Marvin Ultimate, Marvin Infinity, Loewen, or Kolbe?

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Marvin Ultimate, Marvin Infinity, Loewen, or Kolbe?

#1 Post by windownovice »

Your time and expertise in answering any of my concerns would be greatly appreciated. My 31 year old windows need help. I would appreciate any advice and/or recommendations in my journey to replace 19 windows. Here is my situation:

- I Live in DuPage County, Illinois (40 miles west of Chicago). Winters are cold, summers hot, sports teams are not.
- 12 wood framed ROW double hung windows, with triple track storms and divided lights. 5 of the windows have rotting of the sill and frame.
- 6 wood framed casement windows. (1 won’t seal completely as a casualty of last summer’s windstorm).
- 1 wood framed operating octagon window. (Exterior frame is rotted).
- Most of the second floor windows have condensation.
- Most of the windows are drafty, especially the casements.
- Existing interior trim and baseboards are painted white so a premium wood product wouldn’t be seen.

After going through a group of sales presentations on vinyl, wood, and fiberglass products, we have “narrowed the fieldâ€Â￾ to the following products to replace our 12 DH's, 6 Casements, and 1 octogon with double glazing, low-E, argon with SDL’s in 5 DH’s:

1) Marvin Aluminum Clad Ultimate, (Wood)
2) Loewen Aluminum Clad, (Wood)
3) Kolbe Ultra Sterling (Wood)
4) Marvin Fiberglass Infinity

I tried using the website to evaluate the performance of the windows in a cyber comparison, but did not have the CPD # and was amazed at how many different products each company has. I asked those folks that gave me quotes for the CPD # on their proposed window. So far I’ve only received the Kolbe #.

I was surprised that no products I have seen come with a storm window, thus the screen and window are exposed to the elements. I also enjoy looking through clear glass without an obtrusive screen.

The Marvin Ultimate and Loewen appear to be about equal in terms of energy performance from what I’ve cobbled together from the NFRC website. The following are advantages for the Loewen over Marvin that have been presented to me:
1) Loewen uses the Western Douglas Fir as opposed to Marvin’s Pine.
2) Loewen’s corners are Double-mortise and tennon vs, Marvin’s slot & tennon.
3) Loewen supposedly has a built-in weep system for moisture control. I’m not sure about Marvin.
4) Loewen does not run cladding to the interior weather strip.

But the best price I have been quoted for Loewen is $2,500 more than the Marvin Ultimate (same salesman). Ouch.

I am going to see a side-by-side comparison of the Marvin Ultimate, and Kolbe Ultra Sterling (Wood) this weekend from a salesperson who quoted me Marvin but after finding out he was high on price, said he will be able to now quote Kolbe and be competitive with the Marvin wood product. The Kolbe’s apparent advantages over Marvin:

1) Kolbe’s 7/8â€Â￾ glass vs. Marvin’s 5/8â€Â￾. Anyone know Loewen’s?
2) Kolbe’s air infiltration rating of 0.03 vs. Marvin’s 0.18. Loewen’s?

I like the Marvin Infinity Fiberglass because of:
1) No need to paint interior or pay an extra $2,600 to do so.
2) Seems to be more durable than wood.
3) Price is $3,200 less than Marvin Ultimate wood product.

My concerns for this fiberglass window are:

1) No long-term performance record.
2) Will parts be available down the road if this window doesn’t catch on?
3) Doesn’t look as good as wood.
4) Is a non-natural product that could emit something harmful.

My final concern is the installation. The salesman with the best price so far subcontracts his installers vs. others who say they have their installers as employees. How can I mitigate this perceived risk? I have checked the Better Business Bureau and found no major differentiation. My next step will be references. I definitely need help and guidance from this forum to evaluate the pros and cons, suggestions for any other manufacturers or installers to consider for replacement products, advice on whether to keep or remove storm windows, etc.

When done with this project, we would like to have energy efficiency, low external maintenance, paintable on the inside, all rotted wood replaced, no loss of glass surface, and full-frame replacement. Help and Thanks.

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#2 Post by Guy »

First of all I see your missing Pella & Eagle windows. I know Pella has smashed salt in the wounds of many but I honestly feel they are on the come back trail. I'll throw down my 30 years in the industry against anyone out there on today's product! With my close and constant work with them this past year. I think they will honestly give Andersen a good run at that #1 ranking on the charts this year. So before all the Haters start hating let's just keep this line of posts positive for the customer to make a choice without ripping into someone elses opinion. Let's establish the ground rules to give pro's and con's to each of the choices.

