Blog > Category Post > Updated: 2017-Jul-26

Builders grade vs premium grade windows

Builder grade  verses Premium grade vinyl windows - can you tell the difference?
If you are looking to replace your windows and you're shopping around, you may have heard the terms "Builders Grade Windows" and "Premium Grade Windows". Can you see the difference?

Most people can’t see the difference

Builder grade windows look great, they are clean, clear and bright. But fast forward 5-10 years, and you may begin to see a different story.

Builder grade windows

Builder grade windows and contractor windows are industry terms that refer to stripped-down no-frills lower-quality windows. Builders and developers purchase these lower-end windows to trim costs and be more competitive. And wow! don’t they look great in a brand new house!!!

Many builders in the Ottawa and surrounding areas have used and still use builder grade windows for new home construction. These windows are typically made of standard-grade materials and components, and although builder grade windows may look great in new homes, they usually only meet the minimum energy-efficiency Energy Star standards. Builder grade windows usually start to fail at 5-10 years.

Characteristis of builder grade windows:

  • They lose their seals prematurely, often many windows will go at the same time
  • Hardware rusts and breaks down quicker
  • Windows become difficult to operate
  • New windows usually only meet minimum energy-efficiency standards
  • Glass may become less clear over time
  • Little or no interior UV protection that can damage or fade furniture
  • Installation is often done by the builder who may not be installing windows correctly
  • Plain Jane screening

Premium custom grade windows

Premium grade windows are the best windows that a window manufacturer has to offer, they typically come with twenty year to lifetime warranties and can be customised with glass and colour options that allow the buyer to configure a window to their aesthetic and energy-efficiency requirements. To keep an already complex building process under control, very few builders offer premium custom grade windows as an option.

A comparison

Builders Grade
Premium Grade
Typical warranty
10 years prorated
20 years to life
Special glass coatings
Glazing options
2 pane
2 panes +
Premium vinyl
Deluxe option
Exterior & interior colors
Colour options
Gas fills
Professional Installers

Replace or repair? That’s a good question!!!

If you own a house with failing builder grade windows there are only 2 options to solve your problem.

  1. Replace the glass or operational parts as needed on a seemingly never-ending ongoing basis. Most replacement glass suppliers will only give you a prorated 1-3 year warranty.

  2. Replace the entire window, frame, glass, hardware with up-to-date energy-efficiency that will save you money over time and eliminate your future window worries with a 20 to life warranty.

Your assignments, should you decide to take it!

Not all premium grade windows perform at the same specifications, be sure to do your homework. Compare ratings and ask about the best options to meet your requirements.

Some local companies wrongly refer to their competitor’s products as builder grade windows. If you are thinking about purchasing or replacing the windows in your home, one of the best indicators that you are not buying builder’s grade windows is the warranty - if the warranty is over 20 years, they are more than likely “premium grade” not “builders grade” windows.