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Selecting the Right Contractor

How do I choose a window and door contractor? When do I use Bay or Bow windows?
What are the glass options for my windows or doors? How do I get the most from by investment?

 

How do I choose a window and door contractor?

Here's Five Easy Steps To Follow

The best way to avoid a problem with your new doors and windows is to check out whichever company you select. Owner, Clark Adams, gives you a checklist on selecting the right company for you.

Step 1: Pick a window and door specialist.

Since general contractors are responsible for an entire project (kitchens, floors, plumbing and appliances), they lack in-depth knowledge regarding window and door installations. Without the luxury of devoting their time to becoming knowledgeable on a variety of window and door manufacturer's products, many contractors subcontract window replacement jobs. Look for a reliable window and door specialist with over 10 years of experience and a showroom displaying many manufacturer products. They should also be able to provide the addresses of at least a dozen local satisfied customers (within the last 6 months). Don't allow a contractor to learn the challenges of window and door installations on your home.

Step 2: Don't assume anything about pricing.

Many people believe that home centers offer the best pricing. Not so. Window and door manufacturers offer many choices which can improve product performance, but tend to confuse pricing. Ask your estimator to explain your choices of materials and include any extra charge items, then you're comparing apples with apples.

Step 3: Verify a Contractor's License and Insurances.

Be sure to check for a valid State Contractor's license, proper certifications, and insurance. Go to the Contractor State License Board's website (www.cslb.ca.gov). This website allows consumers to verify license information quickly. In addition to having a license in good standing, any contractor that works on your home is required by law to have a "Home Improvement Certification". Don't forget to check out the "Worker's Compensation Information" section. If there is no insurance policy listed, the contractor uses subcontractors for all his work. (If he hires employees and has no listed Workers Compensation Insurance, the property owner could be liable for any work related injuries.) A contractor that I responsible will always make sure the homeowner is protected with the appropriate licenses and insurances.

Step 4: Choose a company that uses employee installers-not subcontractors.

The quality of the installation is a reflection of a company's reputation. Employee installers care about the reputation of their company and take the time to do it right. Unfortunately, many subcontractors receive little supervision and a low fixed fee piece ratefor their efforts. This provides little incentive to do follow up work should a service issue arise after the windows are installed. In addition, responsible contractors have to be careful whom they place in your home. Using employees who report directly to the company assists in quality control and reduces the risk of having "persons unknown" (i.e. subcontractors and their employees) circulating throughout your home. Be equally diligent in assessing the large home center contractors. Typically, they are not employees and they don't specialize in windows and doors, they perform as subcontractors.

Step 5: Ask for and call customer referrals.

A previous customer is the best source to determine the pros and cons of:

1. If the project accomplished it's objectives.

2. If the contractor delivered what was promised. If testimonials or other obvious sources of customer satisfaction are unavailable, request the phone numbers of several recent customers. When calling, ask specific questions regarding the cleanliness and professionalism of the installation crew.

3. If precautions were taken to protect your carpet, flooring, furnishings and the like.

4. Inquire as to the overall experience from the initial estimator, to the scheduling personnel, to the final walk through. A good indicator of customer satisfaction is posted job signs.

5. These indicate that the client was pleased enough let their neighbors know of their experience.

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When do I use Bay or Bow windows?

When planning a "projected" window like a Bay or a Bow window, keep these points in mind.

1. When considering whether to use either a Bay or Bow window, a "Bay" with it's three sides is more traditional. The main center window can be used as a center view window or using grids lend a "country charm" to the décor. A "Bow" window, with it's either 4,5 or 6 panels is a more contemporary and elegant style window. While not used to accentuate a view from inside, it draws attention to itself and becomes a focal point in the room. Using different glass options, it can transform a home into a showpiece.

2. Keep the opening at least 6 feet wide. Much narrower than that and a Bay won't look good because the main picture window may be smaller than the side "flanker" windows. 3. Use a Bay or Bow that is NOT pre-manufactured in a factory, but rather one where the contractor can specify the individual window sizes. This is important when installing a Bay because you might want to control the angle of flanker windows to enlarge or narrow the width of the main picture window or control the depth of the projection of the overall window to allow for an exterior overhang or interior considerations.

4. Always match the roof of the Bay or Bow to the window itself as opposed to trying to match an existing roof style on your home. An exact match is nearly impossible unless remnants of the old roofing are available, but the existing roofing has already faded. Also, shingles, tiles or other types of standard roofing material look awkward when on the small surfaces of a Bay or Bow's roof. A color matched smooth sheet metal surface with the appropriate seams and edges looks best.

