Updated: Aug. 7, 2023
Published: Feb. 14, 2022
You’ve finally made the decision; it’s time to replace the windows that have bothered you for so long. Or perhaps it’s an upgrade to make your home more energy-efficient, create a new look, or include them as part of a larger home renovation project.
Regardless, it’s smart to avoid hidden costs in replacement windows by leveraging a few smart shopping tactics and asking the right questions.
Here are a few to consider.
1. Hidden Damage.
Surprises can be fun, but not when it leads to sticker shock or delays. And just like those popular home renovation shows on TV, finding damage from termites, dry rot, water damage or mold underneath old windows can lead to unexpected repair costs that have a homeowner dragging out the wallet. It’s not the kind of expensive surprise anyone wants.
For the most part, a good window installer will be able to spot damage before the job begins and include repair in the original estimate; however, there are instances when those issues aren’t visible until the existing windows are pulled out. It isn’t a fun part of home renovation, but it happens all the time.
For some homes, what appears to be a window leak is actually a roof issue that must be repaired, which can be an unexpected surprise. In today’s COVID environment, the cost of a new roof has mirrored what’s going on with windows–meaning supplies and labor are in short demand, and the cost has risen dramatically. This can hold up a windows installation for months, since the leak must be repaired before the new windows go in.
2. COVID-Related Price Jumps.
Supply chain issues, inflated costs of materials and a shortage of trade workers have hit the home improvement industry hard. Prices are as much as 70 percent higher than they were prior to the pandemic, and they’re constantly fluctuating.
According to a recent article on Forbes, it’s a direct result of shipping challenges, the increased cost and availability of supplies, and a shortage of labor. A quote today could be dramatically more expensive a few weeks or months later, so time is of the essence. If you wait, you could pay a lot more. Get that estimate signed and a deposit paid, so the installers can order product before another increase hits.
The good news? According to real estate organization HomeLight’s recent survey of its agents, when you replace all of the windows in your home, “you’ll likely see an 81% ROI.” We’re not sure how COVID is impacting this, since home prices have escalated sharply, but it’s not a bad return!
3. Lengthy Time Delays.
Right now, most home renovation projects are taking A LOT longer than usual. It’s not just kitchen remodels and new roofs… it’s hitting the windows and doors industry, too. It’s not fun. Prices have gone up, and jobs are taking months longer than they did before the COVID pandemic began. And, while most are doing their best to provide a reasonable timeline for their customers, complications from the COVID-related supply chain issues and trade labor shortages are stretching timelines far longer than most people expect.
It’s dragging on, adding as much as seven to twelve months to some orders, and it’s totally out of the window and door company’s control. Regardless, it sucks time and energy right out of them, along with the homeowner, and wreaks havoc with everyone’s schedules.
As you consider your project, be flexible with your timeline and realize it can take longer than you expect. Softening expectations and trying to be patient reduces everyone’s stress. The installer might be hit with unexpected delays several times before installation can begin, thanks to manufacturer issues that are out of their control. If you are trying to hit a very specific timeline, it might be wise to hold off on your project or adjust your expectations.
Also know that a reputable company probably won’t guarantee an exact date of completion because, well, it’s impossible to predict with 100 percent accuracy. If they value customer satisfaction, promises just won’t be in their vocabulary.
4. Quality Issues Related to Price.
It pays to buy the best quality you can afford for your budget, since cheap product has a short lifespan that can be fraught with issues. If you’re a cash buyer and the costs are more than you budgeted for, it might be better to wait or finance the difference, rather than compromise on quality. Low-quality vinyl windows can be far more expensive long-term, since they don’t last very long. A low-end quote that comes in substantially less than other quotes might seem attractive initially because of the money saved, but after five, ten or fifteen years in the intense Arizona sun, they can warp and sag like a candle on a summer sidewalk. You’ll be replacing those “affordable” windows far sooner than a high-quality vinyl window that lasts 30+ years. The warranty also might be much shorter, with limited coverage, excluded labor/shipping, or “per product” service call fees.
Don’t let this scare you off vinyl replacement windows, though. Technology and additives have come a LONG way, so a good quality vinyl window should last three or four decades. Obtaining two or three quotes from reputable window and door companies will give you a solid idea of the budget you should expect to invest.
If vinyl is at the top of your list, take a look at the “Do Vinyl Windows Last in Arizona Heat?” article on our website for more information. Looking at quality, warranty and longevity of the specific product you are considering matters, since it’s an investment you want to stand the test of time.
5. Inflated Prices.
If you come across a window installation company who advertises a “low, low price” or a deal too good to be true, just remember it likely isn’t the full picture of the cost, and those prices are likely inflated to appear “on sale.” We find it discouraging that many window and door companies adjust pricing to compensate for the discount, transform standard features into upgrades, or use other methods to create the appearance of a promotion and attract more business during certain seasons. It’s a marketing tactic we don’t agree with.
Be sure that you cross-compare exact models, costs, quality and reviews to ensure you’re getting the best product and the best service at the best possible price. The hidden cost to skipping that kind of due diligence is often paying too much, or getting into bed with a company that has questionable ethics… something that matters if there’s an issue down the road.
6. Finishing Costs.
Most window and door companies won’t paint after installation is complete, so homeowners should expect that additional expense. Trim, product with only a primer coating, some types of caulking or sealant, and any repaired stucco or drywall will need paint.
Homeowners can also be left with stucco and drywall repair, unless they’ve hired a windows and door company that can do the work and it’s included in the estimate. Before they sign a contract, it’s important to ask, “Will there be any work left unfinished once the installation is done?”
7. Warranty Limitations and Exclusions.
While all warranties have exclusions and limitations, some are so overly limited or exclusionary that they’re almost useless. And sometimes they include a lifetime warranty that sounds great, but it’s so full of exclusions that it doesn’t even cover known issues… especially if it’s a builder’s grade product, according to DunRite Owner Sal Sucato.
Be sure to read the fine print to note any red flags of warranty coverage issues before you make a purchase, just to be sure you understand the full picture. Also, watch out for short warranties, read the manufacturer’s online documentation, if you can–and talk through the limitations and exclusions with the salesperson before you make a decision.
“It is best to hire a company that will be on your side if the factory does not stand up to the plate if the need arises,” adds Sucato. “They have more leverage than the homeowner.”
It’s often a costly mistake to wait until coverage is needed before reading the warranty details until you need coverage. If a manufacturer will not guarantee a generous timeline, that warranty often reflects a lack of confidence in the product, or is intentionally done to force a homeowner into an expensive extended warranty upgrade. If the product warranty only covers two years… need we say more?
Did you know that it’s an industry standard for product and installation warranties to be separate, handled by different companies?
Unless the manufacturer is handling installation, they only provide warranty for their product, not installation. The installer typically covers all warranty issues related to their installation.
This protects the manufacturer from liability for installation issues that weren’t their fault, leaving them only on the hook for product defects, but it can be messy and frustrating for the homeowner.
To prevent installation costs from coming as a surprise on a warranty claim, a homeowner should discuss and understand the installation warranty details before purchase, along with the product warranty.
Do not assume they’re the same, and don’t assume a manufacturer offers the same warranty on all of their products, because some product lines may differ.
Replacing windows in your home can be a smart investment, with a smooth, hassle-free sales experience. If you’re feeling undue pressure from a salesperson to skip due diligence, not liking the product and installation warranties, feeling suspicious because the prices seem too high or strangely low, or if they can’t answer these types of questions…. Well, you’re a smart homeowner getting three quotes, right? Just move on to the next one.
You’ll find that right combination of price, product and a company you can trust.