As I posted earlier this month, my wife and I are finally about to start tackling some of the home improvement issues that have been lurking within the property lovingly dubbed, “Rock Father HQ.” If you’re just joining us, the basic gist is this: In 2010 we purchased a 1,300 sq. ft. home in Chicago’s Northern Suburbs, a house that was built in 1990, and one we knew had some issues. Like most homes, it looks pretty good on the surface, but when you dig deeper, there’s some things that are pretty bad – several of which stem from the previous owners, two of which fancied themselves to be “handy” – and one of whom shoddily put in windows because he “got a deal” on them. Our first project is fixing said windows, and today I’m going to walk you through my in-home consultation experiences with Pella Windows and Doors, The Home Depot, Renewal by Andersen and Feldco. The fun part? I didn’t tell any of these companies that I would be writing about this experience. Out of courtesy, I did reach out to the PR team for the company that did score our business, but only after my wife and I had already done the deal and paid for the job. Bottom line: This post is not sponsored by anyone.
In doing my own pre-buying research, I discovered that surprisingly there’s not a ton of information about the window buying process online that’s not paid for by someone – and if you’re looking for a general ballpark on price, good luck! There’s very little out there aside from some message board postings, and the reason is simple: Some of these companies don’t want you to know up-front.
In 2015, it’s still all about the hard sell and “1950s-style” marketing:
With three of the companies contacted, it was not only requested, but absolutely hammered-home that they wanted both myself and my wife to be present for the consultation. They wanted to know whose name was on the property, and asked repeated variations on “both you and your wife will be present at X-time?” This would be confirmed by two-three mentions of “all decision makers,” “all homeowners,” and sometimes a call-ending, “and just to confirm, both of you will be present?” Knowing ahead of time that both of us would not be present, the only way to be sure that the appointments would be locked-in was to tell a little fib. Renewal by Andersen, Pella Windows and Doors and Feldco all agreed, and everything was set. We were going into this knowing that there would be no snap-decisions, nor would there be an on-the-spot purchase. These companies do not like that.
A mix of the following, done either at once, or in pieces based on affordability:
- Total replacement of four upper-level bedroom windows.
- Total replacement of seven ground-level windows.
- New patio (deck) door, either a slider or French Doors.
Upon arrival, not one of the companies we’d contacted even questioned the fact that my wife was nowhere to be found. What they did question (all of them) is what exactly I do, upon seeing the infamous “Global Operations & Mission Command Center” here at Rock Father HQ. While my office was certainly a nice ice-breaker and conversation piece, I wanted to get right into the windows. And yes, the hard sell is very real…
“Here’s What’s Wrong with All of Our Competitor’s Windows”
It’s no secret that you can get many different types of windows, but just as much as these companies are happy to tell you what makes theirs great, they will be thrilled to ramble down a laundry list of what’s wrong with everyone else’s. No punches are pulled, and the biggest offender is Renewal by Andersen.
Renewal by Andersen: After a lengthy pitch that both touted the Renewal by Andersen product and attempted a character assassination of all others, the Andersen rep asked me if after having seen his pitch, would I buy another window. I gave him an answer that he said he’s never heard before, and one he wrote down and told me he would use in future meetings (to which I informed him I would be owed a $0.25 royalty for each use, as a writer). My answer: “From a logic standpoint, no.” That answer pertains to the quality of the windows, which is excellent, and no doubt the best we’d seen – but we weren’t solely aiming for price, but for the right mix of quality, style and affordability.
The Renewal by Andersen windows are made of a composite material, and built like tanks. They’re the heaviest of the bunch. and while the presentation was decent (complete with a heat lamp demonstration on the Energy Star ratings), the overall vibe was off-putting, despite the guy talking music with me for a bit. More on their pricing in the next post.
The Home Depot: The biggest home improvement store in the country also offers professional installation through their THD At-Home Services. We’d recently had a rep from Home Depot out here to price out a bathroom remodel (the next thing we need done – leaking tub), but they were on the high-end for that job, so we’ve still been searching. For our window project, we decided to give them another shot, and for that they sent a rep from a different location to come out. Having seen my strategically-placed paperwork from other companies laying out (some not included in this feature), he said “Well, I can see you probably don’t need a light demonstration with the heat lamp?” and chuckled. He, too, had some words about the competition, but less directed at quality and toward price. Extreme price, to which I agree to an extent – especially with the aforementioned Renewal by Andersen. There is a difference between “paying for quality” and “paying for crazy,” and I didn’t need The Home Depot to tell me that. We walked through the different options and brands available from THD, along with questions about the installation process. Bottom line here is you can do it on the cheap, the mid-range, or the expensive – all in vinyl, which is what we have now. Bonus points for noticing that the girls have a Step2 Home Depot Workbench (I’m a Step2 Brand Ambassador), and bringing them some aprons and projects to do. More on pricing in Part III.
Feldco Windows, Siding and Doors: If you live in Chicago, the commercials and jingle for Feldco is about as prevalent now as the ones for Empire Carpet and Luna once were. They’re on constantly, and their front-facing presentation looks pretty good. This is an oddity, though – because I canceled my Feldco appointment, and didn’t even give them the opportunity to come into our home.
Aside from being the most pushy with the “husband and wife being home,” Feldco of Des Plaines, Illinois has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau. I’ve worked in service areas before, and I totally get that you’re going to have some unhappy customers that go out of their way to bash you online. I get that. But to have 74 local complaints within three years, and to have been “challenged” numerous times by the BBB for “Standards of Advertising?” Not even wasting my time.
Pella Windows and Doors: From a style standpoint, I really like what Pella has to offer. The woman that arrived was pleasant and knowledgeable, and even pointed out that she’d previously sold for Renewal by Andersen. Pella’s windows are vinyl with some steel reinforcement across the center to combat what she called “the vinyl smile,” windows that would eventually warp. Having not seen any windows in our own neighborhood that have done that (the condition is more common with brick homes), that wasn’t a huge concern for us, but again, I was really digging the construction of Pella’s windows. Additionally, they had what I consider to be the best assortment of patio doors (something I will talk about more in my next post), including their exclusive models with blinds between the glass. While there are others out there that have that feature, the Pella version holds the most appeal, and it’s technology that they innovated.
Having spoken to a friend of mine that does a lot of home improvement (and works for a contractor), I knew that his company likes Pella a lot, and that was enough for me to think even more highly of them after the initial consultation. Pella was also the shortest presentation.
So how much were each of these companies, and which one ultimately scored our business? Stay tuned, it’s all coming up in Part III…