All Window Warranties are NOT Created Equal

It’s easy for folks to hear salesperson after salesperson say their windows have a “lifetime” warranty.  You can get used to hearing it and you might start to think that they’re all the same.

best replacement windows of 2015

On the other hand, companies that offer more limited warranties will try to explain why a shorter warranty is better.  They’ll say that a lifetime warranty is actually only good for a few years (which is not true and they probably know it).  Why would they do this?  Because nobody would buy their products if they couldn’t explain why the warranty was so short.  Renewal by Andersen is a great example of this one.

Renewal by Andersen Limited Warranty
Here you can see the very short warranty offered by Renewal by Andersen. Why would they offer a warranty this short?

This is a 2 year warranty on installation, 10 years on the oh so fancy Fibrex frames.  That is a REALLY short warranty.

We also hear from customers that they don’t want to depend on a warranty so they want to pick a quality product that they think will hold up.  Of course picking a quality product is a great strategy, but in discounting the warranty they’re ignoring a crucial data point indicating the quality and anticipated lifespan of the product.

Here’s the deal.  Brochures and flyers are written by salespeople.  Warranties are written by lawyers and engineers.  There’s a big difference.

The warranty on any window or door product is a direct indication of how long the manufacturer actually expects the product to hold up.  If they offer a long and comprehensive warranty they’re telling you they are confident that the windows will last.  If they offer a shorter or more limited warranty they are directly saying that they think the product may fail after that point.

Think about it this way:  a shorter warranty will absolutely result in fewer sales.  The manufacturer knows that some percentage of their potential customers will thoroughly read the warranty and if it isn’t as good as their competitor the customer will buy elsewhere.  Why then would one company offer a warranty that is more limited than their competitor?  Remember, they know doing this will result in lower sales.  They do it because they have to.  They do it because they know that some percentage of their products will fail after those limitations run out and they don’t want to be on the hook for the repairs.

So what are the differences between different window warranties?

You’ve probably seen that most decent replacement windows offer some type of “lifetime” warranty.  That’s absolutely true, but as with most things, the difference is in the details.  When it comes to warranties the differences can be huge.

Here are 5 common differences:

Labor coverage – You’ll see a lot of “lifetime” warranties, but when you actually read them the labor is only covered for a limited period.

There are also 2 types of labor to consider.  There is the labor of the installer who did the initial work, and then there’s the labor of the service technician who comes out to replace a defective part.  Are they both covered?  Is one limited to 1 year or even completely excluded?  They may be.  If the service labor is limited who is going to repair a broken window or replace a damaged balance?  How much will it cost?

Remember the Renewal by Andersen example above.  2 years of warranty on installation.  Many companies cover these items for as long as you own the home.  That’s a BIG difference.

Glass breakage coverage – Do you know how much it can cost to replace an insulated glass unit?  Remember, these aren’t the old single pane windows you might have had growing up.  A new sealed glass unit can easily run $100 – $200 for a typical replacement window and the labor can double the total cost.  We recently got a quote to repair a broken window from a local competitor to make sure we knew what the competition was charging.  It was over $400 for one piece of glass in a typical double pane window.  That’s real money.

Here is a clip from the Simonton Prism window warranty.  You can see the insulated glass warranty is prorated overtime, but the glass breakage warranty is solid for 25 years.

Simonton Prism Window Warranty
This is the warranty for the Simonton Prism line. Their other lines have different warranties so be sure you know what you’re getting.

Some companies offer a glass breakage warranty to everyone they do business with.  Some offer it at an additional cost and others don’t offer it at all.  When you’re considering a window project it’s important to know what you’re getting.

When you hear that baseball go through the window you’ll be glad you know what you picked!

Hardware & moving parts – As you get a few quotes and look at window samples you’ll quickly see that there are hundreds of choices and they all use slightly different bits and pieces.  That’s not a problem, except when you need a new lock 10 years down the road.  How will you get one that matches the rest of the windows in your home?

Some companies cover the hardware, balances and all moving parts for as long as you own the home and some limit that coverage to just a few years.  This is an important distinction.

Screen coverage – We frequently see warranties that exclude screens.  Screens aren’t expensive, but the frames tend to be proprietary so you may have trouble getting a replacement down the road.

Screens are really easy to fix or replace so any company interested in taking care of their customers after the sale will have no problem covering screens.  A company that excludes screens is telling you that they don’t want to hear from you once your check clears.

