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 Post subject: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:39 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:37 pm
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This is all happening very fast! Of course most of the estimators give some deal that's only valid for a few days. So I've crammed about 8 estimates into this week so far. But I've only got until about Saturday morning to make a final decision to make sure I can keep all my options.

I did my research, and found the highly recommended brands (Sunrise, Soft-Lite, Okna) but Okna isn't sold in Minnesota. And I found other brands that are generally considered to have some higher quality options and being good companies (Gorell, ProVia Aeris, Amerimax, Loewen) (HiMark and Polaris aren't sold here either). I've also heard some good things about Marvin Infinity.

I have 18 total window fixtures. If you add up all the doubles and triples it comes to 29 windows, nearly all of them are casement except two picture windows. I also have a double and triple patio door and a storm door added into the quotes.

It's a 1986 house. Standard window sizes, no lead. Currently has wood windows with popped seals and rotted frames.

We are getting white outside, including white cladding, and medium oak insides with oak grids on the front.

We don't plan to move, so we want windows to last and be high quality first and foremost. But at the same time, we don't want to pay more than we need to.

Questions:

1. Any ideas on what prices to expect for a quality window? Is $30,000 too much for 29 windows and two patio doors?

2. We've gotten some estimates in so far ranging from $18,000 to $31,000. I don't know if we're allowed to specify specific brands and prices or not?

3. Is cladding really necessary? If your outside trim has some design on it (a little routed line in it, etc), I assume that would be lost, the aluminum cladding will just be flat? Is there risk of moisture getting stuck behind the cladding if installed right? Aluminum or vinyl cladding?

4. We intend to paint all the outside house trim a new color in the future, so our plan is to just get white now and then paint everything later. The windows cost a lot more to paint the outside vinyl, while white is the cheapest. But the cladding can come in multiple colors with no added cost. Is it still better to just get white cladding with the white windows and paint it all later to make sure it matches perfectly?

5. We also want a new front door. It has two side windows and a half-circle on top currently. We want something real nice. So far we're not really impressed with the options in the door lines that the window dealers carry. But just searching google images we can find some nice old-world european/stylish/custom doors that we really like. Are there any lines or manufacturers of front door systems you'd recommend for something beyond the home depot look?

6. Any preferences in all those brands listed? Imperial LS with upgrades? Elements? Sunrise restorations? provia aeris? amerimax 366? Gorell energy master III? Infinity?

7. Are any of the screens better than others? "Better view" "ultra-vu" "opti-view". We'd like to really not notice the screens.

8. Is self-cleaning glass a crock or is that worth it?

9. Does the "solar" upgrades make it hard for plants to grow?

10. Is triple worth it over double (remember I live in Minnesota, 6 months below freezing). Is there any reason to not get triple if it was a "free" upgrade?

11. How low is the visibility rating before the windows are noticeably a dark view of the outside?

12. Is it true that a normal low-e argon double-pane energy efficient credit-worthy window won't really buy any additional heat/cold savings over my existing double-pane windows from 86?

13. I have trouble finding airflow ratings for a lot of windows. I assume it's not below 0.1 if it's not listed?

Thanks!


Last edited by J-Windows on Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:12 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:01 am 

Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:11 am
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Pricing is close, I'd get more estimates on a job this expensive.
Posting brands and pricing is ok
Cladding is not needed. Moisture can get almost anywhere,make sure they install drip cap and run aluminum under the casing and window at sill intersection.Aluminum does not need to be flat and typically does not look good.Smooth is my preffered over vinyl coated aluminum.
Get the color of windows and cladding you want and do not paint later. I would even prepaint non-cladded trim. before installing.
Your contractor should be able to help you more with your door selections.
What upgrades on the LS? I would choose the infinity first, then maybe LS depending on options, then Element and Sunrise last with all pricing being equal.
Look at screens in person and decide for yourself after pricing them.
Make sure self cleaning glass is a titanium dioxide coating.
What solar upgrades are you looking at?
Triple is the way to at the price.
Somewhere around a VT rating of 60 or lower should be ok
Hard to say on the glass performance, but the rest of the window will perform better if installed properly.
Air infiltration #'s can be hard to find and are not required to be listed. The Soft-lites will have very good AI#'s The Marvin's not so much.
Polaris is available in MN.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:56 am 

