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Builder Grade Windows
Builder grade windows is an industry term that refers to a low quality stripped down window. It comes from the fact that many builders and developers purchase a low end window model or series to put into new developments as a way to save themselves many thousands of dollars. The big loser, of course, is the homeowner who may have to deal with poorly made windows, flimsy hinges, poor gas fills, warped or bowed frames, faulty balances, clunky opening and closing - any of the the myriad problems that may arise a few years down the road.
Many window manufacturers, either the regional or the nationwide companies, offer three basics window models to choose from. They offer the builder grade or low end windows, which most contractors suggest homeowners use only if they are flipping houses or putting them into a rental. Then they offer a standard grade, which usually means a sturdier frame, perhaps some reinforcement to the sash, a better glass package like an upgrade from clear glass to a low-e2 option, better hardware etc. This jump from the low end to the mid range is typically an important jump from a product that won't last as long to one that should fare pretty well for 20 years given a proper install.
The higher end model often uses the exact same frame as the mid range window and offers a better glass package and fill, hardware materials, perhaps more frame color options and finishes. The performance numbers between the mid and high end will often be very similar, unless the high end uses a triple pane glass, which would make a better performing window.