Author Archive for Robb Wilson


5 reasons the window market is mostly vinyl

From the start, I should be clear that I am not saying you should use vinyl windows.  Nor am I saying you should not.  It depends on your needs, wants and the application.  These top 5 reasons are only an observation of what is in our market.

And then I am also not saying that vinyl makes up all of it.  We, as well as others that will go unnamed, sell a good bit of clad windows and still a small amount of wood (meaning the window is made out of wood but not clad as pictured below).  Each have their own merits, some of which I’ll mention below.


All-Temp‘s Vinyl Picture Window


Andersen Doublehung Window


20 years ago, maybe even 10, most of the windows that were sold around here were wood.  Why did that change?  Was there something wrong with wood?  Is vinyl always better?  So without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons (in no particular order) why more than not of the new windows sold in this market are vinyl windows.

1. Vinyl windows are readily available in custom sizes.  Often wood window units have  longer lead times on customs.  I cant say this in all cases but for the most part this is true.  This is a huge factor, especially in replacement windows where expediency is important.

special sizes

2. Vinyl windows have made big improvements in appearances.  It wasn’t always this way. Vinyl windows used to look like… well, vinyl windows.  Now, the appearance is more like that of a traditional wood window.  A little beefier frame and the look of real brick mould surrounding it.  So if you like the look of wood, why not stick with it.  See reason #3.

3. They don’t rot and there’s very little maintenance.  I say little because I don’t like telling people any thing is no maintenance.  Sure, you never have to paint but anything gets dirt on it if it’s outside long enough.  Wood rots, you have to paint it.  In this case, vinyl wins.

4. Vinyl windows are easy to install.  Again, I would rather shy away from generalizations but in general, this is true.  Partly because a lot of the ones sold are ‘single hung’, that’s a window where the top sash is fixed and the bottom sash slides up and down.  For a proper installation, the window has to be square (measure the windows in your home corner to corner and see how many give you the same measurements both directions).


This pic from ‘this old house‘ shows an installer ensuring his window is square.

5. OK fine.  I suppose it doesn’t hurt but the price of vinyl windows is usually less than that of wood.  That does not make it a better or worse window, it just is what it is.  And often this is a driving factor.

See, there’s more to a window than first meets the eye.  Some homeowners may think of it as nothing more than what you look through to see into the yard and check on the kids or pets.  Or those things I cover up by hanging curtains around them to dress up my home’s interior.

The point is, take the time and choose the windows that are right for you.  If these reasons resound with you, our vinyl may be the way to go.  If you’re a little more quality conscious, let us show you some clad options.  Either way, come see us, call us (256-852-7411) or visit our website by clicking here.


what kind of window?

Dining Room Features A-Series Double-Hung Windows and Frenchwood Patio Doors With Prairie Pattern Grilles

HomeAdvisor’s cost guide states that on average, people spend $5,308 on replacing windows.  What can we make of that?  It’s hard to say.  Options, applications, installers and qualities all vary so greatly that it’s hard to get anything out of that kind of number.

So how do you come up with a budget for your home?  If you put much stock in the ads promoting new windows for $189 each, you may be in for a surprise.  On the other hand, there’s no reason for most of us to think its going to be closer to $1000 a window either.

The answer is likely somewhere in the middle and you will ALWAYS (especially in the world of windows) get what you pay for.  So lets make a list what may be important to you?

Low maintenance?  Question your salesman carefully here.  Just because something is vinyl or clad does not mean it is no or low maintenance.  I have aluminum clad windows on my home and they get all chalky, drives me nuts. This is definitely not low maintenance.  I should say that not all aluminum clad windows are created equal, remember you get what you pay for.

The All-temp vinyl window is fairly maintenance free for a great price.

Light?  You can usually get a cheaper window if your current window frame is intact.  They call it an insert window.  Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with an insert window.  But you should know your going to be letting a good bit less light in your home because you’re adding more frame to the window (meaning less glass).