Joined: Sun May 02, 2010 9:30 pm
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Quote:
What upgrades on the LS? I would choose the infinity first, then maybe LS depending on options, then Element and Sunrise last with all pricing being equal.
Quote:


What are your basis for recommending Infinity first? And why recommend the Soft-Lite LS with upgrades and then say the Soft-Lite Elements Last-with all pricing being equal?? The Elements is actually a slightly better window than the LS in my opinion...almost like an LS with upgrades and few more bells and whistles...plus the Elements has a .01 Air Infiltration rating. Sunrise also makes a quality product and if all pricing were equal it would be a tough choice. Of course it all depends on your market and how each individual dealer prices a particular model. Don't forget how important the installation is. A good installer can bend some detail into the aluminum coil cladding and it is available in multiple colors, but if you don't want to lose the architectural detail of the moulding then don't cap it and paint it any color you want. I would not advise a homeowner to ever paint over a white vinyl window themselves.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:33 am 

Joined: Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:14 pm
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Location: New Jersey Window Pro- Northern NJ and Central NJ
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agree, the Elements would be the best performer out of the group followed by the imperial LS and Sunrise which are all high quality products which i recommend.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:31 am 
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Location: Milwaukee, Madison areas
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masterext wrote:
agree, the Elements would be the best performer out of the group followed by the imperial LS and Sunrise which are all high quality products which i recommend.

+1. I'd have the Infinity last on the list. It is a very nice window, but its only advantage is appearance. It lags far behind the others in every measurable area of performance... The reason that many companies make it difficult to find their ratings is because they are not very good, so they use gimmicks, smoke, and mirrors to attempt to divert your attention away from how the window will actually perform (assuming a proper installation, of course). :wink: ... Spacer systems, weatherstripping, gas fill, glass coatings, foam filling, etc are all great and do have relevance, however ultimately the ratings tell you the sum of all those parts.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:47 am 

Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:11 am
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I like the infinity better despite performance numbers mostly for personal reasons.
The LS would being first would depending on options. If its being compared with triple pane vs double pane in the others I would take it.I am not a Sunrise fan, so it is at the bottom for personal reasons.My rankings would change depending on price as well, Sunrise could be at the top and infinity could be at the bottom.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 11:32 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:21 pm
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See responses in bold.


J-Windows wrote:

Questions:

1. Any ideas on what prices to expect for a quality window? Is $30,000 too much for 29 windows and two patio doors?

Totally depends on the window, options, vendor, etc.

2. We've gotten some estimates in so far ranging from $23,000 to $31,000. I don't know if we're allowed to specify specific brands and prices or not? (23 was a lower-tier brand)

Allowed? Do you mean post up that information on the boards? Of course. Fire away and the more details you provide, the more detailed the responses will be.

3. Is cladding really necessary? If your outside trim has some design on it (a little routed line in it, etc), I assume that would be lost, the aluminum cladding will just be flat? Is there risk of moisture getting stuck behind the cladding if installed right? Aluminum or vinyl cladding?

Depending on the installation type, no. Most folks opt for it because of the improvement on the aesthetics and lessened maintenance as a result. Properly done cladding will not contribute to rot and regardless of caulking joint, should shed any moisture that gets through.


4. We intend to paint all the outside house trim a new color in the future, so our plan is to just get white now and then paint everything later. The windows cost a lot more to paint the outside vinyl, while white is the cheapest. But the cladding can come in multiple colors with no added cost. Is it still better to just get white cladding with the white windows and paint it all later to make sure it matches perfectly?

How big a color variance are you talking about. Many folks go with white windows and a colored capping. If you cap, get the paint to match the capping 100% and you will have a nice seamless look to it.

