I just replaced the windows in my house. This is the culmination of two years thinking about it.
The house is 25 years old and the original windows were wood frame and sash. Very nice operation when new, low E glass and well insulated. Between the sun and humidity they needed to be painted about every 3 years, at a cost about $125 each (exterior only). Then the molding around the outside started to rot so I replaced all rotted ones that with foam plastic that never has to be painted.
One by one my neighbors were replacing theirs. I got a quote for all vinyl for $350 each installed, some off brand, and I thought that was a great deal until I saw an example in one of my neighbors homes. Reminded me of something in a manufactured trailer. I'm not cutting down trailers but it's important to maintain at a certain level if you want to get the most from your house when you sell.
Not a great year income-wise so I put it off, then picked it back up a few months ago.
Pella came in all vinyl at $750 installed. They "wrap" the old moulding with thin gauge aluminum. I wasn't impressed at all. I asked them for their better product and he didn't have samples in the truck.
Anderson came in with a product reminiscent of masonite. I know the technology is very good since we have a cutting board made out of a similar material and it sinks in water, and gets washed in the dishwasher. But at almost $1300 per window I told the gal not to let the door hit ya', so to speak. Good looking window though- far superior to vinyl. Like Pella, they "wrap" the exterior moulding.
I called a local place for a quote and he told me that I would need to come in and see him. He doesn't make house calls to compete with Pella-Anderson because he has a lot of options and window types. So I went into his small shop and got his spiel. Very knowledgeable guy, described my old windows to a tee, as well as what the competitor offered. Taught me three issues of importance- glass size, frame material, and molding treatment.
All replacement windows that use the old frame "pocket" are going to have a smaller glass size. That's because the new "subframe" has to fit into the opening, first one side, then centered, then anchored and foamed in place. If you have a narrow window, and I have several in my bay windows, a cheap vinyl window will look like the window in a jailhouse door. That's because the frame material is inherently weak so has to be wide. Hence a strong material like "pull-truded" fiberglass or extruded aluminum give you the most glass area.
Molding "wraps" are inherently dumb because they cover up wood that, in my case, is starting to rot, or plastic that I already paid for. What they do is keep the plastic that I already replaced and then the ones that had not been done, replaces them with new foam plastic on a time and materials basis.
So I chose their Marvin line, fiberglass exterior, wood interior (primed for me to paint).
The installer finally left today after working for four days. They look better on my house than they did in the showroom. I'm especially impressed with the prime paint on the interior- excellent finish quality, on most rooms I won't have to touch it.