Lowe's or Home Depot make replacement windows very easy. They provide a turn key service to provide you the windows, offer you the support in getting them ordered and even provide an installation option to install them. By creating a “one stop shop” the large stores can cover it all. However, how do you know if you are getting the best window replacement project that you can from the large box stores? The information below details three areas you should consider when choosing a box store to supply your replacement windows.
Both Lowe's and Home Depot have several options to choose from when selecting replacement windows. To begin, each store carries their unique brand of window that is only found in their store. Lowe's carries the Reliabilt vinyl line and Home Depot carries American Craftsman vinyl windows. Both window lines are unique to each company meaning you will not be able to find the window brands outside of their respective stores. If you are worried about the quality of the “house” brand of windows, you should know that in a 2007 Consumer Reports test, the Reliabilt scored highest of the vinyl windows tested and the American Craftsman scored third.
In addition to their store brand windows, Lowe's replacement windows offering also includes the Pella brand. Pella has been in the window and door business for over 75 years and has a reputation for delivering quality products. Pella's service support after the sale insures that if you have problems with your window, it will be resolved. Home Depot carries the Andersen and Jeld Wen brands. These are large window manufacturers that have years of research behind their product. Like Pella, purchasing Andersen or Jeld Wen windows insures you are getting the support from the manufacturer after the purchase from the box store.
Window quality should not be considered a major concern when purchasing from the box stores. With house brands ranking at the top of Consumer Reports, and other brand name window companies available, you will be able to find a product that meets your level of quality.
Purchasing and ordering windows is by no means brain surgery. However, there are many different factors involved with ordering replacement windows and it requires someone familiar with the process to insure the order is correct. The challenge homeowners face with stores such as Lowe's or Home Depot is getting consistency in the experience of employees. While each store has personnel that are dedicated and trained to specific departments of the store, it is not always easy to determine how much experience that person has with the product they are selling. An employee in millwork (windows) today could have been in electrical three weeks ago.
This is not to say that whomever you purchase replacement windows from at either store does not know what they are talking about. Both stores hire strong personnel, train well, and are very willing to help customers. Even so, you should always make sure the person helping you with your replacement windows is the most qualified person at the store. This will insure the details are covered and your order is correct.
Quality of Installation
One of the attractive aspects of the large home improvement stores is that they provide installation services along with the replacement windows. The “one stop shop” aspect makes it easy for homeowners to not have to search for a contractor to install their windows. In addition, the large stores offer installation pricing that is relatively inexpensive to fit most project budgets.
Before you commit to having the store's installers perform the work you should always research other installers to perform the work. Find out what the average installation costs are for your area. Chances are when you compare the installation prices to the Lowe's or Home Depot prices, you will find that the box store price is significantly cheaper than a professional installation company or an installer.
Before you think you are getting the steal of the century keep this in mind: The process to remove and replace a window is basically the same whether you do pay $100 or $200 an opening to get it done. If the work is getting done for $100, in order for the installer to make the same amount of profit as the $200 installer, they either have to cut material costs or reduce labor costs. If material costs are cut, you might not get the best caulk or the highest quality trim around the windows. This can lead to rotting wood and leaking windows.
Likewise, for contractors charging $100 to install a window, they have to install twice the number of windows to make the money the $200 per window installer does. This means they would have to spend half the time installing one window. If the basic process is the same, how good is the installation if they are taking half the time to complete it? The large stores use volume to offset their low installation price and in order to achieve volume they must install as many windows as they can in as short a time as possible. Keep this in mind when considering the quality of the installation that you will receive for the price point that the large box stores offer.
(The above statements are not meant to disparage the box store installers. They are good hardworking people like you or me and put effort into the work they do. Just be aware of how the system operates before beginning a project with a box store so you are not surprised at the results if they are less than desirable.)