Hurricane Windows - my story - what would you do?


July 11, 2006 - 9 months after Hurricane Wilma My experience with installation of PGT Impact hurricane windows http://www.pgtindustries.com/Index.aspx ) sold by Global Industries, Pompano Beach FL
We live in a lower floor in a small condo on the Ft. Lauderdale Intracoastal waterway, one block from the beach.. During Hurricane Wilma a guest bedroom window was shattered in our unit by flying debris. The eastward facing windows of the penthouse suite were also shattered by flying 2x4's which were shooting through the air like missiles from a new high rise condo under construction on the beach (the Las Olas Beach Resort). The 2x4's penetrated the hurricane shutters and windows of the penthouse suite. The owner says winds at that level (about 15 stories high) were over 130 mph. When the windows in the penthouse suite were penetrated the difference in air pressure made the interior walls buckle.
There was no power at our location for over 2 weeks. It was 10 days before we could get plywood up. It was three months before we could get temporary non-impact window glass put in our broken frame. Our frame was "compromised" and had to be replaced. We were told by all the window contractors we called that Ft. Lauderdale building code only allowed compromised frames to be replaced with hurricane windows. The condo insurance was supposed to cover the cost of replacing the window and frame. Now the condo is saying they are only responsible for replacing the temporary glass even if it does not meet building code. Allstate paid claims of about $20,000 to contents damaged by the rain and dirt that flowed in through the broken windows during and immediately after the hurricane. We were out of town so we had to rely on neighbors to duct tape garbage bags over our windows. With no power or gasoline there were no contractors to put up plywood and no power for power tools. Our unit was exposed to the elements for about two weeks.
In the weeks after the hurricane we called every contractor listed in the yellow pages and on Google in our area. Only 2 would install hurricane windows in condos. One was Sears and the other was Global Industries, Inc. of Pompano Beach. We first signed a contract with Sears contingent upon Sears providing three references in Broward County for windows which had been installed by Sears since Hurricane Wilma. When Sears could not produce the references (they said their policy prohibited providing of references to protect the privacy of their customers) I signed a contract with Global Industries, Inc (GII) based upon a recommendation of a neighbor who had also signed a contract with Global and who had called their references. If anyone from Sears disputes this claim I have the names and phone numbers of the people I talked to at Sears.
Moti Dror is the owner of Global Industries, Inc. of Pompano Beach Florida. He represented that GII was an authorized distributors for PGT Industries (PGT), a company that manufactures hurricane windows and is based in Florida. I purchased two 3 piece windows, one 2 piece window, one sliding door, one single kitchen window and one kitchen door. The cost was approximately $22,000 which included $695 for a building permit. I was told the windows would arrive in 8 to 12 weeks. $10,000 was paid when the contract was signed and an additional $8,000 was due upon delivery of materials. The balance was due upon completion of the building inspection.
GII told me they had been in business in South Florida for over 15 years. The principals are Moti and Max Dror, a father and son team who were very responsive during the sale, On a positive note the windows arrived as promised during the last week of June, 2006. An installation date was set during the first week of July. I was assured by Max Dror that he was sending over "our best crew".
On Wednesday, July 5th, a three man crew arrived headed by an installer named Robert Dimm. Max had told me the installers were employees of GII and were covered under their workers compensation insurance program. Robert said he was an independent contractor. Upon request of the workers compensation policy it was delivered and it turns out that Robert is both an employee of GII and an independent contract. He said he had been working for GII for approximately three months. Later a call to their office revealed that previously he had been installing hurricane shutters which are also sold by GII. He was assisted by Gil ( a Czech national who speaks very limited English), a huge man capable of lifting and maneuvering the hurricane windows which are extremely heavy. A third crew member was a young kid and it was his first day on the job. The job was supposed to take three days.
