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Community and Q&A

I need non-toxic windows that do not off-gas!

user-7110721 | Posted in Green Products and Materials on


I seem to have exhausted all choices for windows. My house is framed and finished to the point where the windows have to be installed. I already got rid of the vinyl Fibrex windows. The house cannot be reframed w/o great expense so I need the sizes I need. I do not want vinyl. The all aluminum windows available from several companies do not make all the operating styles in the sizes needed. All of the wood windows have fungicides and pesticides and they won’t make them w/o them.

I think I may be down to an all fiberglass window. This is the SDS sheet for Ultrex. How does this sound? It seems to me that polyester resin with acrylic finish, compared to vinyl off-gasses less or none. Does anyone have Marvin Integrity all Ultrex windows (not Ultrex/wood)?



I need windows for a tiny house on wheels. It will be located in the Southern California desert. I do not want vinyl or Fibrex windows due to off-gassing of vinyl and plastic and I have no time or place to wait for them to off-gas. I do want good heat blocking more than heat retaining as the weather is mostly hot even though the nights can be cold in winter.

I am considering Marvin Ultimate aluminum clad wood exterior/wood interior, Integrity Ultrex exterior/Ultrex interior. (fiberglass),  possibly Ultrex exterior/wood interior and possibly Jeld-wen all aluminum. I don’t know what other brands I might consider but these seem to have the best reviews overall.

I know the all-aluminum would be the least off-gassing but the least energy efficient as well. The aluminum clad wood/wood seems fairly toxic free other than the interior wood stain (or paint) that may off-gas quickly, or not?. I just don’t know if the all Ultrex fiberglass will off-gas especially if I have it on the interior as well (I’d rather not have to paint the interior and Integrity Ultrex/wood only has white prefinished).

I don’t know which brand to pick either! A difficult decision due to 3 factors: toxicity, U factor, SHGC, durability, and price! Help, please! Thanks!

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  1. Andy CD Zone 5 - NW Ohio | | #1

    Hi User. Being sensitive to PVC offgassing must be frustrating. How long do you need to wait for it to become inert enough?

    I'm not sure you'll find ANY window without PVC or plastic. The Marvin All-Ultrex units you mentioned have all-PVC trim components on the interior side. And most windows have various weatherstripping components featuring vinyl in one of it's many forms.

    Traditional wood windows with glass set in latex putty? Even that has solvents.

  2. user-7110721 | | #2

    Wow. You have no idea unless it happens to you! There is no set time as everything has different components and VOC levels and no one knows exactly how long everything takes. Temperature and humidity is a big factor in off-gassing. Vinyl is said to take 10 years or never!

    The rate of chemically sensitive people has risen to 1/3 of the population with over 2000 new chemicals per year being marketed. Chemical sensitivity can happen from many small exposures over the years or one big exposure to various solvents, synthetic chemicals, toxic mold, and common home and personal care products, fragrances, building material, pesticides etc. I had both and then one big mold exposure caused it to happen to me. At the time I had no idea what that exposure was going to do to me and I started to clean up mold not knowing it was toxic. When I got sick, I was clueless until I learned about this. After that I was doing well-avoiding exposures for years and was getting better then some hidden toxic mold got exposed in another house and set me back so I need the new tiny house to be as no or low VOC as possible or I will never be able to detox all the accumulation.

    The windows are the last thing I have to find! In the desert, the heat will cause more off-gassing. I haven't even looked at all wood windows, maybe I will. The Marvin aluminum clad wood does have some mystery plastic type parts in the jambs/tracks and the weatherstripping but not directly on the inside. Weather Shield aluminum clad wood looks less plastic but I have no idea if they are any good!

    1. Deleted | | #5


  3. Peter L | | #3

    How does one know they have issues with "off-gassing" and other VOC problems?

    Is there a medical test for it?

      1. user-7110721 | | #7

        With all the legitimate research and evidence, you find this old skewed inaccurate opinion. Some of these articles are still floating around the internet. This is the nonsense that the medical establishment and chemical industries would have us believe so they can keep selling us toxic products and drugs. If you really want the truth, ask.

        1. Trevor Lambert | | #11

          Feel free to link some of this research. Of several sites I briefly reviewed, this one seemed fairly representative.

    1. user-7110721 | | #9

      Yes, there are tests for this. often it is genetically based. People experiencing the symptoms upon exposure to synthetic chemicals often have certain gene mutations in their detoxification system such as impaired methylation. Methylation is but one of the processes the body uses to metabolize and rid the body of toxins. Toxic encephalopathy can be seen on a SPECT scan when a chemically sensitive person has been exposed and is having symptoms. Symptoms are not constant, they happen during and after exposures. They will stop a number of hours or days after exposure if the person stays away from chemical exposure long enough to detox. That will vary depending on what they were exposed to for how long, how much and their own ability to detox quickly or not. A chemically sensitive person who lives in a house with chemicals off-gassing from building materials, paints, carpet etc., synthetically scented cleaning. personal and laundry care products, pesticides, air fresheners, sanitizers and or toxic mold, etc. will experience symptoms 24/7 but may not realize where their symptoms come from.

      Some Environmental Illness specialists have diagnostic tools for chemical sensitivity, the ones who have had it themselves or studied it. Many people in the healthcare field have developed chemical sensitivity as well as in the military and other trades where many chemical products are in use.

      The easiest test is to grab a bottle of Axe, Febreeze, Gain, Bounce, Raid, etc. (some heavily synthetically fragranced product) and inhale for as long as you can stand it, see how you feel. Various symptoms can and do result in chemically sensitive people such as but not limited to, your throat closing, difficulty breathing, you become nauseous, you develop a crushing headache, blurred vision and have a hard time walking, speaking or thinking!

  4. Andy CD Zone 5 - NW Ohio | | #6

    Trevor and Peter, with all due respect could we please stick to the OP's legitimate question about building science? Regardless of what you think of his pathology, he shares our collective concern for toxicity in building products.

    1. user-7110721 | | #10

      It's fine, people do need to know about this as it can happen to anyone anytime. It happened to me and I was very surprised, I'd never heard of it. This why I have to build this house different this time.

  5. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #8

    I would probably pick one of the all-wood windows. You can then decide to finish them with something that you are not sensitive to, or not at all. In the desert, unfinished wood lasts a very long time. Yes, they still have some plastic parts, but the amount of plastic and solvents is about as small as you can get with modern windows and decent performance. You need the flexibility of plastic for tracks, gaskets and similar parts if you want reasonable air sealing, and you do. Fiberglass may not be safe for you, as some of the resins can cause sensitivity.

    Aluminum cladding adds a lot of cost and again, in the desert you probably don't need that level of weather protection. Spend the extra money on a better building envelope or better mechanical equipment.

    Remember, with a tiny house, you've got tiny energy costs. The difference in cooling costs between a .2 U-value window and a .3 U-value window isn't going to be very much in dollar costs, because you're just not going to have very many of them. Get windows with low solar heat gain and decent U-values, and as much wood as possible. I know Jeld-Wen will sell unfinished wood windows, and I think some of the others do as well.

  6. user5898417 | | #12

    Dear user-7110721,

    My family is in the exact same position! We're trying to choose windows for a non-toxic tiny house build and considering the same options.

    Can I ask which windows you ended up going with? And how they've worked out for you?


  7. Jennifer M | | #13

    You will find so much information about building materials suited to sensitive folks (I will add a link to the windows portion of her site below), as well as experiences from the author and others regarding building and living in tiny, "safe" homes on this site:

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