Its hard to know where to start when it comes to replacing your windows. We have created a quick list to help you make an educated decision.
1. Do you have a showroom? This sounds simple but is actually very important. It is very difficult to know what windows you want if you can't see them. Established dealers have proper showrooms with operable windows and doors. This helps you to understand how a casement window operates and more importantly the difference between the low-cost options and the upper-end windows. A good casement window is extremely easy to operate, with uncomplicated screen hardware and a smooth multipoint locking system. The same logic applies to the other types of windows you are interested in. What options are available? Hardware, colour, features, etc.
Also, window retailers with proper showrooms are not the fly by night guys. Everyone knows someone who has put a deposit down on building materials only to find out they went out of business a week later. A good retailer has been around for a while, has a stable knowledgable staff and has a clean welcoming showroom.
2. Are you insured? Do you have a current WSIB clearance certificate? When you are hiring a company to do work in your home it is your responsibility to ensure that they are insured and have a current wsib clearance certificate. If something gets seriously damaged during the installation, the companies business insurance will cover it. If an installer is hurt at your house, you can be liable unless they have wsib coverage.
3. What types and brands of windows do you sell, are they energy star or NAFS certified? Make sure they have window brands you have heard of. If you haven't heard of the brands, check out the manufacturers' website. There are hundreds of vinyl window manufacturers in Ontario alone. Many are not certified and are not established. If you haven't heard of the company, it doesn't have a proper website and the windows aren't certified then how do you know they will make a good product or honour their warranty?
4. How do you install your windows? Do you do inserts or full-frame removals? Inserts are only to be done under certain structural constraints. For anyone who owns a house 80 years old or younger, you should be looking for a full-frame removal installation. This means the installer is removing the entire existing window, cleaning the rough stud opening, installing the new customized window, and finishing the outside and inside with all new materials.
5. What is your warranty? With any large purchase, you want to make sure it is backed up and warrantied for quality. This is especially true with any alteration you do to your home. A reputable window retailer should offer at least a 10-20 year manufacturer warranty (usually lifetime with vinyl windows). Also, they should have at least a 2-5 year installation warranty. They should also have a service technician on staff who can diagnose and fix any issue that arises. This is very important! You want to know that when you have a problem with your windows you can call the retailer and have someone dealing with your problem quickly. A dedicated service technician can come to your home, quickly identify the problem and either fix it, or order the parts that day to get it done asap. That means you are not waiting on a manufacturers service rep or an installer to come back to your home on their schedule, often taking 3 months.
If you take away only one thing reading this article, it is to ask questions! A well-qualified retailer will be able to confidently answer all your questions, manage your expectations, and find the proper product and service that will make you happy.