When it comes to using subs for window installations, many remodelers just say no. Design/build companies, especially, tend to limit subcontractor involvement in any job to excavation, foundation work, mechanicals, and other highly specific trades they don't have on staff. Window installation is left to company carpenters.

“We do it all in-house,” says Dett Otterbeck, owner of Otterbeck Builders, in Castleton, N.Y. “We just find it easier to control our job scheduling.”

George Brown

Dennis Gehman, owner of Gehman Custom Builder, in Harleysville, Pa., shares that view. “We've never used subcontractors for window installation,” Gehman says, though that's not because local suppliers haven't offered to install for him. “We have our on-staff carpenters, and that's part of what they do for us.”

Michael Fast says the projects his company, MRF Construction, Tacoma, Wash., works on “are very detailed” and available window installers “couldn't do that.” Company carpenters can.

Control Issue For many remodelers, the risk of callbacks in the event of faulty installation and, worse still, the threat of water intrusion and insurance hassles are not challenges they'd like to face.

Peter Dell, owner of Peter Dell Custom Remodeling, in Yakima, Wash., says at his company, a lead carpenter and helper will install windows, which are almost always wood windows, though vinyl windows are specified occasionally when budget considerations call for their use. “There aren't subcontractors around here that know how to install windows the way I prefer,” Dell says. “Their favorite method is to cut the fins off a vinyl window, screw it in the opening, and caulk the heck out of it.” Dell says he usually turns away window jobs in which callers request vinyl windows, referring them to “someone I know who has a window business, and that's all they do.”

When he has more work than he can handle, Maurice Forde, of Forde Windows and Remodeling, Northbrook, Ill., falls back on one of two subcontractors he's been using for 10 years. “We have in-house labor, and we try to accomplish 75% of window installations with our own crews,” Forde says. Still, using subcontractors has two advantages for him, he points out. “If you don't have work, you don't have to worry about them.” The other is cost. “Before they start the project, you know what you're in for.” Though that's not always the case — subcontractors, too, can encounter unforeseen conditions.

Special Situations Some remodelers think about using subs to install windows for budget reasons.

“If I have a marginal homeowner that I think can't support our in-house rate,” says Connecticut contractor George Christensen, owner of Pequot Remodeling, “I will ask for a price from the company I buy [the windows] through, which has installers, or get a subcontractor price.”

Expensive products involving a particularly high level of installation expertise are another reason to seek subs. A recent project by Gaspar's Construction, in Seattle, for instance, called for the installation of the Nana window wall system. Gaspar says he prefers to leave installation of the Nana windows and doors to company-certified installers. “We really don't want to take the liability,” Gaspar explains.