With that said here's my thought's. I can't speak for the Loewen product because I have no clue!
Marvins exterior Kynar finish comes standard with their product. I know Pella and Eagle offer it at a special order. The Kynar finish is a very good choice for the exterior of any window. Todays fiberglass windows will stand up next to the extruded window no problem. In your Chicago environment I think fiberglass would be a great choice. I think the glass window frame will expand and contract closer with the actual glass itself better than wood or vinyl. Pella's new Impervia fiberglass window is unbelievable. As a matter of fact I'm going to tear my three year old Simonton Mosaic's out and replace them with these fiberglass DH units. Yes I said my house!!!! I'm mainly doing it because I think they are great and I want to see what they can do. So I use my house as a guinnea pig all the time.
I know Eagle has a great window but unfortunately I don't know enough about their product to spout off. I do feel that from these windows any one of them would greatly provide what your looking for. The installation part is the one you should concentrate on. There are good in-house installers and good sub-contractors out there. It's your job to seek them out. I do know of a company named Promax that has an honest reputation to offer. 847-829-1035. I can give you their name because I know they stand behind their work. They also handle Marvin products. I hope I offered something logical to pick from!

Dean S
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#3 Post by Dean S »


You're awful lonely on that Pella bandwagon. I don't know about their fiberglass window but their clad window went from laughable to only acceptable after their upgrade last year. Please reread the posts on this site about their cladding.

Eagle makes a very good window but I would have to talk to you in a different venue about Window Novice's other local dealer. Avoid them like the plague.

Loewen makes a great product. From the exterior it is very similar to Marvin's and the Douglas Fir is a good selling point. It is a hard wood, same as those 100 year-old double hungs that still haven't rotted. The Fir has a busier pattern that stains pretty dark. If you're painting or planning a darker stain you'll like the windows. A clear coat still looks somewhat dark. Pine is a softer wood that tends to rot which is why cladding was invented in the first place. Marvin's cladding system and wood preservative do a good job of protecting the wood.

If Loewen was the same price I would still prefer Marvin, but then again I'm biased. Is Loewen worth $2500 more for a whole house job? No.

Loewen does not have a large presence in the Chicago area. The dealers are responsible for service, including warrantee work. You had better hope your installer stays in business and stays with Loewen for a long time. Marvin is very well established and has a service center with a full-time staff and sales support. If you ever have to deal with the manufacturer after the sale Marvin is a better bet.

I have not done research on Kolbe in about a year. They had several lines of windows and options. I think they offer Kynar standard now but I'm not sure. The hidden jamb liner cover looks nice but doesn't appear too sturdy. If I were buying Kolbe, I would make sure all options are spelled out on the quote and would also check their presence in the area. I don't know who does their warrantee work.

Window Novice,

I'll try to address a few of your concerns.

Make sure you're using Infinity as a full replacement window. I wouldn't insert them into an old ROW frame. Are you in the south end of Naperville? I see a lot of ROW out there and they're all falling apart.

The ultrex has been used for about 10 years on Marvin's patio door sills and has held up well. It's not an experimental material. The Infinity line is only two years old and your concern is legitimate. Infinity has been adding exterior colors and types of windows so I don't think they'll drop the program anytime soon. But who know about 10 or 20 years in the future?

Marvin's space between the glass is 5/8", not 5/8" overall.

You're better off buying windows from someone who buys directly from the manufacturer (not all do). All things being equal, employees are better than subcontractors when it comes to installation.

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#4 Post by windownovice »

Thank you for your response! I like your ground rules about pro's and con's. I did get a Pella quote about a year ago, but I cast them aside as I heard from a local contractor that Pella used to be excellent in his opinion but he had switched to using Marvin products as he believed Marvin had a better product and better customer service. Perhaps I need to reconsider Pella with the special order for the Kynar finish or the fiberglass units?

One of the window saleman I am considering ranked the big 4 this way (he carried all 4 products):

1) Loewen
2) Marvin
3) Pella
4) Andersdon

This salesman was outstanding in that he really educated me about windows and wasn't pushy, unlike another man who wouldn't leave until I had to hand him his coat and tell him to go. The 1-4 ranking might be a list of most profitable to least profitable also, but it made sense for the reasons he outlined.

I also heard that Pella has rollscreens available in its casement product? Is that true? Not in the double-hung? I would love a window where I could look through clear glass and not have to take the screens down to do so.

Does anyone know if Marvin has rollscreens in the near future?