Aesthetics?  Well this is a personal choice but it is important.  As your salesman is filling your head with all kinds of R-values, U-values, warranties and what-not, be sure to stand back and look at the window.  Oh, it may not be a new car or a supermodel, but there are differences in the way they look.  So be sure you like it.

Step-by-Step Window Replacement

There are many options available for how you group windows, lite patterns and more. Use your imagination.

Energy Efficiency?  Ah now here we go.  Do I upgrade to argon filled or Low-E glass?  Which material provides the best insulation?  How much space should be between the glass?  I cant answer categorically.  There was a time when wood was best for insulation, period.  However, technology has made strides that I didn’t think possible and frankly, am still not smart enough to understand completely.

The Andersen 400 Woodwright achieves incredible energy efficiency with very little wood.

Noise?  Remember that $189 window unit.  Not to cast stones but you’d better hope your neighbor doesn’t like mowing his lawn early in the morning.  Because you’re going to hear it.  You may have never thought of this but there really is a big difference in windows when it comes to sound insulation, so ask about it.

Where you buy them?  Now this is EXTREMELY important.  Never never never go anywhere to buy windows but Wilson Lumber.  Yes, yes I know this goes without saying.

I could go on and on but the bottom line is to decide what will work best for you.  And what’s important to someone else may not be to you.  Any of this confusing?  Just come see us at 4818 Meridian St or visit us on the web.


Cancer and Encouragement

This particular blog is yet another that has nothing to do with building materials.  Except that it is written by someone who owns and runs your favorite building materials company.  That said:

You ever notice how you don’t know what to say to someone who has cancer?  ‘What if I say the wrong thing?’  ‘What if they cry?’ Etc.

Let me state clearly here that I cannot possibly relate to someone with the disease and I would not dare to try.  What I can relate to is having a condition that is somewhat debilitating and that everybody knows about.  In January, I tore my ACL, MCL and suffered Meniscus damage.  How? you ask.  Well, I was fighting off wild lions from attacking a group of orphans… or something like that.

Anyway, from that perspective, I believe I can actually offer a bit of advice here.  I heard Tom Brokaw on the radio the other day talking about his battle with cancer.  He stated, “People with cancer do not need to be reminded that they have the disease…  It is a full time occupation.”

tom brokaw

Tom Brokaw was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in August of 2013

This statement, I can relate to.  I don’t mind being asked about my knee, it shows that you care enough to ask.  However, I understand what he means about it being a ‘full time occupation’.  It is all I have thought about for the last 9 weeks.  I am sick of it, sick of crutches, sick of my knee hurting, sick of my therapist telling me to push harder.  I do not need to be reminded of my condition.

Then Brokaw made his next point, ‘If you have a funny story, call me.  Or if you have something new to share, let me know’ (I did a bit of paraphrasing there).  What he meant was this.  People with the condition do want your company, especially if you’re going to help them get their mind onto something else.  If you heard a good joke, call me.  If you want someone to share ice cream with, I’m your guy.  And even if you have a similar story as mine with a HAPPY ending, tell me.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard about how awful someone’s knee surgery was.  Not to offend, but that is really not what I need to hear right now.

motivation board

My daughter’s ‘Motivation Board’

That said; the best thing for knee rehab is a daughter with a whiteboard and a little creativity.  I see this every day as I walk out of my bedroom.Now that’s the kind of thing a hurting person needs to see.  And actually, she’s added to it since I took this picture.  Do you see what I mean?  No mention of surgery, nothing about a knee.  Just confidence in and encouragement for her Daddy.  While I’ll admit that daughters have an inside track on the rest of you, she’s figured out that it’s all about encouragement.  I think between her and Tom, we can all learn something.



Several years ago, one of our salesmen was called in to give testimony for a lawsuit (we were not involved).  One of the first things our attorney told us is that when asked if you are an expert, don’t say yes.  Huh?

