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Replacing your windows may seem like a daunting task if you’ve never had to do it before, but with a little research and preparation, the experience can be quite smooth. The most important step in the process is hiring a trustworthy, experienced window contractor. To do so, you need to ask several key questions when you interview prospective contractors.
This helps you screen out less reliable contractors and settle on one who can guarantee the job gets done right the first time. Read on to learn about the most important questions to ask a prospective window replacement contractor.
Unfortunately, some contractors might not be upfront about all the costs involved when they give you an initial estimate. For instance, once they begin work, they might tell you the project will take longer than expected and boost the original estimate because of that extra work. To avoid stressful situations like this, be sure to ask the contractor beforehand if they anticipate any changes to the estimate they initially gave, and, if so, whether you should expect it to go up or down. Set clear expectations from the beginning to avoid unpleasant surprises later on.
Be sure to ask if the estimate includes all the components of the replacement, such as the materials, fees, and warranties. Some contractors purposely provide low estimates, only to change the bottom line later on when warranties and other fees are added on. Most importantly, do not hire a contractor who can’t provide a direct answer to your questions. You have every right to ask any question you have in mind; after all, it’s YOUR money and house involved in the process. For your own peace of mind, look for a contractor who can give straightforward answers to your questions.
Most disagreements between contractors and customers are a result of poor communication. It’s in your interest that the estimate you receive includes every component of the project. Before hiring a contractor, request a complete written estimate so you can check whether there are missing or incorrect items in the document. This is one of the most effective ways to avoid going over your budget. In general, the estimate should include everything—removal of your old windows, installation of the replacement windows, cleaning up the mess upon completion, and warranty terms.
Because of the risk posed by lead paint, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program to boost protection for homeowners. This program requires all contractors and their teams be trained lead-safe work practices. Upon your first meeting with a potential contractor, be sure to ask for an EPA certificate. If your home was built before 1978, it might contain lead-based paint and might need to be tested. Your contractor should have a valid certificate to be able test your home for lead paint.
Window replacement manufacturers and organizations measure the energy efficiency of windows using two primary factors: the U-factor (or thermal transmission) and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). The U-factor indicates how well the windows prevent wanted indoor heat from escaping. The lower the U-factor score, the better the thermal performance of your windows. The SHGC, on the other hand, measures how well the windows prevent sun glare and unwanted outdoor heat from passing through your home. Low SHGC scores indicate that your windows are great at shading sun glare. The necessary energy values for your home usually depend on your needs and your home’s geographical location, so be sure to look up the ENERGY STAR requirements in your local climate or ask your contractor about it before purchasing new windows. Your contractor should be able to educate you on the specific window features necessary to boost your energy savings.
Window replacement can be stressful, but with the right help and knowledge about the process, you’ll be able to simplify the task. Do your research and develop a checklist of questions before talking to contractors; this will help ensure you hire the right team for the job and wind up with high-quality windows that will offer superior performance for many years.
Eric Minkiewicz is the President of Renewal by Andersen of Eastern New York, a company that provides top-quality replacement windows and doors in the Capital Region and Hudson Valley. When he’s not in the field, he shares home improvement tips and other industry knowledge through the company blog.