As for Eagle windows, that is new to me. Do they have a website? Am I better off buying from someone who is listed on a window manufacturer's website?

Thank you for the vendor recommendation. I will look into them.

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#5 Post by Guy »

Hey Dean thanks for being a gentleman and just speaking on issues you know of and not attacking. It makes it much more easier to respond without being pissed off. This way we can debate opinions and offer facts that can benefit a customer other than force a ref to push people apart.
Yes, it's true I stand alone so far. I will make a vast point and change everyone's thinking. It has to start going upward somewhere and I will succeed at forcing it that way or die in the process. I'll give you a little inside knowledge then you tell me.
Pella came to me after searching for the right person. They asked me into to our local distributor in Plymouth MN. It made me feel good about my acomplishments here when they came after me. They let me rip their product into pieces and had reasoning behind most of my questions. Others are being changed as we speak. They brought me in to build an installation program for their New Construction windows. Since they sell direct to the bigger contractors. They want them to buy the window and installation together. This way they know their product is getting installed right and saving the huge lawsuits they give windows away on because of a bad installer. They find it cheaper to give out new windows then going to court for something not even remotely their fault. Kind of like the coffee that's to hot at McDonalds! So Pella is taking that next step by selling the window and installation as a package to the homebuilder. I think this is a great idea. Not only because I'll get some more work but we can give the new home buyer a protected place to live that's honestly safe from moisture and mold. They can sleep at night knowing there's no water running down the inside of their wall. I can sleep better at night knowing we made a difference in the industry for the better!! Enough of that!
The extruded frame and interior wood are the same as Marvin's on the most part. The roll formed sash coverings everyone talks about isn't really that big of a deal in my mind. They don't have to endure any weight or overall stress in any way. For manufacturing purposes they can make one type of sash and cover it with any color. Keeps production moving forward and faster to meet delivery times. After many installs I haven't seen any issues with these at all. If I do I'll be honest and speak up, but so far so good.
Their Vivid Screen is the best on the market. Made by Gore and nearly unsceen. The new one they have is nearly invisible to the naked eye. I know customers hate looking through screens.
One thing I really think has impressed me more than anything is their own multi-million dollar testing facility. They have their own that is by far one of the best in the world. They happen to test a lot of other manufacturers products! They are constantly testing everything they make and trying to make it better. Pella's Awning and Casement are almost 23% lower than the required ratings. So I do think things are going in a positive upward motion there.
We all know everyone goes through bad times. Marvin unfortunately has gone through more than anyone should have to. Luckily in America we can screw up and start over. We just have to start over by gaining everyones trust. Marvin did it and I know Pella can also. You just have to give them that chance. I've sacked up and put my own endorsement on their product because what I've seen and done with Pella. Just as FeneX & Window4U has done with Schuco. Their superior knowledge of the product even changed my mind. So I know minds can be made to re-visit stubborn thoughts.
The big beef here in MN is Marvin has shipped 50% of the Hmong community up to Warroad to make window products. I think it was a smart move myself. They work their rear ends off and Git R Done! I'm not rolling over on Marvin just offering another good choice I believe in. So I guess my ~ is on the line. Just keep an open eye and give it another shot. You won't regret it.

Dean S
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#6 Post by Dean S »


Please don't ever call me a gentleman. Anyway, thanks.

I'm glad Pella is making improvements. I have mentioned several times that I like Pella's new clad double hung. They eliminated the vinyl jamb liner and now have a DP rating of 50, which is 10 pts. higher than Marvin's. It is very attractive and performs well.

But how they redesigned thier windows without going with extruded aluminum is beyond me. I can show you pictures of Pella windows less than five years old with horrible fading on the sash and rotted wet wood falling out from behind the cladding. Marvin used roll-form for a while and I've seen the same with old Marvin windows. Roll-form is horrible and their polyester finish (at least 3+ years ago) fades like crazy. I'm in the field and see it all the time. Even builders' grade windows like Lincon, Windsor and Hurd have extruded and it astounds me that Pella doesn't.

I also hear the homeowners who hate Pella and wouldn't think of ever buying their windows again. I'm glad they're taking a long look at their windows and their company. It's long overdue.


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#7 Post by windownovice »


I really appreciate the info! We are in the south part of Naperville and were leaning towards full frame replacement on whichever window we ultimately choose. Your post confirms our thoughts. Most of our windows are probably 31 years old, but I just spoke to someone who was replacing 18 year old windows. Any thoughts on why the old ROW ‘s you have seen were all falling apart?

I’m not sure which local dealer you were saying to avoid, as I didn’t mention one. Is there a more appropriate venue to discuss this?

