Lowes window installation experience

A while back there was a thread asking about window installation experiences from Lowes. I was in the middle of researching this myself and said I'd report back once my install was done. So for the original poster of that thread and anyone else who cares, here's my experience.
We first visited Lowes in June. Had the guy come out and measure, which cost $35 - this is refundable if you actually buy the windows. The installer was nice, but was tough to get to come out in a timely manner - I think we waited about a week before he called (Lowes policy is 48 hours) and then it was about another week before he came out.
Went back to Lowes afterwards (July now) and picked our windows out. We'd started out wanting something like 13 windows done but scaled it back to 7 for cost reasons. Will do more at a later date. The measurements the installer takes are good for I think a year, so you can just order the windows any time without having another measurement done. Anyway, we ordered 6 Pella wood windows and 1 ThermaStar vinyl window for the bathroom. All were custom orders. The vinyl window was only something like $126. The wood windows (with no options) came to about $470 each - much less than Pella themselves had quoted me. It's a big difference in price between wood and vinyl (at least within Pella), but more on that later. Our windows were slated for delivery on August 7th, only about 10 days or so later. One nice thing is they can tell you immediately exactly how long it's going to take.
So August 7th came and went and we heard nothing from Lowes or the installer. I called the store eventually around the 15th and got a snippy-sounding woman on the phone who said the windows had "just arrived" and that I had to give the installer 48 hours to call. I said "the windows were supposed to be there on the 7th, you're saying they just got there?" And she just repeated the same thing. So I waited. Another week went by. I called again. Confirmed this time that the windows *had* been there since the 7th, so now it's been 2 weeks and no call, despite their 48 hour policy. They said they'd fax the installer again, tell him I'd been waiting. Finally, I get a call, but he's got no appointments until after Labor Day. Whatever, by this time I'm just happy to pin somebody down to a date. So we set it for today.
I actually wasn't here for the install - my wife had the day off, so she dealt with it. She said it went pretty well, though; no surprises. They even took out a stuck air conditioner that we couldn't budge, without complaint. When I came home, I inspected their work - I'm not an expert, but it looks decent enough to me considering the condition of our trim (it's pretty out of square in places). They obviously shimmed in some spots, and sawed some stuff out in others. The caulking looks pretty tight. On the exterior, I didn't actually walk out onto my roof but it looks ok from below... though a couple of the trim pieces are slightly bent, probably just a minor cosmetic thing. I was happy to see that they did not remove my original red exterior trim, just installed a piece of white trim above it to fill in the space. On the side of the house (the bathroom window), they even fixed a really horrendously inept trim job on the previous window install, which had left a big gap in my siding and an exposed hole for rain or whatever to get into the side of my house. Well, they're not siding guys so it still looks a little empty, but they did plug up that hole and at least trimmed everything so it looks nice and uniform. They even bent part of my siding back to the house that had come detached in the install of the old window.
Two things I'm a little annoyed about, which we'll be talking to Lowes about tomorrow: they left all my old windows in a big pile outside (the web site specifically says "haul-away of old windows" is included in the install), and they did not give me any sort of certificate of completion, even though my wife supposedly signed one. I don't know if they just forgot to give her a copy or what. But we have no written record right now that they were even here. Hopefully Lowes will remedy both of these issues, but I feel like I've been fighting them every step of the way on this to get them to do their job properly. The install itself seems to have gone well; everything else has been like pulling teeth. Just constant visits and phone calls for no other reason than to ask them to do things that they're supposed to do anyway.
Now, as for the windows themselves, all I can say is I am *so* glad we didn't get vinyl everywhere. The price of wood is well worth it. The vinyl window in the bathroom is fine for what it is, but it looks like a cheap piece of plastic. I mean, even from far away. I'm ok with it because the previous window was vinyl too and it is a bathroom, I'd be afraid to have wood there... but partly because it's brand new and totally clean white vinyl, it just looks like something you'd get as a prize in a Cracker Jack box. I just can't imagine having windows like this in our bedrooms. The wood windows aren't what I'd call beautiful yet (they're unfinished), but they will be. They already look and feel really solid. (Well, except for our crooked trim surrounding them.) And if I want to, it will be easy to match the look of our old historic windows in the rest of the house... though I'm actually leaning towards staining these rather than painting. Not sure yet.
Anyway, would I recommend Lowes for window installation? If you want Pella wood, then yeah. I don't know of a cheaper dealer (Pella themselves wanted literally like double the price) and the install itself seems solid. (Famous last words - the first rain will be the real test, I guess.) But if you don't care about Pella or wood, it's probably not worth it. I do think their prices are good on vinyl too, but you can probably do just as well elsewhere and not have such a hassle getting Lowes employees to do their jobs. On the other hand, this is not a "horror story" and I am not dismissing Lowes out of hand, as some others here seem to whenever the subject comes up. My experience has been annoying in some ways, but the end result seems good and in a year, that's all we'll still care about.
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If Lowe's is anything like Home Depot, they contract all their install work out to established companies, who might then contract the work out to subcontractors. Their work, then, is statistically as likely to be good as if you had hired someone out of the phone book. Home Depot requires that their contractors be very well insured - probably enough to buy your house ten times over or more. If you do have a problem, it'll get fixed.
There is a chance that the subcontractors are not responsible for hauling away the old windows. Perhaps Lowe's has someone else who specifically deals with that sort of thing.
It sounds as though you should look into getting a contractor out to your house to deal with some other issues as well. Gaps in the siding around your windows can potentially lead to thousands of dollars worth of water damage. Make sure you have flood insurance.
Stain the windows if it'll look good. You wanted wood, you might as well be able to enjoy it. The painters won't protest your lack of interest in paint.
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TakenEvent wrote:

