Tom Shafer

Will you outlive your lifetime window warranty?

May 26, 2011

Most folks shopping for replacement windows focus on the features -- colors, energy efficiency or exotic glass packages -- to guide their final buying decision. While you definitely want to pay attention to these attributes, there is a much better way to determine whether you are about to make a wise purchase. Read the warranty.

All window manufacturers offer warranties that are unique to their companies and their products. With window warranties, you can never assume that any two are anything alike. Each should be examined carefully to determine what guarantees you are getting regarding durability and long-term performance. Especially look at the two most significant elements of every window warranty: the duration of the warranty and the glass.

When is a lifetime not a lifetime?

Duration of coverage varies widely, with some warranties lasting as few as 10 years and others for as long as you own the home in which you installed the windows. And in warranty-speak, a lifetime is not your lifetime. It refers to the lifetime of the product. Each lifetime warranty has its own unique exclusions. Often, the warranty is only good for as long as the original owner occupies the house. If the original owner sells the house, the warranty does not necessarily transfer to the next owner.

The warranties for these popular brands of replacement windows offer some examples:

  1. Pella offers the type of lifetime warranty that ends when the purchasers sell their house. Pella's warranty states that "the Limited lifetime Warranty is provided to the original buyer and may not be assigned or transferred."
  2. American Craftsman "warrants to the Original Purchaser for the lifetime of the product," and the warranty is not transferable from the original purchaser to any subsequent homeowner.
  3. PGT allows you to transfer the warranty to one subsequent owner, provided that PGT receives a notice of transfer title of the registered property -- and a check for $50. The transferred warranty is good for another 10 years. Warranties from Wincore and Simonton have similar provisions.
  4. Andersen covers its windows and doors with an Owner-to-Owner® limited warranty. When a home with Andersen windows is sold, the warranty -- 20 years for the glass, 10 years for non-glass parts -- is completely transferable from the original owner to each successive owner, but coverage is not prorated.

Be clear about glass coverage

Since a major portion of any window is glass, the glass provisions should be carefully examined, as well. Today's window glass is two or three pieces sealed together, with a spacer of one of several materials separating them and a sealant material in between. The warranties primarily cover this seal from breaking and the migration of water into the airspace between the glass panes. Because most manufacturers' warranties restrict or do not allow transfer of the warranty, glass coverage will be subject to the provisions of the entire warranty.

In some cases manufacturers have a pro-rated coverage plan. They have full coverage for 10 or 20 years, and then partial coverage. Wincore covers the glass on its Series 5400 window for 50 years, but only full coverage for 20 years; after that, for years 21 through 30, they cover 75 percent; for years 31 through 50, coverage is 50 percent. Simonton warrants their Storm Breaker window for a lifetime, but the glass coverage is prorated from zero through 20 years at 100 percent; from 21 through 50 years at 75 percent and beyond that at 50 percent.

When reading window manufacturers' warranties, be certain you thoroughly understand the provisions. Make sure you are buying the windows that you want, but also the ones that offer the protection you expect for a purchase you hope will last, if not your lifetime, at least a very long time.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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