Most people will assume if a new window or door from an apparently reputable company leaks it is most likely not the manufacturers fault.
We purchased and installed new Kolbe & Kolbe Ultra Clad Series windows and doors about two years ago. Nearly every unit exposed to rain leaked. Most everyone’s first assumption was, and usually is that they were either flashed or installed incorrectly. These unit were installed according to the manufacturers installation specifications. These windows and doors were tested by Kolbe & Kolbe’s team of attorneys, technicians, and construction experts using an isolation procedure eliminating the possibility of water leaks from anywhere other than the window units themselves. When tested they failed (leaked). This test was performed after the Kolbe & Kolbe service technicians spent more than six months performing various unsuccessful field fixes which included among others, drilling holes into the frames and injecting large amounts of silicone into them.
I’m sure I may receive other replies to this message similar to yours where people have not had any problems with their Kolbe products and love them. We loved ours also until it rained. Every building site has it’s own unique situation with various weather and exposure. I have some of the same windows on parts of my home that we have not yet detected leaks because they don’t share the same exposure as the others. This doesn’t mean they wouldn't leak. Kolbe & Kolbe was aware of a leaking problem before I reported the leaks. They had already drafted a field fix memo that instructs their technician how to perform the procedure of drilling and injecting mentioned above. The Kolbe & Kolbe distributor in our area (Northern California Bay Area) who recommended this product to us has been selling Kolbe & Kolbe in our area for years. A manufacturer should stand behind their claims of quality and performance whether their product will be installed in the desert, city, or the mountains. We do occasionally experience moderate to heavy rains but they leaked even in light rains. It has been over two years since these windows were installed and Kolbe & Kolbe has yet to resolve our problem while it appears they are trying to divert the blame elsewhere (even after they have seen the failed tests first hand). As a result of these leaking windows and doors, the construction on our home was halted. We have been unable to finish and move into our new home that was scheduled to be completed over 20 months ago.
The leaks in the windows are only part of the problem. The way Kolbe & Kolbe designed the frame on the Ultra casements uses a flat sill design where the sash sits very snug on this sill. The bottom of the sash is exposed wood. When it rains water stands on this sill and gets trapped under and behind the sash. I can open up the window a day or two after it rains and trapped water will sweep and spill out. The wood on the bottom of the sash is wet. Most of our windows are clad with aluminum yet a few of the custom sizes were finished with their K-Kron. These units showed separation of the joints and the paint began peeling off just a few months into the wet season. I assume it is from the trapped moisture wicking up into the wood. I can't tell if the clad units are separating because they are hidden behind the aluminum.
The Kolbe & Kolbe doors thresholds we have also leak. They call them their waterguard thresholds, designed to insure that water will not enter the building. But during rains water would leak through the threshold and into the house. The Kolbe technician performed leak tests on these as well. All the thresholds tested showed some form of leaking.
Yes, it sounds too bad to be true. Before my purchase I heard that Kolbe & Kolbe made a fine product. I relied on their reputation, distributors advice, and their product literature, but in the end I made the worst decision of my life. Yes, now and then you are going to have someone incorrectly install something and yell "defect". I have lived with this nightmare for two years, and from this experience I probably know more about these products than most homeowners or contractors. I have documented proof from not only my team of experts but from Kolbe & Kolbe's hired team of experts that these products leak. I would imagine this is what most people would consider "defective".
I can appreciate that you have had only positive experiences with the Kolbe products, but the way I see it a company is only as good as it's latest product. I believe the Ultra Clad is their newest and most popular line. When I see posts from someone praising a company who's products have failed me, I feel obligated to set the record straight. If I can help someone make an educated decision and save them from the hell these products have put myself and my family through, then it is well worth my time to post such a message. I may be the first who you have heard of these problems, but I assure you, I am being contacted by others with similar problems and I'm sure there will be many more. If you have further questions or comments, feel free to reply or drop me an email. [email protected]