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PODCAST: Vinyl windows are better than wood

Ryan Carey from joins the show to talk about different window types and manufacturers. His company provides customers with an unbiased review of different products from different stores and contractors.

Reuben recalls one of the most popular blogs by Ryan about Andersen vs Pella Vs Marvin. Then, Ryan talks about the pros and cons of their window products. He also discusses his preferred materials and the differences between vinyl, wood, fiberglass, and aluminum. Moreover, he highlights the cost and price difference between these brands and materials.

Tessa and Bill share tips on how to reduce moisture and condensation inside the house, ventilation strategies, and window maintenance. Ryan also talks about foam and metal spacers, window U-factors, deterioration, and warranties. 

Visit Ryan Carey and his team at




The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.


Reuben Saltzman: Well, I just wanna say we’re having Ryan on again, to talk about windows because while you can get experts from any company to come out and talk about windows, they’re all talking about their product and why their product is the best, this, that, and the other. But Ryan, he doesn’t have a dog in the fight.


Bill Oelrich: Welcome, everyone. You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. As always, your three-legged stool coming to you from the Northland, talking all things houses, home inspections and anything else that’s rattling around in our head. And on today’s episode, we’re welcoming back Ryan Carey from My 3 Quotes because we didn’t get to the window conversation that we were intending to scratch on the last time Ryan was on the show. So welcome back, Ryan. We’re excited to dig into windows today. So, why don’t you go ahead and remind everybody who you are and what you do, and then we’ll just kinda start tearing apart windows.


Ryan Carey: Yeah, sounds good. My name is Ryan Carey. My company is My 3 Quotes. If you need any type of siding, window or roofing job, I come out to the house, I take a look at everything, we talk about all the different products available, and I present job specs to three different contractors. When those come back to me, I send them all to the customer, obviously a very big difference from your typical buying process where you have three different people coming out to give you a long-winded, high pressure pitches and pitching one particular product. In my case, we’re gonna have an unbiased look at the different products out there, see which ones are best for your house, and then I’ll present you with all the quotes. If a customer ends up wanting to move forward, I come back out there and write up the order with them, continue to be with them throughout the project and do a walk-through when it’s done.


BO: In the last episode when we talk, we went through siding, we talked a little bit about roofing, and I don’t think it’s nearly as interesting as siding and windows. So, Reuben, why don’t you tee this up because windows can be a bit of a large landscape to cover, let’s just say that.


RS: Yeah, thank you, Bill. Well, I just wanna say we’re having Ryan on again to talk about windows because while you can get experts from any company to come out and talk about windows, they’re all talking about their product and why their product is the best, this, that, and the other. But Ryan, he doesn’t have a dog in the fight. He, just like us, he delivers the unbiased truth. He is here to give an unbiased opinion on all the different products, and he knows them really well, and he wrote a blog post for us. Boy, I don’t know what it was, probably about seven years ago, he was a guest author on our blog, and this was another one of the most popular blog posts we’ve ever done, this ranked way up there. And I think the title was something like Andersen versus Pella versus Marvin. We’re going over the biggest three window manufacturers, at least that I know of, and he did a deep dive into the pros and cons of all these different ones; that got a lot of viewership, got a lot of haters for Ryan. I’m sure a lot of people didn’t like him after reading that, but that was a good one.


RS: And then he also did a follow-up afterward talking about some of the lesser known window manufacturers out there, and it was gold. I thought it was a lot of good information, and he’s done a few follow-ups on various window issues like condensation and things like that, so we thought, What better person to come on and wax windows? So Ryan, I’m gonna turn it back over to you.


RC: Yeah, absolutely. As far as those blogs go, yeah, they were responded to from people all over the country, and also from people asking, “Hey, do you got My 3 Quotes in San Diego?” Or wherever they were reading this from. So it did definitely make the rounds because for a while there, any time people were searching like Marvin versus Andersen, it would pop up and again gave that particular one where we went Marvin and Andersen and Pella, really compared the three most well-known window manufacturers out there. When it comes to those windows, those are the big new construction, wood interior products, but since then they’ve expanded their lines. Marvin has gone into a fiberglass line that has a lifetime warranty, that’s their Infinity product. And Andersen, as we know, makes all the Andersen products and then makes Renewal line, which is something different. It’s all under the Andersen umbrella, but everyone, at least in our market, knows about Andersen Renewal because it’s probably the most advertised window that’s out on the market, and that’s a composite window, where they take their vinyl and wood, combine it together and they call it Fibrex, and that’s their composite window line. So, that one again is something we can dig into a little more.