Well, honestly that was a bit hard to swallow.  I don’t know that I’m and expert in anything but this particular salesmen is as good as they come.  The attorney explained to us that Expert is a legal term, and that you can get into all kinds of trouble if you label yourself as one.  So he instructed the salesman to say something like, “Well, I dont know what you mean by expert, but I know a lot about doors and windows”.  Attorneys, ugh. (No offense, my brother is a great one)

Anyway, it had never dawned on me that the salesmen here are not Experts.  Because in my non-legal book, they are.  Its not easy knowing all there is to know about this:


And at the same time,  know everything about this:


I wonder what else is a legal term that I could get into trouble for.  Sometimes doing business in America is like walking through a field of land mines, but I digress.

What I do not wonder about is this.  If I am going to do a project like the ones pictured above, I want experts.  I want Wilson Lumber.  Come by the store or see us on the web.


2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


know who you are

There are really two sides to Wilson Lumber.  There’s the side that most people know, that is, that we sell building materials to pro’s who are building and remodeling homes (although as frustrating as it is, most people don’t know that we sell a whole lot more than just lumber).

But then there’s the significant side of our business where we sell to homeowners.  Now most of our interactions with homeowners (at least in dollar volume) is with what you might call larger ticket items.  Replacement doors, decks, cabinets, etc.  Hence, our tag line “way more than lumber”.

Trex_transcend-decking-tiki-torch-lava-rock-circular-outdoor-furniture-black   McClel After   newhomeoffice1

Anyway, recently we have discontinued all electrical, plumbing and paint products (well, almost all).  It’s not that we didn’t enjoy selling this stuff, or even that we didn’t make money at it.  The problem was that we were not excellent at it.  And we believe that if you cant be excellent at something, you just shouldn’t do it.  Also, we realized that people don’t need us for that kind of stuff.  And we are perfectly OK with that.  It gives us more resources, energy and space for the stuff we are excellent at.

As if that is not enough, I attended a conference recently where I saw this particular study by the Farnsworth Group that I’ve previously written about.

Major Categories

Basically, professionals depend on us for Lumber, Millwork and Building Materials.  (I must admit, I thought lumber and millwork were building materials.  I guess they meant stuff like siding, brick, gypsum, etc.)  So, as we are excellent at those things, that is where we focus our resources.

You might notice on the study that only 3% of pro’s made their last paint purchase at a place like Wilson’s.  And only 15% for electrical and 4% for paint.  I guess I’m now wondering why we kept that stuff around as long as we did.  O well, hindsight is 20/20.

If you need any lumber, millwork or building materials, give us a call (256-852-7411) or visit our website.  And if you need electrical, plumbing or paint, we can refer you to someone excellent:)


Going to Work with Dad

I’m studying a book with a group right now titled ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’  Great book, I highly recommend it.


There is a chapter on Spiritual Gifts.  Now I wont get into it deeply but basically, a spiritual gift is something that God made you to do for His purposes.  In the chapter, Driscoll compares using your gift to going to work with your dad.  It’s God’s work, but He lets us get in on some of it.  This resounded with me.

When I was in college and a while after I got out, I was my Dad’s ‘assistant’ so to speak.  I’ve always told people that my favorite job was when I was driving a truck but the more time that passes, the more I realize that there will never be a better time than when I was working alongside my Dad and having lunch next door at Grandmoms every day.  God’s gifts are like that.  Sometimes you don’t appreciate them for what they are, but as you use them and learn what you’re good at, it fulfills now and for years to come.

Some of my first memories of going to work with my dad were on fall Saturdays to cut wood.  I did NOT like going to work with Dad then.  Truth be told, I’m sure I remember it to be far worse than it actually was.  That’s the way with God sometimes to.  I don’t want to use my gift, it will be inconvenient, it will be hard, I don’t know how to do that, I already have other plans.  Yet, if we stop and listen to God we are reminded that His plans are better, His purpose is greater, and His rewards last longer.

Well, this is another post that has nothing to do with building materials whatsoever, just building people I guess.  But after all, our mission statement includes ‘upholding Christlike principles and inspiring people to grow’.  So I suppose I’m allowed to blog on it.

Get the book, the link is above.  And if you need windows, lumber or anything else I’ve got give us a call or see our website.

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