American Exteriors? Mavin? Simonton? KC Help needed.

tnordMay 20, 2008

I'll try and provide as much information as I can to solicit the best response, but if I leave something out, please tell me.

Anyway, I have a home constructed in 1964 with original single pane divided light + storm double hungs, 16 in total. Two of them are side-by-sides, which i'm considering converting to sliders. I live in Kansas City, which is probably one of the worst places for weather, as we can drop well below zero in the winter, and hold steady over 100 for weeks at a time in the summer, and 30-40mph constant winds are not unusual.

Renewal by Anderson was doing another house in the neighborhood and asked if I wanted a free estimate, I said sure, what the hell. They came back at $15k for replacement of 14 DHs (two of my windows are for the garage which aren't an immediate need. The guy was nice enough, but that seems way out there on price to me at over $1000/hole.

A week later a rep from "American Exteriors" out of Littleton Colorado asked if wanted to set up a free estimate. "Sure, I'm in the market," I said.

The guy that showed up said he was a Director of Marketing, not a sales rep. The pitch was that they use their advertising dollars to offer discounts to "focus properties" in exchange for a short testimonial writeup, a sign in the yard for two weeks, and volunteering as a referral to other prospective customers. This seems a little shady to me, and a little bit like spinning their normal pricing as a "big discount because they want to get exposure in my neighborhood and want to use my special house to do it."

Anyway, he seemed like a good guy, the product seems of decent quality, and the pricing to me of $9600 for 14 DH + 2 sliders seems like a good deal, especially with the lifetime warranty + 25yr transferable. This includes a "wrap" which I'm not really clear on what that is, so some help here would be appreciated. I'm hesitant because I can find very little information about them. Their website claims they have been around 30years, members of BBB, and that they currently only operate in eight states (which explains the lack of available information). I'm looking for some unbiased independent opinions on these guys.

I have an appointment with a Marvin guy next Tuesday. I think one thing that would help me make this decision is if I knew the important questions to ask the people that come out for the bid.

I know I want double, argon, low-e; but you can get that from just about anyone. What are the pointed questions I can ask these guys that will separate all these brands on factors other than price?

Sorry for the length, I'm right in the middle of this process and I'm just swimming in it all.

Thanks.

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calbay03

We took two approaches when dealing with windows and doors people.

With sales and dealers who do not do installation, we made sure we knew our approximate rough opening sizes, the type of windows we wanted, the sort of options we would want and the requirements we wanted from each window. We did this for each brand that came out to provide a quote. This was so when the salesperson came out, we could double-check their RO sizing as that was where they would often claim "mistake" and up-charge. Knowing the types and options (color, screen, operating position, low-E, gas type, grids, etc) also made for more precise quote. It also made for a productive concise Q&A session with the person. Knowing the requirements was the most important because that allowed us to keep focused on our needs and cut through their sales pitch and marketing haze. Try to sell us more than we need and could not justify it? Nope! Try to sell us something useful we had not considered? Good!

An example of a requirement could be a large three-casement factory-mulled unit to replace a slider for a large opening. Each casement was specified to open in different ways so we could catch seasonal breezes. If you can specify to this level of details, the quote will be more accurate, the final specification will also leave no room for "mistaken interpretation" and the sales people will also be more cautious with you.

We used the above to create a "Specification document" before the sales people came out. We handed that to them and worked off that. Each correction they made, we noted on our own copy and made sure they did the same on theirs. Even if they ignored that document upon leaving, it would have left an impression that we were picky-as-heck so take us seriously else we go elsewhere. Two shops never came back, so we weeded them out right fast.

When we dealt with contractors, we were trying to gauge their competence. Unfortunately, we are no experts so we need some effective way to quickly judge. We did this by studying up on manufacturer's installation instructions. We also tried to learn as much as possible and asked a lot of "dumb" questions at local carpentry shops about window and door installation. We then walked through our own house, observed our own windows to find out the bad ones, and went through the steps of how we would remove the old and install the new as though we were to do this ourselves. We also put together a list of test questions to ask.

When the contractors arrived, we led them around the house to measure and hinted at problems we saw and let them respond. You will be surprised by the differences in skills. Some walked right by a bad window noticing nothing. Some thought they could install our French doors right over existing 2x4 not even nailed or positioned correctly. The one we eventually hired noticed everything we noticed w/o me saying much, answered every question we had, even pointed out where he would have to do extra work because of load-bearing considerations. He basically told us what we already knew and a whole lot more we did not know and passed our hidden test with flying colors. We hired him and paid his asking fee and no regret since.

Finally, be extremely careful with the ordering process. Before paying the down, we asked the shop to show us the order being prepared for the Marvin distributor in order to match that against the order we signed. We politely but strongly hinted that it is absolutely essential we saw that order to ensure there were no mistakes; "Do that or we walk". Sure enough, there were two minor mistakes and the shop quickly corrected them.

The key to all this is to TAKE YOUR TIME, educate yourself, be prepared and get properly signed documents and do it right. When in doubt, ask, research and make sure you are satisfied. It is YOUR house and your cash so you run the show. Some contractors like to make you "feel bad" so they can run the show :).