RC: And then Pella is also… They’re out of Iowa, they make a wood interior window, they also make a fiberglass window, and they recently just upped their warranty, so now I have to… When you talk about me always having to adjust to what people are doing, I never did a whole lot of Pella ’cause I always thought there were better options on other places. Now Pella just decided to lifetime warranty their wood window, and they’re the first person to do that, so now I have to look a little more into that situation. So yeah, things are always evolving, but if there’s any one particular place you wanna start as far as a brand, we can do that.


BO: Well, Ryan, I’m gonna put you on the spot. Who’s the best? 


RC: For me, honestly, if money is no option, and of course with most people it is, I love the Marvin Infinity because it’s lifetime warranty, it’s fiberglass, and yet it also has an option for you to stain it. They have this product called EverWood, where you can stain the interior of it. It looks just like wood, but there’s nothing organic in it, so no moisture or condensation is ever going to damage it, and it still gives you the look of a wood window. That’s what gives them a really unique situation there. There are lesser expensive options like vinyl windows that have wood grain laminates. You can get wood looks in other ways, but nothing looked so much like real wood than Marvin Infinity does.


BO: That’s awesome. Are they made in Warroad? Or are they made somewhere else in the country? 


RC: They’re actually made in Fargo. All the rest of the Marvin products are made in Warroad, but their Infinity line is so top secret they won’t let any of us take tours there.


Tessa Murry: Wow! 


BO: No way! 


RC: You can do the regular Marvin tour up in Warroad, and that’s a really great tour. It really shows how all of the wood window lines are made, but that one, because of that stainable interior product that is, from what we’re told, co-extruded with the fiberglass, is not something they want anybody to see, because really to this point, no one has anything quite like it. Even on the Andersen Renewal that I mentioned, you can get a wood laminate on the inside of those and stain ’em, but it’s still a real wood laminate, so it can develop mold, it can deteriorate where that Marvin Infinity does not.


RS: Yeah, for this top secret window I’m picturing barbed wire fences, and snipers, and Area 51 type of stuff.


RC: Yep.


BO: There’s a lot of secret stuff going on up north. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s some vehicle testing grounds up there that the manufacturers bring in their cars for super cold weather performance testing and things like that. There’s a lot more going on up north than you actually might understand.


RC: Yep, and you can’t even ask about it, you can’t ask about fight club, and you can’t ask about Marvin Infinity.


RS: That’s right. No, Ryan, I wanna ask you the opposite of Bill’s question, just the other end of the spectrum. Let’s say money definitely is a huge concern. You’re trying to get these windows installed on a budget, least expensive windows out there that you would still consider putting in your house, would it even be one of these top three brands, what would you do? 


RC: Yeah, I’m usually in the vinyl world at that point. Vinyl has a wide range of qualities there. Most vinyl windows have a top of the line, and then they have steps down from there, so my go-to is usually any vinyl windows top of the line, which has all the lifetime warranties, has all the glass technology, has really good insulation. You can actually get a vinyl window if they’re using the same glass as any of these top three brands, ’cause most people get their glass from Cardinal Glass out of Northfield. So they’re getting the same glass, but the vinyl windows I work with use a foam spacer in between the two panes of glass, so all around the perimeter of the glass, there’s a spacer that the two panes of the glass are attached to, ’cause we’re dealing mostly with double-pane windows. You can go triple pane too, but just for the sake of the argument, we’re talking about a double-pane glass pack.


RC: When you use a virtually non-conductive foam spacer in between the two panes, doesn’t conduct heat and cold like a metal spacer does. Marvin, Andersen, and Pella all use metal spacers in between their two panes of glass, so you get that condensation down in the corner because you’re getting a lot of heat and cold transferring on that metal spacer. So when you do a vinyl window that has the foam spacer in that spot, the vinyl window actually slightly outperforms all those other lines. If you’re doing everything else the same, like doing three layers of Low-E coating and argon gas, that vinyl window will slightly outperform any of those three.


RS: So is it safe to assume that that vinyl window has a lower U-value? 


RC: Yes, that is correct. Typically, when you’re talking U-values, anything 0.3 or below is the ENERGY STAR qualification, and with U-factors, it’s the lower the better. If you have a foam spacer, you may be at a 0.26 U-factor, and with the metal spacers, you may be around 0.28. It’s pretty negligible, but just for… It does slightly outperform just because of that spacer.


BO: What’s a U-factor? 


RC: So U-factor is the overall thermal performance of the window, how much heat and cold transfers through and in how much time. But again, it’s the lower the number, the better when it comes to U-factor, so like the opposite of an R-factor. But that’s how they measure windows, everyone goes by U-factors. There are companies who will talk about their U-factor and then they’ll talk about center of glass. That’s not a measurement that is important to anybody, but people will use it, because if they don’t have particularly great insulation around the corners or around the edges, they talk about, you’ll see in the fine print, center of glass U-factor. You want the entire window’s U-factor when you’re comparing windows to see what kind of overall performance it has.


