Pella Architect Series Windows brochure and website boasts:
- Built like fine furniture.
- The most authentic look of individual window panes (not real true divided light but supposedly a true divided light look).
- Can match unique windows in unique shapes. Custom sizes.
The Pella Architect Series window brochure is quite impressive for it shows Pella’s high end windows in high end homes. Each photo looks striking. You should have no doubt this is a superior product that can replace the most exquisite historic window there is.
But wait – Pella forgot one important part. What about the window’s exterior?
They hypnotized you with such impressive window interiors you probably have no need to see the exterior. If the interior of a Pella window is so good then the exterior has to be equal or better, right? WRONG! (Truthfully they almost had me sold.)
The exterior of these super high quality windows look cheap and unfinished.
Let me explain. What you SHOULD have is a top and bottom window sash, inserted into and held in place by the window casing.
Instead what you have is both window sashes contained in their own separate unit.
The unit holding the sashes is like having a duplicate window casing in a miniature size.
Seeing two window casings for one window looks strange. The reason the window is manufactured this way is to make it easier for installers.
A window casing is constructed creating a nice looking opening in the wall of the house. Then a small window casing unit containing the sashes is inserted into the opening.
The problem with this additional casing unit is that it does not insert into the main casing all the way. It is designed to stick out about a half inch!!!!!
This is not an installation error, this is the design.
Pella designed a Frankenstein window. Does anyone notice this?
Just like Frankenstein seemed human at first glance, a Pella Architect Series Window looks like a normal window at first glance too.
You the homeowner must be aware of the manufacturers design issues and sales tactics. Pay attention to what you are buying. Pella Architect Series is a mutated window.
I was inspired to write this because a homeowner contacted me with her dilemma when installing new windows and new siding. Thank you Jennifer!
One would think that installing the unit deeper into the window opening would correct the problem. The homeowner was told that could not be done. They suggested a thicker window casing to meet the lip. Yes that would hide Pella Window’s bad design but create another problem for the window casing would be too far away from the clapboard.
UPDATE: Unfortunately other people are experiencing this same problem. Read about their Pella window problems here .
We didn’t address the problem if you want a different color. Through this link you will understand the limitations of having a different color window sash with Pella Architect Series windows and other lower quality Pella windows.
All this shows just how valuable original old windows are. What people once discarded will soon become priceless.
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Wondering what your recommendation is for someone that is in the situation where they are building new, or for some reason needs to purchase new windows (even though they would rather have old windows), and wants to get the closest match to an original window? Is there anything that exists out there, short of having a carpenter create new windows from reclaimed old growth wood, that people should look at?
I would really like an answer to this as well.
Why not hire the carpenter? There are people out there that can replicate old windows. A specialist in restoring old windows can do it.
I have lost the name, but when a car smashed into my 100 year old windows, the insurance paid for replicas.
Ken Roginski says
Heirloom Windows produces a good window with insulated glass. http://www.heirloomwindows.com/
It seems that a carpenter is the safest choice. If window shopping I would try checking out our listing of restorers for some may fabricate new windows.
Marvin and Kolbe are better choices also.
Thanks for that reply. I live in a historic district, but there is no historic building requirement here. In fact, a neighbor built a small addition to the back of his house and wanted to everything to match the existing design, especially from the outside. He went and found a carpenter to make new windows for him that matched the ones in the rest of the house exactly, and even had a custom shaper bit made to match the muntin profiles. But, once he explained to the inspector what he was doing, the inspector said that he wouldn’t pass the inspection because the code says you have to have a windows that are certified for a certain efficiency, and custom built ones (especially with single pane glass) would not have that. He argued some, but eventually gave in and bought Marvin windows instead that were as close as he could find at the time. He didn’t mention it to any of the neighbors until after he had the Marvin windows installed. I would have hoped that we could have convinced the city to grant an exception for historical purposes, but my neighbor said he didn’t do that because he couldn’t put construction on hold for that long.