Possible, but my wife asked him about it and he said to just put everything out in the garbage and they'll take it away. That might be true (our garbage guys do seem to basically take anything), but it's not what it says on the web site. I would think he would at least know if there was someone else from Lowes that was going to come and take the stuff away.

This was really the only problem area, and we'd known we were going to have new windows installed since we moved in anyway, so we were hoping it'd be fixed at that point. I wasn't sure, and thought I might have to have the siding patched, but the window guys did what I'd hoped they'd do.

I looked again last night, and I think we gotta paint... staining would just look too odd with our out of square trim (the windows themselves are square, so it'd make the whole window opening look even more out of shape), and I obviously can't stain the caulk that's between the new window and the trim. So I guess I'll just paint. It's fine, though; they'll totally match the look of our original windows, one of which is still in each of the two rooms we had done. And I need to paint the trim anyway; it's pretty ugly and old looking at the moment. So I might have ended up just painting everything regardless.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

What the web site says is nothing but advertising -- what does the _contract_ say? You did read the contract, didn't you?
...

OK, you just spent several thousand $$ and you're going to leave a simple trim replacement that is noticeably out of square alone to screw up what you just spent all this money to get to look good???? Makes no sense to me, but hey, it's your house...
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dpb wrote:

...which is legally binding in the state of New York.
what does the

Contract doesn't say anything. Doesn't have to if the web site does in this state.

I'm not sure you're understanding the definition of "trim" in this case.
Interior window trim in an old Colonial is wood built into plaster walls. Replacing it would basically be the same as getting new construction windows. Easy and cheap enough to do if you're talking drywall and what passes for new construction window openings these days (which often includes no trim at all), but when you're talking about ripping down plaster, ripping out all that wood, re-plastering the walls and building a new window opening in the same style as the old using newly-cut and molded wood built to custom sizes, you're talking thousands *more* dollars.
I just spent $3,700 on new windows and installation. You're talking about probably a $10,000 job (or more).
Nothing is simple or cheap in an old house.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

I thought that an interesting take, so did some looking...

"Under New York law, all contracts with an underlying value of $500 or more must be in writing, or they are not binding on the parties. ..."
I couldn't find any specific reference to a NY State law making any internet posting an enforceable contract although I'm sure there are some requirements under "false advertising" rules.
...

I've seen a lot of old colonials while living in VA and done restorations/repair/refurbishment in a number of them. None have required a complete destruction of existing plaster other than very localized repair to fix/repair windows and door trims. I'm sure there are circumstances possible that I've not run into, however, and I did think you were talking exterior, not interior, however.
How difficult to repair/replace or even the desirability of doing so on the interior is/would be dependent on what is actually there and the value of the property and why it is currently so far out-of-square. If it is actually of historical value, then the act of "repairing" it may well be desecration, not repair. If, otoh, it is simply and old house and the problem is one of settling or other symptoms of aging, then it may well be the proper thing to do. I was also, however, assuming work would be done in moderation and consideration of existing work, not a blanket tear-out and rebuild w/ new material--that would be self-defeating in an old house. In virtually all instances I've been involved with, it has been a careful removal of existing work and repair/replace/reconstruction using period materials as much as possible and certainly rematching profiles, styles, etc. If this all has to be done by hiring it out, yes, it would be expensive.
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dpb wrote:

You didn't look in the right place.
Look up New York State General Business Law, Article 22-A.
The relevant part:
"S 350. False advertising unlawful. False advertising in the conduct of any business, trade or commerce or in the furnishing of any service in this state is hereby declared unlawful."
New York State does enforce this law. Here's one high profile example: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2001/aug/aug09a_01.html
Individual cases obviously don't normally make the news, but you can find plenty of other examples if you just do a Google search. The bottom line is if you advertise a service, you are bound by the terms of that advertisement. (There's no "fine print" on Lowes' web site either, but fine print in New York is also regulated even if there was).

