Experience, choice and reputation are probably the top considerations when it comes to choosing a company to replace your windows. That could be said of almost any home service, so let’s see what kind of experience is really needed, what a choice means, and how to find the reputation of a windows and/or doors installation company or individual.
Experience in installing windows in the Pacific Northwest
It feels like it has been raining almost every day for a month, with the exception of a sunny Earth Day yesterday, and no matter how long people live in this part of the country, they never quite get used to the rain. It’s what makes the place so beautiful, of course. The rivers are full and clear, fish migrate up river, attracting large numbers of big birds, and trees pop out of almost any piece of ground a seed may land on. That’s Mother Nature having a great time, of course, always trying to claw back humankind’s efforts at building and growing ahead of the flora and fauna. And for the local window installer, the Puget Sound weather offers unique challenges.
Every part of the country gets some rain, but what makes Seattle unique is that the exterior of a house can remain moist and damp for several months at a time. What makes this possible is having several layers of clouds over our heads. That reduces the amount of sunshine reaching our homes, so a lot of the time, a house will get wet from the rain and stay wet for a long time, giving microbes, algae and all manner of plant and creatures a chance to do damage to a home.
Have you ever seen, for example, an abandoned house or car in the Puget Sound area? It doesn’t take long for it to become completely covered with moss, brambles and even trees. A few seeds from a Douglas fir tree blowing into a crack in the roof of an abandoned house are all that’s needed for a copse of trees to begin their growth and consume the house in time. Along the edges of a window, if not cleaned, can accumulate dirt, seeds and water. Before you know it, a tiny root makes its way through a microscopic fracture or join, and thus begins the life of a tree.
A window that works well is, for example, Albuquerque, might not work so well here is Puget Sound. Experience in installing windows where the damp winters punish houses is essential, because the local challenges are unique.
What choice do I have with window types, window manufacturers?
A generation or two ago, windows were much simpler. You could almost make them at home yourself, if you were handy with carpentry. Today, though, they are far more sophisticated, and there’s a lot of hidden science going into them. For example, multi-glazed windows (double or triple glazed) contain sealed units, with the gap between the panes sometimes filled with the optimal gas/air combination. It would be difficult, indeed for a regular homeowner to match the technical skill and finish of today’s window manufacturers. There are also hybrid windows to consider. What if you want to maintain the ‘wood’ look to the exterior of your house, but would like the benefits offered by the latest generation of vinyl window frames? Such a combination is possible, now, and you don’t have to pay through the nose for it.
Choose a windows provider that offers you a choice of manufacturers, too. Not all windows suit all houses, and it’s possible a single manufacturer won’t give you the optimal result, so a provider that has experience to deliver more than one brand will very likely be able to provide you with the best overall result.
What about the reputation of a window and door installer?
With the Internet these days, it’s tough for a provider to disappoint their customers without the world learning about it. There is Angie’s List, Yelp, Google reviews, and many other such ways to get an idea of how a company is performing. Angie’s List and Yelp are reliable because they have strict rules about protecting their review process from being ‘gamed’. That is, if a company tried to add fake reviews to their account, it’s likely they will be spotted, and steps taken.
It’s always good to see reviews posted on a company’s website, but the best place to follow them is on they actual review site itself, such a www.yelp.com. Another point to remember is, it’s OK for a company to have a small percentage of ‘bad’ reviews. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding about what was expected, or even when someone accidentally posts to the Yelp business, thinking they were a different one. If a company has for example twelve reviews, most of them are four or five star, but one of them is one-star, that is pretty normal. The preponderance of good reviews is what counts.
The good news about this new Internet model of business reviews is that you can cast your net wider than just your immediate friends, for advice about who to hire to get work done on your house. Looking at dozens of reviews on a business in Yelp is about as reliable a picture you can get of how you can expect to be treated by a vendor.
Personally, I rely less on direct references provided by a vendor. In a previous life, I hired people, and over time, I learned to not rely on those personal references I got from a prospective employee. Yelp, Houzz, and Angie’s List reviews are very difficult indeed to fake.
A windows installer with a showroom
If you already know what you want, selecting a vendor might be relatively straightforward, but I would also recommend a vendor that has at least a small showroom where a sampling or windows are available for viewing. You don’t need to see the full size of every window option available, but sometimes a simple window cross section is quite enough to get a sense of how robust and sophisticated a given window manufacturer provides.
More next week!