Replacement Window Limited Warranties

The first place I worked as a replacement window salesman was a window manufacturing company. It really spoiled me. They offered a Lifetime Warranty that covered most everything that could happen to their window. First, it was a heavy aluminum framed window so not much could happen there beyond paint chipping. Second, it was only single pane glass, so there was no fear of seal failure. I was able to offer everyone I sold windows to a Lifetime Warranty that made them feel protected. It was great.

Years later I opened my own company as a distributor for many manufacturers. We told customers that we could give them choices. I had single pane aluminum from two or three different manufacturers. I had vinyl double paned windows from even more. It was all about offering choice.

The Limits of Limited WarrantiesNormal Weathering not Covered

One huge problem I had was their Limited Warranties. Back when I started and was able to offer a Lifetime Warranty that had few limits, and it was a huge selling feature. But every manufacturer I could find offered Lifetime Warranties filled with holes, not covering what seemed like the basics. They still do that.

Here we are in Florida, the sunshine state, where people expect to have months where every day hits above 90 degrees, where 15 minutes in the mid day sun can burn skin, where cars have paint that gets killed by sunlight, where vinyl patio furniture bakes in the sun and weathers, feeling chalky and rough, where you can’t even walk on the sand beaches without burning your feet, to say nothing about standing barefoot on the sidewalk or even worse, an asphalt parking lot. It’s Florida and we have heat.

Most of the window manufacturers who operate in Florida exclude stress resulting from heat in their limited warranties. Imagine that! You have a problem with your window. It stops opening properly. The seal goes and you can’t see through the glass anymore. You call the manufacturer and they say, “sorry, but we don’t cover stress resulting from localized heat.” When I ran my company I couldn’t tell people something like that and expect to sell them windows. They would have laughed me out of their homes.

Most of the window manufacturers don’t cover labor either. If they do, it’s a very limited time- maybe a year of two. I couldn’t tell my potential customers that either. They all know how much they get charged when a tradesman makes a house call.

Window Glass Distortion Not CoveredSome of the manufacturers would not be selective in glass. They would ship me glass with flaws. One current manufacturer, a Florida based company, a place I did business with, says bubbles, scratches, blurs, and discolorations are to be expected in the glass. Look at the picture on the left. This is one of their windows. Their customer is furious having to live with the distorted view, but is out of luck because of the limited warranty. Instead of buying the best, that manufacturer keeps costs down by buying cheap and putting those limits in their warranty. They could do their own quality control and not use anything that customers would find unacceptable, but that would increase their scrap percentage and cut into profits, so they cover their butt in their warranty. It’s still there today! How could I expect to sell their windows giving out their warranty?

That same manufacturer says “water intrusion” is not covered. You know what water intrusion is, don’t you? It means that if their windows leak- tough. How could I ever expect people to buy a product with such limits?

So I had a choice. All of the manufacturers who sell to distributors had terrible warranties, and still do. I could either mislead customers and tell them the product they purchased from me had a lifetime warranty and not give them the actual warranty until the windows were installed, as some local middle men do now, or I could cover the labor myself and buy the parts that were not covered by the manufacturer so I could give them a quality warranty, something they could find confidence in. I chose the latter- give them a good warranty and live with the costs.

My first year worked out fine. We didn’t have much in the way of service issues. The second year is when things started to change. By the fourth year I had to hire a full time service man just to keep up. With his salary and the cost of his truck, gas, workman’s comp insurance, payroll taxes, and the parts I had to buy to replace failed parts, I was paying over $3000 per week to cover the Lifetime Warranty that I believe should have been covered by the manufacturers.

I couldn’t find a solution. If I tried to sell more to increase profits I would just be putting more eventual service calls in our future. If I tried to raise my prices to cover the load I’d price myself out of the marketplace. If I stopped offering a good warranty, I’d lose a critical selling feature.

There came a point when I realized I couldn’t keep it up. I had no choice. Service got worse every day I stayed open, so I had to throw in the towel and close.

No One is Authorized to Change the Limited Warranty

Those window manufacturers had that eventuality covered too. They put clauses into their warranties that specifically state that no one is authorized to alter their warranty, orally or in writing. So when I was out of business and a previous customer had a problem with their replacement windows, they would call the manufacturer themselves and read the warranty on the contract they signed with my company. You can guess how far that got them. Those customers were stuck living with the factory warranty anyway.

A window manufacturer can build a quality window that can support a strong warranty, but their window will cost more. They can reduce the potential for weathering by using specially formulated high grade uPVC. They can virtually eliminate seal failure by using state of the art glazing techniques. They can buy only the best and most heat reflective glass to eliminate problems in Florida. But most manufacturers see Florida as a small percentage of their market. Why retool for 1 or 2 percent of their potential business?  

If you are considering replacing your windows, and if you have the original windows, you certainly should, keep all this in mind when choosing your product. In the end, the one who pays for an inferior product with a poor manufacturer’s warranty is the customer!