TM: I’ve got a quick question for you about the foam spacers versus the metal spacers. Is one type more likely to fail than the other? 


RC: Yeah, actually the foam spacers are less likely to fail as well, they do much better on that. When you have the, let’s say, aluminum, and glass, and wood, and you have all these different materials, and they’re expanding, contracting at different rates, especially like a rigid box spacer, when that separates, that’s where the condensation goes up in between the two panes of glass, and then it gets cloudy and you have a seal failure. With the foam, it moves along with the expansion, contraction; that is, foam moves with it so it is much less likely to have a seal failure. And when they inject the argon into this, also it holds in more argon gas. They’re actually putting the argon in from the top because argon is a lot heavier than regular air, so they fill from the top and the argon gas basically fills up that glass pack. With the foam, they can actually inject this argon piece that puts the argon in there. It’ll go right through the foam, and then as they pull it out, it seals back around, and then they put butyl around the outside of it. Where with a box one, they just have to cut a hole and let it go in there, and then they pull it out and then cover the hole. And then over time, too, studies have shown that the foam spacers hold the argon in there a lot longer.


RS: So with all this you’re talking about with the vinyl windows, please explain to me why would you buy a wood window over vinyl? 


RC: The look, 100% the look. Some people don’t like the way vinyl windows look, maybe they’re trying to go for a wood look and they do the wood grain laminates, and some people love the laminates, and it goes great with the color they’re trying to do, and no problem. But a lot of people don’t like it, and they want something more realistic. The look of wood itself is still the best looking overall, I’d say even better looking than that Marvin Infinity, but the Marvin Infinity is the closest to that that you can get, but still have a maintenance free. So, you really are talking about looks. Some people with really high-end homes don’t even entertain vinyl for an option.


RS: But Ryan, everybody knows that wood outperforms everything.




RC: Yeah, boy, you’re talking to the wrong person there ’cause I’m like…


RS: Oh, man, Ryan, we did a podcast, and I don’t know if I talked about it on the podcast, maybe it was a blog post, I can’t remember where I shared it, but I’ve got one casement window, one crank out window where the bottom… And they’re wood windows, and the bottom had rotted apart. And man, it was like… I don’t know how many… I think I spent about a full week and so many man-hours just repairing that bottom section of the one sash. It was just such an unbelievable project, the number of hours and the number of tools required to fix this. And with vinyl, it’d just be 100% non-issue ever, that ain’t happening with a vinyl window.


RC: Right, and a lot of this goes back to the history of how we got here, which was originally, windows were made out of hard wood and you had single-pane windows with storm windows, and the wood from those one has actually last a long time because of the kind of wood that they were, they were the hardwood. And then they were drafty enough to where the houses didn’t hold in too much condensation. So, you basically had… Windows from the ’30s, ’40s, the wood itself still looks great, but then once they started doing soft pine windows, I’d say around the ’70s and ’80s, when they were doing soft pine windows with this double-pane technology, we realize what happens in our state, which is you have two panes of glass, you have a metal spacer, you have tons of condensation, freezing and thawing, and then a soft pine taking in that moisture and molding.


RC: So, basically, every window from that era, it had a life where it was eventually going to start doing that and deteriorating. And then like you said, you have the ones where you have an aluminum-clad window on the outside, but a wood sash and then the water sits down in that tray, and then it also works at the bottom of the wood window sash, so not only do you have the condensation happening in the corners and sometimes across the whole bottom of the window too, but you also have the water sitting down below it. And yeah, those sashes just fall apart eventually. And so, so many people thinking, Well, gosh, I had Marvin windows back then, or I had Andersen, or whatever the case, and it almost didn’t matter what window you were using back then. If you had two panes of clear glass, a metal spacer, and soft pine, those things were gonna deteriorate unless you did every one of your tips to try to keep no moisture in your house whatsoever to try to keep less condensation from happening.


RS: And while we’re on it, let’s just run through those tips real quick. You guys could help me. I’ll say number one, if you have a whole house humidifier, either turn it off or turn it way down. That’s number one. Tessa, I’ll throw it over to you.


TM: Make sure you use your bath fans, hopefully you have some, and you turn them on when you’re showering and keep ’em running for at least 30 minutes afterwards to get that extra humidity and moisture out of your house. Same thing with cooking, if you got a kitchen fan, turn that on when you’re cooking.


RS: Bill? 


BO: Wow, you put me on the spot. Tessa stole my cooking one. Dang it.


TM: Oh, sorry Bill.


BO: Don’t boil a lot of pasta over the winter.


RS: Ryan? 