My house has all original windows (mixture of wood double-hung and steel casements) except for one, which a previous owner frustratingly replaced. I have plans to eventually replace that window with one matching the original, and my plan is to do it without involving the inspector. Of course, since it is only one window and doesn’t matter if it is delayed, maybe it is a good reason to try to bring up the issue with the city and try to get that code exception to help out people who might be in that situation in the future. And if all else fails, I want to have a back up plan with the most accurate window that I can find that would meet the annoying code.
Thanks again for the info.
Ken Roginski says
Great information. A new addition with new windows may have stricter requirements than an existing building getting a new window. Unfortunately some (many) Historic Preservation Commissions exist providing a false sense of security and allow small issues to slowly allow the character of homes to disappear without being noticeable at first.
Jennifer Watson says
Thanks so much for giving voice to my pain, Ken! These windows were incredibly expensive, bought mostly because I wanted exterior muntins for a “historic” look, so you can imagine how disappointed I was. The thicker casing trim, which Pella sells, was indeed quite bulky. My best but far from perfect option was to select, with your help, yet another trim piece that surrounds the “mini casing.” At my expense. After paying $24k for the windows.
Again, I really appreciate your help and your blog, because you were able to give words to what for me was just a visceral reaction-I knew I hated it, I just didn’t know exactly WHY.
James Parsons says
It’s important to know what you are getting before you have anything installed on your house. I need to have my windows restored a coupled years ago and I just went with the cheapest options. The installation was horrendous and all of my windows were crooked.
I have to purchase new windows, which is scary. Most (except 2 – & they are different) of the originals are gone. I was thinking of the brand Marvin. What is thought of the UTube “How to Build a New Construction With Historic Style, With P. Allen Smith?” Or would it still be better to have a carpenter build them?
Ken Roginski says
Hi Tamra. I just watched his video and I’m a bit confused. The farm is 1840’s but the house is 2 years old. Wasn’t there an original house on the property? Wonder what happened to that. Well the house he built is a very good reproduction and what he says about proportion is true. The windows he has which are new, he states that the muntons should be thin. For that period they can be thin but also should be large extending away from the window about 3/4 inch on the interior.
Marvin seems like the of the big manufacturers, however I am waiting for some information from them.
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If anyone reading this thread has a similar problem with a building inspector, or the local historic preservation commission, here are some pointers:
1) Houses and buildings in a designated historic district come under a different building code–the International Code for Existing Buildings–in most states. Unfortunately, the code leaves a lot of leeway and not a whole lot of guidance for the building inspector, and some can be very stubborn. Check your state’s guidelines, and if in doubt, contact the state Historic Preservation Office, or the architecture branch of the state Historical Society. In my state, locally designated historic districts and buildings (the kind with local design review) AND districts and buildings listed on the State or National Register of Historic Places both qualify. My state also has some allowances for buildings built before 1980.
2) Traditionally-made single pane windows with a traditional or modern storm window can be just as efficient, and a whole lot more green and long-lasting, as modern windows. Add an interior storm, and you gain even more. There are lots of studies on this and the most recent and comprehensive is reported in the Window Preservation Collaborative Standards 2013, http://windowstandards.org/?p=64. John Leeke was one of the sponsors, and he has a lot of window information on his website and forum, Historic Homeworks. This is his post on energy studies: http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1600&highlight=window+energy+efficiency
which can be used to challenge any summary ruling on that point. Check the original wording in the state and local statute and back yourself up with the facts in a non-confrontational way if you can. If worse comes to worse, try to appeal to a supervisor or the historic preservation department (if there is one) or take your case to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
3) The National Park Service once allowed SIP (double-pane glass) in old windows, but found that they damaged the old frames because of their thickness and failed rather quickly. They do allow modern replacement windows with simulated divided lights and SIP glass if the old is beyond salvaging, or in modern additions. See the NPS Preservation Report # 9 http://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs.htm
SIPs eventually leak and fog up, whereas single pane windows and storms can last decades or even centuries if they are constructed of quality materials and maintained once in awhile. Lime-based putties, such as Sarco, need to painted with oil-based paint and soaked with boiled linseed oil every five years or so to last indefinitely, and wood needs to be stripped and primed and painted when the old paint layers get too thick. If inspected, scraped and spot painted every few years, they will last a long time too. Old windows can be much more easily repaired than new ones with simple and fairly readily available materials (too bad the big box stores don’t stock decent window putty–DAP is the worst).
