Volume 48, Issue 4 - June/July/August 2009

Secret Shopper

Comparing Apples to Apples—Maybe Not
Window Remodelers Bid for Future Upgrade

If you have read recent secret shopper columns, you know that my home is in desperate need of replacement windows. With the new tax credit in effect for energy-efficient windows, I thought this was the perfect time to get some bids from remodelers in my area and to see how much they knew about the tax credit available.

I called three contractors in the Conway, Ark., area, and for this article I will refer to them as Contractor A, B and C.

Contractor A

I talked with Contractor A over the phone at the end of April. He uses Silverline Windows, which he explained is now owned by Andersen Windows, and the line he usually installs sports low-E tinted glass. He said that the windows usually cost $300 per opening, but the price will increase if we need something more than a basic style or safety glass. Unfortunately, my house does not have normal window sizes.

Contractor A did say that lumberyards or home centers all carry vinyl windows, but that the quality of windows at these stores are not as good as Silverline Windows—that Silverline’s vinyl is a heavier product than the ones that may be less expensive and available at a local store.

He said that he would come and measure our windows and give us a bid if we were still interested. When asked if he knew if the new tax credit applied to these windows, he said, they all do (meaning all the Silverline Windows that he uses apply).

Contractor A hasn’t come to measure, and even though he was nice and made a connection with me on the phone, after my visit with Contractor B, I’m not sure I will call him.

"The contractor said that he has read about that [the tax credit], but admitted that he would have to look further into it to see which windows applied specifically. "

Contractor B
I talked with Contractor B the following day, and he and I scheduled a time for that Thursday for him to come measure my windows and to bring a window sample with him. When asked what windows he uses, he said he usually uses Harry G. Barr, and if price is an issue, then he uses Pro Windows out of Little Rock.

Contractor B (and his daughter) arrived at my house at 10 a.m., and he started out by asking me what kind of window I wanted. I explained to him that we had been through this process before in Memphis and had replaced our rotted wood windows there.

I told him that I wanted low-E glass, and he asked if I wanted them to be argon-filled as well. I played like I didn’t know anything about argon, so he explained to me that it increases the energy efficiency of the window. He asked if I wanted single-hung or double-hung, and he told me that double-hung would be more expensive. He then showed me the differences between a double-hung and single-hung with the Harry G. Barr product sample he had with him.

Contractor B then went around the house and measured all of my window openings. I have to admit that I did follow him around my house (to see how it’s done), and during this time I asked about the tax credit. The contractor said that he has read about that, but he admitted that he would have to look further into it to see which windows applied specifically. I told him that that was extremely important to me.

Contractor B and his daughter said that they would get back in touch with me with a bid. He called me back on Monday, just four days later, and he said that he would bring the bid by that afternoon or on Tuesday.

Contractor C
I had an appointment with Contractor C to visit my house that following Tuesday as well. I met him at the door, and he asked me what kind of windows I wanted. I again explained that I definitely wanted vinyl. He asked me what color, and I said white or off-white. When asked what type of window he sold, he said Harry G. Barr.

I then went with him to his truck where his window sample was housed. The window looked very similar (if not the same) to Contractor B’s sample. He explained the product to me, and that it was a double-hung. When I asked, “What’s the difference?” he simply said, “Oh, you definitely want a double-hung.”

I then asked if he knew anything about the tax credit. He told me he didn’t know a lot about it, but would get me some more information.

After showing me the windows, he told me he would measure my windows on the outside of my house, and then he would be back in touch with me with a bid.

About 30 minutes after Contractor C left, Contractor B called and said he wanted to bring his bid by my house. I told him that would be fine.

His bid had two prices. One was for single-hung windows, which were cheaper, and the second was for double-hung windows, which were about $1,300 more. In his bid, he brought me information on the tax credit and that the current Energy Star® criteria would apply until June 1. Our tax savings for the single-hung would be as high as $1,200 and for the double-hung, it would be as high as $1,500.

I told him, “Honestly, I’m not sure we can replace the windows by June 1. We have to save our money, but now we know where to start and how much to save.” He told me that he understood and that the tax credit was for people like us—that need a little incentive to spend money on this type of repair.

Before he left, Contractor B added, “If you get a bid, and someone comes in $1,000 under ours, I would like you to remember that I don’t think anyone else does as quality a job as we do. Our people are top-notch, and the foreman that would be working on your job will make sure everything goes smoothly.”

Contractor C called a week and a half after measuring my windows and said my bid was ready and that he would like to come by, give me the quote and discuss it with me. The price was within $1,000 of the other bid, but there was no tax credit information on it, and he didn’t mention it either. I must note that Contractor C did do a good job of stressing the energy-efficient qualities of the double-hung vinyl windows that he quoted me.

I have little doubt at this time which company I’m tempted to go with, and that’s Contractor B’s—he spent the time with me and he did his homework on the tax credit. Now, we just have to save the money to get the job done.

Editor’s Note: As far as statements made about the tax credit, please see my editor’s colum

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