Window Shopping

window shoppingWe’ve signed on the dotted line – new windows and doors for our 1985 built home! In case you have never had the pleasure of installing new windows and doors, they are NOT cheap! Window shopping is a challenge.

Our contractor grade (read that cheapest available please) windows lost their seals and started fogging up over 5 years ago. Last time I painted the exterior trim, the sills and trim pieces on many had to be repaired with wood filler due to rot. The cranks on the inside that are used to open these casement windows come out of their pockets, and the levers no longer pull the windows tightly shut.

We haven’t addressed the window issue before because we have been debating whether or not we want to ‘age in place’ even with the planned developments in our area that will increase traffic, congestion and probably crime. After looking around to see what else might be available and desirable to us, we made the decision to stay.

Because of that decision, we are now making adjustments to keep our home as maintenance free as possible….. new windows and doors being just one of the improvements we will be doing.

What we looked for in windows and doors.

Since some of our windows are still good, we decided not to do a total replacement. We are leaving 3 entry doors, the garage doors, the windows in the garage, the small kitchen window and a large picture window in the master sitting room in place. That left 16 openings (2 french doors, 1 sliding door and multiple windows) that needed replacing. Because of that, and because I like the way the house currently looks, we wanted to buy something that could look very similar.

However, we also wanted something that would not require the same painting and maintenance as our current windows.

I had hoped to be able to use the same interior trim and the same inside screens.

What we found while window shopping.

After exhaustive online searches, several in store and at home consultations with the main window providers, we found that there are basically 2 ways to install windows – as ‘new construction’ – meaning that you rip out the old windows and trim and put in all new ones; and as ‘replacement’ – meaning that you are basically putting an insert into an existing window opening.

We found that the main providers offer 3 basic types of windows (meaning the frames):

  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum
  • Fiberglass

They also offered multiple levels of quality from basic to highly customized. You could get vinyl white inside and out with different kinds of energy efficiency in the glass. You could get a combination of vinyl and fiberglass inside and out. You could get wood inside with vinyl or aluminum or fiberglass outside. You could get fiberglass inside and out – all the same color and many more combinations.

Who we contacted for bids.

After poking around in the big box hardware stores, and many online searches, we decided to get bids from 3 sources.

My dental hygienist’s husband.

I’ve had the same hygienist for many years. Her husband is a re-modeler who has been specially trained and is experienced in installation of Marvin windows. Marvin has two brands of new construction windows, we looked at their Integrity and the Marvin line.

We set up an in home meeting with the Marvin guy and my hygienists spouse to see what they had to offer for our window shopping. They brought brochures and samples to show the types and colors being offered.

We debated between the Integrity Ultrex wood option (which is fiberglass on the outside with wood on the inside) and the Marvin extruded aluminum option (which is extruded aluminum on the outside with wood on the inside). The fiberglass is less expensive and supposedly expands and contracts at the same rate as the glass. The aluminum was heavy duty, came pre-colored in the color I wanted, but was more expensive.

They measured our openings and provided several detailed estimates for us over a period of time. They weren’t pushy at all.

Home Depot

We went up and gazed at the displays at our local home depot, but you can’t get anyone to talk to you unless you have an appointment for an ‘in store consultation’. I made that appointment online. When we went up to keep it, the person we were supposed to speak with was in training. Someone else tried to fill in (unsuccessfully). As it turns out though, we had to have an in home consultation with something called Home Depot Home Services. So we made an appointment for that during the failed in store consult and picked up some brochures.

The lady for Home Services came to our home, measured and talked about many of the openings being custom sizes and therefore more expensive. She displayed one of their cheaper products and couldn’t answer many of the questions we had. We wanted estimates on the Anderson brand and she provided a one number estimate via an email. This estimate was very high due to the supposed customization required.

When we expressed concern over the quality and asked more questions, she brought out the Anderson window district rep and had him look at the ‘custom’ doors and windows. He acted fairly disinterested but wasn’t pushy. He did introduce the Anderson Architectural series, which was closer to the quality and materials we wanted. The Architectural series is the higher end product and of course was even more expensive.