However NPS is pretty picky about how the new windows look, and these Pella windows wouldn’t make the cut. Marvin and Kolbe are the most often used in historic buildings, but are quite expensive. If you can use old jambs and fabricate or salvage old sashes, that is the way to go if you can, or support your local carpenter. It might actually be cheaper to go local than to get an expensive custom commercial window.
4) Zoning and code are not the same. Typically, when a certain amount is spent on a building, typically over 50% of its value, old stuff isn’t always automatically grandfathered in, whether it is building standards or parking requirements or other considerations–and that may include portions of the building that are not being touched. Typically any new construction, including an addition, will have to meet current zoning and building code requirements, and sometimes the local code can be very specific how to do that, even if another way meets the standard. A building that has been vacant for a long time, typically 6 months or more, may also be required to meet current zoning and building code.
5) There is a lot of philosophical disagreement in the field about whether an addition should duplicate old detail or not. The Secretary of Interior Historic Preservation Standards since 1966 have been the standard that has guided preservation in the US, and it states that additions should complement, but not duplicate the old, and should clearly be an addition. Local standards can be quite different and may tilt toward duplicating old detail. I am of mixed minds on this topic–it is very hard to make an addition that is close enough to complement, but not so close as to duplicate the original. It may look great in the beginning, but with time, the transitional styling can look dated, and not quite right, or just downright ugly. Generally, a somewhat simplified version of the original that duplicates scale, proportion and massing and is not overly large works. Otherwise, you might be better off with something completely modern and clearly different.
I’m so sad that your friend couldn’t actually support the local economy and do what he wanted because of the building inspector. Folks willing to go this route are rare. I used to advise an architecture review board, and the sad fact is that most people on the board don’t really know a whole lot about preservation and need to be educated, and that building inspectors often don’t communicate with the planners when it comes to historic buildings until it is too late. I found this out the hard way, assuming that the local inspector was checking on design as well as code. In a small town, where you are dependent on a state building inspector or a contractor, it can be even worse.
Bottom line, inspectors often act like God, and although you should be respectful, it helps to know the regulations before you embark on a big project, and have copies on hand if you are doing something with an old building that is out of the norm of local practices. Don’t trust your contractor to handle stuff like this and plan well in advance. Find an ally at City Hall if you can well before you break ground, and seek guidance from a local who has done something similar.
It shouldn’t be so hard, but often it is, to do the “right” thing, even if you do your research and education yourself. Old buildings and new buildings are very different and should be held to different standards. It is really hard to have regulations to cover all contingencies, and yet be fair and not have too many loopholes. Some places are a lot more friendly toward old building rehabilitation than others. It can be a learning experience for everyone involved.
Shawn Wiggins says
As a sales rep for Pella Windows I find this article to be biased and misleading. The Architect Series windows is an exceptionally well built windows that has been approved for use in numerous buildings on the National Historic Registry.
The picture of the protruding window is an example of a fin install. There are many other approved installation methods for this window that would have easily fixed this issue. When the exterior wall cladding is not thick enough to account for the distance from the installation fin to the exterior face of the window, we would recommend using installation clips or through frame fasteners in order to set the window further back into the opening.
The fin setback is not exclusive to Pella Windows, this is the case with every finned window I have seen. The wall conditions must always be reviewed when considering available window installation methods. Discuss your goals with your installer. Pella, as well as other manufacturers, can provide you with cross sections, cut sheets, shop drawings, and product approvals that can all be used to design an installation method best suited for each unique situation.