5. If there is an obstruction or walkway right outside the window and the projection is a consideration, using a "Bow" will keep the projection to a minimum. However, using a "Bay" that isn't pre-manufactured and that can be specified by the contractor will allow you to narrow the depth using a combination of smaller flanker windows and a shallower angle.

6. While Bays and Bows are to be looked at a Bay is easier to look through. If you have a view, a Bay will enhance the view, while a Bow will tend to draw the eye toward itself restricting the view. This can be the main objective if the room in question needs some improvement and the outside view isn't important.

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What are the glass options for my windows or doors?

Use "Glass Options" to custom design your windows.

Generally, a well designed window with some appropriate options can make the most of an otherwise basic window. Instead of spending the extra money to enlarge a window or to create a Bay or Bow window, the use of beveled or cut glass can bring that opening to life. Narrow polished brass grids can add just the touch you're looking for if you've seen too many "look alike" windows in your neighborhood.

Varying the style of "grids" in your windows can do a lot to increase the curb appeal of your home. Victorian or craftsman styles can be a good neighborly compliment to the standard grid patterns common today.

Using a window with a retractable screen can enhance your view without having to use a picture window with no ventilation. The screen unrolls only when you need it and remains protected when the window is closed.

Bathroom windows and other windows that provide privacy can be made more appealing with some interesting styles of obscured glass. Using a glue chip, delta frost, rain glass or Flemish style obscured glass takes the blahs out of the bathroom.

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How do I get the most from by investment?

Designing Your New Windows Within Your Budget.

It's a challenge to stay within a budget when you consider all the styles and exciting options available in windows and doors today. However, by adhering to the following steps, you can keep your budget intact.

1. Stay with your existing opening size. Enlarging or modifying your opening to accommodate a different size window will cost a lot more. Changing the size or shape of your existing opening requires demolition, reframing, possible electrical and/or plumbing, lathing, flashing, stucco patching and drywall repair. Not to mention painting these areas after the window is installed. Instead, consider staying with the original size of the window and adding a glass option that will remake the window and give you the effect you're looking for-all at a fraction of the cost.

2. Look at the window/door from the outside as well as the inside. Proper design protocol dictates that from any vantage point the window style should match and be coordinated to its' surroundings. You can address your home's curb appeal by paying attention to the windows and doors so that they appear to compliment one another and work with the other textures and colors of the house exterior and the landscaping. Just because a beautiful oak stained door looked fantastic in a showroom doesn't mean it will blend with the style of your home. Spend time looking at several of your windows from the inside and out before making a decision. Make sure your window design ideas from room to room don't conflict with the overall style of your home both inside and out.

3. Pay attention to your existing window coverings. Another cost you can control is window coverings. Make sure the new windows will be able to work with any mini-blinds, drapes, shutters, shades or other existing window coverings. Replacing or altering window coverings can easily double the cost of the job! Ideally, the new windows will be in place before window coverings are installed, occasionally however, replacement windows must be installed to allow for the coverings. Be sure to allow for the handles of sliding doors when plantation shutters are covering the door. Occasionally, the new handle will restrict the operation of the shutter louvers.

4. Choose quality but do only what you can afford. If you're on a strict budget, don't let that determine the quality of your job. It's always safer to choose a quality product and a reputable contractor and do only those windows you can afford now, as opposed to trying to complete the entire house with a bargain brand or installation style. Although completing the job in stages will take longer, settling for marginal quality is risky as you may find yourself replacing the sub-standard work.

5. Pay attention to the look of the whole house, when doing just a few windows at a time. If you've decided to replace your windows in stages, the tendency is to focus on just the windows being replaced at this time. Instead, step back and view the design and style of these priority windows as if you were having your entire home windows replaced? What will the home look like when all the windows and doors are replaced? Remember, the selection you make now will impact your future choices and ultimately the look and design of your home.

6. Don't "Cheap out" even if you plan on selling and moving in the foreseeable future. While replacement windows and doors won't threaten mutual funds as an investment vehicle, they do impact the resale value and marketability of your home. A poorly done job will actually decrease a home's value if the potential buyer feels that they should be redone. Keep curbside appearance in mind. As real estate professionals know, many homebuyers don't have the time to spend refurbishing a home. They will pay more for a home with quality home improvements in place. But in the event your plans change, and you stay in the home longer, it makes sense to have a quality job that won't need to be redone when you decide to sell and that you can enjoy in the meantime.

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For a free in-home estimate and a free video on window and door replacement call (310) 214-2222 or visit one of their showrooms at 2411Artesia Blvd. in Redondo Beach or 23841 Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance. Showroom hours are Monday thru Friday 9am-6pm or Saturday 10am-4pm.

Copyright © 2003 Clark Adams Windows and Doors