RC: Lots of plants, plants will do it too. And another thing which, it just helps with the condensation issue or hurts if you’re doing this is closing your blinds. People like to close their blinds obviously, but when you close your blinds, you’re cutting off the heat source from getting to the glass, and as we know, and as we talked about in the past, the condensation is a function of the temperature, the inside temperature of your glass getting below the dew point in the house. And once that happens, you’re gonna have condensation, and eventually that cold air is going to penetrate, even whether you got a foam spacer or triple pane or however many layers of Low-E you have, it’s just a battle of your glass temperature. And if you cut off the heat source, that cold is gonna work its way in, and then a lot of times people close their blinds, they wake up in the morning and open them up, and that entire bottom part is iced out, and you’re having issues there. So having a heat source continue to get to the window is certainly important, which is why when people are changing these windows out, I’m trying to get them away from wood in any way possible.


TM: So Ryan, what you’re saying is that condensation on a window is not a window problem? 


RC: Correct, yeah. I mean, there are windows that are gonna help because even with the new wood windows, you’re gonna have better glass now, you’re gonna have the Low-E coatings and the argon gas, and so that inner temperature of the glass is gonna be warmer than it was when it was just clear glass. So you’re gonna have less condensation, but you can also have the effect when you had really drafty windows and now you change them out with the entire opening is sealed up really well now, and the window itself has really good insulation and weather stripping, now you’re trapping the heat and moisture in your house more, which is what you’re trying to do, if you want the heat trapped in your house instead of escaping, but then you’re also trapping moisture. I’ve had people get condensation for the first time with brand new windows because they switched out completely drafty windows, where all of the heat and moisture were just escaping before. So you have a lot of factors that go into it, but that’s why I always recommend that window that’s not going to deteriorate when you have condensation.


TM: I was just gonna say, in the building science world, Ryan, what you just described, there’s a term for it, unintended consequences, where these incremental improvements that we make in our houses and our building envelopes, like air sealing, insulating, tightening them up, reducing the amount of heat loss or air leakage to improve energy efficiency can cause these unintended consequences of issues with air quality and moisture build-up in houses. And so it’s really important to make sure that when you’re thinking about tightening up the building envelope, that you also think about ventilation strategies. And like you said, it’s great to put in a product that’s durable so that you don’t have to worry about it rotting, but bigger picture is like, let’s think about, “Okay, how are we gonna get all the moisture that gets trapped in the house now out and make sure that we’ve got good quality air?” And a lot of people are completely unaware of that, and they’ll put in all these new windows, and they never had problems before, and now they’ve got condensation and all of a sudden, I think it’s a window problem, but it’s not.


RC: Exactly, and that’s where I’m usually trying to just solve the window issue at that time. There’s a lot of other factors that might help in other ways, but one thing’s for sure, at least if you get that maintenance-free window without real wood, you’re not gonna have that problem.


BO: Well, it’s also the reason Tessa will never answer a question without saying depends first. Depends.




RC: Yeah.


TM: Lots of factors.


RC: That’s right.


BO: Coming back to Reuben’s replacement, repair of his sash. When a window begins to deteriorate, what other than taking it apart, like Reuben did… I mean, can you come in with any of these major manufacturers and just replace a sash or something like that? And is it gonna fit right? And what’s that process to do it in terms of just even getting it there and then the cost? When we were home inspectors, we would just say, “Oh, get this serviced or get it fixed,” and that’s easy for a home inspector to say, but what’s the reality that the manufacturer actually has something they can give you to put in that hole? 


RC: Yeah, the reality is, if they’re still making the sashes for the line that you’re dealing with, it usually works out okay, to just replace the sash. There’s a lot of windows that are just not making sashes for either that line. Some will say, Okay, once you’re beyond… Before 1988, we don’t make that sash anymore, or whatever the case may be, so you will have ones that you just can’t get. And then that’s where you’re really in a full replacement situation, because it has to come from that manufacturer to fit right. And yeah, there can be times where even getting it from that manufacturer, it might not fit perfect, and there’s some adjustment that needs to be done. That window frame may have moved a little bit over the years, and you may have to do some adjusting, but replacing sashes only definitely gets done. It’s not extremely common, but it’s… When you have someone who’s trying to sell their house, and they have a few bad window sashes, they don’t wanna replace the entire window, and they’re just getting the sash from the manufacturer.


RC: Some companies in town specialize in that, where they know which sashes are still available, which ones are not. That comes into the insurance process quite a bit, because you have dents on your window sashes and not your frames, which is common because usually the frames are extruded aluminum, so it’s stronger, and some of these sashes are just roll form aluminum where it’s thinner aluminum rolled over wood, and you get dents in that. Well, if those sashes are no longer made, then I’m usually getting a letter from the manufacturers, sending it to the insurance company to say, “These sashes are no longer made, they have to be full frame replacement,” and then you end up going that route. But there are plenty of people who still do the sash replacements when needed.


