of the cheaper look compared to fiberglass or wood. However the more research I do, I realize maybe some of the performance per cost ratios might be worth looking into more.
I have been getting quotes on Marvin wood ultrex as well as Anderson 400s. They are coming in at around $650 per window (averaging large ones to small ones, including some with square transoms). But we think we will go with a white interior or possibly a painted interior. Can vinyl be used with a painted interior or are we stuck with white or off white?
I also view it as a possible opportunity to save some $ as well. I have been reading and looking a lot into Serious windows, but it does not look like I would be saving anything there. What other ones would you recommend that would be good to look into if we are also wanting a good looking window, along with performances that beat those of Anderson and Marvin?
We are building a house with R-40 walls and R-60 ceilings, so the windows are the obvious weak link here.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 10:03AM
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There are some manufacturers who offer painted interiors and some who offer a laminate. I prefer the laminate but the colors are limited. You can paint vinyl on the inside however if you have a warranty issue and it is due to the paint, the factories have the right to deny the warranty claim because you modified their product. I really doubt painting the interior could cause a problem as long as you use paint made for vinyl and avoid anything with nasty chemicals like acetone. Funny thing is that many factories offer painted interiors and will warrant the window if you have them do it but will deny a warranty claim if you do it yourself.

If that's an installed price on the Marvin, I'd go for it. To me, the jury is still out on Serious. They gained National attention when the bought Kensington Windows in bankruptcy and saved a lot of jobs. Even got a huge government contract out of it and a visit from the President and V.President. That doesn't equate to a first rate window or factory service. I'm not saying the aren't a fine company, it's just that I've been around the business long enough to take a wait and see attitude with situations like this.

I don't recall where you live but if you are building to those specs, you may want to consider triple pane glass.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 11:44AM
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Epiarch Designs

when you say laminate, do you mean wood veneer or like plastic laminate/fake wood look? Is there typically big upcharges to using those or a custom painted finish?

Triple pane was actually the reason I was looking at Serious. However their triple pane was costing more than the Marvin Integrity.

I also got a quote on Marvin Preiums that was just under $800 average per window.

That price is for windows only, new construction. I would be doing the install.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 2:26PM
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Simonton, as an example, uses an interior laminate for an off white color on their Platinum and 5500 series. It looks as if the interior is painted but leaves a really nice finish that looks much better than paint. The also use it for a couple of woodgrain interiors in cherry, maple and light oak. It's not real wood but it's nothing like the fake looking "contact paper" many manufacturers use. If you have a chance to see it and can appreciate that it's a vinyl window and isn't real wood, you would be impressed. It's the best looking laminate I've seen.

At the insulating level you are building to, I would encourage you to reconsider your budget to see if you can fit TP into it. Something just wrong about putting an R-3.3 window into an R-40 wall. Maybe take a look at the Okna TP with a .15 U-factor, if it's available to you.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 9:23PM
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Epiarch Designs

I would be interested in going with a TP option, however to squeeze it into the budget I am assume I would need to go with a vinyl window as opposed to a fiberglass window. This is ok....I think. We typically really dislike the look of vinyl, but some of these higher end ones might look good too.
There really are not many places around here that sell good vinyl windows. Do you know how a triple pane vinyl in some of the brands you mentioned would compare to the $650 window price of the Integrity?

Sorry to hijack the thread...I am trying to ask questions that hopefully can helpout the original poster as well!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2010 at 8:48AM
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We chose Marvin ultimate casement replacements for the house and the Infinity fiberglass units for the garage. They are both white exterior and interior. We chose the fiberglass for the garage because of the no maintenance issue. As the garage tends to get a lot of humidity in snowy conditions and rain, you get a lot of condensation on the windows and we wanted something to wipe clean. One thing to note on the fiberglass units is that the inside has little plugs that you can sort of see where they covered the screw holes (note this are full frame replacement windows, not new installs in new construction). They look note quite as nice as the wood interior ones in the house, but they are very nice windows.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 9:31PM
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