Choosing a Replacement Window Installer

Choosing the right window installer for your replacement window project is just as important as picking the right replacement window. Even the best window on the market will only perform well if it is installed properly. Think of it this way: A Stradivarius violin is widely considered one of the best violins on the market. A Stradivarius in the hands of a master violinist creates the sweetest of sounds and is a pleasure to the ears.

However, we all know what a violin sounds like when someone who doesn't know how to play it properly attempts to make music. It is usually somewhere between cat screech and dying hippo. The same is true for a window installer: A good one can make your window replacement project seem like "sweet music" and a bad one can be just plain painful. While it is sometimes difficult to know if you are getting the right window installer for your project, a little research and being prepared can prevent you from choosing the worst.

Window Installers and Market Perception

Unfortunately in today's market, a small number of contractors have received a bad reputation and therefore have created an industry wide trust issue with many consumers. This is no different for window installers. Consumers have seen and heard bad stories about dishonest contractors and are naturally apprehensive about hiring a contractor because they don't want to be taken advantage of either.

A lot of the apprehension and fear a homeowner has is because they don't know exactly know how to find the right contractor for the job. In addition, many homeowners feel uncomfortable asking the tough questions because they really don't know the answers they should get. Finally, many homeowners walk on eggshells when trying to select and work with a contractor because they are afraid that if they upset the window installer, he will leave and never come back. With challenges like these it is no wonder many people shy away from having their windows replaced all together.

The good news is that there are a lot of very good, honest, hard working window installers out there who will perform a great job on your window replacement project. It is simply up to you to be an educated consumer, do your research, and avoid the window installer that is going to leave you with less than desirable results.

The Most Important Thing about Hiring a Window Installer

As a consumer, the first thing to always remember during a window replacement project is that you are in control of the entire process. Every window installer that you talk to when choosing one for the job is essentially "interviewing for a job". You should always think of yourself as the company looking to hire them for a position within your organization. Making a new hire in a fortune 500 company is very important to the company and so is your window installer selection. This is not just someone to replace your windows, it is a partner to work with you on your project.

The challenge to this way of thinking is this: window installers know a lot more about the replacement process than you do, and they will naturally be able to control the discussion because they can simply spout out terminology, give a few technical details, and railroad you on a discussion. This is not because they are trying to take advantage of you, they simply know their stuff and want to show you so how much they know so they can get the job.

Regardless of how much they appear to know, you still are in control of the interview. If a window installer says something you don't understand, ask for clarification. If there is a detail that they don't discuss in their presentation, bring it up and ask them to clarify. If something they say contradicts something you might have read, bring up the difference. It is when you start asking questions that you will find out about the quality of the installer.

A good window installer will take the time to answer your questions and explain the details. If they do not, it does not mean they are a bad installer, but it may mean you will have difficulty communicating with them during the project. Some people may be excellent carpenters, but poor communicators. However, the entire window replacement project requires both. You want to find an installer that is comfortable answering all of your questions at the beginning because it means they will be comfortable answering your questions during, and after the window replacement project.

The bottom line: Never lose sight of the fact that you are in control when selecting an installer. The window installers are trying to earn your business, you are not begging them to take it.

How to find an installer

When it comes to finding a replacement window for your project there is no shortage of information available regarding windows available on the market. There are hundreds of window manufacturers available to select from. You can visit their websites on the Internet and find out everything you want to know about their windows or you can walk into any building supply store and find windows on display.

When it comes time to find a window installer it is not so easy. Finding a window installer for your project requires a little more leg work on your part, it is not a one step process. However, if you take the time to do your research, you will increase your chances of hiring a quality contractor. These four approaches are good starting points to get company names to start the process:

1. Referral

2. Yellow Pages

3. Internet - Company Website etc.

4. Better Business Bureau

The Express Route - Get a Referral

One of the best ways to find a window installer is from a referral. A referral is helpful because you actually have another consumer that has been through the experience and lived to tell about it. Unfortunately not everyone you know is replacing their windows so it can be difficult to find a friend to provide you with a lead. Regardless, if you don't ask around you will never know. Talk to friends at work, friends at church, tell your friends if they hear of friends who have had their windows replaced to let you know.

If you can not find a friend to provide a referral, you can try a more rudimentary approach: drive through your neighborhood and look for houses that have had work done recently, or are in the middle of a project at the time. If you find a house that has new windows recently added, it is time to meet your neighbor! Walk up to the house and knock on the door. You will receive a bit of a puzzled look to be sure, but simply explain that you were admiring their new windows and you were curious who did the work.

Most homeowners will be happy to discuss their new windows with you. The truth is they are excited that someone noticed their recent investment and they are happy that their new windows are recognized. (Trust me, once you have your new windows installed, you will want everyone to notice them!) If you follow this method you may get a chance to see the contractor's work if the homeowner is comfortable giving you the nickel tour. If not, you can still ask the homeowner about their experience.

If you get a positive referral from someone else your work has just begun. Just because they liked the the window installer does not mean you are done with your work, it just means you have an installer that is ahead of the others in your search.

Yellow Pages

Most contractors still rely on the yellow pages to get their name out. Some will invest in a large ad, others will simply list their name and number in the window replacement section. In the past you would open the Yellow Pages up and start calling contractors to ask questions and schedule estimates. However, at this point you are not concerned with how they present themselves in the yellow pages, you are looking for a list of names to start researching. Get a list of five or six companies you would like to research and begin the next step.

