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USA Buyers Tips

Replacement Windows and Doors, Insulated, Double Pane Windows - Buyers Tips - USA

Below you will find our "Quick Reference" set of tips. Apart from the first tip (which we consider most important) the tips are not in any particular order. We hope they will assist you in coming to the correct buying decision. Please note a lot of these tips can be applied to selecting any contractor. You may download this section as a WORD document by clicking here.

Replacing windows on your property can change the visual appearance of your home considerably. You should choose a style that matches your property and enhances its looks. This is particularly important with Vinyl / PVCu and Aluminium designs when they are fitted to older properties. It's a good idea to look at properties similar to yours in the area and compare the effect of various replacement window types. It is also a good idea to make sure you have adequate numbers of opening windows. It's been known for some salespeople to promote designs with very few openings and of a very simple nature. The simpler the design and the fewer the openings - the "cheaper" the window. While you may end up with a price you like it's more likely you will regret this option in the end - especially as badly designed windows can turn out to be a very bad investment and even lower the value of a property. We have known of buyers of properties 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's also a good idea to have this stipulated on your contract. Additionally ask for an "estimate" of how long the work will take to complete once they are on site. 
One 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 do not even bother to get a proper license. (Incidentally a license can easily be obtained by filling out a simple application form and payment of less than $200.00 per year). These contractors are not required to have an office, they can work out of their basement, back yard or just out of their pickup truck. It's easy to get into the business and it's even easier to get out of the business. For this reason in particular we only recommend you deal with established contractors who have a supporting infrastructure.
Ask your contractor / supplier for a written lien waiver. Employees, subcontractors, and suppliers have the right in most jurisdictions to file mechanics liens against your property if the contractor does not pay them. Even though you may have paid your contractor for those materials or work, if he doesn't meet his financial obligations, the workmen or suppliers can look to you for payment. After you pay the contractor, make sure to get copies of lien waivers to protect yourself from having to pay for the job twice.
Most window replacement projects do not require permits. However, in the instance of enlarging an opening and installing a new header permits are required. Another area to watch is if a bedroom window has a change of style, the building department will require the new style to conform to the egress code. Many contractors will arrange permits at an additional cost - since it consumes more of their time. Some will simply ask you to pay for permits, which they will arrange for on your behalf.
If permits are required for your work then make sure your contractor pulls the required building permits. This way you will know things will be done to "code". Note: many homeowners' insurance policies require pulling a permit on any major remodelling to keep your home properly covered. Some contractors prefer not to pull permits because of the time involved and the "hassle" with the inspectors. Some contractors may even ask you to get the permits. This could be a warning sign that they are not able to pull the permits because they are unlicensed, or the work is outside of their license.
How do you handle job debris? Nothing can be more frustrating than a contractor that has no respect for your property. Make sure that the final price includes removal of all job debris from your property and full clean up. A clean work site is fundamental to a smooth remodelling project. Your contractor should clean up any debris at the end of each day, keep his tools neatly stowed, and neatly stack any excess materials. 
Fitting insulated (double-glazed - two panes of glass instead of one) replacement windows will provide some sound insulation. However, if your primary motivation for fitting double-glazing is to reduce sound then secondary glazing where you fit a new single glazed frame in front of the existing (prime) window frame will be better. The greater the "air gap" the better the sound insulation. For an insulated replacement window we suggest you consider windows with a 7/8" air gap. Beware - there are some windows on the market with air gaps as little as 3/8".
Some industry professionals offer a guarantee of fuel savings on certain windows with added benefits. These cost a little more but offer a good long-term return on the additional investment.
If you chose Vinyl for your replacement windows make sure to use 100% virgin vinyl, as opposed to reprocessed or recycled vinyl (regrind) extruded from a variety of used vinyl products. Regrind will be cheaper but will not have the same colour fast guarantees etc. 
Don't accept the first price you are quoted. Get at least two - three estimates if you have the time. Research all of the alternatives in terms of product and style.
Where practical try to visit a showroom or view other work carried out by the contractor. Alternatively ask to speak to other customers on the telephone. Do bear in mind however that the company is going to give a reference that will be complimentary. Try and ask specific questions such as - Did they turn up on time? Was any thing missing and how quickly was this rectified? Did they leave the site clean and tidy? Don't always expect "perfect answers" - in fact be suspicious if they are. Any type of building work or remodelling can have its problems or unforeseen challenges. The point is "how quickly was it sorted and was it to your satisfaction". It's often been said that the true test of a company is when there are problems - not when everything goes perfectly.
Most companies will require a deposit with order. Try and make the deposit as low a percentage as possible - generally speaking 10% is normal. Avoid paying larger deposits than this unless your work is particularly "unique" - such as "one off" timber window designs. It's likely in these circumstances that suppliers will require higher holding deposits. You should also make sure that a "fair percentage" is withheld until such times as the work is completed to your entire satisfaction.
Check out the Guarantee and what it covers. It's always best to ask a potential supplier to be specific (in writing) about these issues.
Always enquire about the type of locks and security features being fitted. Most modern insulated replacement windows feature security locks and often for a little extra you can have even better security.
With PVCU (Vinyl) windows in particular you will often hear a lot of "arguments" in favour of using an internally beaded window - instead of an externally beaded window. Clearly if the beads holding in the glass are on the inside of the window it will be more difficult for a burglar to remove the glass and enter your home. Do note however that some suppliers of externally beaded windows will fit special glazing gaskets and double-sided tape to the frame and sealed unit in order to improve on the security and some even claim security "as good as" internal beading.
Rarely will the "cheapest" price be the best for you in the long run. When comparing "like with like" please also take into comparison how long the company has been established and the "quality" of their guarantees. You may find two suppliers using the same XXXX Vinyl extrusion and the same LOW E Glass. However if one supplier happens to be some "window fitters" doing "private work" at the weekends then please realize that their so called Guarantee may be of less value than another from a more established company with a supporting infrastructure. 
Ask your supplier if you will be responsible for "making good" around the new frames when they are fitted. Most suppliers will include this as part of their work - but you should check.
Whilst PVCu/Vinyl and Aluminium frames are virtually maintenance free please note that the hinges and mechanical parts such as locks will need regular lubrication etc. The frames will also benefit from an occasional "wipe down". Special Vinyl frame cleaners are available.
For timber frames you will need to paint every 3-5 years or, if you are using hardwood, oil or varnish as appropriate. We recommend an annual "spring clean" for all windows and doors no matter whether they are PVCU/Vinyl, Aluminium or Hardwood.
Our final tip in this section and perhaps one of the most important. Do not be the Customer from HELL. To get the best out of any Replacement Window Supplier or Contractor maintain a friendly but professional rapport. Do not assume that they will always be trying to get "one over" on you. Their advice may be in your best interests. If you appear defensive and untrusting - always assuming the worst of your supplier - the whole experience will be unpleasant for both you and the supplier. Be vigilant - but always prepared to listen to their advice - especially if problems occur. 
disclaimer

Whilst most trades will come prepared with their own food and drinks - do take the time to offer them hospitality. A cold drink on a warm summer day or hot soup in the winter will build on your relationship - resulting in a better job for you.

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