Coastal coverage – This one can be important.  We recently read a window warranty from Ideal Windows that defined coastal as being within 1 mile of any tidal body of water.  Right now I’m easily a 2 hour drive from the beach, but I’m less than a mile from a tidal river.  I grew up in Chicago, less than a mile from Lake Michigan, which has tides.  Both of these locations would be considered coastal under that definition and as a result the warranty would be extremely limited.

Ideal Windows Warranty
This is a clip from the Ideal Windows warranty. Is your home “coastal” under this definition? It might be.

I can guarantee you my family in Chicago doesn’t consider their home to be near the coast.  Someone in that position might skip right over a section on coastal coverage and they would be out of luck if they have a problem down the road.  Maybe I like reading these because I have several lawyers in my family, but the devil is in the details.

As you can see from these basic examples (we could go on all day) there are HUGE differences in the warranties of replacement windows.  We know it is REALLY dull to read the fine print of a window warranty.  It only takes a few minutes and we can guarantee you it will be time well spent.

If you remember any one thing remember that a more limited warranty results in lower sales.  Why would a company offer a warranty that results in lower sales?  Because they have to.  Because they know their products won’t stand the test of time.

This is a HUGE data point and you’ll be remiss to overlook it.

Have a question about a specific window warranty?  Post it here and we’ll dig into the details.  We really do love this stuff.

The Appointment Saver Discount & Other Remodeling Scams

You signed up for a free in-home quote for a remodeling project and as things are wrapping up the salesperson hits you with a “special” discount if you would just sign on the dotted line right now.

You remember very clearly that they told you the prices would be guaranteed for a year, but all of the sudden the high price is good for a year and the lower price is going to expire when she walks out the door.  What’s the deal with that?

best replacement windows of 2015

If you remember noting else, remember that this type of pricing scheme is a sure sign that you’re getting a bad deal.

Think about it this way: this salesperson does this for a living and she knows much more about the pricing than you do.  If she was sure that what she was offering was such a great deal then she would be confident that you could think it over and you would certainly call her back to get this great deal.  Why would she come up with a strategy to get you to sign up without considering your options?  Because she knows it’s not a good deal.

Of course she can’t tell you it’s not a good deal because she gets paid commission and that would be a bad strategy.  So what does she do?  She comes up with a way to justify this short term discount.

The appointment saver discount is nothing more than a justification for manipulative pricing.  She will tell you that if you buy now while she’s already there it will save her the trip back to sign paperwork later.  She’ll tell you all of her customers call her back because she’s got the best deal in town and she ends up visiting everyone twice.

She might tell you that her accountant told her that if she could only visit each customer one time it would allow her to meet with twice as many people which would double the size of her business.  It would be worth offering a substantial discount to double the size of her business right?  Wrong.

This is a complete bunch of junk, but believe us when we tell you there are companies out there telling this story to unsuspecting homeowners all across the country tonight.

Remember when you’re hearing all of this that they explain these stories for a living.  She does this every day so she’s probably pretty good at it.  She’ll have an answer for everything and she’ll sound reasonable.  That’s her job.

If you tell her you’ll fax the paperwork after you think it over she’ll say she needs the originals.

If you tell her you’ll mail the originals in a week or two when you’re ready she’ll say the rebate ends today.

If you tell her you’ll drop the forms off at her office she’ll tell you they need your order today to meet their quota.  Next week will be too late.  Of course she may not have an office, but that’s a story for another day.

As you’re hearing all of this remember that nothing in the window business changes on a daily basis.  The ONLY reason they create pricing schemes like this is to separate you from your money.

Do you really think that if you call her up next month and tell her you want to go ahead with the project she will tell you tough luck?  Of course she won’t.  She’ll probably be pretty surprised as nobody ever calls her back, but you won’t either after you get a few more quotes.

We know getting quotes for remodeling projects can be a hassle and you may just want to be done with the process.  We have seen folks pay $5,000 – $10,000 more for a project than they needed to because the salesperson told them they needed to sign up right now to get a great deal.

Everyone says, “oh, I’d never fall for that”, but these companies do millions of dollars per year in business.  Someone does fall for it each and every day.

If you hear about an appointment saver discount, or a manufactures rebate, or a quota, or a managers special, just thank them for their time and call the next company on your list.

You may want to check out Angie’s List to get an idea of which companies will treat you fairly.  We know it costs a few dollars, but you’ll probably find coupons on the site that will more than offset the membership cost and the savings in headaches will be worth much more than a 2-year membership.   You can find our thoughts on Angie’s List from a contractors perspective here.

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.