Finding replacement window contractors can be a frustrating process. Here is an 11 step guide to finding the best contractors – from pre-screening over the phone to checking contractor references to drawing up a contract that protects both parties.
Step 1: Pre-Screen Contractors Over The Phone
Pre-screen over the phone first with a list of our 10 essential interview questions for window contractors. Jot down their answers on a sheet of paper and we’re relatively certain that by the end of the call, you will have a clear idea if they make the cut to come out and give you an estimate.
Step 2: Schedule Appointments
For those who pass the Q & A, set up a time for them to come out and provide you with an estimate. Ideally, you will have 3 companies come out — we recommend scheduling them within a few days of one another. First, this insures that you better remember their personalities and answers so that you can compare them better. It’s easy to forget if they are spread out over a week or two and you may forget something that you either liked or didn’t like about one or all of them.
Step 3: Ask Questions
Bring a pencil and note pad for the Q & A and go over any questions that may be on your mind. Common questions include removing your old windows, which specific window brands they use, what their standard markup is on the windows, amount of prep work on the windows, whether they offer a warranty on the installation, etc.
Step 4: Step By Step Cost Bids
The bids should include what the overall replacement windows cost, as well as a breakdown for the different components of the job. Bids should include the following:
1. Description of the project
2. Cost for prep, demo, removal
3. Cost for windows and materials
3. Window installation cost
4. Timetable for project
5. Payment schedule
6. Who is doing the work — contractor or subcontractors
7. What their change order procedures are
8. Warranty information
9. Alternative dispute settlement clauses
Step 5: Know Your Budget And Stick To It
Knowing your budget and sticking to your number is important for two reasons. Number one, it helps when you negotiate because it takes the emotion out of your decision — you know how much you can spend and that’s that. Two, going over your budget means you are sacrificing something else and that’s never a good thing for home finances.
If you are having problems getting exactly what you want at your price, talk to the potential contractors about other options. Sometimes you can accomplish the same look with other similar products lines with less bells and whistles or using slightly different design approaches.
Step 6: Receive All Bids And Take A Few Days
Don’t rush this process unless you absolutely have to. Take a few days and let the bids and project details sink in. Time allows you to more objectively look at the bids and compare them with one another and ultimately have a better grasp on exactly what they are providing at what price. It will also give you time to do Step 7.
Step 7: Research The Companies
Make sure that all the companies are legitimate businesses with adequate experience. Any window contractor needs to have a valid contractor’s license in the state in which you live. They also should be bonded (although this isn not always necessay). While they don’t have to be members of the BBB, it is always a plus. If they are, visit the BBB website and look up their name or license and see if any negative complaints or issues have been filed by previous customers. Get 2 or 3 customer referrals and call these people up and ask them about their experience with this window company. It’s best to get at lease one referral from 4 or 5 years ago to see how the install has held up and at least one from more recently to make sure the qulaity of work is consistenly good.
Rank the companies from 1 to 3 so you can call your first choice first and so on.
Step 8: Negotiate On The Bids
Many companies are actively looking for jobs and will negotiate on the price of your replacement windows. Take your bids and look them over. What parts seem too high for your specific project — contractors often have a set amount that they charge for a certain service like demolition. Maybe your demo is minimal and they can come down a bit on this.
Mark your bid to reflect what price you want on each portion and then total it up – this is where the multiple bids come in handy. You can compare demo cost, sill or frame rot cost and negotiate based on the lower numbers from each. Call the contractors back and negotiate on the different parts of the bid. This is one of the reasons you get an estimate with a price breakdown — it is easier to have them come down or negotiate on specific portions of the bid.
Step 9: Get A Signed Contract
The contract should have the detailed plan for how the project is going to be carried out and the costs associated with each step. Hopefully, you and the contractor have discussed the different portions of the project and come to an agreement on the price on each aspect. The contract can include a clause about dispute resolution.
Step 10: Tie Payments to Work Stages
A smart way to handle payments is to break them up according to completed stages of a project. Paying a large chunk up front can de-incentive for the contractor (although quality contractors should never work like this — they care too much about the referrals). We recommend breaking it up into thirds; a third up front, a third when all the removal and prep work is done and a third at the completion of a project. Note that small replacement window jobs are done in a day or two so this wouldn’t apply to these jobs, although we recommend that in these cases you pay the day of the job once you see the completed work.
Step 11: Get Ready For The Work To Start
Congratulations, you have successfully chosen one of your replacement window contractors. You should be proud of yourself, this can be a stressful process. The good news is you have taken the steps to find a great contractor, solid windows and to protect yourself from any mishaps that might arrive. Remember, replacing your windows is noisy and disruptive to your home and to your routine. It not that uncommon for problems to crop up and it is best to handle them rationally and with your sense of humor intact.