Web research - Company Website and more

In today's world, the web is the place to go to really get a feel for a company before getting in contact with them. The first item on your check list is to see if the window installation company has a website. If they do, take the time to review their site. Is it a well developed, professional site that provides you with information about the company, or just the bare bones information about the contractor? Remember, a flashy website does not guarantee a good window installer, but it does mean that the contractor takes their business seriously and they have invested time and effort into their website.

Look for sites that show before and after photos as well as testimonials. It helps to know that the installer has a few clients that were happy with the work performed. In addition, a contractor that belongs to professional organizations such as the local builder's association or NARI chapter is a plus. This shows a commitment to the industry and an involvement with the local building community. Finally, if they are accredited with the Better Business Bureau and display it on their website it shows that they are making an effort to be a customer focused business.

Better Business Bureau

You can also look up a company through the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any outstanding issues that the BBB is involved with. A search in the BBB database will give you the names of accredited BBB companies to choose from. These contractors have made the extra effort to become a qualified accredited BBB company, we had to keep tabs on the Keep in mind that the BBB report is not just about customer complaints, but also how the company resolves them.

If you are reading the report, make sure you understand how the company dealt with the problem. A good company that understands the value of the BBB will work to follow the proper channels and fix the issues at hand. A great company is one that doesn't even get that far in the BBB reporting process, they simply take care of business before it gets there. If there are multiple issues opened or resolved within the BBB you should be wary.

Qualifying the Installer

Once you have a set of window installers to choose from it is time to start researching them and finding out more about the company. Again, treat this step of the process just like you would if you were interviewing someone for a job with your company. You should contact the list of contractors with a set of questions that cover the basic points about a window replacement project.

Having a prepared set of questions to ask does several things for you. One, it gives you valuable information about the window installer and how they operate their business. This is very important because you want to know how they are going to handle the entire process before you even get started. Second, it let's you gauge how well the installer handles questioning about his process and his company. Third, it shows the contractor you have done your research and you are a serious buyer.

By knowing the right questions to ask, and taking the time to ask them, you are telling the contractor "I am serious about this project, I care that things are done right, and I am not going to be taken advantage of during this process." This is not meant to be a threatening position to the contractors, it is simply important that you establish early on that you are not entering into this window replacement project blindly.

The good contractors will see your questions as a bonus because they can work with someone as a partner in the process. The "other" guys will see your questions as an annoyance and think of you as someone who is going to eat up all of their time with questions and try to pick apart their work. Who would you rather work with?

Narrowing the field - In House Appointment

From your initial list of five or six companies that you contacted for information above you should qualify two or three for an in home appointment. What do you do about the other two or three? You tell them thanks, but no thanks before they ever get to your door.

Aside: One of the biggest reasons homeowners do not go through the detailed process of qualifying contractors is that they don't want to tell a person no. While it can be difficult trying to let a window installer know that they did not meet your expectations during your phone call and that you are not interested in having them look at your project, it is even tougher once they have taken the time to come to your house, measure your windows, and prepare a quote.

If you do not like what you hear at first, chances are that is not going to change once they are at your house. Be polite, but be certain. Thank the contractor for their time and move on, it will be the best for you and the window installer you do not select.

Coordinate an in-home appointment with the three companies that you are most comfortable with after your phone conversation. Allow at least one hour of time for each appointment and as a courtesy to the companies, don't schedule them back to back. You might find that you have additional questions, or the appointment runs longer and before you know it you have two contractors in the house that you have to juggle. You want to make sure you have the window installer's undivided attention, and you want to be able to give them yours.

While you are meeting with the company at your house, you should have another set of questions ready to ask. These pertain more to the specifics of the work to be performed and allow you to get a personal feel to how the contractor reacts in front of you. Again, your goal here is to find out how the contractor does his work, but also how they handle themselves. The character you see now will be what you deal with throughout the project so make sure you like the person you will be working with.

Finalizing the Decision

Now that you have three proposals from three different companies it is time to make a decision. This is where things can get tough because now you have prices in hand and the decision most likely will involve both the window installer and the replacement window itself. To this point our discussion has been only about selecting a window installer, but the final decision also involves the choosing the window you like the best and that makes it tough.

How does it make it tough? One reason: If you happen to like the features of a particular replacement window, but the company selling and installing the window isn't your first choice then you may have to sacrifice one for the other. The second scenario is the opposite: You like the contractor, but the window line they are offering is not the one you prefer.

Keep in mind again: you are in control of this process and you have the ability to create a scenario where you get what you want in the scenario. If you find yourself in a situation where you prefer Company A for the installation, but they are not offering the window that Company B has, there is a chance you can still get Company A to install Company B's window.

This is as simple as calling Company A and saying "I think that you offer the best installation package of the proposals that I have received, but I am not sold on the window you are offering. Is it possible for you to get a price on Window B and give me a proposal to install that window? If we can keep the proposal close, I would like to go with you for the project."

The one thing about this approach is this: you may have to pay a little more for this option because Company A may not be able to get Window B at the same price as Company B. In addition, Company A may have to adjust their installation pricing to compensate for a different replacement window installation. While there is nothing wrong with taking this approach to get the window installer you are most comfortable with, just understand that the pricing may change for this option. However, it will be worth it to get both the installer and the window that you desire.

Sealing the deal

Once you have the window you want and the installer you want to put it in, you are ready to begin your project. If you have done your research and asked your questions, you will feel confident that you have made the right decision with the window installer you choose to work with you on your project.