Jun 11, 2014

It's a Window Thing, Part I

Our house was built in 1984 and all 17 windows are the original builders-grade wood single-pane windows. So we knew when we bought the house that we would need to get new windows. But we weren't financially ready until now. This last winter we paid off our car loan, which leaves us with only our mortgage and in the best financial shape we've been in. So we decided it was time.

It's definitely challenging when you first start a project like this because you just don't know what you are looking for. You don't know which companies are the best, which windows are the best. There is so much information and how much of it do you trust. So when we started looking for companies we looked for companies who had been around for a long time. If they had survived this long then they were clearly doing something right and would mostly likely be around for a long time still. We were looking for windows that would save on our energy bills, which honestly anything would save us a little money on our bills. We were looking for windows that didn't fall randomly, making them safe for the kiddo and the cat. We were looking to not hear everything that happens outside. Heck we would be happy if every window we had opened.

Beyond those things, we didn't have a lot of things that we had to have. We were interested in pricing out how much it would cost to make our two picture windows into double hung windows. We wanted to make sure that if they had to take off our wood work that they did it all, they took it off and they put it back on.

So we looked for companies, and found four that we wanted to get quotes from. If you are interested in who we talked to then I'll share privately but I'm not interested in sharing the names of the companies on such a public forum because although we didn't like them, that doesn't mean they aren't still good companies and I don't want to come across as dragging their name through the mud. Our experience is basis on the salesmen and that definitely had an impact, both positive and negative, on our final decision.

The first company was part of a big chain, and therefore met our first requirement of being around for awhile and should be around for awhile still. Of course every company we talked to met all of our other requirements. Any window would be better than our current windows in regards to safety, noise, and energy efficiency. The windows from this company were good windows. We liked the look, although this was the first time we had done this and I realized for the first time the it wasn't common to have screens on the full window but to have half screens. I also realized how much I don't actually care for that look. The salesman was here for about two hours and was willing to answer all our questions. The only problem was that because this was our first go-around we really weren't sure what to ask. The price landed in the middle of the range, which as far as we knew wasn't bad. But we didn't have any comparisons.

My biggest gripe with this sales pitch was definitely that as we finished up, he started pushing us to buy that day. We obviously didn't. This wasn't the only company that pushed us to make our decision right at that moment. This is a big project and a lot of money. Rob and I have to talk about what we want. We wanted to look at other companies to see if the price and window itself was actually comparable. We sure were not going to make such a big decision right there that second. And we definitely weren't going to discuss the pros and cons of this company, window, and price in front of the salesman who would no doubt share his input and tell us what we want to hear in order to get our business.

And since like I said we had no comparison we talked to the next company. This one didn't take two hours like the first company which was actually refreshing. The salesman came in this time and told us that he wasn't going to push us into a decision, and much to my surprise he didn't. He measured our windows, encouraged us to get lots of quotes and do our research. He told us that he wasn't going to do a fancy light show (In case you didn't know some companies will come in with a heat lamp and hold it up to the glass to show you how awesome their window is. Of course like I said anything is amazing compared to what we currently have.). What he was going to do was to give us numbers. And these numbers would be the numbers that was given to windows based on different factors by a third party and we could use these numbers to compare all the windows we look at to each other to help us make our decision. It made perfect sense to me. He showed us two windows and I was definitely sold on the second one because it had a full-screen. I don't know what it is about those half-screens. I'm just not a fan, but that's a personal preference.

We definitely liked this company. It's a family-owned business that's been around for a good number of years. They don't sub-contract. They'll fix any wood rot or any other problems there might be when installing for no additional cost. The cost of these windows were also about mid-range, which seemed to be consistent with the first company. So far this one was winning out because yes it was cheaper but I liked the windows themselves better. But we still had two more companies to talk to.

The third company we talked to was a well-known window company. It again ended up being a two hour sales pitch that felt a little never-ending to me. The salesman gave us a detailed background of the company, which was a bit of an overkill and a little unnecessary to know that much. We got the light show again. Then it came to the fancy, technical talk. I honestly can't say I caught a single thing that was said. There were graphs and quotes from well-known sources and numbers. None of which made any sense to me (and by the way quotes really mean nothing because they can be taken out of context to mean whatever you want them to mean). This company uses a different kind of material than the other companies we talked to, so we were told for two hours how awful any other material is other than the kind they use.

This company walked in with an overly-confident attitude, and talked as if they already had our business. We had no doubt that he was that way because we were young. He was definitely surprised and a little taken back when Rob started asking questions meaning he had to support all that data that was thrown at us. After an incredibly long two hours, he finally left and we could do some real research into all their fancy graphs and number (and by we, I really mean Rob). As it turns out the information they were giving wasn't completely accurate. Their material looked much better on their graphs in comparison to the other popular material but according to outside sources, they weren't that different. As far as cost, this estimate was about two times as much as the first two companies, and that was without doing our basement windows, no double-hung windows for our picture windows, and a cheaper screen. Needless to say, we easily ruled out this company.

The last company was a short and sweet visit. He didn't measure the windows. He didn't do a light show. He asked us how many windows then started writing up the quote. He explained their windows, showed a window quickly, and that was pretty much it. It was very quick actually. This company actually has the same price for every window no matter the size, which I found interesting and bit confusing. But that also meant that this was the cheapest quote by far. The window itself was fairly nice but definitely not as nice as the others we were shown.

What it came down to was getting the best window for the best price. Using the advice from the second company, we looked at the numbers from each of the windows to really determine which was the best window. We were able to easily narrow down the companies. We looked at the numbers but we also looked at the price. Were we buying the company's name? Was it really the best price? Where was our money going? Did we like the company that was getting our business?

In the end, I feel like we made the best decision. So yes that means we made a decision. We are happy with our decision. So now we are a month, give or take, away from actually getting the windows.

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