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Experience shows that, while most homeowners will never find the need to use their replacement window warranty, the details included; and just as importantly, excluded in/from the manufacturer’s warranty can provide valuable insight into long-term performance, aesthetics, durability and overall quality of the product under consideration — If you know what to look for. The following, based on this author’s 15 years’ experience, is an attempt to separate important details from marketing fluff. We believe transparency is key.
First, some quick history. When the first vinyl windows were introduced in the ’80s, the largest manufacturer believed their new vinyl frame extrusions near bulletproof. An UNLIMITED lifetime warranty was included with the purchase. A few years later, the vinyl frames began to crack, warp and fade causing warranty claims to skyrocket. The manufacturer was required to replace many, many windows and components causing great profit loss. As expected, the manufacturer went out of business selling off their property, plant, and equipment to a large builder-grade window company.
So, vinyl engineers went back to R&D to find out why the new revolutionary material was failing as a window frame. Testing proved two results: 1) With three or more years exposure to the sun’s UV light and heat, plastic contained in PVC becomes brittle and cracks, 2) Heated to around 110 degrees Fahrenheit, vinyl becomes pliable causing the frame extrusions to warp. The solutions: 1) Engineer unplasticized PVC (uPVC) extrusions and, 2) Reinforce the hollow cavities in vinyl frames with steel, fiberglass and/or injection mold foam.
With these solutions, vinyl window manufacturers went back to the drawing board and came to market with new “improved” windows offered with limited lifetime warranties containing specific coverage details and exclusions. In order to keep costs and therefore the price of their new windows down, most manufacturers began using some uPVC and reinforcing the meeting rail (the rail where you find the locks that support the weight of the glass in the top sash) with steel. In addition, the hollow cavity walls were redesigned to include more structurally sound shapes.
Today, only manufacturers committed to the highest quality using 100% virgin uPVC, fiberglass reinforced meeting rails and injection mold foam-filled frame extrusions. As you may have guessed, these premium windows cost a little more due to the price of high-quality materials.
Unfortunately, there are many entry-level companies compared to only a handful of truly better window manufacturers. Quality manufacturers will include detailed verbiage protecting the buyer more than the manufacturer. The following warranty specifications are a great guide to what you should look for in a better vinyl window.
In contrast, companies less confident in the materials they use to manufacture their product will often leave out one or more of the following:
Try not to be misled by marketing verbiage such as “Double Lifetime Warranty.” Most warranties are transferable to the second homeowner, though some are limited in the timeframe and/or details included in the transfer. You should also carefully look through the fine print or exclusions section of the warranty. Depending on the manufacturer, your warranty may be voided for taking or not taking any actions with your new windows. In general, warranties with more inclusive specifications and fewer exclusions denote a quality window that will maintain higher energy efficiency, lower air infiltration and like-new curb appeal longer than those with less inclusive verbiage.
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For more information, including what to look for in a wood, fiberglass and aluminum frame window; contact Tom@Truwin.com or call to discuss your project at 713-870-1688.
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