Ask Us: “changing my original single pane windows…”

Where readers ask and we (the community) try to answer:

Hi Alex,

Thinking about changing my original single pane windows and wanted to get advice from people with experience. I’ve heard of Andersen, Millgard, Marvin, Lowen, Pella… does it really make a difference? Andersen claims to be the only “Green certified” window company, and the oldest at 100+ years with the most patents. What about them? I’ve asked 3 different people, and they went with three different brands.

With the Fibrex material, it’s a composite of wood and polymer. Should I replace wood with more wood, which just rots, or new technology that should have better insulation and sound reduction?

All thoughts welcome!

Window Man

Unfortunately, your editor has to defer completely to the readers on this, as I have absolutely no experience with this matter. Anyone else care to help? I know there are some contractors online.

23 thoughts on “Ask Us: “changing my original single pane windows…”

  1. I replaced some windows with millgard, vinyl. So far it’s great. My contractor said the general rule of thumb for an average window replacement is to budget about $500/window, unless you go all out…

    There is one tricky thing with window replacement I heard. If it’s really close to a neighbor’s window (like it’s along the egress but not in the light well) then there are some city building codes that regulate how you must do the replacement.

    And if you are replacing bedroom windows, and the windows are not wide enough (like less than 3 feed wide or something), then you might run into some weird city firecode as well — like they want you to replace it with casement style window, rather than the traditional single-hung style (so I guess it’s easier for people to escape the fire)

    I replaced my single hung original window with single hung double pane in a bedroom even though the window wasn’t wide enough. They didn’t say anything during final inspection.

  2. I wouldn’t worry about the code issues on the replacement, because if you are putting them back in the same spot they will be grandfathered in as okay. Changing casement to double/single hung might run the risk that anon8mizer menitioned. The nuber is 5.7 sq. ft. clear open min. width is 21″ (I think), so a big single hung (3 wide) is still okay.

    I like the millgard vinyl replacement.

    For wood I like Marvin over Anderson and Pella. The function of the hardware is better (slide and lock), price is better and all else is equal. Opinion of couse, except the price part.

  3. All I will say is that if you have original, wooden double hung windows, you should first consider whether to replace at all. In my old victorian house, it makes zero sense to invest in fancy, insulated windows because the walls are not insulated. Most wooden double hung windows can be repaired to function properly and open/close easily. If you have crappy single pane aluminum windows from the 70s, then by all means, replace away…

  4. agreed “Dave”, if weather is the reason and insulation hasn’t been added this should be done instead or in along with the windows.

  5. Question for you folks – Does anybody have any experience with sound insulation where they inject foamy stuff into the ceiling, but it’s minimally invasive?

    Does it work? Is it ‘green’ and safe? How much of the ceiling do you have to open up? What’s the cost per sqft?

    This is for a duplex…


  6. I don’t really agree with “Dave” in that replacing the windows cuts down on noise significantly, and Low-E glass protects rugs and floors. Less drafts (but still cold from the walls), and no rattling in the wind.

    We’ve had all ours made by Ocean Sash & Door. They call it the Tilt-Pac and it fits into the original Victorian casements. Current price is about $600-800 a window primed, Low-E, etc. Installation extra.

    Best part: they keep the look of the original sash windows.

  7. $500/window? Everybody I’ve talked to (they have 2-4million homes) spent $2-3,500/window.

    Anybody have any more thoughts?

  8. anon8mizer,

    I did that before. It cost me like $1200 to blow foam into a 10 inch crawlspace between floors, it was probably around 1000 sqaure feet or so. It worked somewhat. Not as well as I’d hoped but it did cut down on noise. I have no idea for sure whether it’s green or not. (I’d think not, tho. It’s foam after all). I didn’t have to open up the ceiling much at all. They pump it in with a skinny long cylinder and put about 20 different small holes in the ceiling. They are very easy to spackle, sand and paint to fix afterward.

  9. anon,

    depends on the window for sure. I;ve had Ocean make them for me to fit a Vic as well. The $800 per should get it demo, installed and painted. Size Matters.

  10. I think Andersen windows run about $1,500-$2,000 for 3X5 standard size. That cost includes labor and the permits.

    I’d go with name brand windows. Better marketability and resale value. Besides, why not go with Andersen if they invented the double pane window system, and have over 160 patents?

    I think what gets people is what the contractors choose. Contractors get a cut if they get their customer to use a particular product. Secret is to find a window company that controls the process from start to finish.

  11. Not true. I have never gotten a cut of any window sale, nobody else does. I use Window Warehouse and Collier, and they rep. all the major lines. Contractors are not buying direct. Pella is rep’d by Pella. You pay for the patents at Anderson and the 5-point locking and several others of them suck. Anderson window installers are expensive, more than a local contractor.

