By Jim Cory. Not long ago, Ray Westmoreland, owner of Wood Windows Inc. in Boise, Idaho, received a call from a client interested in sound control. Westmoreland's company had installed vinyl replacement windows in the client's house several years before. Now she wanted to know what could be done to tune out street noise. Westmoreland explained the benefits of safety laminated glass both for security and dulling sound, and the client, wanting to see for herself, paid the contractor to re-glaze one window. So satisfied was she with the results that she soon called him again, wanting three more windows re-glazed. At $500 per window, plus labor.
Windows today are more complicated than they were even five years ago. Low-e coatings, new frame materials and frame types, improved use of insulating gasses between panes, new types of hardware, even self-cleaning glass, make what was once a simple product suddenly complex to the typical consumer.
"If you're a remodeler, there's maybe a 10% chance consumers know of all the technologies that are available to them," says Jim Benny of the National Fenestration Research Council (NFRC). "So the opportunity is there to go to consumers with value-added. Tell them what's available, what it costs, and what they'll get for it."
Remodeler Rich Gaspar of Gaspar's Construction in Seattle agrees that most clients just don't know what windows can do. Gaspar, whose company recently completed a $25,000 door and window package on a house, says clients ask about handles, finishes, and details. "They don't ask about thermal breaks, insulated glass, clad or metal." Or soundproofing or self-cleaning glass, for that matter. That leaves the door open for remodelers to educate them -- and upsell in the process.
The NFRC label now on many windows provides a rating for the product based on laboratory testing for energy-efficiency. Explaining what its terms mean and how they apply can demonstrate your expertise and help sell clients on an upgraded package. The label gives ratings for solar heat gain coefficient, U-factor, visible transmittance of light, and air leakage.
Efficient windows save money. They also improve the comfort of the home, reduce or eliminate ultraviolet damage to furnishings, and increase natural light.
But energy efficiency can prove a minor selling point -- and not actually prove to be a particularly wise buy -- if the rest of the house isn't well insulated. Philadelphia remodeler Ed Finkle's clients don't always ask for top-of-the-line wood windows, but when they do it's usually to preserve the architectural integrity in the city's historic homes. Whether it's a low-end vinyl window or upper-end wood, Finkle brings along manufacturer's information sheets and explains specifics.
But, "with old construction it doesn't matter that much," he says. "I don't think installing high energy-efficiency windows in an old house is the answer, since the house is leaking heat anyway."