Choosing a Professional Contractor for Your Home Window Replacement Project in Denver, CO
Most homeowners don’t know much about the window replacement process until their windows begin to fail. Then, they get thrown into a crash course to learn about the replacement windows available on the market and the purchase and installation processes.
Therefore, it’s vital to know that you can rely on the window contractor you choose to give you good advice about the products available and procedures that may be new to you. However, that’s not necessarily an easy task.
That’s why K&H Home Solutions, an experienced home improvement company that’s been serving Denver-area homeowners since 1956, has developed this guide to selecting a window contractor. The questions contained in this article are designed to help you determine the reliability, reputation, and experience of a window company, as well as its dedication to providing you with the best window system possible.
A top-notch, professional contractor will be only too happy to supply you with answers to these questions. And just as it makes good business sense to request estimates from several companies, it also makes good sense to ask several different contractors these questions. We’ve also outlined some important points to consider as you evaluate the terms of your proposed job contract.
Being confident you’ve selected the right window contractor will help you have peace of mind knowing that you’ve had top-quality windows installed and that your hard-earned money has been wisely spent.
Do Your Homework First
At K&H Home Solutions, we suggest that you evaluate your contractor as carefully as you would a doctor or lawyer. You’ll definitely want a window company that employs capable technicians to install the windows themselves. It is also clear that you will need to look closely at the proposal offered, the products selected, and the price/value relationship of the entire package.
But what criteria can you use to decide if the company you select is truly professional and will stand behind its work? While there is not a single, clear-cut answer, there are a number of indicators that you can look for when going through the evaluation process.
Questions to Ask Your Window Contractor
You don’t want to make a decision based on numbers on paper. Sit down with each contractor you’re considering and ask questions to see who you’re most comfortable with. A good contractor will take pride in their work, and their salesperson will be able to answer your questions about other jobs they’ve performed.
Here are some questions to consider:
What is the full name and address of the company?
Getting the complete address of the company will help you determine how long it’s been in business. If a post office box is given, ask for a full street address as well. If you can hire a company that’s located nearby, the likelihood of better service and quicker response times improves.
- Is the company properly insured?
Ask to see certificates of insurance to verify that the company carries comprehensive liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. This ensures that you’ll be protected in the event of an accident. If a worker is injured on your property, you might be held liable for all costs unless the employee is covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Hospital bills for serious accidents can be extraordinarily expensive. Tell the contractor that you want current certificates sent to you by the insurer before the job begins.
Contractors that carry proper insurance and follow safety best practices generally have higher overhead costs. These expenses could be the cause of price variations between contractors that follow the standards versus those that ignore them. Beware of uninsured contractors. Contractors that don’t carry insurance will most likely be cheaper to hire, as they won’t have the large insurance premiums to pay. Workers’ compensation premiums can increase wage costs from about 20% to as much as 100%, depending on the state.
If a company doesn’t carry full insurance, it may be because it:
- Is not a full-time contractor
- Operates as a partnership or self-employed without employees
- Is new to the business
- Can’t afford insurance premiums
- Doesn’t stand behind its work
- Is the company licensed?
Some states and cities require contractors to be licensed. Check with your local licensing authority to see if your company is following the rules. The company may tell you it has a business license. However, a business license is only required for tax purposes and doesn’t reflect a company’s abilities. Many window manufacturers run programs for contractors to help them become more knowledgeable and establish their credentials. You should view a company’s credentials as another indicator of the level of professionalism it will provide.
- How long has it been in business?
Of course, more experience is a positive. You’ll likely want to select a company that has performed countless window installations and knows how to deal with the unexpected. If a company has three years of experience or less, it’s likely lower on the learning curve. However, every company has to start somewhere, so customer referrals become even more important for newer companies.
- Will the company provide references?
If you’re able to speak with a homeowner who has dealt with the company previously, you’re more likely to receive an unfiltered review of its performance. You can request a list of previous customers, and, although you likely won’t speak to them all, you can receive valuable feedback.
- Is a workmanship warranty provided?
You should expect the window installation to be backed by a labor warranty of at least one year. Additionally, you can expect the manufacturer to provide a warranty covering the windows. Usually, problems of either workmanship or material show up very quickly. Therefore, the near-term warranty given by the contractor or manufacturer is more important than the warranty coverage during the later years of the warranty. Even if problems of workmanship arise after the workmanship warranty has lapsed, a reliable contractor usually will want to stand behind his work.