RS: I can only imagine what it would have been to do this full frame replacement ’cause I’m looking at these windows right now, and it’s like I’ve got a crank out on the right side, a crank out on the left side, and then a picture window in the middle, and it’s like you’ve got a gigantic hole in the wall here. I mean, this is probably about 7 feet by 7 feet. I mean, just for a little bit of rot at the bottom of one sash, and that’s what it could come to ’cause I wouldn’t be fixing it.


RC: Right. Or one dent of stucco, one dent from hail on one of those, and you have to replace the entire thing.


RS: I’m not into the little cosmetic damage from hail and now it needs to be replaced. I’m not into that at all.


RC: Well, I mean, from the insurance perspective, you have to… In that case, they have to actually replace it in those situations.


BO: Interesting. Ryan, can we go back to the softwood. I know there was a manufacturer in town that got in, I don’t know if it’s a class action, but they ended up having some serious issues with deterioration of the sash material because water got behind its cladding. Basically, what you just told me is that’s just a matter of time for all of these manufacturers, but why did this one window manufacturer getting into so much trouble? 


RC: Well, because they had something going on that was outside what normally goes on, which is just the typical deterioration from condensation is one thing, but if the cladding on the outside of the window is coming loose and there’s water getting in there basically every time it rains, that’s a manufacturer error, that’s coming straight from them. Cladding is definitely a different situation ’cause on the exterior like that, you’re gonna deteriorate pretty quick in that situation where all the rest just have the normal condensation and working into that soft pine and rotting and molding. And there are people who do keep on top of that stuff where they’re out there, they’re sanding it, they’re re-finishing it; sometimes they’re deciding to paint it ’cause the enamel paint covers and protects it better than just the stained wood. So there are people still working, trying to keep their windows from deteriorating from that condensation, it’s just a lot of maintenance.


BO: What’s his or her name? Because I don’t know what…


RC: There’s a few, there’s a few out there, and sometimes… I know a painter too who he does that a decent amount. I actually had a neighbor in my last neighborhood who ended up getting that done, just getting them all sanded down and bleached first to get some of the mold out of it an sanded down and re-finished, and they did not wanna replace those windows, but it’s an ongoing battle.


RS: I had all mine done before I moved in, had them all sanded down and bleached and painted white, and they look new now, but they did not look that way when we bought the house. But I wanted to ask you, Ryan, just coming back to… This has turned into an unintentional discussion of vinyl versus wood, and that’s fine. But I’ve got some friends, some neighbors, who have vinyl windows who absolutely hate them, and they are just the cheapest builder-grade windows you could imagine. They are single-hung windows, and they’re about… Oh, what is it? They’re a little over 20 years old now, probably about 23, 24, 25 years old, and a bunch of them have little cracks in them, they’re really tough to operate, they seemed to be a little warped, wind blows through it any time we got heavy wind, it’s like you can feel a draft, you can hear it. And people just hate them. What’s the deal, Ryan? Does this happen to all vinyl windows? 


RC: That’s the builder-grade versus quality grade right there. I mean, yeah, they’re just like anything else. There are the well-made products and there are the cheaply-made products. One of the vinyl window companies I work with a decent amount, they’re out of Mankato, they’re called Lindsay Windows, their top of the line window is called the Pinnacle. I love that window, it has got a lifetime warranty on it, it seals up great. When you look at a builder-grade window and then set that next to like the Lindsay Pinnacle, you can see the difference just immediately, and it’s the frame, it’s the thickness of the frame, and you will get a little more of a thicker frame and a high quality line of window. So that’s one of those things that like Marvin Infinity will step up and say, “Hey, our frames aren’t quite as thick because fiberglass is stronger than vinyl.” So that’s something that they’ll talk about, but you have a little bit more thickness to the frame with a high quality vinyl window, but they’re just night and day.


RC: There’s more and more people now replacing builder-grade vinyl windows because they’ve just come of age now. A lot of people used vinyl and the frames being as thin as they are, and then with having the moving sashes inside that thin frame and sometimes they’re not even fusion-welded at the corners, they’re screwed. And you just get warping. Yeah, I’ve seen that too. You get warping, you don’t have a good seal, you don’t have good weather strip. So yeah, all of those types of windows are going to fail pretty quickly, and then you’ll have some of those people too who say, “Well, I would never do a vinyl window again,” but a lot of times I’ll meet them down at the showroom of Minnesota Exteriors, who I use quite a bit, and when you see everything, how they perform, how the weather strip work, with double-hungs or sliders, they have a big interlock sash where they grip together and all the weather strip around that, the strength of the frame, people can see pretty quick why this is a lifetime product that they’re not gonna have issues with and why it has the better U-factors.