Ken Roginski says
The homeowner, contractor, and Pella representative worked together to rectify the situation. While the appearance was improved it was not what the homeowner had thought they were getting.
This extra piece referred to as a fin is not found in traditional windows and I know Marvin and Kolbe do not have it. In this case if the window and fin were set back deeper the window would look better but still not provide the look of a window people are accustomed to seeing. The homeowner said that Pella did come out with a snap on trim that would make the protrusion less noticeable.
“Approved for use on buildings on the National Historic Register”
Although this sounds impressive, this only means that local historical commission approved the Pella window for use as a replacement because it may somewhat RESEMBLE a historic window. This is true to a certain extent that the window can have simulated divided lights (although not true divided lights) in a pattern such as six over six or six over one as shown in my article. This configuration may pass a historic board of volunteers but is far from a good reproduction or something that would be specified by a historic preservation professional.
No “Approved for use on buildings on the National Historic Register” means what it says. Pella was or still is (I’m not sure if another brand has received approval since) the only window manufacturer to be approved by the National Parks Department for use on Historic Registered buildings. I have over a dozen years of historic restoration experience specializing in Window and Door restoration. I added that just so people know that I have at least a small amount of knowledge on this issue.
Ken Roginski says
Are you saying that it resembles a traditional wood window? Just because it may be approved doesn’t mean that it should be used. From what I have seen I cannot possibly imagine using a Pella window on anything. It does not resemble a traditional wood window. If you have photos to show me of an exterior of a Pella window, please email me.
Ken Roginski says
Here is an update with other complaints posted on Houzz. http://www.houzz.com/discussions/2921193/window-trim-seeking-perfectionists?n=41
Shawn Wiggins…I think you should either not offer an opinion unless you are a contractor, or change professions and try being a car salesman.
First, I you do or did work for Pella you would fully and completely understand what a nail flange does and it’s purpose. Simply put on most standard homes it’s exactly as it implies… window installed to wall sheathing, caulked behind flange and nailed or screwed to wall sheathing. Doesn’t matter if the wall was 2 x 4, 2 x 6, or 2 x 1 million inches. Also doesn’t matter if the sheathing is 3/4, 5/8 or paper. The flange sits ON the wall. So standard homes use 3/4″ trim. No carpenter worth his salt would pull a window “IN” on new construction. Even remodel job we would not do that.
The solution to this issue would be 5/4 wood stock. And of course Pella fixing a shitty design.
Suggest you put on a tool belt and get out to the field and install a window or too, before you feel you are an expert because you sell a few windows. Selling and actually installing are two very very different things.
Debra Belton says
I have a 1970 s ranch with wood exterior Pella casement windows. I’d love to repair them but I’m having trouble finding someone to do the job. So far I’ve been scouting for teardowns and those who replace windows. I was told by one window company they are not allowed to let others salvage the material, so it ends up in a landfill. What a waste! I know the original Pellas had issues but they are 40 plus years old, better than the alternative of buying new. Do you have any advice about restoring the sashes.
Thanks in advance.
Gene Hutchinson says
“They suggested a thicker window casing to meet the lip. Yes that would hide Pella Window’s bad design but create another problem for the window casing would be too far away from the clapboard.”
Actually, far from being a problem, it is common and desirable to have a reveal between the window casing and the farthest point (bottom) of bevel “clapboard” siding courses. That reveal leaves room for a generous bead of caulk between the casing and the siding. In your picture the bottom of the siding is even with the windows casing, leaving no room for caulk. Plus any movement from seasonal drying/swelling will be much more noticeable.
I have a 100 year old craftsman in Seattle and all my windows have 5/4″ flat stock casings with a generous reveal between the casing and the bevel siding. That is an intentional, time-honored design. Several years ago I used Pella Architect series windows for a small addition. I had no problem with the casings around the Pella windows. They closely match all my original windows. No unsightly protrusion. Looks great.