    Marvin is namebrand, less expensive and better.

  12. don’t forget our local craftsmen at cara glass (on divis). they do wood sashes and stick whatever glass you want in ’em. they make them right there in the shop which allows us to keep it local.

  13. Ditto what Sparky said. I’ve never gotten a kickback (I’m a GC) and dealing with Anderson can be a pain if you’re not doing new construction.

  14. Sounds like the bottom line is that new windows are better than old windows. Do you guys believe that window replace recapture 100%+ of the value of the windows? Spend $10,000 on windows, get $12,000 in value out of it? I constantly read trade magazines that say “recoop on average 124% of cost” etc.

    What are your thoughts? Kitchen, bathroom, windows, decks. I guess perhaps people in the know, buying higher end homes really focus on the details i.e. brand/window type, etc, and therefore know the cost, and are willing to pay more, just like any remodel, since their time is precious and they are wiling to pay up for turn key.

    BTW, everybody seems to have heard of Andersen, not everybody about the other brands, but I have.


  15. I get bashed on my project about Brand stuff, because I am into quality over brand. I.E. Wolf vs. Bertazonni. The fact is people love to see brand name when buying whether they will ever use it/need it or not. I do feel like windows are a little different because your not leaving the stickers on and there are so many other things to look at in an open house. I’m not anti-vinyl window, in fact I put it in often and have yet to have a gripe on that (unlike brand of Dishwasher). I like the function and maintenance of vinyl over wood.

    If your working an re-habing a victorian, you have to think wood. Now if your do-ing the current trend of modernizing a victorian you can look at vinyl, but your probably thinking metal or stained wood.

  16. “And if you are replacing bedroom windows, and the windows are not wide enough (like less than 3 feed wide or something), then you might run into some weird city firecode as well — like they want you to replace it with casement style window, rather than the traditional single-hung style (so I guess it’s easier for people to escape the fire)”

    Right, They’re called “egress” windows. It’s part of the national uniform building code that most communities are now adapting.

  17. My house (built 1991) originally had all Andersen double pane, wood with vinyl cladding on the outside, casements. Almost every one developed condensation after about 10 years (warranty just expired on the seals, lol) and you could hear everything from the outside – we do/did have good wall insulation, though, and knew it was the windows that were a problem.

    We replaced them all with double hung, low e, custom made, Trimline wood with aluminum cladding on the outside. Sooooo much of an improvement!

    Crestline also make a nice window.

  18. Re resale value.

    we got some new facade windows. I dont want to mix up my numbers but i think we got 5 windows for about 6K (you are welcome to contact “the window and door shop” for photos and quotes of our own project.

    each window is about the size of a door (think those victorian bay windows), they are custom stained glass double glazed and sound proofed (for a pair and YES it works very well). And 100% bay area local (glass is custom made in oakland, wood is custom cut in SF etc).

    And the price was very similar to standard plain “custom” by Marvin (same wood, same double hung no stain glass no fanciness). HOWEVER, the ROI is much greater because it’s a true custom = there is no other window like those around, and they fit our facade. So I believe/think/hope that we have a ROI of 1-1 for the window part (just like any window replacement – because it was necessary to replace leaky aluminium windows) and an ADDITIONAL ROI because we enhanced the facade, thus the curb appeal/architectural value etc etc.

    In magazines, I do believe that they MERGE the two parts, making it very difficult to translate to SF where the architectural part can be a deal breaker in resale value vs “just fancy”. That also mean that if you replace 5yo vinyls by identical wood, I’m not sure you get ANY ROI at all.

    That said, we used the same company for all the other no-facade windows. They helped us pick home made vs Marvin window by window, depending on size, to get the best price on each unit. Another custom stained glass window was indeed less expensive going the Marvin way, because the size was right standard and easy.

    there are at least 3 window shops in SF that will * RESPECT your house * be talented AND competent AND competitive for home made windows. So bring your photos, go to the shops, and talk with them about what is included or not, pricing, options, etc. And the names are easy to get: drive around the to the stub restorations of the victorians-oooops, of projects IDENTICAL to yours- and ask. Owners are usually very pleased to give names and references.

  19. Our house in Pasadena, Ca was built n 1941. For the most part, our original double hung windows work fine and have held up nicely. However, there are a few windows that make way too much noise when opened and closed.
    Please suggest some solutions to fix this noisy problem.

  20. lubricate the sash weight pulleys and wax the slide track.

    [Editor’s Note: I’m amazed the content filters let this through. ;-) ]

  21. are you still happy with your trimline windows… i just got a price from them today … and i’m worried becasued i’ve nevered heard of them … i’m looking at double hung wood inside.

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