Great Lakes Ecosmart - Okna -SoftLite Should I keep looking?

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Location: Triangle Area, North Carolina

Re: Great Lakes Ecosmart Windows - Should I keep looking?

#16 Post by EltonNoway » Fri Apr 24, 2015 12:16 pm

Delaware Mike wrote:I would hope that the OKNA dealer would have performed a few 800 installs as full frame flanged new construction projects with the snap in nailing fin. The fins come in like 14' lengths and we cut them to the desired length in the field. The window itself needs some weld flash to the exterior jambs and accessory grooves removed and I prefer a cordless multi master type tool. They get snapped into the a wet bed of high grade exterior sealant after deciding the method of figuring out the corners.

I personally still install the factory stainless replacement pan head screws to level and plumb the frame into the rough opening prior to my outside guy starting his nailing process. This method works well for the snap in fins that aren't as well engineered like the Sunrise fin. Sunrise offers welded integral fins too, but only with a built in j-channel. Soft-Lite offers both with and without built in j-channels on their welded fins. I've installed them all.

The flange/fin width isn't very wide so you might be fine with the masonry returns to allowable sheathing face provided the windows are sized correctly. Most of the replacement window companies that modify their windows for new construction have engineers that have never installed a window in their lifetime and are absolutely 100% clueless regarding any attempt to implement the flange and it's relationship to vinyl j-channel.
Wow... Thanks Mike... thats a lot of great and helpful information! If I end up leaning towards the Okna you can bet I'll schedule another meeting with the dealer and hopefully interview the installer. The additional information you provided will help me determine if they really know their stuff... or just pulling my leg about their experience level.

At this point it looks like the Sunrise windows are out of the equation. After getting "full replacement" quotes on Sunrise Vanguard, Soft-Lite Elements, Okna 800 and Great Lakes Ecosmart (and even a quote on the Marvin Infinity / fiberglass) ... the Sunrise Vanguard quote at $1400 per window is $600 more per window "over and above" all the other vinyl window quotes (and $325 "more per window over the Marvin Infinity!) Considering all the dealers I've met and estimates received the Sunrise quote is not even in the same ballpark. In truth, the rep seemed to be in a hurry (it was our quickest in home estimate). It was clearly delivered as a take it or leave it sales approach. FYI: Before he worked up his estimate I informed him we had already received quotes on full replacement install estimates from Okna, Soft-lite etc. on their high end window line. I'm guessing he doesn't consider them competition or wasn't familiar with the competitions pricing.

So... the hunt is now down to the Soft-Lite versus the Okna. Both dealers quoted doing a full window tear out / replacement, replacing all interior casing and exterior brick mould. It appears I can't go wrong either way but... if you could choose either window for the same price... the Okna 800 Enviro-Star "or" the Soft-lite Elements at $800 per window does either one have the edge?

Also... the Soft-Lite dealer said his installer will wrap the brick mould with G8... ??? I'm confused. If all the exterior trim i.e., brick mould is replaced... is wrapping it considered normal practice when doing a full replacement?

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Location: Triangle Area, North Carolina

Re: Great Lakes Ecosmart - Okna -SoftLite Should I keep looking

#17 Post by EltonNoway » Wed Aug 12, 2015 7:54 pm

EltonNoway wrote: Also... the Soft-Lite dealer said his installer will wrap the brick mould with G8... ??? I'm confused. If all the exterior trim i.e., brick mould is replaced... is wrapping it considered normal practice when doing a full replacement?
Sorry to bump my last post... but decided I should follow up with the final outcome! All the advice and information I received via this forum was immensely helpful. A special thanks goes out to Delaware Mike, Windows on Washington and HomeSealed all of who helped point me in the right direction.

One thing that makes me crazy is when I find a forum post where a guest has the same question or concern as I do... and asks forum members for help... then after lots of helpful advice, the guest who posted the original question never reports back with the final outcome. Did they get new windows? If so which ones? Are they happy with them? If not, why? etc. etc.

Fair warning, this is a lengthy posting. No need for anyone to reply. I just wanted to proved details of my personal window shopping experience info for anyone that might find themselves in a similar situation. Any way... bottom Line: I went with Soft-Lite Elements. 17 Double Hungs, 2 Casements and 1 Picture Window. Why did I pick Soft-Lite? ... I kept reading over and over... in addition to the make or model of the window you select... a key deciding factor should be the installer. Examine their experience level, what is the installers warranty, did you get referrals... visit an installation to check the quality of their workmanship etc. In other words, "even a million dollar window is no good if improperly installed, and/or if the installer fails to provide quality service after the sale." On a side note: I should mention, the price difference between the LS and the Elements is hard to justify because the LS is almost the same window and is probably a better value for the money, but, after much negotiation (and awarding the installer with other construction contracts on my home) the final price on the Elements was too good to pass up. FYI: The Soft-Lite dealer said the vast majority (probably 95% of all their window installs) were the Soft-Lite LS.