RC: So yeah, I’ve never had any issue with a high quality vinyl window, and I have more people go with that than your Marvin Infinity, just ’cause of the price difference. Usually, add a bone of 30% bump on the price of the entire job to go from a lifetime vinyl to, say, like that Marvin Infinity. And some people are willing to pay it, they love the look, they love the name, they love everything about that, that Marvin and some don’t even consider vinyl. But when you put them both next to each other and people can look at them side by side, you certainly have a lot of people say, and in very nice homes too, that will go the vinyl option and save the money.


RS: Now, when you say save the money, I wanna know what we’re talking. Let’s say top of the line wood window cost 100 bucks, what would a top of the line vinyl window cost? 


RC: Well, I get it all as an entire installed package. As an install package, it’s about a 30% difference going from the vinyl installed. And I’m usually doing the whole thing, the full frame replacement, the new trim, the finishing and staining on the trim. Some of these prices are remaining the same, whether it’s a vinyl window or whether it’s like a fiberglass Marvin Infinity or a wood window, but that’s the overall price difference on when everything’s getting done. It’s about 30%. The window itself is probably close to double in some cases, as far as going from one to the next, but it just doesn’t make as big of a difference on the overall installed price, because some of those issues, some of the labor prices are staying the same.


RS: Makes sense. It’s the same amount of work, whatever type you’re putting in.


RC: Yeah.


RS: Okay, got it. Ryan, give us your unvarnished opinion about Renewal by Andersen.


RC: Yeah, so Renewal…


RS: I find to be cute, sorry.


RC: Yeah, yeah, they make a great window, they really do. I like Renewal. The price is an issue with me because I wanna get my money’s worth. A lot of people are willing to pay the prices of Andersen Renewal because they have the trust factor, they have that… Again, it’s the most well-known and well-advertised window in our market, and really nothing is a close second. So, people, again, they are shocked many times at the price, but many people will pay that. And again, they have a stainable option, which I’m not as big of a fan of because it’s just like using the real wood, because it’s a real wood laminate. But when you’re doing one of their solid colors, like their white or they have off-whites and beige, it really is a nice looking window, and then that one performs really well too. They’ve gone to a 20-year warranty that used to be the 10/20 warranty, which all of the wood windows were. That’s 20 on the glass and 10 on everything else, and now they guarantee their Fibrex for the 20 years, too. With the Fibrex, again, with the condensation, you’re not gonna have the problems down in the corners if you’re doing that product, but they have never gone to the lifetime warranty. But you really won’t have many problems with a Renewal as long as you don’t have that wood laminate on the inside.


RC: But when people have gotten quotes on Andersen Renewal and then they come to after seeing the price, a lot of times they’ll call me to come out there, and I just think there are better options, including the Marvin Infinity. The prices I get from Marvin Infinity are typically less than the Andersen Renewal, but you still get a lifetime warranty and you get a stainable option that won’t deteriorate, or you can go to a vinyl option, a lifetime vinyl option. Again, if you’re doing a solid color, it all again comes to the look; the vinyl windows have the fusion welds at the corners. Any Andersen Renewal salesperson is gonna show a pitch book, they’re gonna show you every page, they’re gonna show you a vinyl window, they’re gonna show you the cheapest vinyl window on the market, like the ones you were talking about, Reuben, the builder-grade ones and say, “Here’s why you never wanna do vinyl,” and then they’ll show you a fiberglass window, and they’ll show you the most cheaply made fiberglass window, and they’ll say, “Here’s why you don’t want fiberglass.”


RC: Again, that’s what every company does when they’re pitching one window, they have a pitch book, they create doubt in every other product out there, and then at the end you are left with, here is your one solution. Everyone does it that way, that’s not unique to Renewal. That’s what Champion Windows will do, that’s what… Anyone who’s got one window to pitch, they all follow that, the 10-step sales process that a pitch book is a big part of, and creating that doubt. But again, just asking about the opinion, I think there are better options out there than that for the price and for lesser prices.


RS: Can you touch on the difference between a replacement insert and full frame replacement? Just a quick little 30-second version of what this means.


RC: Yeah, so when you’re doing an insert window, you’re going into the existing window frame, and the best insert window application is when you have one of those older wood double-hungs, again, made well with hardwood. You can take those sashes out. If you go to an old house in Minneapolis or St. Paul, a lot of times they have the old ropes and pulleys attached to them, and most of these houses too have big, thick wood trim that is better than most of the trim you can get today, and it’s a lot of times just gorgeous. And you don’t wanna mess with that trim. So doing that type of window as an insert makes perfect sense. You can take the ropes and pulleys out of there, insulate the weight pockets, take the sashes out and put a new window, a double-hung, with a frame into that opening. You’re gonna lose a little bit of glass size, but you put that into the frame. A lot of times you wrap the exterior trim in aluminum to make everything maintenance-free out there, and that is a perfectly fine insert application window.


