Welcome to my essential tips for window replacement and double glazing buyers. Other than the first tip (which I consider to be the most important), the tips are in no particular order. We hope they help you make the right purchase decision. Keep in mind that many of these tips can be equally applied to the selection of any contractor.
Replacing windows on your property can dramatically change the visual appearance of your home. You need to choose a style that matches your property and enhances its appearance. This is particularly important with vinyl/PVCu and aluminum designs when installing in older properties. It’s a good idea to search for properties similar to yours in the area and compare the effect of various types of replacement windows. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have an adequate number of windows open. Some vendors are known to promote designs with very few openings and very simple in nature. The simpler the design and the fewer openings, the “cheaper” the window will be. While you may end up with a price you like, you’re more likely to regret this option in the end, especially since poorly designed windows can become a very bad investment and even reduce a property’s value. We have heard of property buyers negotiating a reduced price for a property just because of this. What’s even sadder is that the seller had only “replaced” these windows a few years earlier.
Always ask your supplier how long the delivery will be. It is also a good idea to have this stipulated in your contract. Also, ask for an “estimate” of how long it will take to complete the job once they are on site.
A major problem with the window, siding, and roofing business is that anyone with a pickup truck and a ladder can easily call themselves a contractor. Many don’t even bother to get a proper license. (By the way, a license can be easily obtained by completing a simple application form and paying less than $200.00 per year.) These contractors are not required to have an office, they can work from their basement, backyard, or just their truck. It’s easy to get into business and it’s even easier to get out of business. For this particular reason, we only recommend that you deal with established contractors who have a supporting infrastructure.
Ask your contractor/supplier for a written release of lien. Employees, subcontractors, and vendors are entitled in most jurisdictions to file mechanical liens against their property if the contractor fails to pay them. Even if you have paid your contractor for those materials or work, if he fails to meet his financial obligations, the workers or suppliers may come to you for payment. After you pay the contractor, be sure to get copies of the lien releases to protect yourself from having to pay twice for the job.
Most window replacement projects do not require permits. However, in the case of widening an opening and installing a new header, permits are required. Another area to consider is that if a bedroom window has a style change, the building department will require that the new style conform to the exit code. Many contractors will process permits at additional cost, as it is more time consuming. Some will simply ask you to pay for permits, which will be arranged on your behalf.
If permits are required for your work, make sure your contractor obtains the required building permits. This way you know that things will be done to “code”. Note: Many homeowners’ insurance policies require obtaining a permit on any major remodeling to keep your home adequately covered. Some contractors prefer not to get permits because of the time involved and the “hassle” with inspectors. Some contractors may even require you to obtain permits. This could be a red flag that they can’t get the permits because they are unlicensed or the work is outside of their license.”
How do you handle work waste? Nothing can be more frustrating than a contractor who doesn’t respect his property. Make sure the final price includes removal of all debris from your property and full cleanup. A clean workplace is critical to a smooth remodeling project. Your contractor should clean up all debris at the end of each day, keep your tools safely stowed away, and neatly stack any excess material.
Installing insulated replacement windows (double glazing, two panes of glass instead of one) will provide some sound insulation. However, if your primary motivation for installing double glazing is to reduce sound, then a secondary glazing where you fit a new single glazing frame in front of the existing (main) window frame will be better. The larger the “air gap”, the better the sound insulation. For an insulated replacement window, we suggest you consider windows with an air gap of 7/8″. Be warned: there are some windows on the market with air gaps as small as 3/8″.
Some industry professionals offer a fuel economy guarantee on certain windows with added benefits. These cost a bit more but offer a good long-term return on the additional investment.
If you choose Vinyl for your replacement windows, be sure to use 100% virgin vinyl, rather than reprocessed or recycled (regrind) vinyl extruded from a variety of used vinyl products. Regrind will be cheaper but won’t have the same quick guarantees of color etc.
Do not accept the first price you are quoted. Get at least two or three estimates if you have time. Research all the alternatives in terms of product and style.
When practical, try visiting a showroom or seeing other work done by the contractor. Alternatively, ask to speak to other customers on the phone. However, keep in mind that the company will give a reference that will be free of charge. Try to ask specific questions like: Did they arrive on time? Was something missing and how quickly was it fixed? Did they leave the site clean and tidy? Don’t always expect “perfect answers”; in fact, be suspicious if they are. Any type of work or remodeling can have its unforeseen problems or challenges. The point is “how quickly was it fixed and was it to your liking”. It is often said that the true test of a business is when there are problems, not when everything is going perfectly.
Most companies will require a deposit with the order. Try to deposit as low a percentage as possible; Generally speaking, 10% is normal. Please avoid paying deposits larger than this unless your work is particularly “one of a kind” / “bespoke” such as “one of a kind” timber window designs. In these circumstances, providers are likely to require higher retention deposits. You should also ensure that a “fair percentage” is retained until the job is completed to your satisfaction.
Check the Warranty and what it covers. It is always best to ask a prospective provider to be specific (in writing) about these issues.
Always ask about the type of locks and security features to be installed. Most modern insulated replacement windows feature security locks, and often for a little more you can have even better security.
With PVCU (vinyl) windows in particular, you will often hear many “arguments” in favor of using an internal lip window, rather than an external lip window. Clearly, if the beads that hold the glass in place are on the inside of the window, it will make it more difficult for a burglar to remove the glass and get into your home. Be aware, however, that some suppliers of external beaded windows will install special glazing gaskets and double-sided tape on the frame and sealed unit to improve security and some even claim that the security is “as good as” the internal bead.
Rarely will the “cheapest” price be the best for you in the long run. When comparing “like,” also consider how long the company has been in business and the “quality” of their warranties.
Ask your provider if they will be responsible for “getting it right” around new frames when they are installed. Most vendors will include this as part of their job, but you should check.
Although PVCu/vinyl and aluminum frames are virtually maintenance free, please note that hinges and mechanical parts such as locks will need regular lubrication etc. The frames will also benefit from an occasional “clean up”. Special cleaners for vinyl frames are available.
For wood frames, you will need to paint every 3-5 years or, if using hardwood, oil or varnish as appropriate. I recommend an annual “spring cleaning” for all windows and doors, regardless of whether they are PVCU/vinyl, aluminum, or hardwood.
My final advice in this section and perhaps one of the most important. Don’t be the Customer from Hell. To get the best out of any replacement window supplier or contractor, maintain a friendly but professional relationship. Don’t assume they will always try to “get over” you. His advice may be the best for you. If you seem defensive and distrustful, always assuming the worst about your provider, the whole experience will be unpleasant for both you and the provider. Be attentive, but always ready to listen to their advice, especially if problems arise.
While most of the trades will come prepared with their own food and drink, take the time to offer them hospitality. A cold drink on a hot summer day or a hot soup in winter will strengthen your relationship, resulting in a better job for you.