Updated Oct. 10, 2023
Published: Sept. 3, 2020
Wondering where to buy new windows for your home? Here’s the scoop on home improvement store windows, showrooms, franchises, dealers and more.
It’s helpful to start with the basics. Do you need to replace a broken pane of glass, just one or two windows that are having issues, or is it time to replace all of the windows in your home?
We’ve created a simple infographic (below) to help you decide, but as a general rule of thumb, it’s most cost effective to call a glass repair company or handyman to handle the job if you have a broken pane of glass or just a few windows that needs replacing.
If you are looking for replacement windows for the entire home, however, that’s a different story. You need a windows and doors company.
You have a choice of purchasing from manufacturers at their showrooms or franchises, or purchasing from window and door companies who install product from a variety of manufacturers. If you get bids from both, be sure to carefully compare product, pricing and warranties for product and installation before you make a decision.
Naturally, we’re partial to small local companies who carefully choose which products they sell based on decades of experience… but hey, that’s just us. =)
Can I just purchase windows at a home improvement store, and either do it myself or hire a budget-friendly handyman?
Generally there are two directions homeowners can go, once they’ve decided all the windows need replacement. They can (1) purchase off-the-shelf windows at a home improvement store and either install them or hire a handyman to do it, or (2) they can hire a windows and doors company to handle the job from start to finish.
Naturally, there are pros and cons to either choice. Sometimes budget makes the decision for you.
Two things to keep in mind? Ready-made windows come in standard sizes, which may not fit the opening it’s intended to fill. This can cause problems. Also, know that improper installation can void a warranty, and any resulting damage the home may not be covered by homeowner’s insurance.
It’s important to pay very close attention to the installation instructions, and follow them exactly.
If using a handyman, don’t assume they know what they are doing, or that they’re following manufacturer instructions. It’s smart to be very specific with them on the issue, and make sure you’re protected by using only licensed, bonded and insured handyman services, not someone you pay by the hour with no recourse if something goes wrong.
Our personal opinion? We’ve repaired many DIY jobs with wood trim around the window exteriors to cover gaps where the window doesn’t fit (which need annual maintenance that most homeowners fall behind on – and we won’t even talk about what that does to energy efficiency).
We’ve also popped off cheap windows, only to see extensive rot or mold inside the wood framing of the home from years of slow moisture leaks, and many other issues (like crumbling stucco or damaged drywall).
If you go the DIY or big box store route, please be very careful and don’t take risks.
Also, don’t assume this is the cheaper route! Get a quote from us before you decide to go this direction. Our competitive prices may surprise you.
I’ve noticed Home Depot sells Andersen window products, and Lowe’s sells Pella. Is it the same product that dealers sell?
While we’ve never taken a saw and cut these products in half to compare their inner framework, and we’ve had limited luck sleuthing out information, we can say this… when you purchase from a dealer like us, we come out to your home, measure the openings, and have the manufacturer build product that fits those measurements exactly.
We also service any warranty claims, and provide a lifetime installation warranty free of charge for as long as you own the home.
Product purchased off-the-shelf only comes in standard sizes that are mass produced.
That can make a big difference in fit and quality.
We can also say this… When a manufacturer is considered high-end, and they also sell a product to discount stores, it may not be the same product. We can’t say it’s not the same, since we haven’t reverse engineered each one to compare how they are made, but if the prices are widely different, there is usually some sort of product modifications to save money on the less expensive product.
We’ll leave it at that. =)
One other thing to think about is this. If the manufacturer sells a product line in a home improvement store that is exclusive to just that store, and it isn’t on their website or sold anywhere else, it’s probably not some sort of “exclusive deal just for that store.” At least not in our industry. More likely, it tends to be a less expensive quality they can sell at a lower price in large quantities and still make a profit.
It’s “builder’s grade.”
Builder’s grade, also called contractor’s grade, refers to an economy grade of product that is stripped down to the basics at the most competitive price possible. They’re something the builder or contractor can obtain in bulk at the best possible price to get the job done. Better quality is usually offered as an upgrade at premium (aka profitable) pricing. Windows, doors, cabinets, roofing, paint… virtually everything used to build a home is available aftermarket in builder’s grade at home improvement stores.
Home improvement stores often sell builder’s grade products to keep the pricing attractive, but be careful, don’t assume these discounted windows are the same product you’d buy from their dealers. You won’t see the Pella® ThermaStar line sold at Lowe’s on the Pella website, for example, because it’s specific to the home improvement store and probably a builder’s grade product line.
And when you buy from a home improvements store, all of the colors, hardware, finishes and upgrades that a dealer can access won’t be available. The selection is limited.
Before deciding on a vinyl window purchase, for example, be sure to explore the product in detail to learn if you’d be getting a different warranty, quality of vinyl, energy efficiency options or glass. Look at the documentation on the home improvement store’s website, and the reviews, then pull up the product on the manufacturer’s website. Compare specs, options, and whatever else you can from the available information.
Also, take time to examine details of the warranty. All window and door products separate the product warranty from the installation warranty, to protect themselves against improperly installed product, or pre-existing issues with water and insect damage, so you’ll want to understand exactly what is included and excluded, and how that could potentially impact your wallet. For example, home improvement store product might have a shorter coverage term, include overly-broad exclusions and limitations, and service warranty issues a bit differently, such as providing a prorated voucher in response to issues, instead of making it right the way a windows and doors company would.
You’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable with what you read, and that the money saved through DIY is worth the potential risk involved. After all, expert installers won’t step in to fix a problem installation if the product was purchased elsewhere.
A smart tip? Get a price quote for the same product installed by an authorized window and door company. It can’t hurt, you’ll see what the cost might be if someone else does the labor, and you just might be surprised by what you learn.
What are some of the differences between showrooms, franchises and dealers?
Big box home improvement stores aside, you can buy new windows for your home at manufacturer showrooms and franchises, and through dealers. Let’s talk about those differences for a moment.
As an example, Andersen® Windows & Doors is a manufacturer that sells their products through a network of approved and authorized dealers. Yet they also own Renewal by Andersen®, which is a separate entity of franchises owned by Andersen Windows. Renewal by Andersen only sells one product line of Andersen windows, the 100 Series, which is also available through authorized dealers like DunRite Windows & Doors. If you can, obtaining a price quote from each might be enlightening.
Pella, Milgard and Anlin are similar to Andersen, selling through dealers. Pella has their own showrooms, however, which the others do not (unless a dealer has their own showroom). Renewal by Andersen is the only franchise model.
DunRite is a dealer who Andersen windows at highly competitive pricing, along with Pella, Milgard® and Anlin™ window brands. We also sell door products manufactured by those window brands, plus Thermatru® and Masonite® products. These brands all meet our high standards for quality, durability and customer service. We do not sell any builder’s grade product.
When it comes to product sold by third-party installation professionals, there are two common types: dealers and authorized dealers. Most professionals can easily become a dealer by signing Dealer’s Agreement documentation with the manufacturer, and meeting their requirements to be licensed, bonded and insured. Authorized dealers go through a more rigorous process. They’re required to meet annual quotas in product sales and have a brick-and-mortar showroom location. Some manufacturers also require their authorized dealers to undergo installation training specific to their product, only sell product in specific territories, and/or meet certain standards for customer service.
What sets DunRite apart as a dealer? Manufacturers can deny warranty coverage, or send replacement parts to the dealer, expecting the homeowner or dealer to cover all labor costs. We’ve got you covered. DunRite never charges labor to make the situation right; we step in and do what it takes. Learn more about our lifetime installation guarantee here.