Sunday, July 14, 2013

Window brands and brand name windows; a cautionary tale.

You've seen the commercials; sweeping vistas of snow capped mountains or green meadows. Or maybe the crashing of waves against a dramatic rugged cliffside. The camera pulls back and the narrator of a slick window commercial reveals that these stunning views are just another example of the superior performance, energy efficiency and quality and is brought to you by a brand name window that is a household name. Careful.

Many homeowners (and even builders) are not aware that some of the best known brands have multiple grades of windows and the difference in price and quality can be pretty significant. That high-end clad window that attracted you so effectively often shares it's brand name recognition with windows that are manufactured with less or lower quality materials. The only difference may be a series number or name like "1200 or Premium" when in reality it is anything but. These lower end products serve a very useful role for many homeowners who have economy as a high priority, but it is helpful to know exactly what you are getting when you make a large purchase of windows and doors.

While the practice of selling lesser quality products under the higher quality brand name is perfectly legal, it does feel a bit deceptive if you find yourself on the receiving end of a window package that just doesn't seem like the same window you thought you were getting. The biggest offenders of this practice are the very brands that invest the most money in advertising and building brand name recognition.

So how can you protect yourself from an unscrupulous sales person who commits the sin of omitting this very important detail of series name or number?

1. First ask if the product they are pricing for you is the only grade of window that this manufacturer produces?
2. If the answer is no, then have them describe the differences between the different grades and if cut sections are available request to see them so that you can compare the differences.
3. If the brand you are interested in does have multiple grades, ask for a quote for all the different grades (or if there are more than three grades, ask for a bid from the low end, a mid grade and for the top of the line).
4. When it comes time to order, make sure the list of windows all show the same series number or name (multiple grades allows for blending of lesser grade windows in strategic places in the home, not necessarily a bad thing unless it is done deceptively without your knowledge).
5. When obtaining bids from multiple competing suppliers, make sure everyone is on the same page with regard to a multiple grade brand-name window and that the bids are truly apples to apples, not only on the grade of window but features and options.

Below is a snapshot of a brand name window (brand name withheld because this is not meant to be a brand expose'). The window on the right is the brand name window that the reputation was built upon. The window on the left is the dramatically pared down version of the same window. The window on the right is a solid wood window with a heavy gauge aluminum cladding. The window on the left is actually a vinyl window with a wood veneer on the interior and an aluminum extrusion on the exterior. There are other differences as well that make this window a mere shadow of the quality window on the right.
Sometimes it is beneficial to have the option of a less expensive, lower grade window, but it certainly is always beneficial to know up front which grade of window is going into your project and whether or not the cost savings is substantial enough to warrant the sacrifice of the quality the higher grade window promises. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Window planning professional versus big box window products

The question has been asked, "why use the services of a window planning professional?"  Too many times this very important question is answered after something that could have been avoided has gone horribly wrong.

Using a window professional when the initial plan is being developed can assure that code compliance is addressed sooner, rather than later when conflicts may be discovered making costly plan revisions necessary.  Knowing a particular manufacturers limitations (or flexibility with sizing or attributes) can be priceless when preparing a window schedule, particularly when changing one window can disrupt the overall plan design making it necessary to adjust all windows to reclaim the design.

Having an objective analysis of costs, features and benefits from one brand to the next can be invaluable when determining a realistic budget for a project. Too many times the plans are developed with an overall expense being estimated only to learn once the job goes out to bid that the estimate was far too conservative as the plan is drawn.  Knowing the particular cost drivers while the plan is being developed can avoid this disappointing reality. 

Once the plan is complete, and a job is open to bid, the first opportunity to value engineer a window package presents itself, but that too can lead to an uneven playing field from one builder to the next and it is fraught with peril when considering  that generally a VE quote involves some deviation from the specifics of the plan and shouldn't be attempted without the homeowners input.

Sitting down with a knowledgeable window professional, sooner rather than later, can prove to be one of the most efficient ways to spend your time.  It's also been known to save lots of headaches and a few dollars too.