Seven Critical Questions To Ask Any Window Contractor

Choosing a Professional Denver Contractor for your Window Replacement

Window replacement is a process you may not be familiar with until it becomes time to change the windows in your own home. And even then, there’s a lot to learn about which products to use and what procedures best meet your individual window needs. Therefore, it’s vital to know that you can rely on the window contractor you choose to give you good advice about those products and procedures that may be new to you. The key is to find a professional window contractor for your job.

That’s why K&H Home Solutions of Denver 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 contractor; as well as his 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 see several bids on your job, 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 assure that you have quality windows installed and that your hard-earned money has been wisely spent.

Seven Questions to Ask Your Denver Window Installer
At K&H Home Solutions, we suggest that you evaluate your contractor as carefully as you would a doctor or lawyer. It is certain that you will want a window professional who employs capable applicators 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 contractor is a true professional who will stand behind his 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.

Interview the contractor

You cannot choose a professional window installer by looking at an estimate and comparing prices. Allow yourself an hour, more or less, to sit down with each contractor. You might be speaking with a salesperson or even the owner. Both of you need time to ask questions and explore the possibilities. You will be surprised at how many options you have.

Good contractors take pride in their work, and so should the salesperson representing the company.

  • The salesperson should show pride and enthusiasm in discussing other jobs.
  • The salesperson should be knowledgeable about other jobs (which shows his amount of involvement in the actual work).

The Seven Questions to Ask ANY Window Contractor

1. What is the full name and address of the company?

Getting the complete address of the company can be an important factor in determining a company’s time in business. If a post office box is given, ask for a full street address as well. Try to hire a contractor that has an office nearby. The likelihood of better service and quicker response time is greater if the company is based near your home.

2. Does the company carry insurance?

A contractor should carry comprehensive liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance* to protect you in the event of an accident. This can be verified by asking to see the contractor’s certificates of insurance (workers’ compensation and general liability). Let the contractor know you want current certificates sent to you by the insurer before the job is started.
Contractors may also carry other kinds of insurance including health, life and auto insurance. Bland assurances of insurance coverage may refer to these. Don’t be confused. Ask for proof of general liability and workers’ compensation* coverage for window projects.

Contractors who carry insurance and follow safety guidelines on fall prevention endure higher job overhead costs. These expenses could be the cause of price variations between contractors who follow the standards versus those who ignore them. Beware of uninsured contractors. Contractors who do not carry insurance will most likely be cheaper to hire as they do not 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.

There are a variety of reasons why full insurance may not be carried by a contractor, such as:

  • Not a full-time contractor
  • Operates as a partnership or self-employed without employees
  • New in the business
  • Can’t afford insurance premiums
  • Doesn’t stand behind work

It is up to you to determine if it is worth the risk to hire a contractor who does not carry insurance.

3. Is the company a licensed or credentialed contractor?

When you pose this question, you are, in effect, asking if the contractor is licensed by your state and/or city.  Not all states require contractors to be licensed. If your state does license contractors, then he might have had to pass a written examination in his specialty, although few licenses make this a requirement. A number of cities also require professional licensing. Check with your local licensing authority for details.

A contractor may also answer this question by telling you he has a business license. However, a business license is a tax requirement only and is not directly relevant to the contractor’s competence. Several window manufacturers offer a variety of programs to professional contractors that establish their credentials as a knowledgeable window company. Homeowners can view a contractor’s credentials as another indicator of their degree of knowledge, professionalism, and dedication to the construction trade.

4. How long has the company been in business?

Needless to say, longer is usually better. Under three years may signal an unstable business or one low on the learning curve. On the other hand, everybody has to start somewhere. References will be helpful to double check any business, and especially important when dealing with a new business. A newer business may have a great future but it is only reasonable to be more careful when considering its referrals. The failure rate of small businesses in the first three years is very high.

5. Will the company provide referrals or references from previous jobs?

Ask for photos of completed work, if available. Keep in mind, however, that many contractors will not have photos. Request a list of 10 names and phone numbers of recent customers, over the last 12 months. It is not necessary to check all 10, but you will be able to pick randomly from the list those that you do call.