RC: Now, for most of the other windows, full frame replacement is you take everything out down to the studs. If you have an aluminum-clad wood window in your house, and now you’re gonna do an install, I’m gonna recommend a full frame replacement in that case every time, because putting a window into a frame that has aluminum on the outside, wood on the inside, it’s just… It’s really. And then sometimes you’re cutting the molds between a combination unit, like the 3-lite casement, like you got there, Reuben or whatever you have. Now you’re trying to fill in these holes with different things and trying to use transition strips to cover it up, it’s not a good idea. Doing the full frame replacement in that situation is taking everything out to the stud, putting a new window on with a nailing flange when it’s possible, and then doing the new low-expanding foam insulation in between the window on the studs, and then you put on your extension jamb, which fills out your wall depth and then your new casing on the inside.


RC: People always ask casing, “I’m getting new casing then? My casing looks okay.” Yeah, you really do need to do new casing in most situations because you’re getting a new frame, that extension jamb is gonna change slightly for everything to meet up perfectly at the miters. It’s just not really a situation that’s gonna work out. Yes, you get all new with that, all new jamb and casing. And then the outside, there’s many situations there. If your existing window has a nailing flange and there’s vinyl siding out there, that can be taken off, basically re-attached afterwards over the nailing flange.


RC: Andersen Renewal always does something called Z-flashing, they don’t like disturbing the siding, they just put a piece of metal behind the siding, tuck it around the front of the window, and that’s how they do their full frame replacements, but not with a nailing flange, and then they screw in the window through the window frame. And that’s not a bad idea if you got steel siding. I work with Z-flashing installs too when need be. Steel siding is a little more of a risk. It’s harder to work with, it could could dent or crimp, and then what if that siding’s still available? So sometimes people will cut back the siding too, you can cut it back and then do a trim around where that… About 2-inch nailing flange is gonna go on the outside of the house. I always like to do a nailing flange install, if at all possible. Sometimes you got brick and you’re just gonna have to go in there and screw it through the frame and use a masonry cocking on the outside. There’s a lot of different situations, so every time I’m at a house, I’m just evaluating and saying, “Okay, here’s the best situation for you in this circumstance, but we’ll go through all the options.”


RS: Fascinating.


BO: Again, that’s why it’s so important that somebody has you in their back pocket ’cause maybe that contractor they ask to come out will have that expertise, maybe they don’t have that background, is really, really, really important.


RC: Yeah, and then you have some too that really, they don’t wanna do one or do the other. So they come in hot on, “We’re gonna do a full frame replacement no matter what,” or vice versa because that’s their bread and butter, what they do. I’ve had customers confused because one person came in and said, “Yeah, we gotta do this as full frame,” and then the other one who came in said, “No, we gotta do this as an insert.”


RS: ‘Cause that’s what they do.


RC: Right. ‘Cause that’s what they do, they’re either selling one window or they’re selling one install method. So yeah, it’s good to have someone who, one, is either someone like me or works for a company that does all the different kinds of installs. That’s a good question to ask when you’re having someone out, “Does your company do full frames and inserts? Are you gonna evaluate and see what the best situation is for my house? And then do you have multiple window options for my house, so I can get some different options and price points too?”


BO: Ryan, is the window industry, like virtually every other industry, where they’re just rolling up into four or five manufacturers? Is that what we’re gonna see moving forward? Are there still little companies out there that are trying to compete in the space? 


RC: Yes, there are so many companies when it comes to this. When it comes to vinyl windows, there are so many manufacturers. We have some local ones here, like Lindsay and Hayfield, and then you have all these Ohio companies like Great Lakes and Soft-Lite and Simonton, and you could really go on forever. Alside is another one that makes windows and siding. There are so many companies out there ’cause there’s just such a high demand for vinyl windows. And again, you have the ones around our area that at least make those steps of windows, the high quality, and then they make steps down. So someone might have experience with a window from a certain manufacturer and say, “This window is terrible, I would never use that window again,” but they have their entry-level builder-grade window. So, that’s not even necessarily the case that that brand is bad, but you have certain markets that don’t even need good windows.


RC: I remember being at a friend’s house in San Francisco where the weather is just always kind of not too hot, not too cold, and the windows were the cheapest-looking entry-grade vinyl windows I’ve ever seen in a beautiful house that they had. But they don’t need good windows there, so that’s why these vinyl window companies make so many different levels. But yeah, I don’t see this one really condensing into just a small amount of products, there’s always been a lot of vinyl windows out there and a lot of wood windows too, for that matter. And there’s so much demand for windows ’cause a lot of them do deteriorate, need to be replaced, so there’s still lots and lots of choices, which makes it so confusing. It’s not like buying cars where you can get on and see what all these things cost. It’s really hard to pinpoint what window costs are like for someone who’s just trying to get on the Internet and look around because they vary so differently based on the window and by the company that’s selling that particular window. So, it’s one of those few things that still are hard to get a handle on even with the Internet as far as what things cost.