5. We also want a new front door. It has two side windows and a half-circle on top currently. We want something real nice. So far we're not really impressed with the options in the door lines that the window dealers carry. But just searching google images we can find some nice old-world european/stylish/custom doors that we really like. Are there any lines or manufacturers of front door systems you'd recommend for something beyond the home depot look?

Provia makes a nice unit as does Polaris, Therma-Tru, and HMI. After that, there are a bunch that are less well know that are also very nice.

6. Any preferences in all those brands listed? Imperial LS with upgrades? Elements? Sunrise restorations? provia aeris? amerimax 366? Gorell energy master III? Infinity?

The LS or Elements would be my favorite of that list.

7. Are any of the screens better than others? "Better view" "ultra-vu" "opti-view". We'd like to really not notice the screens.

Everybody calls theirs something different. All the high visibility fiberglass units will have similar looks and light transmittance numbers. The units that are nearly see through are made of stainless steel wire vs. fiberglass and are uber expensive. I also don't know of any stainless offerings from vinyl window manufacturers. Andersen and Pella are the big two that have that stainless options but I would never buy one of their windows, or any window for that matter, based on the screen option.

8. Is self-cleaning glass a crock or is that worth it?

It is okay but if you have a double hung window, I would rather clean it. Self cleaning glass needs specific circumstances to work properly.

9. Does the "solar" upgrades make it hard for plants to grow?

Never seen and issue with it but in theory, the reduction in visible light would potentially slow them down.

10. Is triple worth it over double (remember I live in Minnesota, 6 months below freezing). Is there any reason to not get triple if it was a "free" upgrade?

Depending on price...yes. You need triple pane where you are because your windows are a big weak spot in the wall. You also need air sealing and insulation but that is a different conversation.

11. How low is the visibility rating before the windows are noticeably a dark view of the outside?

Some people don't notice it at all, other are paranoid and will create their realization. Most people don't mind and don't even notice it after about a week.

12. Is it true that a normal low-e argon double-pane energy efficient credit-worthy window won't really buy any additional heat/cold savings over my existing double-pane windows from 86?

No. You will get and R-Value improvement in the window assembly that will absolute reduce your utilities and add some savings. How much depends on the window and installation.

What is also not accounted for will be the dramatic reduction in leakage (provided you don't buy the Infinity) over your existing units. Energy moves much more rapidly on air so air loss is going to be the bigger source of energy loss in most cases.

13. I have trouble finding airflow ratings for a lot of windows. I assume it's not below 0.1 if it's not listed?

Tough to say. Most that have good air numbers will disclose and market that attribute. Most that don't give out or even know that information are avoiding it for a reason or don't seem to care about it.

Don't assume anything though. You may ask about air infiltration and they might look at you like you are speaking Greek but their numbers could be great.


Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 3:13 pm 

Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:27 am
Posts: 826
Location: Texas - Houston & Austin
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Quote:
Of course most of the estimators give some deal that's only valid for a few days.


Don't let yourself get caught up in this nonsense. I can assure you that if you take a couple of weeks to make a good, informed decision, they'll honor the price they offered at a "discount".


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:09 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:37 pm
Posts: 23
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Thanks for all the replies.

FYI this is retro-fit, not full-frame. Though they will replace any rotted parts of the frame.

That too is an area of question, should be get full-frame or retro-fit? Because we have stucco, they say it could break stucco getting all the frames out, and then the existing interior trim might not be reusable, and it would need new jam extensions, etc.



Yeah I know the pricing gimmicks are a crock. They all start out with some high sticker shock price. Then show you some lower special price just to make you think it's such a great deal in comparison that you'll bite on the spot. Then they lower it again.



As for the cladding, I'm not so hot on it specifically, but I think it might have some advantages. We have some specific problems
1. Some of the surrounding wood on the existing windows (the parts that would be cladded I assume) is rotted. Since it happened before, I figured it could happen again, and the cladding should reduce the instances of rot?
2. We got woodpeckers. There's a couple windows that they just work on every spring. I'm hoping that the cladding would fix that as well. We have stucco so they bust their beaks on the walls, but all of our neighbors up and down the street have holes in their wood siding and strings of CDs and owl-shaped balloons and all that jazz.