The length of the warranty is less important than the intent and ability of the company to stand behind its warranty. That is best evaluated using customer referrals. Ask former customers specifically for information about these four things:
- Was work performed on a timely basis?
- Was the contractor responsive when asked for information and changes?
- Did the company act as if it cared about the customer’s interests?
- Would you call the company trustworthy?
- Does the company resolve customer complaints?
You should be able to contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has received many complaints and find out how proactive it is in resolving them. You can also request a referral for a job that involved a customer complaint to see how it was handled. Additionally, you can:
- Ask the contractor if he has ever lost a job-related court case.
- Ask if the contractor’s license has ever been suspended, and why.
Know Before You Sign
Before you sign on the dotted line, you will receive either a job proposal or an estimate from the contractor. Estimates and proposals can be very different.
What Is an Estimate?
An estimate is usually a flat price reflecting a single product of a single color, with no additional options. This is traditional and legitimate, but it isn’t consumer-friendly.
What Is a Proposal?
A proposal, on the other hand, is a tentative agreement for a project. It offers a choice of products by brand name, prices, services, and even designs. It may also include change order conditions and financing options. You should expect it to include good, better, and best product options, as well as product literature and samples.
Most window contracts are simple and straightforward. The larger or more experienced contractors may have longer, more detailed contracts. Regardless of the form of the agreement, you should read all of the specific items in the contract carefully. Misunderstandings are more often the cause of contract disagreement rather than actual dishonesty or incompetence.
Here are some of the basics that should be included:
Compliance with local codes and ordinances. Will proper steps be taken? Are permit costs included? Who will obtain the permit? Have inspections been planned?
Product choices. Have you been offered a choice of good, better, best windows? Are they identified by brand and manufacturer name? Is there a clear reference to the warranty that will cover the windows? Is the manufacturer’s name stated in the contract? Do you understand the difference in the aesthetics from one window manufacturer to another (including not only color but also style, glass options, grids, lock colors, and handle styles)?
Scheduling. Weather can make it difficult to pin down Start and stop dates. But you can control exceptions. For instance, negotiate a “no-later-than” clause. Be reasonable, but make it clear that these terms will be enforced if necessary.
Right-to-rescind. This clause establishes a time frame in which the homeowner can cancel the contract without penalty. Some states require such a clause in contracts. Three days is the usual time period given for a right-to-rescind without penalty. If you cancel the job after the right-to rescind period has elapsed, then the contractor may request a certain dollar or percentage value of the contract in return. This is especially true if you cancel your job after your windows have been ordered from the factory.
Manufacturer’s warranty specifications. Confirm that the contract states that all workmanship will conform to the requirements of the manufacturer’s warranty and installation instructions in the contract.
Cleanup. You may want to ask for a daily cleanup of the premises, especially if the replacement window project is expected to take several days.
Payment terms. Schedule, terms, and method of payment should be written out fully with no room for misunderstandings. It is customary for a replacement window contractor to ask for a deposit, typically 25%, to cover the cost of the materials up front. Another payment may be negotiated at the start of the job, with the balance due upon completion.
One factor you might not have considered is that your window contractor is also shopping. A contractor is shopping for good jobs that will make a fair profit and bring future referrals. Many contractors have had experiences with unreasonable or dishonest homeowners. Therefore, they look for warning signs of customer problems during the initial job interview.
Many homeowners have been mystified by the seeming lack of interest and response from contractors when they call them about a job. Here’s how you can get a window company to respond to your call:
- State that you are shopping around, but are only interviewing three contractors, not 10.
- Call contractors in the general vicinity. Window contractors prefer to work close to home, just like everyone else.
- Tell the company that you call that you are not looking for the lowest bid, but rather the best value.
- If you have seen work by a company in your neighborhood and you liked it, call that company.
By following these tips, you can help a window contractor determine that you are a good prospect and worth the effort.
There are a number of organizations and institutions that you can contact when you need additional help or information about window replacement. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict which will be the most useful in any given location.
Consider these sources:
- Local Better Business Bureau
- City, county, and state licensing authorities
- Local construction trade associations, whose members are actual contractors, should be active in policing their trade and can be excellent sources of information.
K&H Home Solutions Offers an Exceptional Customer Experience
We’ve provided home renovation services to more than 125,000 satisfied customers throughout the Denver area, and we can help you select the perfect replacement windows to fit your preferences and budget. We offer upfront pricing and never hit you with fine print. What’s more, we proudly maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Contact K&H Home Solutions today if you’d like more information about our window installation services.