You mention that you are biased towards Marvin. Why is that? I was curious as to why you’d pick Marvin over Loewen if the price were even. From what I have seen, Loewen is the superior product for the reasons discussed prior in this topic. But then I re-read your post and saw your points about Marvin being better established in this area in case we needed to deal with someone beyond the installer down the road. Do you know if warranty work is handled by Marvin or the window installer?

Thanks for the clarification on the 5/8â€Â￾ being the space between the glass and not the glass itself.

As an FYI on the Kolbe product, I did see a somewhat side-by-side comparison between the Marvin Ultimate DH (unfortunately insert not new construction) and the Kolbe Sterling DH.

The advantages of the Kolbe over the Marvin as presented to me:

1) Kolbe’s 7/8â€Â￾ space between the glass vs. Marvin’s 5/8â€Â￾.
2) Kolbe’s Air Infiltration rate of .03 vs. Marvin’s .18.
3) Kolbe’s use of double-strength glass. Does Marvin have this?
4) Kolbe’s Design Pressure Rating of DP 50 vs. I believe DP 40 for Marvin.
5) Kolbe’s 30 year exterior non-transferable warranty vs. 0? for Marvin.
6) Kolbe’s use of 70% Kynar finish on the exterior vs. 50% for Marvin.

Are these significant? Well, the salesperson had my attention until he showed me the price. $2,000 more than the price for the Marvins. He did re-iterate the importance of a quality install, that his installers were employees of his company, a written lifetime installation warranty, 12 months interest free financing, and the most comprehensive referral list I have seen.

The fiberglass option is still a consideration for me becuase of the price.

What do I lose going with the fiberglass vs. wood?

Have a great week!

Dean S
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Joined: Thu Oct 07, 2004 9:36 am

#8 Post by Dean S »

Window Novice,

I'm biased because I'm a sales rep for a company that installs Marvin.

As for the Kolbe comparison:

1. There is a "best" space between the glass for efficiency. If the two panes are right next to each other there is little insulation value. The insulation value also drops when the glass is too far apart. I have always read that the 5/8" between the glass is optimum. I'm going to dig out my Cardinal Glass (the manufacturer for Marvin, Pella, Andersen, etc.)folder and do some research and maybe have a fact or two behind the statement. Or Fenex or someone can join in?

2. I'm going to get information from Marvin before I answer this one.

3. Yes, double strength glass is standard with Marvin. It's getting to be an industry standard.

4. When Marvin came out with the DP40 several years ago it was ground-breaking. The DP rating is tested in a wind-tunnel situation and stands up to 155mph winds or 50mph with 8 inches of rain per hour. That's a big storm. Now Kolbe and Pella have come out with DP50 double hungs. Marvin is researching how to get the higher rating. Is 10 points on the DP rating a deal breaker?

5. Marvin has a standard 10 year transferable warrantee with 20 years for glass seal failure.

6. Marvin uses a 70% Kynar finish.

ROW's are the absolute worst window I've ever seen. They must use a poor wood sealant because some of their windows rot inside of five years. They're based in Joliet and they are cheap, cheap, cheap. They have aluminum clad windows now that may last a year or two longer. I really don't know how they live with themselves when they sell such garbage. They also make a flimsy vinyl window. But companies like that keep many people on this board in business.

There was a builder in South Naperville who used ROW a lot which is how I guessed where you are.

If you want you can contact me directly at

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#9 Post by Guy »

I know when you go over an inch in galss size you start the downward fall. I think some of the best glass is 7/8". If you start to make your spacer size smaller the STC (sound transmission) level changes. So it's that crazy spot that everyone is fighting for. Double strength glass is pretty much standard everywhere with the bigger manufacturer's. You get to a point where your going to have to amke a personal choice on all your research. You can weigh out the options and do a Pro - Con tally board. But in the end it's all down to you and your wallet. We can only feed you so much logical data with out our bias's shining through.

Dean S
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#10 Post by Dean S »


Do you mean two panes of 1/8" double strength glass and a 5/8" space for an overall 7/8"? Or do you mean a 7/8" space?

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#11 Post by Guy »

7/8 spacer with really any type of glass would work the best for sound. Over that and it could create problems.

