Questions to ask your window contractor
Meeting with a contractor can feel like a big step. You’ve carved time out of your busy schedule to find a contractor and schedule an appointment. Now, the key is to go into the meeting feeling prepared.
If you can bring a solid understanding of your budget and some ideas about how your new windows should look, you’ll be ahead. Then, you can ask any of the questions below to learn more about the contractor’s recommendations for your home, their qualifications, and how they manage the window replacement process.
Tell me about new windows
Although it can be uncomfortable to talk about money, one of the best ways to enable a good outcome for your project is to be transparent about your budget. This will help your contractor direct you toward the product that’s right for you. Keep in mind, most manufacturers, including Andersen, offer products at a variety of price points.
But it’s not only the cost of the product that you’ll be budgeting for, it’s also the cost of the labor, taxes, permits, and other fees. Ask your contractor about all of the costs that you should plan for, so you can avoid unpleasant surprises later.
In addition, you might ask if they offer financing. Financing options may be available through certified installers, like some Andersen Certified Contractors. Financing is also available through Renewal by Andersen. Learn about the difference between Andersen Windows and Renewal by Andersen.
Tell me about your qualifications
Prior to their visit, you might want to check out the contractor’s website and see if they have a social media presence. This can be a good place to find pictures of past projects and understand their experience. You could also look them up on the Better Business Bureau website or search for reviews and ratings on Google, Angi, or other websites.
Here are some questions you might want to ask:
- How long have you been in business? As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover. A young-looking contractor could have 20-plus years of experience if they’ve been helping with the family business since their teen years. You’ll never know how experienced someone is unless you ask, so don’t be shy.
- What kind of projects do you usually work on? Windows and doors can be a specialty within the contracting field. Installation is key to making sure a window functions properly, so you’ll want to work with someone who has experience in this area.
- Have you worked on homes like mine before? Have you worked in this neighborhood before? These kinds of questions can give you a sense for how comfortable they might be working on your home. For example, if you live in a neighborhood full of old homes, you might like knowing your contractor has experience working in homes of the same era.
What kind of permits will be required to do this work? This gives you some idea about how familiar they are with local code, rules, and regulations. It’s also a good opportunity to ask who will be responsible for applying for permits.
It’s a good thing if a contractor is insured, bonded, or both. It means that if something goes wrong with the project, there’s some protection for you. Requirements related to insurance and bonding vary by state. Here’s what each means:
- Liability insurance is often required of general contractors. This type of insurance would protect you if something were to go wrong during the course of the project, such as your home being damaged. In that case, the contractor’s insurance could cover repair or replacement costs. Additionally, some states require general contractors to also carry workers' compensation insurance, which covers injuries that may occur on jobsites. For example, if the contractor or one of their employees were hurt in your home.
- Bonding is sometimes required of general contractors in certain states. Bonding is done on an individual project basis, and it means there’s a third-party company, called a surety company, that will step in if the contractor fails to fulfill their contractual obligations. For example, if a contractor doesn’t complete the work, the surety company could provide the funds to hire another contractor to finish the project.
Your state’s department of labor is a good resource for finding out what might be required of contractors. And remember, Andersen Certified Contractors are required to carry insurance.
Tell me about the process of replacing windows
Every install is different, but here’s what generally happens when windows are replaced.
- Once you sign a contract with a contractor and decide on the windows you want, they’ll return to your home to take technical measurements. These measurements will then be used to order your windows. The time it takes for new windows to arrive can vary depending on global events as well as what’s happening at the window manufacturing company.
- Once the new windows arrive, the contractor will come back with their installation team to remove the old windows and install the new ones. The time it takes to do the installation depends on how many windows you’re having replaced.
- Once the new windows are in, your contractor will walk through the project with you. This is when they’ll explain the basics of operating and maintaining your windows and answer any questions you might have.
A window replacement project includes multiple steps and multiple variables that sometimes make it hard to predict an end date. Variables include: the time between the windows being ordered and delivered, the number of projects a contractor’s balancing, and of course, your schedule.
In addition, you never know what a contractor might encounter when they begin opening up the walls. For example, sometimes mold is uncovered in the process of replacing a window or door. In those cases, the best thing would be for the contractor to let you know about the problem and come up with a plan for fixing it before proceeding with the installation. Of course, this is something that could cause a delay in completing the work, but it will lead to a better outcome in the long term.
All of this is to say, it can be challenging to predict the process, but it’s still a fair question to ask. In addition, you might want to ask them how they deal with unexpected issues, like the mold example above, and how they’ll communicate with you if such an issue does arise.
It might seem alarming to have your windows removed, but keep in mind you’ll never be left exposed to the elements. Believe it or not, windows are replaced all year round, even in cold climates.
It can take between 4 and 6 hours to replace a single window. Typically, a contractor will do one at a time. If there’s a row of windows right next to each other, they might take all the old windows out and put all the new windows in together. Whatever process your contractor follows, you’ll never be left with an opening in your wall.
Even if the old window has been removed and the new window is not yet installed, the opening will be covered, either by a piece of plywood or in some other fashion.
As with any home improvement project, there will be some mess and inconvenience. Ask your contractor how they manage this aspect of the project. For example: Will they seal off rooms where no work is taking place? Will they lay down mats to protect the floors? Have them walk you through the precautions they’ll take to keep your home as orderly and clean as possible, and ask about how they’ll manage cleanup after the project.
Asking your contractor who will be in your home and when can help you prepare and feel more comfortable during the process. Depending on the size of the company you’re hiring, the person who visits your home for the initial visit might not be the same person who does the work. Sometimes, a salesperson makes the first visit, then a professional installer might come to take measurements. When it’s time to replace the windows, it’s not unusual for a whole team to be on site.
Let’s say your visit with the contractor goes well, the next step would be for them to send you a formal bid in writing. This will help you better understand the cost of your project.
Remember, the process you experience will depend on the contractor you’re working with, your location, and more. Use the questions and information above as a starting point for vetting a contractor and understanding window replacement. And of course — trust your gut.