Online retail has revolutionized how we shop for practically everything—and that includes windows. And while the online marketplace has provided mountains of information for consumers, unless that information is carefully processed, the mass of detail can easily obscure some of the most important aspects of a transaction.
Here are six tips for helping you shop online for windows:
1. Decide ahead of time on the windows you need.
Window companies tend to have specialties. Some window companies concentrate in manufacturing vinyl windows, while others specialize in wood or fiberglass.
Before you shop for a window, identify what your home needs. Do you have an older home in which wood windows would complement the traditional look? Are the energy savings that vinyl windows can provide important for you? Do you have a unique home that needs the “right look”—and thus needs a company that can offer a wide selection and a variety of customization?
By deciding on what you want in advance, you’ll be able to focus your search on the companies that can best meet your needs.
2. Use online reviews wisely.
Research indicates that 56% of consumers take online reviews into consideration when purchasing products online. Chances are that you’re one of those consumers.
Online reviews can often cut through the glitz of a company’s marketing and get to the nuts and bolts of a product experience. But unlike advice you may get from a friend or family member, online reviews are anonymous, and this anonymity can be abused. For example, many online reviews have been purchased by the companies whose products are being reviewed—and are thus open to bias.
But this doesn’t mean that you should disregard online reviews entirely. Here are a few helpful ways you can make reviews work for you:
- Ignore excessively positive or overly negative reviews. We don’t live in a perfect world, and no product is without its advantages and disadvantages. Instead of letting uncritical positivity or hypercritical negativity influence you, focus on reviews that can appreciate the strengths and weaknesses in the windows they’re reviewing. These are more likely to be objective—and also less likely to be fake.
- Look for detailed reviews. It’s easy for someone to fake a product experience with a short review. Short reviews also tend to focus primarily on the purchaser’s emotional response and less on the product itself. Conversely, longer reviews that go heavy on the details are much more likely to be objective—and also tend to offer insights that the seller may not disclose in marketing.
- Search for reviews that match your own situation. Some reviewers may be dissatisfied with a product that doesn’t meet their needs. But the product might perfectly meet yours. Before you let a critical review influence your decision-making, check whether the criticism stems from problems in the product itself.
3. Look for a warranty.
Good windows come with good warranties. A good warranty not only provides coverage for an adequate amount of time (vinyl windows should come with at least a limited lifetime warranty), but also spells out what you can do if you discover a problem.
If your window is being installed by a party other than the manufacturer, look for an installation warranty as well. Installation warranties won’t cover as much time as warranties for the windows themselves, but a good one (industry experts have said anywhere from two to five years is a good baseline) can help you address any of the problems caused by shoddy work.
4. Get to know a company’s history.
A company that has been in business for a while has both experience and a track record that you can review. Many in the industry say you want to work with a company that has been in business for at least five years.
You also will want a company to prove its quality of service. Ask a prospective company to show you pictures of previous projects—especially projects that are like what you need done. Also ask if the company will provide references for customers who have had problems and then had those problems addressed. This will let you know how committed a company is to the quality of its work.
5. Find out who installs the windows.
If you’re going with a window built by a major manufacturer, look for an installer who is certified by the manufacturer. Certified installers can ensure that your finished product is installed the right way—which makes a major difference in window performance.
By the same token, determine whether an installer specializes in full-time window installation. If an installer contracts for a variety of renovation projects, the installer may not have the skills to ensure a quality installation.
Make sure you also find out whether a contractor needs a government permit in your city or state—and whether a company can ensure that an installer has that permit.
6. Demand credentials from installers.
Find out whether you live in a jurisdiction that requires licenses for windows installation. If you live in a jurisdiction that requires licensing, make sure that an installer is licensed.
You also need to check whether the installer is insured. Find out whether the installer carries general liability insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance. If the installer damages your home during installation and doesn’t carry general liability, you may have to foot the bill. The same applies if an installer doesn’t carry workers’ compensation and a contractor gets injured on your property.
Of course, there are many other things you need to consider when shopping for windows—pricing, for example, is obviously important! But since quality workmanship can drastically influence your net costs, your search for the right company will be more rewarding if you start off by working through these tips first.