Note: Things we never thought about: Dust All window coverings (drapes, blinds, etc) and hardware need to be removed. Fortunately we had large garbage bags to place our draperies in. The contractor showed up with two tarps, enough to cover the area around the window he was working on at the time. No floor coverings were provided. The work produced a huge amount of unanticipated dust and debris from cutting of sheetrock around the old windows and from cutting the metal frames from the old windows. In short order, all of our walls, floor, furniture and every appliance including computers were covered in dust. The crew kept tracking the dust from each window to the door and vice versa. We should have insisted that paths from the windows to the doors be laid with construction paper of the type used by other contractors we have had over the years. We should have insisted that all furniture be covered by tarps and that the job site be cleaned at the end of every day. The afternoon rain turned the dust on the balconies to clay which also was tracked in the house. We called a professional cleaner who showed up on Friday and cleaned up after the crew had left for the weekend. The crew left the house a mess at the end of each day. They were exhausted. My compassionate wife said it seemed heartless to ask guys that spent the day wrestling with 500 lb windows to vacuum and sweep.
Window Sills We have granite window sills under each window. Max had assured us that installation was a simple matter of popping out the old and popping in the new but they were not responsible for damage to the window sills. Needless to say each sill needs to be replaced. Add $200 per window at least to your budget.
Smell The stench of airplane glue hit us when the installer starting caulking the first window. He assured us that the "airplane glue" smell which was making us sick, would disappear as soon as the window caulk was "cured". It is in the typical Florida summer 90's with 90%+ humidity so keeping windows open and the air conditioning off is not an easy task. We kept the air off all day for each day they were working. If you are planning to stay in the home during installation get some big fans and wear a bathing suit. By Monday, five days after the first window went in the smell was getting worse. I decided that whatever the cure period was, it wasn't the promised 24 hours.
The installer, Robert, said that the caulk was furnished by GII and is used because "it lasts for 25 years". I grabbed a caulking gun they were using and read that they were using OSI SBR-100 Window and Siding Caulk, a solvent based (as opposed to latex based) caulk. The caulk tube said "Not Recommended for Interior Use". The Federal Guideline for use of the caulk on the caulk tube was issued in 1970 (I Googled it). Fearing brain tumors and lung cancer I first checked OSI's website http://osisealants.com and then, finding nothing helpful called OSI's customer service 800-999-8920 who referred me to tech support at 800-624-7767. There was no one there that late on Friday but the first thing Monday morning I got a call from a guy named Brian who said that the OSI SBR-100 is the cheapest caulk they sell, it is rated for 5 years and is for exterior use only. He said GII should have used an OSI product called H2U which is a latex caulk rated for 25 years. He also said the caulk they are supposed to use on the exterior is the OSI brand called "Quad", a solvent based product. Since Friday I have placed over 15 calls to Max and Moti regarding the caulk and other issues. As of Thursday, six days later, no calls to GII have been returned.
Building Permit and when to pay the Contractor Upon arrival the installers unloaded all the windows. This is a back breaking job that took most of the first day. They crew wrestled each window from the truck to the property by hand. I was surprised that they didn't even have handcarts (I would have used a forklift) for this difficult task.
Once all the windows were placed on our balcony (which could have easily cracked with all that weight) Robert asked for a check for $8,000 as specified in the contract. I asked for a copy of the building permit. He said GII forgot to put it in his work folder but it would be delivered later in the day. I said I would give him a check when I got a the building permit.
By the end of the first day only the double hung window in the bedroom was in. Again I was asked for a check and again I told the installer I would swap a check for the building permit.
By the end of the second day two more windows were in and again I was asked for a check. I repeated my slogan but the installer said he was going to get fired if he didn't return with a check. I was beginning to feel sorry for the crew and worried for myself. The crew had worked non-stop except for lunch (I bought) and ice water which my wife kept offering them throughout the day. These guys worked hard. They were covered in dust and sweat and tempers were running short. They were yelling matches between them which were sort of funny since the Check didn't understand a thing Robert was yelling at him. He just smiled and said "Ja". I felt sorry for Robert and said that I had done an online check for the building permit on the City of Ft. Lauderdale website http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/building_services/index.htm and there is no record on file for a building permit for my project. Judging from the color on Robert's face I knew instinctively that I had a problem.