Yes, then, we're in basic agreement. I can't just go around paying thousands of dollars for cosmetic things because they don't look *perfect*. The primary reason for us replacing these old windows to begin with was that the old ones were literally shot to hell; they wouldn't close properly, the wood was rotten, there were cracks in the glass, the compound had all chipped off, etc. No point trying to repair them, so a replacement was in order. As long as I'm doing that, I may as well try to keep in period as much as possible, and try to get windows that look good and that I find satisfying to look at and use.
If I want to pay thousands of extra dollars for anything, I've got plenty of other things in my old house that need to actually be *fixed* before I worry about straightening out window trim. But the windows themselves were a fix for something that had just worn out, and they are a functional item - the cosmetics are a bonus that we did pay extra for, but we're not rich and there's a limit to what we can do. In an ideal world, yes, I would have the old trim ripped out and replaced with all period materials, but in an ideal world, I'd already have a $2 million house in Garden City and wouldn't have to worry about it at all. There are compromises we all have to make, and I'm happy with how these windows turned out given the limitations of what we could afford to do.
btw, I am reasonably sure that the settling of that area of the house was in part *caused* by the old windows, which had missing storm windows and holes (from rot) in the outer part of the sill that looked to me like they went straight down into the wall. This made the window replacement a high priority for us, and it is part of the solution for the settling. We know there might be other things we need to do there but again, we don't have unlimited amounts of money and are prioritizing, going down our list one item at a time. I doubt replacing the window trim is ever really going to be on our minds, though.
(It's not even really noticeable until you get up close, because the windows angle outward - they're bay windows.)
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[...]
I looked it up and you're right. It does explicitly state that they'll take the old stuff with them. They don't pick up the dump fees, though. Next time slip the guy $100 and pile all the windows around his truck.
http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=pg&p=InstServ/itm_dw_rw.html&rn=RightNavFiles/no.html
Replacement Window Installation doors/windows > replacement windows
Installation includes: - Delivery of new replacement windows within 20 miles (one-way) of store - Review of job with customer prior to start of installation - Removal and haul-away of existing windows (sashes) to prepare for installation - Installation of new windows with sill angle and header (included with window) in same size, square opening (108 UI or less) in reasonably good condition (no rotten wood) - Removal and replacement of existing interior window trim (new trim supplied by customer) - Caulking and insulation as required - Test to ensure proper operation - Clean up of the job site and haul-away of material and old window(s) - Does not include dump fees as may be required locally
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Good for a year? What happes to your house after a year. Does it shrink or expand? Almost sounds like a sale pressure gimmick.

In theory anyway. Reality proved different.

Overall, sounds like you are happy with the job. Delivery is minor inconvenience. Good installation will pay dividends for the next 20, 50, 100 years.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

I'm sure that's part of it. Another part is probably just that they don't want to be liable if your house has settled over that year and thrown the measurements out of whack. I'm sure there's some margin of error built in, but just for example, I was concerned that we weren't even going to be able to get replacement windows (and that we'd need new construction) because the wall containing one of our bay windows had settled to the point where the old window wouldn't completely close, and wouldn't lock at all, because of the slant in the sill. The installer said not to worry about it, and he did obviously get the new window in there. I know that an 83 year old house is probably not going to settle any further, but Lowes probably doesn't want to take that chance.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote: ...

