Overview While this is obviously a very individual decision, this article explores our top 3 window brands and some specific areas where they shine. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive review of all windows, but rather more like the ‘Cliffnotes,’ distilling down 25 years of installing windows of many, many brands! We’ll also discuss a few metrics for windows and how each brand stacks up.
Our Best Pick Overall We’ve ranked Andersen as the #1 top overall brand for reasons we’ll present below. We have not ranked other vendors since they have specific areas where they shine and special products that particularly stand out.
ANDERSEN – #1 TOP BRAND
• Delivery/lead time: When you place an order with Andersen, they send back a confirmation with a delivery date, usually 4-6 weeks out. What’s amazing about Andersen is that they really deliver on that date! For 25 years they’ve been delivering on the date they promised. During the pandemic, they were the only window company honoring delivery dates!
• Product Quality: Andersen builds a beautiful, energy efficient window with U factors that meet today’s energy codes. In fact, they offer several levels of insulated glass to meet the changing and locally adopted codes. They operate smoothly with high quality hardware and excellent weatherstrip. They have multiple interior and exterior colors that go with today’s homes and hardware finishes for everyone. They offer high quality argon filled low E4 glass that measures up with energy efficiency in summer and winter.
• Price: Andersen windows are priced right. They beat Marvin, Pella and most of the other prestigious names in windows.
• Legacy and Support: Andersen has been around since the1903 and in the last quarter century, our experience is that they’ve stood behind their product every time. We’ve rarely had any problems with them, but when we have, a technician came out to troubleshoot and resolve. They haven’t let us down yet!
• Products where they shine: They shine with conventional double hung, picture, casement, and bay windows – the windows you typically see in over 90% of today’s homes. Gone are the days when they only offered the flimsy snap in grills on the window interior. Now they have several lines to choose from including full simulated divided light every bit as nice as a Marvin window at a better price point.
Other Reputable Choices
• Delivery/lead time: Marvin windows have long and varied lead times, from 6 – 20 weeks. Their delivery window is much more approximate than Andersen’s so if you choose Marvin, be sure you don’t start your construction project until the windows arrive or at least are confirmed in transit. During the pandemic, they had lead times of 6 months up to one year!
• Product Quality: Marvin builds a very beautiful, energy efficient window with U factors similar to Andersen, depending on the product line. The woodwork at the interior is a notch up from Andersen’s 400 series, and the sashes of their casement windows are wood at the interior, and they come with custom jamb liners so you don’t see the white plasticky stuff – the tracks at the sides of a double hung window.
• Price: Marvin windows generally come in slightly higher than Andersen in price. Still a good value, and the manufacturer sells to a dealer who you, the customer can buy from, so there are not too many markup layers between you and the manufacturer.
• Legacy and Support: Marvin has been amazing in standing behind their product in our experience. We’ve had slightly more problems with Marvin than Andersen, but they have always sent out a helpful technician and have never left us with an unresolved problem. The support is good, though there can be some wait time.
Products where MARVIN shines:
• Marvin’s woodwork on their windows is very beautiful – something you can really only appreciate in person. You won’t see the difference online and in photos. Marvin’s French casement window stands out from the rest. The sashes are fully wood at the interior, not vinyl clad, and the hardware and interlock system is good. French casements are very tricky because both sashes move and there is no center divider for them to lock into, and Marvin stands out with a more solid window with tight tolerances.
• Quad Slider: Another product from Marvin that really stands out is their enormous 14 foot wide sliding windows. You can open up almost an entire wall for a fair price with a very elegantly engineered quad slider. Check out the photo.
• Delivery/lead time: Lead times are pretty long – currently in the 16 week range as of 2023.
• Product Quality: Arcadia doors and windows are made of aluminum or steel – very indestructible. Their double pane, argon filled glass provides excellent, energy code compliant U factors. The very rigid frames and aluminum manufacturing process enable enormous expanses of glass.
• Price: We buy Arcadia windows direct from the factory here in Stamford – eliminating the layers of markup between the manufacturer and client – a big advantage. Arcadia’s big sliding units come at an attractive price point compared to other top quality multi-slide manufacturers – For example we recently priced a 20 foot x 8 foot high quad sliding unit at about $10k. A pricing quirk about Arcadia is that they build their pricing based on window sashes. A large single casement window could be about $1,800. If you want a quad window, they multiply that price times 4. So, they are the most cost effective for large sashes.
• Legacy and Support: Arcadia windows has been around for 90 years, and they are a small enough company that you can talk direct to a knowledgeable person at the factory. They have been responsive to our needs when there were corrections needed on a job.
Products where ARCADIA shines:
• Modern design: The anodized aluminum stock color is an amazing choice for a modern or contemporary style home – giving a little distinctive panache to the look of your home’s windows! They also offer a bronze finish which works well for many homes and can custom paint the aluminum any color you like as well.
• Big Glass: Arcadia is able to deliver very large format glass panels for doors and windows. If you don’t want to see a lot of frame or glass division, they can deliver that panoramic view. Check out the awning and large format sliding units in the photos.
• Multi- Slide or Pocket doors: As mentioned above, Arcadia’s showcase product is really their enormous multi-slide doors. Here’s a photo of a quad sliding door we installed as a pocket door, so the door disappears entirely into the walls. A retractable phantom screen keeps the bugs out while maintaining the astonishing 15 foot by 8 foot window opening.
Buyer Beware About “Big Shot” Brands
Although one of top 5 best known window brands, Pella has a tragic flaw. We’ve tried working with Pella over the years and at least here in the northeast have found their customer service to be virtually absent. We’ve had minor problems with hardware or windows not functioning smoothly and were left high and dry to solve the issues ourselves. Lead times are long, and in the past they have been unapologetic about missing even those delivery promises. Not the kind of vendor that a builder with a commitment to standing behind their work wants to work with.
A luxury, fully custom window and door manufacturer – Kolbe sells through a wholesaler, then through a retail lumber yard so there’s 2 layers of markup. They are the highest priced windows in our lineup, but this company has a similar customer service downfall. We found them to be brutally apathetic about missing their delivery target dates by a mile. Then when the windows were delivered with various defects, missing retractable screens that were supposed to be factory installed, they left our team hanging with a pile of parts shipped in many weeks later. We were pretty shocked by the hard nosed apathy from this high priced vendor. However, we were very blessed in this case that we were working with Ridgefield Supply Company, as our retailer and they went to bat for us with the manufacturer and covered the labor costs of our team doing work Kolbe dropped the ball on. The result of our tenacity was beautiful leaded glass windows, with integral retractable screens in a Larchmont Tudor home – but we’ll be sure to avoid working with this company again.
Final Thoughts I hope this “cheat sheet” to windows and manufacturers is helpful, and I’ll leave you with these:
Key take away points:
• Consider the specialty of the company to make a decision on brand
• There is no substitute for a showroom visit to perceive the differences first hand
• Factor in window manufacturing lead time when planning your project
• Give serious weight to product support and legacy