The warranty on your replacement windows and doors is a guarantee that if anything ever goes wrong with your installed product, the company that you purchased your windows and doors from will take care of the problem.
Unfortunately not all warranties are the same and most are very complicated. The following are some things that you should be aware of when you consider purchasing replacement windows and doors.
1. “Lifetime Warranty” never means what you think it does.
Who’s lifetime is being referred to in a Lifetime Warranty? Yours, your home, the ‘reasonable lifetime of your window or door’? Most ‘Lifetime Warranties’ are now legally required to include the word ‘Limited’ to the contract because there are so many exceptions and exclusions to what is actually being promised. The word “Lifetime” has virtually no meaning or value in many of these contracts.
Imagine being offered a “Limited Lifetime Warranty” on your car only to discover that the warranty just covers the frame of your car and that the labour cost of repairing the car is not included in that warranty and that if you drive the car more than 10,000 kilometres a year the warranty is void.
In some jurisdictions in North America a ‘Lifetime Warranty’ is legally required to cover at least a 7 year period. The good news is that local jurisdictions are trying to crack down on misleading warranties. The bad news is that you can legally call 7 years a ‘Lifetime’. That’s a pretty short lifetime.
What’s the point of promoting a ‘Lifetime Warranty’ if there is no intention by the company of reasonably covering anything that matters?
Tip #1: Make sure you know exactly what ‘Lifetime’ means and, more importantly, exactly what is, and what is not covered in your warranty.
2. Most replacement window and door warranties only relate to one half of your purchase - either the product itself or the installation, but not both.
The majority of windows and doors sold in North America are not installed by the company that manufactured the window or door. The manufacturer provides separate and limited warranties for their own products. The sales and installation companies have their own warranties on the installation work they performed.
The problem with this arrangement is that when something goes wrong it can be very difficult to determine who is at fault. Both parties could end up blaming each other for the problem then you’re stuck in the middle without simple recourse.
If the company that manufactures your windows or doors are not the same company that sold them and is installing them then you have two separate warranties to deal with and two separate companies to work with when a problem occurs.
Tip #2: If the manufacturer and installation companies are different, you should read and understand both warranties before making a purchase decision.
3. Most replacement window and door warranties are filled with small print that seriously limits the real value of the warranty.
You should be able to write a simple warranty on one page that summarizes everything a purchaser needs to know. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. Most warranties include complicated provisions and exceptions such as:
- The warranty only covers certain parts of the window such as the PVC and not the entire window. PVC is rarely the problem with windows. It’s the seals and the mechanics of the window that fail over time. Some manufacturers offer warranties on the glass only. Glass doesn’t wear out.
- The manufactures warranty have clauses that say they are not responsible for their own windows if the installation was not done correctly. How do you as a homeowner, prove the installation was, or wasn’t done correctly?
- Some warranties are pro-rated and lose value over time and some warranties are not transferable if you sell your home.
- Many warranties include labour charges that you have to pay regardless of who is at fault for any problems with your windows. Why should you have to pay $100 per hour to fix a problem that you didn’t cause? Covering the cost of a $5 part is useless if you have to pay hundreds of dollars to have that part installed.
- Some warranties will include ‘wear and tear’ as an excuse to nullify the warranty. If you open your window too often, you nullify the warranty!
- Some warranties are written with such complicated legalize that only a lawyer could possibly interpret it.
If your warranty cannot be easily understood or if it has a lot of extra clauses and exclusions then this should be a warning sign to you that making a warranty claim in the future may not be as easy as you’d like it be.
Tip #3: Look for a warranty that is simple, honest and complete.
4. What is the financial health of the company underwriting your warranty?
A warranty has no value if the company that wrote it may not be around in next 20 or 30 years. You should look at the track records of both the manufacturer of your windows and doors and the company that sold and installed them. How long have they been around? How long might they will be around in the future?
If the company that is selling and installing your windows has only been around for a few years how can they credibly offer a warranty that they have no track record of honouring.
The turnover on door and window installation and sales companies is quite high. The turnover on door and window manufacturers is much lower, but you still need to do your homework before your make your purchase.
If you don’t firmly believe that the company that manufactured your windows AND the one that installed your windows is going to be around in 25 years, don’t purchase from them.
Tip #4: Make sure you understand the financial track record of the manufacturer and the installation company before you purchase.
5. Do you fully understand the Warranty Registration and warranty Claim Process?
One of the biggest complaints by customers dealing with multiple companies is that the warranty claim process is far too complex. Most companies make you register your windows and doors in order to be able to make a claim in the future. Why would they make you do this? They already know who you are and what products you have. They have all of that information on record already. Many people don’t take the time to complete the registration process and as a result are unable to make claims in the future.
Even when you have successfully filled out all registration forms in advance it can still be very complicated to make a future claim. Who do you call if there is a problem; the installation company or the manufacturer? How long will they take to respond to your problem? Is the manufacturer local, in a different city, province or country? What happens when the manufacturer and the installer blame each other for the problem? How does your problem get resolved and how long does the resolution process take?
If you’re working with two separate companies on a claim you may have to wait weeks or months for your issue to be resolved.
Tip #5: Make sure you know exactly how the claim process works with both the manufacturer and the installer and what written guarantees they give you for turn-around time on claims.