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 4:57PM
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tnord

the pre-printed spec sheet is a good idea, i think i'll start doing that. also a good idea to see the order before production begins.

did you meet with the sales guy and installer separately? i've received some sideways looks when i said i insist on meeting with the installer before i decide anything.

thanks for the help.

i spent a LOT of time reading today (slow at work), and to get more specific...i guess i want a low SHGC low-e glass (or would medium be a better idea?), non-aluminum spacer, and i'm ok with a clad window also. the prospects of having to stain/paint all of them does not sound fun though. :)

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 7:49PM
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calbay03

A couple of shops were also installers so the person that came out was the sales/installer. A few others had separate sales and installers. They would send sales out to do the measuring, provide an estimate and close the deal before recommending an installer.

We did keep the windows+door purchasing process sort of independent of the installer because we wanted a good licensed contractor with a BBB history, not just a windows installer. Some shops laughed at us and said it would cost more but we did not care. If a shop has no association with such a contractor, we would just find our own.

In your case, if the shop insists on installing, it seems perfectly reasonable to interview the "installers" before buying from that shop. We have met many a shop with a licensed "general contractor" but the "contractor" was never on the job site, never visited the site. The crew that came out was just a crew of workers. We had bad experience with that sort of approach in the past. This time, we wanted a licensed contractor who would actually be ON THE JOB at our site.

We are in northern CA (just a few miles southeast of the Summit Fire that is burning out of control right now) where summer heat can be painful and winter cold tolerable. We have low-SHGC low-E II coating. In your case, a mid-SHGC low E II may work. The following is a link to a site that can give decent recommendation for your specific region.

http://www.efficientwindows.org/

For Kansas City, the following shows up and you can tweak it more to fit your specific location for a better look:
http://www.efficientwindows.org/city_all.cfm?new=E&prodtype=WN&id=20

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 4:04PM
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tnord

well, i had a local remodling company out that deals simonton that just left about an hour ago. the "sales guy" works for the remodler, and as i'm told, so does the "installer." i also felt good that there is ONE installer coming out, and not a whole crew.

the remodler has been around for 15 years, so that's another plus.

i felt good about the guy that was in my house and the company he works for. he was certainly the most knowledgeable of the 4 people i've had in the house so far, and took the time to show me the mechanics of the units, the materials of everything in it, and the process to install it.

i was bidded $12,345 for 13 simonton generations, of which 11 are DH, and 2 are single sliders, and 2 more "reynolds" brand units. all low-e, argon, and with colonial grids. the simontons include the super spacer.

what do people think of this bid?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 8:58PM
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phoggie

Well I am a "fellow Kansasan"...and I will agree about the worst climate and wind~~ I am also in the market for windows in a new home we are planning. I am no help to you, but hope some others will have great answers that we can both benefit from. Good luck~~

    Bookmark   May 24, 2008 at 10:58AM
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tnord

phoggie -

admiral home concepts are the ones giving me the bids on the simonton units. i asked them to bid me out some of the simonton's besides the Generations line, and got a call back yesterday. $8800 for the Impressions 9800, which on the face of it seems like a good deal for 15 DH with grids.

Dean is the guy i've been dealing with, and while he may be a little over-enthusiastic about their product and his company, i like dealing with him.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2008 at 1:36PM
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mtow

Look at:
Visions Vinyl/ with WeatherShield, Ask for 366 Glass (zoe-6), Best glass on the market / comes with easy care. Full fin and no jamb extensions. .These will meets and exceeds the Energy star, and Government incentives for rebates.

Have your installer apply wood jamb extensions on site.
 Making sure they use sealant behind the fin, and weatherproof from the window frame fin to the existing frame work beyond the opening and then insulate with wool between the window frame and window framing from the inside.
Try this link:

MÂ.

Not sure whoÂs site this is http://windowsestimator.net/?t202id=31465&traffic_source=yahoo2&campaign=NAMES2&t202kw=(keyword)

Glass
http://www.cardinalcorp.com/products_coated_366/366.htm

http://www.weathershield.com

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 1:03PM
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mtow

Please note the window estimator found on line above is not what I thought it was> Was not meant to be spam, Just window price estimator found on line under WeatherShield> oh well.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 12:33PM
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skydawggy

mtow. Sorry to disagree with your assesment that cardinal 366 is the best glass package on the market. The 366 was designed primarily for houses in warm climates. One of the advantages of 366 glass is it's low Solar Gain. A low Solar Gain is not beneficial in cloder climates where a high Solar Gain is more desireable. Using an improper glass can actually cause a consumer to experience higher heating costs than if they had not replaced their windows at all.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 12:59AM
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mtow

Ya Everyone has an opinion, Energy stars rating for the tax credit is U v.030 and SHGC v .030. www.taxcredit.gov

If you are building a home to be a solar collector (passive-active) them you have a point! Heat gain is usually not the best option. BUT; Window unit R and U is. This combined with the home envelope. This tells the story my friend.

Low-e 272 is a good choice with U value at .30, BUT its UV transmittance is right at the harmful level of 10%

Whereas 366 is with a at v1% and yes, the SHGC is at .28 with the U value of .24

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 2:47PM
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jeremiahprice519_gmail_com

a wrap means they wrap the frame with tin or vynal, deffinately do some shopping around, you get what you payed for american exteriors are a good manufacturer but regardless we want you to be happy with what you buy, shop around for same quallity windows and see what happens.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 4:14AM
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