Do you think it's specifically ugly? Is aluminum much better than vinyl coated cladding?


As for the window colors, it would cost around 300$ extra per window to get the outside a painted color (i.e. something other than beige or light tan). But the window dealer (who you'd think would prefer we'd spend more money on the windows) said you can get them painted for cheaper than 300$ per window. Is that true?

We wouldn't paint ourselves, we'd hire someone to paint all the trim and the windows, and make sure they know how to pain vinyl and get the proper primer and paint and stuff. My wife just doesn't want to pick the color right now based on the clad color options, would rather be able to pick later and have everything match.



The Soft-Lite Elements Ultra-S Glass (Triple) is our highest bid for the windows, patio doors (and a pella storm door). And this generally seems to be one of the best casement windows available based on reviews. But I got till end of month on the price (next monday). I'm not sure which other window at what kind of price should cause me to pick it.

Basically I want to know if that is a fair price or not. And is there any model/brand that if it came in at the same price, I should switch?

Is there any model/brand that is close enough in quality that if it came in 2k, 5k, 10k, etc cheaper that I should switch?

I had an Alside Exalibur quote initially (it was private labeled as a Revere Berkshire but I found out what it really was). But pretty much every review says to avoid that.

I had Amerimax out. But there wasn't much of a sales pitch. And they were going to wait a week to get a quote back to me. I was surprised. The first two quotes were immediate. Looked up the measurements in a price book and gave a quote. But for the amerimax 366 they had to call it in to the factory and wait a week to get a number.
(update, I just called the amerimax guy, and he says amerimax discontinued the woodgrain interior, so I guess that's out anyway).

I had ProVia Aeris out. Same story, no immediate quote, gotta send back to the factory to get numbers in a week. Seems weird to me. The VT800 vinyl you can see the printing dots on the woodgrain same as the Alside. The CX900 is a composite with a real wood trim on the inside. However, the window view loss for retrofit is really large, about 1in on each side. And the screen has a 1in side edge. It almost looks like you're looking out through a portal with the screen in. My wife isn't too sure about composite anyway. Any ideas on composite?

It's also funny because the aeris guy said "Soft-Lite is not a high-quality window" and "never heard of gorell, amerimax, or loewen").

Sunrise will be here in a couple hours.

I also have the soft-lite imperial coming out tomorrow because I want to see how much cheaper that would be (with spacer and screen upgrades) than the elements. How much better is the elements, i.e. how much more price is worth it?



The solar upgrade is the SB70XL on the elements

The aeris says it has an r-value of 9 while the best elements option available is 6.25. Is that for real?


Last edited by J-Windows on Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:20 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:37 pm
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And since we currently have the door + two side windows, would installing a double-door in its place sound like a good idea or bad idea for any reason (aesthetically, functionally, or otherwise)?

And where front entry doors are concerned, should we be looking at steel, fiberglass, wood, composite, etc?

We're trying to find real unique doors


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:45 am 

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real unique usually mens more cost.
Fiberglass or steel.
For structural and performance I would stay with a single with two side liyes/


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:51 am 
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Not sure where to start with the next batch of question but here goes:

Retrofit should be cleaner looking and will be less damaging to the stucco although you can do full tear out/new construction in stucco with new trim details.

Cladding should protect the wood if done properly and I prefer the performance coils with the enamel paint finishes vs. PVC.

Do not have your vinyl windows painted by anyone else. It will likely void your warranty and would never look as good as the factory applied finishes.

If you are going with a Beige, I think that Soft-Lite has a beige foil to the exterior with a white window. It does pump up the price a bit but not anywhere near $300. That is a ridiculous premium and is totally outlandish in my opinion.

While I would encourage to make a decision when you are ready, I guarantee you that your Soft-Lite dealer will still accept your business in May regardless.

The Aeris guy is quoting you COG (Center of Glass) thermal performance numbers which are basically worthless. They tell you about the 1" dot in the center of the window and that is it. Doesn't seem quite realistic for what you are buying and if that was his pitch, I would be suspect of him unless he/she clearly identified it as such.

