If you haven’t had to buy replacement windows for your house recently (or at all) be prepared for sticker shock. Here’s what I’ve learned, and here’s what we did. Note that we first spoke with several different window companies, including Clearwater and Home Depot (I’m including an explanation of Home Depot windows versus having Home Depot install the windows – think that $149 per window is a deal? It’s not – it doesn’t even apply to windows you order through Home Depot – but more on that shortly).
We recently needed to replace the windows on our house – nearly all of the windows (12), because they are very old, drafty, don’t slide well, and in some cases are cracked. In fact, they were the original windows with which this house was built, back in the 70s. Aluminum frames, many dented or even bent… you get the idea. We were also going to replace a sliding patio door.
Because we have a friend who works at Clearwater, we wanted to go with them if possible – we really did. So we arranged for a Clearwater Exteriors sales person to come to our house, along with our friend (who is not a sales person).
This is when we got the sticker shock of our lives. Even with the ‘friends and family’ discount (which to be fair they were going to give us), if we wanted top quality windows it was going to be over $18000 dollars. If you’re playing along at home, that works out to well over $1000 per window.
Then we started checking around, asking neighbors, reading online reviews, etc., and quickly realized that every window company is going to send over a sales person (“for a free estimate”). And we discovered that they all use the same high pressure sales tactic (think ‘car salesman’), and that no matter what window company we used it was going to cost us well over $17000.
This is when we started thinking creatively and looking for other options.
Several neighbors had recommended going through Home Depot, based on their own experiences with Home Depot, and, as it happened, Home Depot was having a 15% off everything sale, and they were advertising installation for only $149 per window!
So we grabbed our window measurements, and went to Home Depot to order windows.
The first thing that I need to tell you at this juncture is that if you are going to call or go into Home Depot, the department you want is called “millwork” (which is basically jargon for ‘building material’).
But the second thing that I need to share with you is the big thing.
We got to Home Depot, measurements in hand, and sat down with one of their window people. We gave them the measurements, picked out the brand, style and quality of window that we wanted, and put together an order. It came to about $6000. We hadn’t actually ordered it yet, when we had this conversation with the Home Depot person (“HDP”):
Us: Ok (pointing to big sign that says “Window installation only $149 per window”) now we’re going to get this $149 installation price, right?”
HDP: Oh, no, that only applies if you order your windows through our Home Depot Exteriors company. We don’t have an installation service for windows that you order directly through Home Depot.
Let me repeat what the Home Depot person said again, just so you really catch it:
“that only applies if you order your windows through our Home Depot Exteriors company.”
“We don’t have an installation service for windows that you order directly through Home Depot.”
Home Depot Exteriors is a completely different organization that is in direct competition with, you guessed it, Clearwater Exterior, Anderson Windows, and other window companies that are going to try to pressure you into buying a big dollar window package.
And, in fact, just to be sure, we scheduled a ‘free estimate’ with Home Depot Exteriors, and their estimate came in at around $17000, including that $149 per window installation (in other words, they make it up on the windows – the exact same windows you can go into your friendly neighborhood Home Depot and order directly. But then of course you have to somehow get the windows installed, and you are on your own there.)
Fortunately for us, we have a neighbor who is in the window and door business. He came highly recommended by several neighbors, and so we contacted him and asked him whether he would be willing to install windows for us that we had purchased ourselves. And because he is wonderful, he said yes, and we agreed on a price that was fair to him, and also to us. While he of course couldn’t give us a warranty on the windows themselves, he still gave us a warranty on the installation. And the window brand that we chose at Home Depot – Milgard – comes with a lifetime warranty on the product.
By ordering the windows directly through Home Depot (not Home Depot Exteriors) and having a professional window installer install them for us, we saved at least $5000 off even the most ‘conservative’ estimate, and we got a top-of-the-line window product to boot.
If you happen to be in Colorado, let me tell you one more thing. We first went to the Longmont Home Depot, where the person who took our original window order (where we learned that the $149 installation didn’t apply) was very nice, but knew very little. In fact, he originally told us that we would get the $149 installation price with our order, but that we would have to contact “this person for the installation” (handing us a card). Turns out that “this person” was the Home Depot Exteriors guy, who of course informed us that we would have to go through them to get the windows, and turned on the high pressure sales charm.
Then we went to the store in Superior, after calling them and being assured that someone in millwork would be there all day. We arrived a bit after 2:00pm, couldn’t find anyone, had them paged, waited some more, and finally found someone who knew where everyone in millwork was: gone. They had all left early for the day.
We finally went to the Boulder store, where the awesome Miriam helped us place our order. She was very knowledgeable, and assured us that she was there 6 days as week, from 9 to 5 at least.
So, the morals of this story are two-fold:
1. If you can find someone to install them, order your windows through Home Depot, but stay away from Home Depot Exterors, and
2. If you are in Colorado and it’s local enough for you, go to the Boulder Home Depot and ask for Miriam.