When it comes to hiring the right window contractor to properly install the replacement windows no your home, it is wise to interview each window contractor you’re considering. Here are some questions to ask.
How long have you been in business?
Look for a well-established company and check it out with consumer protection officials. They can tell you if there are unresolved consumer complaints on file. One caveat: No record of complaints against a particular window contractor doesn’t necessarily mean no previous consumer problems. It may be that problems exist, but have not yet been reported, or that the window contractor is doing business under several different names.
Are you licensed and registered with the state?
While most states license electrical and plumbing contractors, only 36 states have some type of licensing and registration statutes affecting contractors, remodelers, and/or specialty contractors. The licensing can range from simple registration to a detailed qualification process. Also, the licensing requirements in one locality maybe different from the requirements in the rest of the state. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements in your area. If your state has licensing laws, ask to see the contractor’s license. Make sure it’s current.
How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year?
Ask for a list. This will help you determine how familiar the window contractor is with your type of project.
Will my project require a permit?
Most states and localities require permits for building projects, even for simple jobs like decks. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project. Be suspicious if the contractor asks you to get the permit(s). It could mean that the contractor is not licensed or registered, as required by your state or locality.
May I have a list of references?
The window contractor should be able to give you the names and addresses of at least three clients who have projects similar to yours. Ask each how long ago the project was completed and if you can see it.
What types of insurance do you carry?
Window contractors should have personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current. Avoid doing business with contractors who don’t carry the appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you’ll be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.
Getting a Written Contract
Contract requirements vary by state. Even if your state does not require a written agreement, ask for one. A contract spells out the who, what, where, when and cost of your project. The agreement should be clear, concise and complete.
Before you sign a contract, make sure it contains:
- The contractor’s name, address, phone, and license number, if required.
- The payment schedule for the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers.
- An estimated start and completion date.
- The window contractor’s obligation to obtain all necessary permits.
- How change orders will be handled. A change order — common on most remodeling jobs — is a written authorization to the contractor to make a change or addition to the work described in the original contract. It could affect the project’s cost and schedule. Remodelers often require payment for change orders before work begins. A detailed list of all materials including color, model, size, brand name, and product.
- Warranties covering materials and workmanship. The names and addresses of the parties honoring the warranties — contractor, distributor or manufacturer — must be identified. The length of the warranty period and any limitations also should be spelled out.
- What the window contractor will and will not do. For example, is site clean-up and trash hauling included in the price? Make sure the contractor is responsible for all clean-up work, including spills and stains.
Oral promises also should be added to the written contract.
A written statement of your right to cancel the contract within three business days if you signed it in your home or at a location other than the seller’s permanent place of business. During the sales transaction, the salesperson (contractor) should give you two copies of your contract or receipt. The contract or receipt must be dated, show the name and address of the seller, and explain your right to cancel.
Completing the Job: A Checklist
Before you sign off and make the final payment, use this checklist to make sure the job is complete. Check that:
- All work meets the standards spelled out in the contract.
- You have written warranties for materials and workmanship.
- The job site has been cleaned up and cleared of excess materials, tools and equipment.
- You have inspected and approved the completed work.
Where to Complain
If you have a problem with your replacement windows project, first try to resolve it with the window contractor. Many disputes can be resolved at this level. Good window contractors will have a reputation that they wish to protect and will work with you to find a solution. Follow any phone conversations with a letter you send by certified mail. Request a return receipt. That’s your proof that the company received your letter. Keep a copy for your files. If you can’t get satisfaction, consider contacting the following organizations for further information and help:
– State and local consumer protection offices.
– Your state or local Builders Association and/or Remodelers Council.
– Your local Better Business Bureau.
– Action line and consumer reporters. Check with your local newspaper, TV, and radio stations for contacts.
– Local dispute resolution programs.
For More information:
Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov
National Association of Home Builders Remodelers™ Council: www.nahb.com