Imagine this scene:

When Susan K. approached me, I couldn’t help but make note of the parallels. She says (paraphrased), “Word on the street is (*looking around*) that you might know where to find windows.”

I, in a hushed tone, responded, “Step over here.” And we made our way a few steps to a nearby dumpster. Around the other side, I handed her a card and said, “I might be able to help.”

Susan is a first time homeowner, still settling into her new digs. But based on some of the stuff I have overheard, it seems that she has been making her way just fine. Until now. You see, having closed only a few months ago, she is still addressing some of the loose items from her home inspection report. One item, in particular, a racked and now drafty double casement in a secondary bedroom on the second floor.

Stained Glass Octagon Window Half Bath update

As is the norm with many real estate deals these days, instead of requiring the sellers to fix the offending issue, she took, in turn, a buyer’s credit at closing. As a sometimes buyer of real estate, myself, I happen to like this type of set-up. You have control over the fix, and you have the opportunity to get it done your way.

You still have to get it done, though, and unfortunately, many new homeowners choose to put open items off far too long. But not in this case; not with Susan K.

Here are some tips I gave her for shopping for new replacement windows:

Step 1: Get Bids (aka Set a Baseline)

She started with the phone book, as many still do, and she made a few calls. Of the guys she could get out, all were on time, knowledgeable, and clean cut . . .  or at least that’s what I heard. She had every intention of getting the job done; and in a matter of days, she had her bids back, and in hand.

One came in at around $1300, the other at $1600, both installed. While Susan didn’t have a ton of experience with windows, these prices just didn’t seem right to her. It seemed like too much money for one window. And that’s how she decided to approach me near the dumpster.

Step 2: Do your Due Diligence

Where my work usually begins: So these were the facts, as she reported them to me over the course of that day. And . . . she finished, Do you think that seems right?

Then I start: I say something like this — “I don’t know. I really don’t know what kind of situation you are dealing with. Some questions followed:

  • How big is the window?
  • What is the interior finish at the window?
  • What is the exterior finish at the window?
  • (And, of course, the million-dollar question)
  • How about the other windows in the house? What are the other windows in your house like?
  • What are you trying to accomplish? (I didn’t know about the draftiness at that point.)
  • Can you email me a picture?”
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Susan K's double casement :: vinyl double casement window in empty room

I probably threw a few other questions in there, like this one, Would you need someone to put it in? . . . I finished. She said, No, . . . if you could just help me find a window, I would really appreciate it. And, of course, I said, OK.

And how I usually go: I really do not have any dead set formula for approaching these things. In this case, this time, I started by shouting out on Twitter to some of the window manufacturers I am following. And . . . several of my friends up there got right back.

I have spent much of the last few years studying where to find things here locally. From my catalog of local contacts, I selected a few close to home. Then, I sent some emails and made some calls.

From that, now with a solid spec in hand, you know — what the need is, I narrowed things down to two local suppliers (one of which came through my contact on Twitter).

Step 3: Review the Specs, Make a Smart Decision & Save Some Money

It really isn’t magic – there were definitely a few back and forths with my contacts. And I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to work with me on this ONE window. But they did; both top notch pros. Together, we honed, and I was squared to present two separate yet comparable mid-grade vinyl windows – Energy Star rated and tax-credit eligible.

With a little bit of work, and I won’t divulge price, I can say pretty plainly that even with an overpriced installation, Susan will save at least a hundred bucks. More, of course, off of that $1600 bid.

At the moment, do I know if she will use one of these two suppliers? No, I don’t; there always seems, with everything, to be more viable options.

How to Shop for New Windows

And it was dropped, most expertly, by one of my contacts. My guy, he says, in maybe trying to define what I do, I had a contractor come in the other day, and he said to me: When is it all going to stop?!

But the point being: If it’s too much for a professional, someone who supposedly sells and installs windows, and they have difficulty navigating the maze of decisions, imagine how hard it must be for a first time homeowner like Susan K.

My contact and I talked some more. What he meant was . . . that by this point, and with twenty plus years of the replacement window, there are many, many replacement window options, and many features to consider with each purchase, and for each need.

Fusion-welded miters, wood, Fiberglas, aluminum, vinyl, low-e, argon-injected, simulated divided light, true divided light, heat loss, solar gain, incentives from the government, and . . . I could go on.

I say, window companies, continue to do what you do. Options are good. Technological improvements are good. Improved energy efficiency is good. But there seems, too, that there may even be a point where some professionals may need some, well, Building Moxie. Just Sayin’.

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Thank you for reading and thank you to new client Susan K. For more us on windows, please see our category – Windows.

More Moxie (Related Links):

The anatomy of a window courtesy of Pella Windows and Doors.

There are varying qualities for each of these elements and upgrades to any add cost. In other words, know what you are looking at when you are shopping.

Energy Star (window) information: Window, Door and Skylight Finder.