Advanced Home Exteriors Given James Hardie Guild Quality Service Award

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The James Hardie Corporation has contracted with GuildQuality, which is one of the largest customer service survey companies in the country, to provide third-party follow up with recent customers of James Hardie Certified Preferred Remodelers (such as Advanced Home Exteriors) to evaluate the quality of the installers’ overall quality of installation and customer service.  Advanced Home Exteriors has been a Guildmember every year since 2012, was a Guildmaster Award winner in 2013 and 2014, and was one of only ten companies nationwide (and the only one in Texas) to win the 2013 James Hardie Guild Quality Service Excellence Award for Exceptional Customer Service and Customer Satisfaction.  You are invited to read our survey responses and results at the GuildQuality web site at http://www.guildquality.com/advancedhomeexteriors.

Guild Service Excellence Award 2013

Guildmaster

James Hardie HardiePlank® Lap Siding Earns the Good Housekeeping Seal

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James Hardie Building Products, world leader in fiber cement siding and backerboard, today announced its James Hardie® siding earned the Good Housekeeping Seal. The Seal is a sought-after mark of quality and is granted after a product’s rigorous evaluation by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

logo-good-housekeeping-sealThe most popular brand of siding in America found on over 5.5 million homes, James Hardie siding is known for its strength, beauty and durability. It comes in a variety of looks and textures, all of which are Engineered For Climate®. In fact, with the HardieZone® system, James Hardie provides siding with specific performance attributes relative to the climate where the product will be used. Importantly, James Hardie siding is also fire resistant. HardiePlank lap siding comes with a 30-year non-prorated, transferrable, limited warranty.

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Replacement Windows (Part I): I saw a large display of windows at the hardware store. How are they different from what you sell?

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There are actually quite a few differences, so maybe this is a good time to do a series of articles on the important basics that anyone who is considering window replacement should know before they start shopping around.

There are two categories of windows available to retailers: (1) “new construction” windows are the ones you see at the hardware store, and (2) “replacement windows” are what you can get from reputable companies like us.  And I don’t use the word “reputable” lightly… it is essential that you understand the difference between them because there are some less-than-honorable window dealers who will be looking for an opportunity to rip you off.

So lets start with a description of the two types of windows:

“New Construction” windows can be found at the large hardware stores and are manufactured for those places where the walls and framework are not yet finished, such as the construction of a new building or house, or when a wall is being completely rebuilt or reframed.  If your house still has the original windows, then that’s what you have.  “New construction” windows are manufactured in bulk in predetermined stock sizes; they are then stored away in warehouses so builders can buy the sizes and quantities they need “off the shelf”.  Once they are delivered to the construction site, the builder can make sure the windows are a secure fit by positioning each window into the newly framed wall first, and then adding the last of the load-bearing wood to make sure the frame wood is up tight against all sides of the windows to allow for proper sealing.  If you go to a big builders supply or hardware store that has a display of these windows, you can recognize a “new construction” window by the presence of nailing fins sticking out of the outside of at least two sides of the window frame; these fins are what the builder nails to the frame wood/studs to secure the window in place.

“Replacement” windows are designed to work the opposite way: to precisely fit into a wall and window opening that already exists, such as a finished wall that cannot be re-framed to fit the shape of the new window.  In those cases, the window must be customized and special ordered in precise dimensions to fit the shape of the frame.  For that reason, these windows do NOT have nailing fins; instead they are manufactured to be attached by long screws that go through the window frame into the load-bearing wood.  This customization is necessary because the structure of houses and buildings shift over time, so the shapes of the window openings can have slight changes, too.

For example, a window opening that was originally built to be a perfect rectangle has probably shifted by ¼ to ½ inch in every direction.  That may not seem like much of a change, but its enough to guarantee that if you try to install a perfectly rectangular “new construction” window in an opening that has shifted there will be gaps around the outside of the window that will result in air and water leaking into the wall and the house.  Or, some part of the window opening could have possibly NARROWED, and could cause the uneven frame wood to put excessive pressure on the window and quickly make it difficult (if not impossible) to operate, or even cause the glass to crack.

To prevent these problems, it is necessary to make precision measurements of each and every opening, measuring all four sides and the angles in between to within approximately 1/8th of an inch each way, so that a precisely-measured custom window can be made specifically to the dimensions and shape of each window opening.  That means that no matter how many windows are in your order, no two windows will be the same size and shape… each one must be custom-made, one at a time.  That means the manufacturer must re-tool for each individual window, so each one requires a little more care and precision to manufacture and install, and that makes them a little more expensive.  But the advantage is that it will guarantee that each window will fit snugly inside the opening it was made for and will still allow room for minor movement of the house in the future.