I think Pella is getting a bad rap here. When I look at the pictures I see shoddy, rushed workmanship and really basic utilitarian window casings. Probably the installer used cheaper 1″ stock (rather than 5/4″ stock) to fabricate the window casing and that’s why the Pella windows are protruding. Plus the head casing could use a little dressing up. I don’t know the style of this house, but the window casing in the picture is basic and boring. The installer could have easily dressed up the casing with built up moldings appropriate to the style of the house.
I agree with Gene Hutchison. I think this article is very biased. I have a craftsman style home over 100 years old and I just had Pella architect windows installed and I can say they look absolutely amazing. The outside clad window very closely matches my outside trim color. They look exactly like my old windows. I understand people being purest when it comes to renovations. I love history and do my bust to keep the original look intact but I did not want to spend good money redoing old windows that I could not clean because there is an unsightly storm window over it to make it more efficient. These windows are very nice and worth every penny. I can now tilt them in to clean them and the difference in room temperature and sound deadening is amazing. We chose to leave the inside unfinished to save money which we will paint ourselves to match our inside trim color. I would highly recommend the architect series based on my experience
Just a note about my experience with Pella – if you have an old building that does not have ductwork and you haven’t installed a mini-split, installing a window A/C unit will void your warranty. Which they told me very snippily when I inquired about a work-around for the window base when putting a small window unit in a bedroom window. And they never did answer my question, either. Something to consider if you’re looking at Pella windows for an old house.
Noorah Mosselmani says
Hi I am in the market for new window replacements. I am doing a full exterior renovation and installing drivet to the homes exterior. So basically I can get full replacement windows. I looked at the weathershield premium series, pella reserve series (new line) and Marvin ultimate. I want the wood interior and exterior clad. Which window would you use. All my windows are casement crank outs. I currently have Hurd windows but all of them have failed. I have over 67 tall casement windows throughout the home. Another point to keep in mind is having southern exposure on the front of my house and I am looking into a bronze exterior color that may fade over time
I’m sadly in the same situation – my windows were installed yesterday. What I don’t understand is why the window can’t be pushed further into the window opening. What’s stopping it? Is it what they call stops, because what I udnerstand to be stops on my windows – is simply extra molding that was installed 25 years ago. Does anyone know if I ask the installer to remove that molding, that they’d be able to push the window in ½ inch and replace the molding with a narrower piece?
Ken Roginski says
Excellent question and hopping someone knows the answer.
I’ve been reading this site and many others on replacement windows as I am stuck with terrible Hurd windows from c. 20 years ago that are failing in multiple ways. The conclusion I have come to is that as important as the window selection, so it is with the installer. I believe the review on this page is singling out poor installation technique and/or poor choice of window for the house. If the complaint is the overhang and the author sites “this is by design”, I’m struggling to reconcile that with what I see. It appears the installer measured the existing window opening from inside the casement and just stuck the window into it. My Pella rep measured well outside the existing opening, so the casement will be removed and the window installed and then new casement on the exterior and trim on the interior to fit the new window and blend in with the home. My openings are 6+ inches minimum depth, my installer will build a sill and casement on the exterior that covers up any protrusion of the window frame. This is the correct way to install, but it costs more money. I don’t see a cheaper way to do it correctly else you end up with the installation and design that is pointed out on this page. Otherwise from a glass, materials, seal etc standpoint, what exactly is the issue with Pella Architect? I’m curious to know.
Harry J Stratton says
There is a correct make for every situation . The casement thickness (minimum) varies greatly from brand to brand and also varies within each brand based on the material’s strength being used . If your reading this you know how to use a computer and the information base on every dimension , material strength , installation technique , etc. is literally at your fingertips . Research everything before and while you are making any significant purchase .
