When considering home improvements it is important to look closely at how well the manufacturer and the contractor will stand behind their product. Home improvement warranties vary wildly, from none at all to a complete lifetime warranty that covers both material and labor. With this in mind it is important to ask questions before you buy, so you know what you can expect if you should need help later.
One thing that many people are not aware of when dealing with a contractor is that the warranty on the material comes from the manufacturer, not the contractor, and often only covers the material. What this means is that if something goes wrong with new windows (or doors, siding, roof, etc.) the homeowner often must contact the manufacturer themselves in order to get the necessary parts, then the homeowner is often left to figure out how to install the new parts on their own. For this reason it is good to make sure that you understand whether a warranty covers only the parts, or the labor as well.
Equally important to selecting a product with a good warranty is selecting a contractor to install that product who stands by their work. Virtually all manufacturers include a clause in their contract that specifies that they are not responsible for problems caused by installation errors. For example, a shingle manufacturer is not going to accept responsibility for a leak in your roof if it is caused by improper installation. Why should they? For this reason it is important to find a contractor who will stand behind their work after it is complete (this is also a reason why it can be a risk to "do it yourself" on certain projects). Generally speaking, the industry standard for a warranty on labor is one year, which is also what most home builders provide.
At Legacy we try to cover our customers much more thoroughly. All of our customers benefit from our Century Warranty which includes a two year warranty on all labor including projects like room windows, doors, siding, additions, decks, kitchens and all of our other offerings. Beyond that we offer to provide free service labor to support the manufacturer's material warranty. In other words, as long as the manufacturer stands behind their product, we will too. In order to maximize this benefit for our customers, we also act as a liaison between our customers and manufacturers. We will handle registering their warranty as well as contacting the manufacturer in the event that our customer needs service under the warranty. Since we work hard to ensure that we follow all of the manufacturer's specifications, our customers are able to be sure that they will get the maximum level of coverage that is available.
Beyond simply being aware of what is covered and who is responsible for what, it is important for the homeowner to understand the details and limitations of this coverage. As far as warranties go, the devil is often in the details. For example, some windows will carry lifetime warranties on the frame, but not on the seal of the insulating glass unit. On the other hand some window manufacturers go the extra mile and even warrant their glass against accidental breakage which is a very nice feature. Another example of where the details matter is in what is called "pro-rating" of the warranty. When some thing is pro-rated this means that the coverage lessens over time, since you have presumably consumed some of the intended life of the product prior to its failure. For example, if an asphalt roofing shingle has a 30 year warranty, if something goes wrong with the material on day 1, it will be completely covered. However, if that problem does not occur until 25 years after installation, then the coverage will be minimal since the shingle delivered most of what it was intended to deliver. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it is important to know what you are getting when you buy home improvements.
As is the case with many other things, buyers should educate themselves prior to investing their money in upgrades to their home. A little bit of homework now will leave you better prepared later if you need help.