The Sunrise and Imperial LS will be a couple of other good options to consider.

I usually recommend fiberglass for the entry doors as long as you like the woodgrain look.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:45 am 
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randy wrote:
Quote:
Of course most of the estimators give some deal that's only valid for a few days.


Don't let yourself get caught up in this nonsense. I can assure you that if you take a couple of weeks to make a good, informed decision, they'll honor the price they offered at a "discount".


+1 These salesmen use these time-constrained tactics every day of the year. Believe me, any of these deals will be readily available at any time you choose to buy. They'll be falling all over themselves to get your business.
Take your time and research so that you can make a great decision.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:16 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:37 pm
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Thanks again for the help.

I'm going to decline the time-senstiive offers for now, give me a little more time to think.

I've had two initial Imperial LS estimates. The imperials (with upgrades) are much cheaper than the elements. The imperial guy told me that for the casements, they are 100% identical. Only difference is the outside molding for the double-hung and sliders. There is also a heavier-duty crank-out bars that are standard on elements but they included them with the triple-pane upgrade on the imperial anyway.

We are worried about stucco damage. We've gotten mixed advice from contractors. Some seem to try to steer us toward retro-fit by saying that the full-frame replacement could damage the stucco or inside of your home. Some say it shouldn't. Any ideas on that? Is there any special contract writing we should get to ensure any damage is covered?

One imperial guy also sells ProVia Aeris and gave a better pitch on that. It's composite with real wood laminate on the inside. Numbers on similar (barely not as good) as the imperial, and about 20-30% more expensive, but if you want real wood interior it's the better option (than say a marvin which has real wood interior but poor performance numbers). He also has another brand I hadn't heard of before, THV, that makes composite windows and is based in North Dakota that is cheaper than the Aeris.

They said for full frame replacement they'd need to replace all the interior trim. Is that true? They just said it might get damage, or might not fit the new windows, or it would need new nail holes you'd have to patch, etc. But we'd really prefer to just keep the existing trim if possible. Do you think that's a really an issue?


Last edited by J-Windows on Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Getting estimates on windows this week, lots of questions
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:32 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:37 pm
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Two sunrise came in today

I'm having a hard time comparing sunrise to soft-lite.

It seems that the biggest benefit to sunrise is that it has very thin profile. It's hard to compare just from the booklets alone.

Has anyone seem both up close? Is there a noticeable difference in viewable area (edge thickness) between them? Supposedly it's more like 2inches for the sunrise and 3.25 inches on the soft-lite.

This would make the biggest difference if we decided to go retro-fit instead of full-frame. I really don't think I could do retro-fit with the 3in frames. I'd be losing a lot of width since most of our casements are tall and thin.

The soft-lite oak seamed to match better than the sunrise oak though. Is the 3 or 4 woodgrain colors all they really have? I'm just surprised they don't have more woodgrain choices. But it seems that the bottom half of the US always goes with white. It's just us weird northern folk that like our wood windows.

The sunrise is pretty comparable on specs. 0.04 compared to 0.01 airflow, anything below 0.08 is probably good enough.

The Ultra-U plus sunrise seems about comparable to the low-E with super-spacer (soft-lite)
The Apex (triple) sunrise seems about comparable to the ultra triple (soft-lite)

Both have easy-view screens.

Sunrise has the self-cleaning window option. I don't see that soft-lite has that option.

I'm waiting on sunrise prices until next week to compare. But so far it seems
Sunrise
+Thinner profile
+self-cleaning glass
Soft-lite
+Better wood match
+Better exterior vinyl paint options

I've also been pitched the Marvin wood-clad fiberglass as an option.

The one guy I originally called in to check on Gorell. But apparently since they went into bankruptcy and were taken over by soft-lite, all warantees are void on all windows sold after the bankruptcy, so the company won't install Gorell anymore.



A lot of people seem to think we're crazy for wanting diamond grids. Anyone else think we're crazy? We're got a tudor-ish style home and kind of like the diamond grids with that.


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