Published: June 18, 2021
When you’re debating which brand of replacement window to purchase, or wondering if you should step up in budget, comparing the window warranty between different products can be a smart way to decide… especially if it’s your retirement home or a residence you intend to keep long-term.
For someone looking for home improvement investments durable enough to last 20-30 years, a solid warranty can determine if these are the last set of windows you’ll have to replace in that home.
Here are a few things to evaluate in the purchase decision.
Window manufacturers all offer different warranties, and the length of that warranty is a sign of their faith in the product. They also tend to offer different warranties for different product lines, depending on the durability of the materials used.
If the term is only valid for two years, that’s a red flag for a product that should be durable enough to last for decades. It’s common for hardware, screens and sealed miniblinds to have a shorter warranty, but frame and glass coverage should extend for a minimum of ten years. Longer is better.
A lifetime warranty can be a strong positive; just be sure to read the fine print to understand how they are defining the term, and what might be excluded or cause declined coverage.
One thing many homeowners don’t realize is that product and installation warranties are often separate – with one covered by the manufacturer, and the other by the installer. Therefore, it’s important to ask questions, understand the details, and perform due diligence on the installer to make sure they’re qualified.
For example, even in a product with a lifetime full warranty, coverage can be denied if installation is performed by an unqualified installer. Installation that doesn’t follow best practices and manufacturer recommendations can cause product failure that is not the manufacturer’s responsibility, leaving the homeowner to bear the costs.
The best way around this? Make sure the installer provides a written warranty with clearly disclosed terms you understand and agree with. Talk to them about what happens if there are issues, and be sure to check their reviews, Arizona Registrar of Contractor’s license, and BBB rating before signing a contract.
While it’s not unusual for glass, frame, hardware, screens and installation to have varying coverage terms on a product warranty—such as 20 years for glass and 10 for frames—it’s especially important to note if labor is covered by the manufacturer for any product issues.
While most manufacturers do not cover issues related to installation under their warranties, some exclude labor if there is a product failure, or only cover it for a short period. Since labor costs can be significant, especially if there is water or insect damage necessitating drywall/stucco/siding repair, knowing if it is covered can push you towards a product that includes this under their warranty, especially if the installer only covers labor related to installation problems, not product.
For a closer look at specific warranties for the manufacturers we sell, you may find this article helpful: The Facts About Warranties. Also, since the information may change, be sure to ask the salesperson for specifics. The best place to find current information is the manufacturer’s website. Don’t rely on a Google search; manufacturers adjust warranty terms frequently, so you want to be sure you are reading information directly from the source, not information that may be outdated or inaccurate.
Limited vs Full Warranties
Be sure to notice if the product offers a full or limited warranty, since this can have a major impact on what a homeowner pays for out of pocket when there’s a warranty claim. Limited warranties may exclude certain parts, coverage under certain conditions, and the style of window (especially specialty shapes like bay, garden or bow windows)
Even certain colors of material or types of finishes can have a different warranty than others in the same product line. For example, even though a particular manufacturer may offer a lifetime full warranty on their vinyl window products, their black vinyl product may have a limited warranty, since it’s painted black at the manufacturing facility, versus other colors of vinyl that have color imbued throughout the polymer. Why? Because black vinyl windows aren’t expected to last as long. It’s a new fashion trend manufacturers are scrambling to address with a sprayed finishing treatment, while they are creating a more permanent solution. We’re assuming it hasn’t been tested for long as a new product color, so the manufacturers offer a separate warranty they are comfortable with.
Depending on the fine print and loopholes, limited warranties can be a sticky point that results in the homeowner paying out of pocket for repair, and all or some of the product replacement costs.
Talking through various scenarios with the salesperson or taking time to fully read the warranty fine print can be helpful in understanding differences.
Homeowner mistakes that void the warranty
It’s also worth noting that even a full warranty can have exclusions or be voided by actions of the homeowner. It’s better to know this when reviewing the warranty, than to discover it after the damage has been done.
For example, installation done by a non-certified installer can void a warranty, since they may not follow installation best practices or have been trained in proper installation techniques. Acts of God are also excluded from warranty coverage (although probably covered by your homeowner’s insurance).
One thing that catches some homeowners by surprise is that their maintenance, or lack of it, can also void a warranty. Using certain caustic cleaners or solvents, not keeping up with painting or sealing the frame and trim of wood windows, painting the frame and failing to paint untreated surfaces can all void the warranty.
Also, a homeowner who didn’t keep up with maintenance by keeping weep holes clear (or who painted over them) so they can drain properly may be ineligible for warranty coverage for water damage, too.