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Having fun in chicagoland

#12 Post by JScott »

40 miles west of Chicago puts you at close to Aurora. A small company called Milgard has a plant there. There fiberglass casements are great. Kolbe has a nice window which competes with Marvin and Lincoln. Eagle is under new ownership and we have not been able to get parts for 5-7 year old units. Pella is a pain after the sale. Milgard has the best warranty, Lincoln has the second best. Hope this helps.(Clarification-Actually Jeld-wen vinyl has the second best warranty-and you will probably need it).
Hope this helps. There are many good choices out there, its' like buying a car. Hope this helps.

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Great thread!

#13 Post by Oberon »

Good thread, I really have enjoyed it. Like Guy said, debating the perceived pluses and minuses of the windows makes a heck of a lot more sense than trashing the person who gave their honest opinion.

A few comments on IGU space width.

Optimum spacer width is dependent on whether or not the IGU has a LowE coating and a gas fill.

For example, a dual pane IGU with a softcoat LowE and argon gas reaches its optimum energy perfomance at 7/16". Beyond that spacing, up to about 7/8", the energy perfomance will be pretty much consistent, but it does not improve. Above 7/8" the performance actually begins to decline. This is not a sudden "fall off a cliff" sort of degeneration, but is measureable.

If the IGU has a LowE coating but not an argon fill, then the optimum space is closer to 1/2" to 9/16". Again, the width increase up to about 7/8" has pretty consistent energy performance, but beyond that width it begins to decline.

Guy made an excellent point about STC. The wider the width of the airspace, the better the STC performance. Unfortunately, a good spacing for energy is not a good spacing for sound attenuation and visa versa.

If someone might be considering a narrower spacing in an IGU (a triple pane application for example), then using krypton gas infill becomes very significant.

An IGU with krypton gas fill reaches its optimum energy perfomance numbers at about 7/32"...and ideal spacing for a triple pane window.
At 7/32", argon and plain old room air have almost identical numbers.
Krypton performance does begin to drop off as the width increases, but even at 7/16", argon's best "spot", an IGU with krypton fill is still a bit better than argon...but not nearly enough to justify the additional cost of krypton.

JScott, I am surprised that you have had problems with Eagle and getting parts. The company has gone thru a couple of ownership changes, but the basic "organization" really hasn't changed at all.

When windows are tested for a DP rating, they are actually subjected to a force (in PSF) that is 1-1/2 times the DP requirement. For example, a DP rating of 50psf is actually tested at 75psf...a DP of 40 is actually tested at 60psf.

Wind velocity versus DP (psf) is not an exact correlation because winds have a way of swirling and changing, but 40psf equates to a windspeed of
127mph and 50psf equates to 141mph. There is certainly a difference there, but I am guessing that if you are subject to winds over 120mph, you are not worrying about the finer points of the 14mph difference.
And, don't forget that the DP40 is tested at 60psf which is about a 144mph and DP50 is tested at 75psf which is a windspeed of 173mph.

If you want to see serious DP numbers, check out a few of the impact / hurricane products available. Some of the companies mentioned here have DP ratings of 90+ on specific impact products.

McDonald's coffee is no longer served "too hot". After the lawsuit they dropped the serving temp of their coffee to about 130 degrees (like everyone else). Prior to the lawsuit they served it at about 190 degrees....a bit of trivia! :wink:

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#14 Post by JScott »

Thats for your quick reference on spacing vs. maximum gains. I have read this information before but as many others who are not in the manufacturing or engineering, the significance vs. the marketplace is a minor point to contemplate. As for Eagle parts, I contacted a fellow named Pat Wagner who I believe is the inside service manager. I explained the 1997 double hung blind stops and exterior mull cover parts to him. This primed wood window was discontinued we have found and the current available parts do not work. The parts are similar to Pella's in that they are moulded in a fashion which makes field machining difficult or actually impossible. The homeowners were very satisfied with their new Lincoln clad units(no we did not simply replace these because of a few parts, we were able to salvage some parts from the few we replaced to repair a couple). Have a great weekend.

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#15 Post by mnlaker »

Dealing with all 4 of the brands you are leaning toward THE CLEAR choice would be Loewen. The discussion of service comes up but the fact of the matter is Loewen has only 1 service call a year for manufactures isues compared to 10 for Marvin, eagle or especially Pella or kobe.

If you go into the casement with Loewen you can then go with triple pane glass raising your r value and uv blocking tramendous.

Wen you get into grid work with through divided lite they do a better job than the others and are vayr price competitive.

A recent quote comparing multiple Eagle to Loewen to Marvin ultimate consisting of doubl hung windows and a few casements all with grids resulted with the loewens being 300 more cost to the dealer than Eagles and actually 150 less than Marvins dealer price.

Comparing all factors the Loewen takes 1st place.

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