In the world of residential windows and patio doors, a handful of major national companies get most of the attention. Yet in addition to Andersen, Marvin, and Pella, there are several very solid companies that offer fine products, often at less cost than the big manufacturers. Such companies may have a narrower list of offerings and less money to spend on advertising, but the technology is largely the same as that used by the major manufacturers, and their warranties are equally robust. Once such company is Simonton, a subsidiary of Ply Gem Industries, based in North Carolina.
History of Simonton Windows
Simonton Windows originated as a family business in 1946, when it first began making aluminum windows. Sensing changes in the air, in 1981 the company shifted its focus and retooled to produce energy-efficient vinyl windows. They were one of the first companies to do so, and the move gave them a distinct competitive advantage.
For years part of Fortune Brands Home & Security, since 2014 Simonton has been a member of the Ply Gem Industries group, a corporation tightly focused on windows, siding, other exterior home products.
Today, Simonton makes only vinyl windows and patio doors and offers 11 products lines—nine types of windows in all the standard configurations, and both swinging and sliding patio doors. Simonton offers both replacement windows for retrofit remodeling and units designed for new construction. Their products carry all the standard Energy Star ratings and include 20-year warranties on glass and lifetime warranties on vinyl frames, hardware, and screens. This makes Simonton quite comparable to other major window manufacturers in terms of product performance and guarantees.
Like other manufacturers of vinyl windows and patio doors, Simonton products are available in a variety of exterior and interior colors, and in several glazing options, ranging from single-pane glass to double- and triple-pane IGUs with gas-filled chambers and a variety of coatings.
Negative Online Reviews?
If you consult Yelp and other complaint boards, you may come across many negative reviews of Simonton products. Don't be overly concerned about this, because you can find equally negative reviews, and many of them, for Pella, Marvin, Andersen, Jeld-Wen, Milgard and just about any other window manufacturer you can imagine. Clearly, if you were to choose windows based on unsubstantiated homeowner claims on the Internet, you would never buy windows at all. While manufacturer defects can occur in any industry, windows included, an overwhelming number of supposed window defects are traced back to the installation, not the product itself.
Window manufacturing for the top brands (of which Simonton is one) is a highly controlled and predictable environment, with strict quality checks that seek to ensure that no bad windows ship out. Problems with windows almost always can be traced back to one of two issues:
- Installation: Installation is arguably the most important event in the history of a window. The finest window in the world can fail quite quickly if the installation is shoddy. The quality of the installation can tip from good to bad based on the company you choose, the skill of the individual installer, and even his whims at that moment. Thus, picking a good local window installation contractor is nearly as important as picking a window brand.
- House structure: Homes are like living creatures. They are born, they get old, they die. By installing replacement windows, you are attempting to delay this process. The point is that you are putting a perfect or nearly perfect product in a highly imperfect environment. Installers do their best, but they are working within a system that often is not cooperative. In fact, the better window companies will refuse to install replacements in window spaces that cannot ensure a solid installation. If your home has severe structure problems, don't expect new windows to perform at their peak—unless you are also willing to first correct the underlying house problems.
Simonton has repeatedly held a higher overall customer satisfaction rating than Pella or even Andersen. Customer satisfaction, in this case, means that the installation companies themselves are highly satisfied with Simonton products. Any manufacturer can offer an excellent warranty and replace defective windows, but the installation companies bear the brunt of this, and their satisfaction is highest when their warranty claims to the manufacturer are very rare. By this measure, professional contractors and installation firms find Simonton to be superior to the very largest and well-known window manufacturers. Reportedly, Simonton has a well-oiled distribution chain between it and the retailers and contractors, which means that the end users get their windows faster and with fewer problems.
Simonton's positives are impressive indeed, but there are a few negatives to be aware of:
- Stylistically, these are basic windows that won't land your house on the cover of Architectural Digest.
- Product lines are impressively large, but still narrower than the vast offerings of major manufacturers.
Simonton windows and patio doors are stylistically basic but very well constructed. They are ideal if you want cost-effective basic vinyl windows and doors with few frills, but ones that are likely to last for many decades if properly installed. Simonton products are largely free of defects and are backed up with excellent warranties.