Volume 11, Issue 6 - July/August 2010

SecretShopper


The First Thing You Notice
Door Distributors Bid for Residential Retrofit
by Holly Biller

Real estate agents will tell you there is no impression like the first impression and that your entry door makes a statement on your behalf. That being said, my 12-year-old oval glass with the wood trim pulling away from the door slab stated the obvious: “please replace me!”

We have been searching for the right entry door for more than six months now. This journey has seen the bad, the good and the great. So instead of offering just one peek into a single local door company, I’m going to compare four that offered their expertise, some much more helpful than others.

Contractor A
We started the project with a do-it-yourself approach; the sidelites, while weathered, are still in good repair and, as such, we were looking for an inexpensive way to upgrade the door. From an energy efficiency standpoint we needed to stop the fact that more weather was coming through the cracks and broken seals than was remaining outside.

We intended to replace the door slab only. We decided to go to our nearby big-box store to make the purchase. A representative there instructed us on how to measure the door frame and various elements. We asked, “what if it doesn’t fit properly?” The gentleman said that “wouldn’t be a problem.”

We were excited about the upgraded door we had selected. However, the door arrived at the store and when it was delivered we discovered the hinge placement wasn’t even close. We’re not talking being off by 1/8 of an inch, we’re talking off by more than a full inch for each hinge placement. We returned the door, but when the company suggested we try again we politely declined. Vindication came two weeks later when we found the incorrect door on sale for 50 percent off in the showroom.

Contractor B
We decided after that trial we would simply replace the entire door all the way to the brickmold. So I began by calling door companies found online. My experience with the customer service representative (CSR) on the phone was amazing. She returned my call the next day. (Note that of the six I left messages, only two returned my call.) She set up an appointment for a quote within the same week and also suggested I come by their showroom to pick up a catalog. She said this would help speed up the selection process if I already knew what I wanted prior to the estimators arrival.

The showroom was cluttered, but she was kind as could be and walked me through the various gauges for steel doors with samples and we discussed finishes and insulation. They carried ProVia Doors and she said they were all Energy Star®-qualified. I mentioned that I was interested in the tax credit and she said she was familiar with the program and, once we selected the door, she would check into it.

The estimator’s visit that followed, unfortunately, wasn’t such a positive experience. Gruff by nature, he came across with a “take it or leave it” attitude. He didn’t offer much education on the product line, even after I mentioned some of the helpful items the CSR had stated to try to open the floor for conversation. The bid came in much higher than we were prepared for and the overall experience was just brusque.

Contractor C
A second company returned my call. The estimator turned out to be the owner of the door and window company, as well the owner of a Mr. Handyman company. His presentation was very thorough and helpful in terms of demonstrating samples, showing color swatches and providing insulation models. However, he wouldn’t be doing the installation work; he told us he would outsource that to another company.

Sadly, he had given a rough price estimate to my husband during a brief conversation they shared, which we were very excited about. He returned that evening when I was home as well and he brought out the ProVia Door software system on his laptop to give an instant quote. Turns out, the true price was double what he had said originally. It would have been better if the lower numbers had never been given because the low-ball price had been lower than Contractor B. That was no longer the case.

He explained the differentiation points well, such as security items placed within the ProVia Doors, and the various upgrades are standard on the door that we wouldn’t find with other manufacturers. And as he said, “You get what you pay for.”

Contractor D
We wanted one more opinion prior to making a decision, so we went back to the drawing board and called another company. A representative called back within a few hours, gave me his personal cell and was willing to come that same evening so we could meet and discuss the issue. He already could tell we knew what we wanted and so he simply cut to the chase.

He explained his company primarily consisted of repeat orders and referrals. He said he would do whatever he could to meet or beat prices and to find the best method to get us a door we loved. He would be the job foreman and the company would do the installation as opposed to outsourcing.

I appreciate forthcoming pitches when it comes to sales. I’m willing to pay more for a better product, but if other areas can give on price I want to capitalize on that as well. Based on this, we crunched some numbers and he more than met us halfway.

Crunching the Numbers
Door Measurements 36” width, 80” height, 5 9/16” frame depth with 14” sidelites.
Contractor A $427 (for door slab only)
Contractor B $7,306
Contractor C $6,883
Contractor D $6,000 (The winning bid)


We have a non-standard door size currently, and he said that would create some trouble for trim work and spacing considerations, but at every obstacle he came up against, he had ideas and offered solutions. He also called multiple times a day, brought out his own personal carpenter to assess the doorway and then brought catalogs—from mouldings to wood—to our home for us to select trim and other components.

The company installs both ProVia and Therma-Tru doors, which always had been our top two choices. When he brought us our final quote it was the door I had fallen in love with, which is brand-new for ProVia—the 2010 Signet line and we felt comfortable with the price. It qualifies for the tax credit and he brought us extra quote sheets and pictures so we could present it to our homeowner’s association for its approval (which they ultimately did).

Alas, we decided to go with Contractor D, due to his quick response time, not outsourcing the installation and his focus on making this an easy and enjoyable process for us.

Though our busy schedules haven’t permitted us to have the door installed yet, unfortunately, please stay tuned to DWM magazine for updates in the coming months.


Holly Biller is vice president of digital media services for DWM/Shelter’s parent company, Key Communications Inc.


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