Northern VA window contractor experience

Has anyone had any experience with any of the following contractors in Northern Virginia?
- Long Fence and Home ( http://www.longfence.com ) - The Window Man ( http://www.thewindowman.com ) - NOVA Installations (http://www.novainstallations.com )
Anyone have any input on what defines a "Quality" window. How does one know that the window is quality and worth purchasing? Can you just compare windows on the attributes alone?
Thanks a bunch, Window shopping is terribly disturbing?
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I'm getting quotes at the moment for replacement windows and can empathize with your disturbing feelings. The replacement window business is cut-throat and there are some shady contractors as well as reputable ones. It's sorting them out that is the frustrating problem. I can't help you with the VA contractors because I'm up in Canada.
Anyways, about the quality questions. I'm sticking to one reputable manufacturer and getting quotes from contractors who install that manufacturer's windows. The manufacturer I'm sticking to is Gentek, the vinyl window manufacturing arm of Alcan. I first did considerable weeding out of the window market, looking for the product I wanted. Gentek offers excellent quality, warranty and service. They have a certification program as well and contractors who qualify can be afirmed by Gentek. So the problem of finding a reputable dealer/installer is simplified for me. The only variables are related to the individual contactor's perceptions of quality of workmanship, customer satisfaction and price. I am choosing between five different installers, quoting on the same product range, same quantity of windows, same target installation date, same size mix. I'm asking for references and checking them out. That seems to me to be the best way to find the installer that will work best for me.
Window quality I think can be gauged from looking at the product. For me, I want the manufacturer to use Truth hardware, period. I rejected any window that didn't. I looked for a vinyl extrusion that had many chambers for strength and insulation value. I looked for low-e coatings on two interior surfaces, not just one. I looked for triple weather seals (most have this) and argon fill (most have this also). Gentek use a manufacturing process where the window's corners are welded using a four point welder. This means the joint is formed and made in one step, precluding the need to release the frame from the jig and flip the window (as most lower quality manufacturers must do who use a two-point welder). The result is the frame remains registered in the jig throughout the weld cycle. If you have to release the frame, flip it and reclamp it, you risk misalignment, however slight. One manufacturer tried to sell me on their use of UPVC versus Gentek's use of PVC but I haven't been able to independantly verify their claims so I remain skeptical as to their validity.
Much of the insulating value of the replacement windows is up to how the installer performs his job. You can buy the best quality windows and still end up with inferior results if the installation is not performed properly. So, the installer has to size the window for the opening properly, shim and fasten it properly, use the correct spray foam insulation in the gap, clad the outside and caulk it properly (if you choose retro-fit instead of brick-to-brick) and trim the inside attractively. The references should help you to evaluate this aspect of the job. Write up a contract that everything including the specifics of minimum quality standards that you will accept. A reputable installer will not baulk at signing such a contract because their work should meet these high standards anyway. Become involved with the installation and do inspections while the job is underway. Don't accept shody workmanship and stop the job immediately if it looks to be going pear shaped. It's a lot of common sense involved.
Good luck with your hunt.

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I would like to modify my group and hope someone has had some experience with one of them.
The Window Man ( http://www.thewindowman.com ) // selling Soft-lite NOVA Installations (http://www.novainstallations.com ) // selling BF Rich American Windows and Siding ( http://american-windows.com ) // selling Vytex

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