Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guest Columnist Dowd Discusses Window Warranties

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) welcomes the following guest posting from Dean Dowd at member company, CalFinder.

While NFRC is
concerned primarily with energy performance rating and certification programs for fenestration products, we also recognize that our audience may have questions about window warranties.

Because this topic falls outside the purview of NFRC's work, we are pleased to provide a forum where subject matter experts can offer NFRC's audience peripheral insight.

By Dean Dowd

The Real Importance of Window Warranties

Replacing your home windows brings a number of benefits: it saves heating and cooling costs year round, increases your home’s value, and enhances the property’s aesthetic beauty. And most window purchases come with at least a 10-year warranty (better ones generally come with a limited or even all-inclusive lifetime warranty), sometimes with the option to extend.

There’s still much you need to know about window warranties, though. In this post, we’ll break down the warranty information you need to know before making a purchase. Be sure to bookmark this page as a reference, should you need it in the future.

Do I Need a Warranty on My New Windows?

In short, yes. Even the best windows crack, chip, malfunction, and suffer other incidents, especially due to inclement weather and subpar installation or manufacturing. Mechanical parts and hardware, such as locks, balances, and vent stoppers, are sometimes defective. Even the insulation (the “dead space” between window panes) can suffer from moisture and soot buildup. In technical lingo, this is usually referred to as material obstruction.

All of that, plus many more issues are typically covered under a manufacturer’s warranty. Issues that are caused by someone or something not related to the manufacturer or supplier are generally not covered. Warranties are also transferable to new owners usually within a certain time frame with a written request to the manufacturer or supplier.

Warranty Stipulations and What to Ask

Before buying any windows, diligently and carefully read through a prospective warranty. Reread as many times as it takes. If there are any questions still unanswered, call to find out. In addition, read the following tips for guidance:

Make certain that the warranty is transferable, especially if you plan on moving in the future. If you move and your warranty is not transferable, it will become void.

If an extended warranty is available but not standard, make sure that the company is a reputable one with solid financial backing, lest they file for bankruptcy and/or default on their obligations down the road.

Determine if the warranty will be serviced by the manufacturer or the supplier. Is the contact person or organization (in case of warranty claim) one you can trust?

Buy a non-prorated, minimal 10-year warranty anytime you buy windows that are insulated (in case of warranty issues down the road).

Be aware that many, if not most manufacturer warranties cover only incidents that are caused, in some way, by the workmanship quality and/or installation of the window.
Contracts should explicitly state what parts and labor are covered, which are not, and for how long. Different aspects of windows (seals, trim paint, sash, etc.) are often covered for different lengths of time.

The Cardinal Rule

Don’t make the common mistake of being lured into a “lifetime warranty” that might sound great initially, but actually covers far less, for a far shorter duration. Good questions to ask include:

Does “lifetime” mean the window’s lifetime or your home’s?

Does it guarantee the materials and insulation, or just the materials?

Does this “lifetime warranty” include quick, responsive action (upstanding companies will usually offer 24/7 service) from the warranty company, especially in times of emergency?

Keep these tips in mind when comparing replacement window warranties. The last thing you want is to purchase expensive new windows with subpar coverage, as repairs will surely be pricey down the road.

Other readers may like to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to post them in our comments section.

NFRC is always interested in contributions from guest bloggers.Contact Tom Herron if you would like to contribute content to this blog.