NET: After much research into the various window manufacturers and narrowing my selection down to three high rated windows I then researched the various installers in my area who install the specific windows I selected. I investigated their years of experience in the industry, checked customer references, the Better Business Bureau, viewed some actual installations, investigated their service after the sale etc... based on the above criteria... the Soft-Lite dealer was the clear winner.

If price were no object then I'll admit my favorite was the fiberglass Marvin Infinity. I liked the smaller profile and rigidity of the frame but the cost to do my entire home was an additional $5K over and above the price of Okna 800's or Soft-Lite Elements! My second choice was a tie between the Okna 800 and Soft-Lite Elements. Both windows are awesome, similar construction and performance characteristics etc. I believe I couldn't go wrong with either one. I was leaning towards the Okna 800 because it has a slightly smaller profile than the Elements and because I liked the PowerLift (block-and-tackle) balance system over the Constant Force system used by Soft-Lite. That said, I did not select the Okna because of the retailers experience level and/or lack thereof. He had only been in the window business 5 years with no previous construction experience. Plus, asking him the same questions I asked this forum, he struggled with adequate responses and seemed unfamiliar with different aspects of window installations. (Net: The Okna's were my first choice... but wasn't willing to risk the possibility of installation problems or worry if the installer would still be in business down the road.

As to my original desire to have full replacement windows... following the suggestion from Windows on Washington, closer investigation of my window jambs and sills I discovered only 6 of my 20 windows had serious damage (exterior rot including the timbers of the rough frame opening. For those particular windows the crew replaced the jamb box, sills, rough framing and supporting timbers, all with minimal impact to the sheetrock. Some of the other windows were not as damaged and only required new sill nosing and/or brick mold.

As to the last question I asked... in regards to wrapping the brick mold with Performance G8 aluminum trim coil and wondering if it was standard practice.... I was primarily concerned about waves and buckling in the aluminum trim (i.e. oil-canning) as well as looking cheap. As it turns out, to have the windows wrapped was actually more of a choice. The installer said he could either install new painted exterior trim and brick mold (which would be scheduled maintenance going forward for as long as I owned the home) or have the current trim and brick mold wrapped with G8 in the color of my choice and forget about maintenance because G8 Performance comes with a non-prorated coverage guarantee for as long as I own the home. So... I went with the wrap! As to my concerns over buckling and/or looking cheap... my fears were unfounded. I'm delighted to report the guy who did the wrapping was an real artist. His cuts and fit were phenomenal, requiring minimal caulking at the seams. And his caulking skills were every bit as nice! (some guys don't know how to caulk... laying down big sloppy beads as opposed to being neat. I included a close up of a wrapped window. (FYI: On the windows I went with tan exterior and white interior. The exterior trim and brick mold was wrapped to match the window color.

So... I'm very happy with the final product! The windows look great, are easy to operate and clean, and I no longer have to think about painting my windows or trim. As a added benefit to getting new windows... my house is quiet! Wow! I expected thermal insulation performance improvements but had not considered leaky windows also meant sounds outside the home were also passing thorough my old windows. Thanks again to everyone!

Soft-Lite Elements installed (Now i just have to power wash my brick siding!)

G8 Coil Wrap Close-up

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Delaware Mike
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Re: Great Lakes Ecosmart - Okna -SoftLite Should I keep looking?

#18 Post by Delaware Mike » Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:31 pm

Very nice "old school" free hand brick mold bending of the capping. He did what I refer to as a brick return flair to hide the old caulk scaring to the brick and mortar returns. I back seal that area to prevent bugs from getting in there through the mortar joints. It looks like he removed the exterior stops and capped into the accessory groove of the window?

Job looks very nice and the Elements will serve you well. Thanks for keeping us up to date on your project. We like the success stories.

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Re: Great Lakes Ecosmart - Okna -SoftLite Should I keep looking?

#19 Post by HomeSealed » Tue Aug 25, 2015 8:54 pm

+1... Sounds like you made a great choice all things considered.
Pics look clean and professional. :D

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