We get mailings from Pella periodically with ‘sales’ if you call by x date to schedule an in home consult. I called and the young man came out with samples. He too measured our openings and provided an estimate for the Pella fiberglass option. Pella did not have the combination of interior wood/exterior fiberglass.

The Pella estimate was $10,000 higher than the estimate for the Integrity wood ultrex option from Marvin. When I tried to negotiate the price down, the young man simply switched out one of the windows for a different option (one that wasn’t acceptable). When we didn’t respond to that, he called multiple times and sent multiple emails until we told him we had chosen someone else.

The Home Depot Anderson option was the highest coming in around $41,000 and that not even for the Architectural series (which was closer to what we wanted – fiberglass outside and wood inside).

What we chose.

We went with the fiberglass outside sold by  Marvin/Integrity – and the spouse of our hygienist. It was cheaper than the extruded aluminum plus the fiberglass is supposed to expand and contract at the same rate as the window glass, resulting in less chance of the seal breaking. Another point in his favor was that he was local and did his own installations – we were dealing directly with the guy responsible for getting the windows and doors installed right from the start. His bid was also the lowest for the quality we wanted.

I couldn’t match my exterior color with any option except the heavy duty extruded aluminum, but I got the fiberglass in bronze on the outside (which coordinates with our brown cedar type siding) and bare pine on the inside. Initially I had hoped that I could just swap in the same colors. The trim outside will be PVC which we will be painting to match our existing trim.

What we are doing to reduce the total.

Although each company that had an interior wood option offered to stain and seal the wood prior to installation, the cost was excessive – at least $400 PER WINDOW or door.

We are going to be staining the interior trim, the interior wood on the windows and painting the exterior trim to hold down the cost.

We also negotiated a bit on the window pricing to get the price down a little.

How we handled the ‘contract’.

Since we aren’t going with a big box type contractor, we figured out the verbiage we wanted in the labor contract and had our guy add it right on the order – since he doesn’t have a specific contract form.

We wanted to be sure that we specified order dates, delivery dates and installation schedules for the project. We also added the payment schedule. Before we signed we asked for and received information from the insurer showing liability and workman’s comp insurance and verified that our guy was going to actually do the installation himself.

So far, 2.5 months have elapsed since we started looking and getting bids. The holidays got in the way as well as our indecision. We also got a bid on siding in the process since the Marvin guy does siding too, but decided not to do that at this time. Today, the interior window trim was delivered for us to begin staining and sealing.

Our windows and doors have been ordered and should be available at the end of this week. They were supposed to be manufactured by the 10th day after the order date.

All in all we will have spent quite a bit of our time (staining, painting, removing and replacing security system gadgets, removing and replacing blinds and etc) as well as around $25K of our money when all is said and done. Quite a bit – to end up with basically the same look!

My tips for you if you are replacing windows or doors.

  • Check out the market to see what products are available.
  • Make sure your homeowners association doesn’t have rules against certain types of products.
  • Understand whether or not you will need to be concerned with government codes or inspections.
  • Don’t assume that the big guys will be the best or least expensive.
  • Get multiple estimates.
  • Expect to spend some time with the sales person.
  • Don’t expect instant results.
  • Make sure you budget ahead of time to save up for the cost of material, labor and surprises.
  • Know who is going to be on site installing. If it isn’t the sales person, find out how the installer’s quality is checked.
  • Verify that the estimate lists each product needed and all labor expected.
  • Make sure that the company/installer is covered for liability and workman’s comp so you don’t become responsible for injury of their workers (your insurance probably doesn’t cover it.).
  • Plan on having to do some extra work and deal with a mess for awhile.
  • Get a lien release on any product or labor before the job closes (to make sure everyone acknowledges your payments).


Have you replaced windows or doors? What was your experience?

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Window Shopping — 1 Comment

  1. Wow….I feel like “Rip Van Winkle”…$25K for windows….I had no idea. How sad that Anderson Windows weren’t represented better. I have Anderson Windows in my home and though not perfect they have held up well. These windows are well over 45 years old and I can still get parts for them. And there is not one broken seal in any of them and perform as they should. They do require painting every 7-10 years…Good Luck with your project.

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