Windows: DIY, Big National Co. or Local Contractor?

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VIP:Very Important Post that could save you from feeling RIPPED OFF.
Last year, I posted a Discussion on How to Open up the Views in my Home. I'd been thinking about adding and replacing windows for over a year, inspired by home improvement episodes. I mocked my ideas up on Photoshop to sell my hubby -- A guy who doesn't like change or spending $.
By early May I wore him down enough with my enthusiasm, gushing over every example of wide open window views on HGTV and pointing out similar homes while driving around. So he was finally primed to "just talk" to contractors. But everyone in our area seemed too busy to talk to us.
We received an offer from Andersen Window CO. I'm sure you got the same one too. There are always "Specials" going on. "This month only... save 30% or..." And when they are in your home, they insist all decision-makers be present and build up the pressure to clinch the deal by offering you additional incentives. Just like in the timeshare business.
Since we were planning on hosting out-of state family for the 4th of July, the salesman closed this deal by saying if we placed the order today, we might have it finished in time. It takes six weeks to special order... plus he'd give us an additional 10% off the cost of the windows, good for today only. It was our anniversary, my husband looked at my eager face, and we signed.
I should have been smarter... Certainly should have delayed until I got more quotes... despite the "10% incentive."
Like everyone reading this, I hate to admit when I'm wrong. This is the most painful post I've ever done. But if I can help others...
I'll just give you the facts and the pictures and let you decide so you don't make the same mistakes we did.

Here's the rendering I prepared to show contractors of where we wanted to go with our ideas. We could use the same opening for the picture window and casement window on the right. But we'd need a new header where the sliding doors were going.
What do you think Andersen charged us for these windows installed? (Including all discounts.)
A) $5,000 B) $10,000 C) $15,000 D) $20,000
How long do you think it took to complete the job?
A) One month B) Two months C) Three months
How much actual time did it take to install?
A) Two days B) Five days C) Ten days
How much did Andersen make on installation per man-hour?
A) $50/hr B) $100/hr C) $100/hr D) over $300/hr

The answers:
They charged us $20,000
The job was ordered on May 9 and installed on July 31 and Aug 1. We did not receive it in the time promised. Despite my pleading and reminder of original promised date, they said they were just too booked up to get around to us.
One month later: It took 2 days to install. 3 guys working day 1; 2 guys on day 2 = 40 total man hours.
Andersen does not break out costs for the windows in their quotes. We subsequently discovered their value to be between $5,000- $6,000. Which leaves a cost of installation of at least $14,000. So Andersen charged us $350/hr for installation.
They do not do any of the electrical or plumbing that was required.
They do not do any of the finish work.
They sell themselves as "the Window experts... not a jack of all trades."
It's in their brochure.

We handled the electrical ourselves; disconnected wiring. We needed to hire a plumber to reroute plumbing lines to upstairs through basement. This was a major issue that the installers had never encountered before -- so it was up to us to find someone to consult while they were on the job. Luckily the plumber was able to send two guys out to reroute the following day.
We have hired a drywaller to patch ceiling and walls as shown here and also required in basement and upstairs. We will handle painting, staining and finish work ourselves.
I decided to pickle the new woods so they blend and retain the fresh white look (don't know how long the look will last, wood will still slowly age) and fill in cracks and seams up to the wall and between wood. Time-consuming, but, hey that's what you do if you bought $20,000 windows!
Big disappointment is the sills. The "Experts" in the field installed PINE, one of the softest woods you can get, that you can dent with a fingernail. It was already gouged, scraped, nailed and drilled. The wood putty they left me to DIY does not take stain. I am so disappointed with the trim details.
We will also refinish decks and blend in the new wood. See my post on blending old into new wood.
While I LOVE the expanded views, I would definitely have handled this project differently had I known better.
I plan on building in a leather bench under the ten-foot windowsill. I will do most of that myself DIY and ask a "jack of all trades" to help with some construction details. Keep you posted!
I also plan on replacing windows upstairs with sliding or french doors and building a deck off my bedroom. I hope to find a good local contractor who cares about his relationship with me, not his paycheck from a big national company. The guys who installed were new to the business and rushed to get onto the next assignment.
According to their "Review" from me, they got 5 stars -- since the questions they asked are about defects such as holes and tears in screens, cleanliness and whether or not they demonstrated to us how to operate their windows ie: open & close them. They call this a "Contract for Customer Happiness!" Salesmanship: 5 stars!

I believe this project cost me more than TWICE what it should have.
We all Gotta Work Smarter!
Let's spread the word and take better control of our projects. Know what we can do ourselves -- and share what is over our abilities with local contractors.
Thank you.

Suggested materials:

  • Installed price of Andersen Windows & doors  ($19,735 Anderson)
  • Plumbing: reroute heating  ($1,035 contractor)
  • Stain, polyurethane, wood filler. trim pieces  ($110 Home Depot)
See all materials

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