There are some mistakes on this thread ….. way back in the thread the Pella rep mentioned the window “flange” … modern windows now all come with that flange. Anderson was an early adopter with the casement window — just nail it on the sheathing w/ window in the RO. The problem is the outside trim … there is no adjustment. Companies like Boral make special trim to fit over the flange and cover the lip of the siding (double rabbits) …. it’s not totally traditional …. but it looks better than what you see with a thin trim and the siding proud of the window trim. Lets face it …most windows get ringed with ugly plastic J channel and vinyl siding … nothing lines up anyway.
What the rep was talking about was ordering the window w/o the flange and using metal strap to the inside. This will hold the window at any depth needed to make the trim work. This is how you install a traditional wood window w/o nailing through the sides of the jams.
You see this problem often with brick — the window sits too far back. w/o a flange the window can be set properly. Personally — I like a two part trim around windows. large sill with horn — flat stock around window with a second back band around the window sides and top.
Jeff Sheard says
I have installed every major brand of residential windows in the Philadelphia region over a 30 year period and completed many projects in the extremely exacting Historic District of Philadelphia. I believe this is an image of an Architect Series Precision Fit replacement window but it could also be the new construction frame. Either way it is an aluminum clad window and the aluminum adds depth to the frame. This is true of every other brand by varying degrees unless you are using a sash pack kit that does not have it’s own frame. From the photo it is clear that the exterior trim is new. The exterior casing is flush with the high point of the clapboard siding indicating that it is 3/4″ material. The preferable detail would be obtained by using 5/4″ thick material and this would reduce the distance that the clad frame protrudes from the casing. In fact, when using clad windows by any maker, we would often pack out the exterior 5/4″casing with 1/4″ or 3/8″ material. The replacement window should not be flush with or protrude past the exterior casing and the detail in the picture is due to an incorrect trim application. In truly historic applications, cladding is not allowed and the exterior of the window and hence the frame, do not have the additional depth created by the aluminum. Also of note, Pella’s Reserve Series was developed with assistance by the National Park Service and has been approved for use by the Philadelphia and Wilmington Historic Commissions, among the most strict in the nation. Again, the issues in this image are due to installation deficiencies, not product deficiencies.
Ken Roginski says
Thanks for this information although it is very confusing.
Stan Corbin says
Had two Pella architect series windows put in when we had our kitchen remodeled in 2019. They look nothing like the picture here from the outside, they look great. They are expensive but worth it on our 1922 house. We plan on replacing every window in the house with Pella architect windows.
Ken Roginski says
Why would you waste money like that for windows that will need to be replaced in 20 years. Once original windows are replaced the house is basically shot. You will be remembered in history by future owners as the bad guy and people will curse your grave. Shame on you for doing that to your house! How ignorant!
Bette Anderson says
I absolutely hate paella architect series windows. Were installed by the “best” and most expensive contractor in my town in a home addition on a 1915 h Dutch colonial house.
They leaked and dry rotted in 20 years. Just garbage. Contractor told me I should have caulking them every 3 years. Are you kidding me?
Also the flimsy chip board he put up for siding under beautiful cedar just disintegrated. Had to remove 80% of the siding and 5 banks of 3 windows with transoms around the addition. Gave me a “deal” with half price replacements of the same “improved” (higher e value) windows. Cost me $45,000. Basically had to rebuild the new addition that was 19 years old. Pella has 20 year warranty. Don’t believe it. Never use Pella windows. Going to use Marvin from now on
Uschy Keiper says
We have double-hung Pella and Andersen windows in our house, the Andersen are relatively new, the Pella are about 40 years old and need to be replaced. We are considering Pella Architectural Series or Marvin Ultimate Series with a full tear-out. The Pella quote was quite a bit higher but they agreed to meet the Marvin price, now with the price being equal, the decision is which windows are better in terms of durability, quality, efficiency, warranty and service. I have read a few blogs online and Marvin windows got more votes. Pella seems to have issues with rot.
Michael Brylewski says
Kenny, what you have depicted is a Reserve traditional window with brick mold, inserted into an existing opening with flat casing
I agree it does look terrible. This was a choice by the contractor, not the window manufacturer
Ken Roginski says