RS: We’re coming to a close, we’re almost out of time, but before we do, I’m wondering if you can just take a minute and run through some of the pros and cons of those top three window manufacturers. You’ve already talked a fair amount about all of them, but just give us the biggest bullet points, good and bad, Pella, Marvin, Andersen.


RC: To make it quick on one of the points, all three of them that have the wood interior option and a metal spacer, which they all have, those are the ones I’m still trying to get people to stay away from, just because of the deterioration factor. Now again, if you’re controlling your humidity and maybe you got enamel on it and those types of things, I’m still here to help with those projects, but I try to get people away from the real wood. Now again, one thing I mentioned, this was big news, I actually did a Pella tour recently, and they have changed their wood window warranty to lifetime. Talking to them a little bit more as far as how that works, I’m still a little skeptical on that and as far as what that is going to cover. So this is new, I’m digging in ’cause I didn’t do a whole lot of Pella over the years because I thought the two options, Marvin and Andersen, had some better go-tos and what I would say, and that is, again, Marvin has that Infinity, the fiberglass, and that Andersen, you either have the Renewal or you have their 100 Series, which is also a product made out of Fibrex that has… It’s that same wood vinyl composite, but it costs a decent amount less than what the Renewal costs.


RC: Another thing I will say about Andersen is on their casement series. If you really like the look of wood, one thing they do on their casement, the entire sash that cranks out is wrapped in vinyl in their 400 Series, so you don’t have the trouble spot where wood meets glass. So that’s one thing I would say. If you really like a wood casement, you’ll still see the little bit of the outline of the vinyl, whatever color the vinyl is on the outside, you’ll see that from the inside of the screens in there, you usually don’t see it, but I can at least say for them, you have a break in between the glass and the wood, and that’s great. I’ve seen a lot of condensation, it could still work its way back there, but I’ve done a decent amount of Andersen 400 Series jobs just because of that. You have your three levels there, the entire window’s maintenance-free, just the sash is maintenance-free, or everything’s wood. And I’m trying to get you away from that trouble spot where wood meets glass.


RC: But as far as all three of these companies go, they do make a good quality wood window. They are certainly steps above some of what we’ve seen in the past and how they’re put together. They have the reputation they have for a reason, they all make a really nice window. Pella also makes a fiberglass option called the Impervia. It has a few different things from the Marvin Infinity, you can actually see the fiberglass strands in it because the paint finish over it isn’t as thick as the acrylic finish on the Infinity, so I still prefer the Infinity over that one, but they have some nice options. And Pella also has all of the blinds between the glass options in their Designer series, which many people go to Pella just for that. They invented some of these things like the blinds between the glass and…


RS: Those are cool.


RC: Yeah, they have some options. And other people have jumped on it in different ways, but they’re a pioneer in a few of those options. And really, I don’t think you’re gonna go wrong with any of those, it’s just that they’re all a premium price. You can get the Andersen 100 for about the cheapest out of any other major manufacturer product. If you want a major label window with a decent price, the Andersen 100 is one to look at. But otherwise, yeah, it’s just line by line, here’s the pros and cons in each one of those lines and, yeah, always happy to cover any of those.


BO: I can’t imagine how much information’s in your head.




RC: Well, the tours are always great to go on, I’ll tell you that. They’re fun to see and how all the different lines are made. And when you’ve been doing this for over 20 years, you’ve been across every window and know what some of the pitfalls are and what a lot of the pros and cons are.


BO: Let’s do this, let’s go to Warroad in January, let’s do a window tour, and then head out to Lake of the Woods and go catch some walleyes. Three guys.


RC: Yeah, they have a private plane too. You get to take the Marvin plane up there. It’s pretty sweet, no waiting.


RS: I won’t name-drop, but we’ve got a spouse on our team who’s a bigwig for one of these window companies. So we’ve got it in here, we can make this happen.


RC: Yeah, it’s well worth it. It’s fun spending a few days up there. They got a casino up there too, if you’re into that kind of thing.


BO: I want the ice. Well, we should probably put a wrap on this week’s episode. Ryan, again, you’re a window encyclopedia, so thank you very much. Why don’t you throw out your website again just so everybody knows how to get a hold of you? 


RC: Yeah, it is That’s the number three, Can set an appointment there, you can contact me there, my phone number’s on there. Yeah, anyone whoever has any questions, please feel free to give me a call.


BO: Awesome. Thank you, and thank you everybody for listening. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. We will catch you next time. Thanks for listening.