“Replacement” windows also have a little different appearance than the “new construction”.  As you can see in the picture below, the frame in the window is heavier and slightly wider so it can effectively hold the weight of the extra-thick glass and other energy-efficient features that we’ll discuss in other articles.

 

Windows (Part 2): Beware of the “bait & switch” of “New Construction” windows instead of “Replacement”

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As we explained in Part One, if you want to replace windows in an existing home, and if you want it done right, you need “replacement” windows.  The information in Part One is essential for you to know because unfortunately, there are some dishonest window dealers who assume you don’t know those details and will promise you custom-made replacement windows and then scam you.  They try to do this in one of two ways:

The first way is commonly called the “bait and switch”: he will show you a “replacement” window, but once you make the order and put down a deposit he will do a switch and order the less expensive “new construction” window in a similar model and in the closest size he could get for your openings, just to increase his profit margins.  In order to keep you from noticing the switch, when the windows are delivered to the installers they will cut off the fins and sand down as much of the scar as they can before the windows are delivered to your house.  Then they will rush to tear out your old windows so they can install the “new construction” windows quickly before you have a chance to get a look at them.  Since they will not be a precise fit and there is almost always one or more gaps around the outside of the frame, the installer will try to fill them in with foam and caulk.  The problem with that method is that (even though there is a special caulk that is made specifically for tiny gaps that is pliable enough to give leeway to the window if the house continues to shift) if the window is not a precise fit and the gap is too large, the caulk cannot keep it sealed.  So, even though you paid for, and thought you were getting, a custom window, now you have a window that is not an exact fit and will begin to leak around it, no matter how much foam and caulk he uses.

In the picture below, we replaced the siding, windows, and eight huge sliding patio doors.  The windows and doors were manufactured by Simonton, which means they are heavy and must fit securely.  The fact that this house is built on stilts on the edge of Lake Livingston also means that the windows had to be made in exact dimensions, because the house will always continue to move around.  If we don’t put a precisely-measured and manufactured window and door in each and every opening, then as the house moves and shifts those windows and doors will become stuck and/or damaged.  In other words, only true “replacement” windows would work… “new construction” windows would have failed long ago.

The second way you can be ripped off is not attempted very often, but it has been attempted a few times over the past ten years.  Any time companies like AHE order a large number of custom windows for a home, there is the potential for a window or two to be made in the wrong dimensions, and it could be our mistake or a mistake by the manufacturer.  When that happens, we have to return the window to get credit for a new one.  Even though they don’t fit your specific needs, they are still perfectly good windows, so often the manufacturer will sell them (usually at a loss) to builders and contractors for the purpose of installing them in new homes. However, sometimes they end up in the hands of less-than-honest window dealers, who then use them in the “bait and switch” I described above.  Plus, there have been rare instances where these dealers take these recycled windows (as well as “new construction” windows) and re-fabricate them to look like new custom replacement windows.  I’ve even seen someone take a low end model of window and change the labels so it looks like a higher-end model.   Here’s an example: several excellent window manufacturers use the exact same frame in several different models of windows, with each model offering more features and better energy efficiency than the one before it… yet they all look almost exactly alike.  Unethical dealers will take the cheaper low-end window, change the tags and labels, represent it as a higher-end window, and sell it to you at a higher price.

You can protect yourself from both of these scams by taking the following steps:

(1) Always check the documentation, starting with the contract you sign when you make your order from the dealer. Make sure that the contract clearly specifies the manufacturer and the model of the window you are buying, and that they are clearly and specifically described by the term “replacement window” written on your contract.

(2) Do NOT pay for the windows in full up front; manufacturers of custom windows require the company to put a deposit on the windows they order, so your retailer has the right to ask for a reasonable deposit to protect themselves.  However, it is almost never necessary to give them more than 30% of the contract price up front, with the remaining 70% to be paid only when the job is completed and all job-related debris is cleaned up.

(3) When the windows are delivered to your house, do NOT let them start tearing out your existing windows until you have a chance to inspect the new windows.  Demand that the installer unwrap each window enough so you can personally examine them.  Even though you are supposed to get one when the job is done, ask to see the manufacturer’s invoices beforehand and verify the serial numbers and approximate measurements of each one to the labels that are on the glass, as well as one that is usually located on the side of one of the sliding sashes… that one usually has the serial number.  Then look at the outside of each frame… if there is a nailing fin, or if there is a scar running the length of two or more sides where a nailing fin used to be but has been cut off, then they are most likely “new construction” windows and you need to reject them immediately.  (Note: there is one rare exception: if a window opening measures precisely the same as a new construction window and it will fit just as well as a replacement window, and the retailer recommends this option to you up front, this is a way you can save a few dollars; just make sure that is spelled out on your contract ahead of time and that it applies only to that window.)