Whether you're putting in the windows on your own job or subcontracting the work out, it's important to make the whole process painless for the crew coming in to install. Tim Murphy, president of Tim Murphy Carpentry, a full-service remodeling company in Chicago that specializes in window replacements, says the most important thing to do is to make sure the openings have been framed correctly and are the right size. After that, Murphy suggests the following:

* Install the siding or house wrap before sending in the window crew.

* Make sure there's clear access to the openings. "So they can't have all their stuff in front of where we are putting in the windows," Murphy says.

* If you're subbing out the job, pay at least part upfront and pay on time. Murphy prefers "payment when we start, and the rest of it soon after."

* Let crews know if they're responsible for removing their own debris.

* Alert the window sub to any potential obstacles to a smooth installation. Murphy's crew once went to a house where there was no floor, only joists. "They neglected to mention that."

* Have the windows ordered correctly and make sure they're on site.

* If you don't trust yourself to order right, leave the measuring and ordering of the windows to the expert -- the contractor who's installing them. "That way it's right," Murphy says, "so we can get in and get out."

The biggest problem Murphy encounters when he's doing a window installation on someone else's job is that the windows won't fit in the pre-framed openings. That's why, in some situations, Murphy prefers to have his own crew do the framing. But in general, he makes the situation work. "If it's a wooden frame, you can adjust anything you need to," the remodeler says. "Our rule of thumb is that if the windows are on site, we'll get them to fit."

Plan ahead

Of course careful planning can go a long way to avoiding on-site problems. Kevin Cassidy, president and CEO of K.C. Company, a window replacement firm that operates 10 stores selling Pella windows in the Baltimore/Washington area, says that well before the company's two-man crew arrives to do the installation, a supervisor from his company meets with the homeowner to "set the expectations, talk about protecting the property, the furniture." The pre-checker also makes sure that the interior and exterior trim are suitable for the installation and that the windows that have been ordered are the same size as the old windows.

Clearing the work area may seem a simple matter of making sure objects are removed from the sill. Not so, Cassidy says. Clients need to be aware that crews may be carrying large windows through the house. Make sure they move valuable objects out of the way.

The pre-checker also addresses the issue of whether Cassidy's company will have to perform any additional work. "If it's a brick house, are we going to have to cut any brick?" he asks. "We try not to be general contractors, but sometimes we have to modify openings and make certain that the house is still up to code, in the event we have to move any electrical outlets."