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Beatrice14
Finding a Good Contractor

How do I find a good window replacement contractor?

I'm in northeast, USA. Our house is over 80 years old. The heat and cold air pour through the windows and when its windy you can see the blinds and curtains move. I am concerned with energy efficiency, but cannot afford top of the line windows.

My experiences so far:
1. Contractor recommended by neighbor had F rating by BBB and numerous complaints.
2. I checked better Better Business Bureau for contractors with 10+ years in business and A+ ratings.
3. One contractor toured house and when he didn't call or mail estimate, I called. Phones were not working, fax not working and website shut down.
4. Contractor toured house gave instant estimate, but would not answer questions about energy efficiency. I called twice but never heard back.
5. Next contractor: I asked about fogging, energy efficiency and how installation is done. He told me there were wicks between two panes to absorb moisture, but could not answer energy questions.
6. Pella salesman tells me their cheapest windows are $500.00 each, excluding installation.
7. Next contractor tells me their windows are as good as Pella and Andersen, but cheaper because they don't advertise. He said they use "virgin vinyl" other less expensive window manufacturers do not. Stayed forever, but evaded energy effiency questions.

8. I went to manufactures websites of windows recommended by Consumer Reports. The manufacturers do not give direct recommendations. One gave me website that would provide contractor. I entered partial info and asked for e-mail contact only. The contractor the site recommended had and F rating because of over 130 BBB complaints during the past three years.

I wanted windows installed before summer. I'm under alot of stress caring for family member. There are other home repairs that need to be done asap, and I'm having similar problems finding a contractor.

A. Spruce
Re: Finding a Good Contractor

Finding a good contractor can be tough. Take a read through this discussion we professionals of the site had on the subject a while back, you may find a tidbit that is helpful in your situation.

https://advice.thisoldhouse.com/showthread.php?t=1346

Re: Finding a Good Contractor

Finding a good contractor is half the problem. Affording what actually needs to be done is the other half, and you don't need "top of the line" windows to make a difference, but you do need a energy audit to know what really needs to be addressed.

High quality efficient windows are not a panacea, although it's a good start.

Many people are under the assumption that new windows will dramatically lower energy consumption. The marketing hype has done a good job making the public believe that.

Find a reputable company in your area that can provide you with a comprehensive energy audit, and in the mean time decide how much you can afford to allot towards the recommendations.

I'd hate to see you get taken on an expensive (cheap) window job job only to realize it's part of the problem and has done little to help reduce your energy consumption.

jkirk
Re: Finding a Good Contractor

a few points to make

in regards to the house being more energy efficient, windows and doors make up only about 15-20% of the wall surface. you have to take into consideration the amount of insulation in the walls and whether or not a vapor barrier is present just under the drywall, this is a major factor in how air tight the house is.

with window replacement, going with a insert will make things slightly better but going with a fully replaced winow using a construction window you'll see better results.

as to looking for contractors on the better business bereu's site, good luck...... companys have to pay to get put on their list as a good company, the more you pay the better the rating. i've worked for companys who were with the bbb and had great ratings but did mediocre work. all that will happen with hiring a company who is a member is the final price tag for you will be higher. its seen as nothign more than a marketing tool within the construction industry it has nothing to do with the final product

Re: Finding a Good Contractor

Kirk is correct about the BBB, it's not all what it seems.

Your best source for a good quality contractor is a referral from a reliable source. Besides family and friends, also consider referrals from a professional material supply house that caters to professional contractors, (NOT from the big box stores)

Pelton
Re: Finding a Good Contractor

Beatrice,

It sounds like you are doing all the right things in checking out the prospective contractors; if you follow the advice of the others here who have submitted suggestions I know you will do well in your selection of a good contractor.

Given your description of the drafty & poor repair of the current windows, I think you can expect to see a considerable drop in fuel usage with the new windows & air conditioning expense savings as well, so I think you should certainly pursue this project.

I particularly like the advice to get a custom manufactured window for each replacement if you can, rather than an insert.

It's also good to ask family & friends & consult the Yellow Pages under Window wholesalers and manufacturers for a recommendation.

A reasonable price per installed window in your part of the country would be approx. $275, unless they're unusually large windows; I would get estimates from other contractors if the estimate exceeds $300 per window.

I don;t see any need to insist on a "name brand" window like Pella; there are so many good mfgrs of double-pane vinyl windows now that you should be able to get a good window for under $300.

Another good source of contractor referrals is to go to your local city hall to the Building Regulation office & ask to see the window replacement permits issued by the city for windows installed in March or April of 2011 (whenever a contractor does a window job he/she has to take out a written permit with the city before the job can be allowed)---there's a lot of info on these permit sheets as to the name of the contractor, the name, address & phone of the homeowner, the estimated price of the job, etc; you can then call the homewner & ask how well or poorly the contractor did & the exact price charged.

City permit documents are public records that anyone has legal access to, but tell the homeowner when you call who you are & that the only purpose of your call is to obtain info on the quality of the contractor's work ("Would you hire him again?") & approx. price charged; most homeowners will provide you with this info, some won't.

There's a Residential Energy Credit you can claim on your Federal income tax return of from 10% to 30% of the total price you pay (depending on how many windows you buy, up to $1500 max) for the installation----use Form 5695 (Residential Energy Credits).

Beatrice14
Re: Finding a Good Contractor

Thank you to you and everyone for their suggestions.

The neighbors were of no help. Either they were not completely satisfied or the contractor had too many complaints. They yellow pages were not good even with their **** circled contractors?

I disagree about the BBB. I don't think it is the complete answer, but it is a good resource especially about documented complaints and if they were resolved. They have helped me obtain a positive resolution.

I am looking for windows in the price range you mentioned. The quotes I have received have been much higher or lower but no concrete answers to my questions about window construction or energy efficiency.

I will try your suggestions regarding township permits. This is very stressful and it doesn't seem I'll be able to get it done before summer.

Re: Finding a Good Contractor

It appears everyone is evading your energy efficiency questions. Why I don't know, but your questions can easily be answered by visiting the manufactures website and reading all their window specifications there.

jkirk
Re: Finding a Good Contractor

based on your responses your uneasy about taking on the renovation. it seems as if your wanting the replacement of your windows to solve all of your energy efficiency woes.

as stated, checking with the bbb isnt going to give you the best contractor. in every region there are countless top notch contractors which are used by directly by homeowners and by builders whom you wont find listed ****** or in a phone book. these contractors stay busy simply by word of mouth. if your looking simply for a window installer go directly to a window supplier. as for how new windows will improve your heating costs you can only hear a educated guess as i have stated there are many factors which contribute to the home.

i hope you find someone to complete your renovation, but dont fear taking on such a project, its a very simple one in comparison to what type of projects that could be taken on

dj1
Re: Finding a Good Contractor

All are very good suggestions.
Replacing windows SHOULD NOT be this stressful. Remember that all manufactures have to meet the same minimum codes, so buying a name brand window will not get you necessarily a better window.
Some contractors listed on BBB have so many complaints, because as mentioned before, any contractor, who pays money gets listed there, regardless of his past. So BBB is not a good source.
A good sourse would be the state board, where you can also verify licenses, bonds etc.
But I still think that word of mouth is your best source, except you have to act fast, if you want windows replaced by summer.
Why not have a contractor replace 1 window, check his workmenship, and if satified, have him replace the rest of the windows?
Did you also know that in most states, upon signing a contract, a deposit can't be more than 10% of the job? and the work must start within a certain time period? check with your state's board.
Good luck.

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