As someone else says, depending on what the installer did to "fix" the problem, if it is out of level and plumb, you may have no effective warranty from Pella...sometimes ignoring a problem or patching around it isn't the right solution. I can't judge a particular case from afar, obviously, but leads one to wonder/have concern.
I don't think you can assume anything about whether the house will "settle" further or not simply based on age. The cause of the settling needs to be investigated and alleviated or shown to be no longer a potential problem.
The comment elsewhere about thinking the settling caused by leaking windows leads me to be concerned there's hidden structural damage that unless fixed may destroy your brand new windows in relatively short order.
I hate to say it, but sounds like what you may be doing is mostly fixing cosmetic problems before the underlying structure is stabilized and/or repaired. Not that failed windows aren't real and shouldn't be repaired/replaced, but placing a new window in an existing opening w/o ensuring the condition interior and underneath (and overhead, too) is a sizable risk and (imo) putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.
And 83-yr old "colonial"? That's not even as old as this house here--I thought you were talking at least 19th century.
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dpb wrote:

You're seriously just being unnecessarily difficult. You're not reading what I wrote and I can only surmise that at this point you're purposely trying to find fault. I don't know how many times I need to repeat myself, or why I should need to.
I said earlier that I had Pella look at my windows too, including inspection and measurement. The Lowes installer did the *exact same thing* Pella was going to do themselves. Pella looked at it and said it would be fine; if they needed to, they would just shim and/or cut. They then went through the entire process they would use to install the windows and it is the exact same process Lowes used with the exception that Lowes did not fill my counterweight voids (though they said they would for an additional fee).
You're thinking I'm telling you the *windows* are out of plumb. I never said that. I said the *trim* is out of plumb. Don't try to look for fault by reading things that aren't even there. The windows are 100% straight and level. When it was necessary to do so, the installer cut out the old trim and installed new trim (including a new sill) so the windows would all be level.

I'm not "assuming" anything. You're acting like yesterday was the first time I saw this house and hey! Let's get new windows! The house has been inspected twice in the past year and both times *normal* settlement was noted. Yes, one side of the house has settled a bit more than the other. Whether it's because of what I speculated on earlier, I really don't know - I'm not an engineer, and am more likely to be wrong than the two engineers who *have* looked at it and pronounced it normal settlement. They also listed window replacement as a high priority repair.
This particular area of my house juts out a bit on the second floor, over the porch roof. These are bay windows (original to the house) and the bay area overhangs the load-bearing wall beneath it. The bay window area on both sides has moved about 1 inch in the 83 years, because it is not directly supported underneath. This is a quirk in construction, but it's not unique to my house - many other houses in this area are the same.

Colonial Revival if you want to be technical about it. Nobody uses that term in the real world, though; not where I live, anyway. There's no distinction made between Colonial and Colonial Revival houses, and both exist on my block.
Anyway, I'm pretty much done defending my window installation. I mean sheesh, you'd probably tell somebody to replace their roof because their ceiling paint was peeling.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote: ...

No, not really (read further if you want to see what I was actually responding to)...

I don't have any doubt the new windows were installed square and plumb in out-of-square openings. What wasn't addressed in any of the postings prior was the root cause for the openings being so out of square. From another posting--"...because the wall containing one of our bay windows had settled to the point where the old window wouldn't completely close, and wouldn't lock at all, because of the slant in the sill. The installer said not to worry about it, and he did obviously get the new window in there. I know that an 83 year old house is probably not going to settle any further..." and "the settling of that area of the house was in part *caused* by the old windows, which had missing storm windows and holes (from rot) in the outer part of the sill that looked to me like they went straight down into the wall."
If that doesn't sound like a description of some pretty serious or at least potentially serious structural problems that needed addressing before (or at least at the same time as) the windows were replaced, I don't know what would. I've seen a large number of old houses in which such major defects were not addressed but all the cosmetic work was done over the existing structure. Once done, the places looked gorgeous, but unfortunately, the underlying faults came back to haunt and most of that investment turned out to have been wasted as it was required to be torn out and redone to fix foundation or sillplates or, ...
You also indicated that the trim was integral to the walls, not simply a surface mount and I did make the assumption that by "Colonial" you were really meaning something far older than what you are/were, thus making the likelihood of such structural problems much higher. Again, note that I spent quite some time VA working on restorations of many of ante-bellum and older houses and have seen all of these problems and more. If the trim was out of square, that implied to me the walls were out of square, too. And, if they were, there had to be a reason, and that reason might not be good.
...

No, but I'd certainly tell them it would behoove them to find out _why_ the ceiling paint is/was peeling just in case there were moisture on the top side of the plaster from a leaky roof. Saved more than one ceiling from falling that way... :)
If there has been adequate inspection or other work undertaken (which wasn't mentioned in response to any of the other comments until the last post), that's good and takes care of the concerns, but I still don't feel at all that voicing the concern was unwarranted given the information that was available at the time of each comment.
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Now you need to check whether or not you actualy have a Pella Warranty, Pella allows only 1/8" of out of square, plumb or level max or you are excluded from any warranty as instalation error. Of course they remove the junk windows, theyare to leave your home clean.
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