Sunday, February 8, 2009

Window shopping

So I know we've been promising this post for awhile...and, finally, here it is. I've been deliberating the best way to share the information we gathered on window prices and performance. The problem with posting the complete quotes we received from various manufacturers is that you would not be comparing apples to apples. Some quotes included shipping, others did not. In addition, we re-configured some of the windows in our plans in the middle of requesting bids (I know, bad idea) so the window sizes and quantities are not exactly the same from quote to quote. What I ended up doing so that we could keep track of it ourselves was create a spreadsheet in Excel that listed the price from each manufacturer for each window size we requested. That enabled a side-by-side comparison. For the purposes of sharing this information via the blog, we've decided to list the prices we were quoted for the window most used in our design--the 3'x3' casement. Sizing differs a bit from manufacturer to manufacturer but all were able to give us a window that roughly meets these dimensions.

The other reason comparing prices across manufacturers is problematic is that the product from each is not the same in terms of quality, performance, construction, exterior material, etc. It seems too labor intensive for me to track down all of the performance specs for each of the windows we priced out (you'll understand when you see all of the quotes we requested) so just know that fiberglass outperforms aluminum-clad each and every time. Also, casements are more efficient than double-hungs. This is the main reason we have so many casements in our design. If you're interested in the exact u-values for each of the windows listed below, all are available on the companies' websites.

You'll notice that we did not request bids for any vinyl windows. We would like to avoid vinyl if we can.

So here goes. Below are the prices we were quoted for 3'x3' casements. They'll give you a general sense of how the companies compared to one another.

Accurate Dorwin (fiberglass): $434
Fibertec (fiberglass): $466
Inline (fiberglass): $392
Marvin Integrity (fiberglass): $302
Marvin (aluminum-clad): $373
Eagle (aluminum-clad): $310
Pella Pro-Line (aluminum-clad): $241
Jeld-wen Builder-clad (aluminum-clad): $230
Loewen (aluminum-clad): $544
LePage (aluminum-clad): $401

Now the tough part. What to choose. We really, really want fiberglass windows. The Canadian manufacturers (first three listed) are too expensive for our budget. Although we requested one, we never received a quote from Thermotech...but I'm assuming their prices will be similar to the other Canadian brands. We have heard wonderful things about Marvin's Integrity line from a variety of builders. They also speak highly of the company--very responsive customer service, honoring of warranties, etc. Plus, the windows are beautiful. They offer the efficient properties of fiberglass, relatively low u-values (although nothing beats the Canadian companies), and rich wood interiors. They are a bit more than we wanted to spend, however. We are not particularly excited by the most affordable options (Pella and Jeld-wen aluminum clad). But we can't pretend that we have money we don't. We tend to choose the more expensive option when faced with tough decisions (e.g. standing-seam metal roof over asphalt shingles) and need to get real at some point with our budget. Then again, windows are part of the building envelope and that is what we are choosing to prioritize with this build. I have been losing sleep over this. Truly.

Another intriguing option is that Pella's fiberglass Impervia line will supposedly be available in casements starting in March. We met with the Pella rep yesterday and were able to see an Impervia double-hung. Very nice and decent u-values. Perhaps most importantly, the Impervia double-hung and fixed came in at the exact same price as the aluminum-clad. So we know it fits the budget. The downside is that they are fiberglass inside and out. None of that nice, warm wood interior that we've grown to like. But performance comes before aesthetic. So if we can't afford the Integrity, Impervia might be a good second choice.

We've requested one more quote for the Integrity line from another lumber yard. We'll see if they can beat our first quote. We're also going to do some reading on the Pella Impervia to see what the reaction has been to the line.

Best of luck to anyone selecting windows. This has definitely been the most trying and difficult of decisions we have made to date on this house. Please feel free to comment or email me if you have any more specific questions on the quotes we received. Hope this post was helpful to anyone else in our same position.