A neighbor, a CPA, member of the Board and someone who also ordered windows through GII (she was next on the installation list) called the City only to find out that permits had never been issued for my windows or hers.
On Monday I was assured by my neighbor that Max Dror had personally "redelivered" the applications to City of Ft. Lauderdale's Building Department. Robert said Max claimed the City lost the original applications. Nevertheless the crew returned Monday afternoon and started to work on the sliding glass door, a project which took them all day. They returned on Tuesday to finish caulking, this time using an off-the-shelf latex caulk sold at home depot for what little remained of the interior caulk project. At 5 pm on Tuesday Robert announced they were finished even though the kitchen door had not been installed. The windows were not going up and down without a screeching sound and one would not stay up when opened. Robert confessed he had never been trained to "adjust" the windows and only Max had that precious knowledge. Since none of the windows were working effortlessly and since calls to GII were not being returned more detective work was in order. Is the Company that Sold you your Windows an Authorized Distributor? Since calls to GII were not being returned including calls to Max and Moti's personal cell phones I decided to call PGT Industries. I was informed that GII was not an authorized distributor and PGT had never heard of GII. They said PGT offered classes for installers on how to install and adjust windows. Robert, our installer, admitted he had never received any training from PGT and he had not been trained on adjusting windows by GII. PGT was able to track my order down from numbers on the window. They had sold the windows to Buckley Glass, Inc located at 4308 NE 5th Terrace Ft. Lauderdale 33334 phone number 954-396-4211. Robert, my installer said that if Max did not return my calls to call PGT. PGT said since my windows were sold to Buckley Glass to call them. I have called Buckley twice, speaking to a receptionist named Kim who said only Robbie could answer my questions and he was "out of the office".
If you haven't paid why are you complaining? While it is true we still owe the contractor over $10,000 we can not reinstall our window coverings until the windows are finished. We have a cleaning team coming tomorrow for a second time who will undoubtedly have to return at least one more time. It has been over a week after the installation of the first window and our home still smells like airplane glue. In desperation we hired a consultant, Craig Exterkamp, owner of Panda Glass (formerly co-owner of Builders and Decorators and Glass) an expert at window installation. He arrived at our home today and started a "punch list" which was half completed when he had to leave on another call.
Within the last hour a typical summer afternoon Florida thunderstorm blew through. We closed all the windows and after the Eastward facing windows were pounding by driving rain there are no signs of leaks. I will take a hose to the windows as soon as it dries.
Stay Tuned Will the airplane glue smell ever go away? Will we ever get a building permit and pass inspection? Did the smell or dust permeate our furniture ... forever? Will we get brain or lung cancer? Will our hurricane insurance be cancelled? Will the condo pay for the broken window and frame? Will the installer ever return? Will our windows ever get adjusted?
My wife just keeps bringing me more Jack Daniels and says not to worry, everything will be fine. In fact the biggest worry, that another hurricane would hit before our windows were installed, is over. I no longer care about the Weather Channel and can focus on more important matters ... like how am I going to pay for the next installment on my hurricane windows?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I would shut up. You have obviously made matter worse by escalating, looking over everyones shoulder, complaining and whining. Call the owner of the window company (leave a message). Apologize for being an ass. Tell him you will leave town so they can finish w/o you bothering them. Leave a check with your nice wife and have her pay them when finished. Done.
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You are not alone. Your experience is about par for building trades in the rest of the country.
We live in California and are involved in some remodeling. We experienced problems very similar to yours, maybe worse. We don't know if we should laugh or cry about the run-around we got over the building permit. Just like yours, including feeling sorry for the hard working installers.
You get the feeling that the world is full of rip-off artists, especially building contractors. Using shortcuts and substituting inferior materials seems to be standard practice.
A valuable lesson we have learned:
Check the contractor's license/bond/insurance/wc insurance before you sign the contract.
Always have the contractor quote the job including the cost of pulling a permit.
Do not let them start work without a permit.
Do not pay until the work has been inspected and approved. Period.
Saves a lot of grief.
--
Walter
www.rationality.net
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