6. What is the company’s workmanship warranty?

Typically, contractor workmanship warranties are for one year or more. Longer warranties are not necessarily more valuable than shorter warranties. The length of the warranty is less important than the intent and ability of the company to stand behind his warranty. That is best evaluated using customer referrals. Ask his customers specifically for information about these four things:

  • Did he perform his work on a timely basis?
  • Was he responsive when asked for information and changes?
  • Did he act as if he cared about the customers interests?
  • And finally, would you call the company trustworthy?

The company should warrant their workmanship. The manufacturer, on the other hand, warranties the windows against defects in manufacturing. Thus, two warranties will cover the new window system. Understand them both. Ask for a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty pertaining to the specific window products you are considering.

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.

7. What is the company’s track record for solving customer complaints?

Try to find out how your contractor handles problems when they do arise. Request a referral from a job that involved a complaint.

  • Ask the contractor if he has ever lost a job related court case.
  • Ask if his contractor’s license has ever been suspended, and why.

Also, in talking to the appropriate authorities, such as the Better Business Bureau and licensing departments, find out if any complaints have been filed against the contractors whom you have interviewed. Many contractors in business for any length of time have been involved in a dispute. Ask how the dispute was resolved, to test your contractor’s reputation.

Evaluating the Contract

Before you get to this stage, you will have received from the contractor either a job proposal or an estimate. Estimates and proposals can be very different approaches to your job.

What is an estimate?

To simplify, an estimate will typically offer a single price, a generically described product, a color and no options. This is traditional and legitimate. But it isn’t consumer-friendly.

What is a proposal?

Simply put, a proposal is a tentative agreement for a project. It offers a choice of products by brand name, prices, services and even designs. Many other provisions may also be included such as change order conditions and financing options. The homeowner should expect three product choices. These could be presented in the typical range of good, better and best. Appropriate product literature and samples should also be offered. In conclusion, a proposal is consumer-friendly.

Details, Details!

Most contracts for window work 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.

It is in your interest that certain items which are important to you be stated in writing in the contract. The following are some of the basics that should be covered:

Compliance with local codes and ordinances. Will they be observed? Are permit costs included? Who will obtain the permit? What about provisions for posting zoning notices? 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 which will cover the windows to be installed? Is the manufacturer’s name for the window you are buying 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. Start and stop dates are difficult to pin down due to the unpredictability of the weather. But you can control exceptions. For instance, negotiate a “no-later-than” clause. Be reasonable, but do make it clear that these terms will be enforced if necessary.

If early completion is important, offer an award for completion by an early date in addition to a no-later-than clause.

Right-to-rescind. This clause establishes a time period in which the homeowner can cancel the contract without penalty. Some states require such a clause in contracts. Check with your local authorities.

Three days is usually the time period given for a right-to-rescind without penalty. If the homeowner cancels 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 with custom made windows that cannot be returned, if you cancel your job after your windows have been ordered from the factory.

Manufacturer’s warranty specifications. Confirm that the Agreement states that all workmanship will conform to the requirements of the manufacturer’s warranty and installation instructions in the contract.

Cleanup. Call for a daily cleanup of the premises. This becomes very important 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.

Preliminary inspection. Finally, agree to an inspection before the job with the job supervisor. Establish the condition of the property before any work is done. Take special care to list the conditions of landscaping and equipment located where the crew may be working.  If you have furniture, or items on the walls that could be damaged, make sure to remove them and place them in a safe place before work begins. Do not be unreasonable on your expectations. Discuss and agree on what is reasonable. Prepare a checklist as you go and co-sign it, indicating that both parties understand the present condition of the property. A thorough inspection after the job will determine if any valid property damage claims exist.

Insider Tips — Understanding the contractor

This article serves as a guide to shopping for a good contractor and negotiating a good contract. However, you should keep in mind that your 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. Show the contractor that you are an informed consumer who has both your and his best interests in mind.

Getting a window contractor to want your job
Many homeowners have been mystified by the seeming lack of interest and response from contractors when they receive a call for a job. Here’s how you can get a window contractor to respond to your call: –

  • When you call a contractor, tell him 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.  And ask for a Good-Better-Best proposal.
  • If you have seen work by a contractor in your neighborhood and you liked it, or if someone referred a contractor to you, call him. And when you do call, mention how you received the contractor’s name.

By following these tips you can help a window contractor determine that you are a good prospect and worth his effort.

Local Information

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.

Be aware that if a worker is injured on your property, the homeowner 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.

For more information on any of our replacement window products or to schedule a consultation with one of our representatives, call us at 800-875-2790 or fill out this form.