Tom Shafer

Your window warranty is only as good as the manufacturer

May 14, 2014

If you're buying windows, one of the questions you should have on your list of "Must Ask" is what's covered under the window's warranty. Is the frame covered if it rots? Is the glass covered if the seal fails and moisture infiltrates the glass unit? How about the hardware - what if it rusts, corrodes, or breaks? However, the most important question may be the most difficult to answer. How strong financially is the company backing the warranty? A manufacturer has to be in business and financially strong in order to honor its warranties. I

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How do you determine the manufacturer's ability to cover warranties?

Find a company that has been in business for a long period of time. Window manufacturers such as Andersen, in business for 109 years, Marvin, also over 100 years, both are family owned and private companies. They're both financially stable, and having been in business as long as they have are likely to stick around a good while longer.

Be on the lookout for - and beware of - companies that are highly leveraged or owned by investor groups. You should be able to determine this through a quick Internet search. Companies owned by investor groups or venture capitalists exist primarily to make money and give the investors a large return on their investment. They may view warranties merely as liabilities that should be limited.

What do you do if you need to use your warranty?

First, determine what the problem is with the window so you know who your first contact should be. For instance, if it's an installation problem that involves leaking around the frame, out of square installation, or even a torn or missing screen, the installer is probably your best contact. The same can be said of glass failure. Contact your installer and ask him or her for assistance. They will probably inspect the window and then contact the manufacturer to acquire a new part.

If the manufacturer has been through bankruptcy proceedings, they may have closed, may have reorganized with new financing, or may have been sold. If they've been sold, be aware that the new ownership may not have acquired the warranties. Warranties are a liability for accounting purposes, and liabilities are a negotiating item during acquisitions. Not all liabilities are sold; they may have been liquidated during the bankruptcy judgment.

Bottom line? That double-lifetime, fully transferable, full replacement labor warranty may not be as good as it sounds. A warranty is only as good as the company backing it.

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