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  • Writer's pictureHighrise Glazing Services Team

How To Choose A Glazing Contractor

A lot hangs in the balance of finding and hiring the best glazing contractor. We have prepared this guide to help you with the process of selecting the right contractor and to assure that you receive high quality, professional services.




FIND THE RIGHT PROFESSIONAL CONTRACTOR FOR YOUR JOB

When the time comes to hire a glazing subcontractor for your residential, tenant improvement or commercial building project, you may discover that you’re in unfamiliar territory. There’s a lot to learn about which glass, storefront, door, hardware and panel products are the best to use for your project. There’s also much to learn about the procedures that can be used to install what you need for your project. Because the elements of glazing are so complex, it’s vital to have confidence in the contractor you choose to give you good advice about products and procedures that may be new to you. The key is to find the right professional contractor for your job.

To help you choose that contractor, Highrise Glazing Services has developed this guide. The information contained in this post is designed to help you assess the reliability, reputation and experience of a contractor, and gauge their degree of dedication when it comes to providing you with the best glazing system possible. And just as it makes good business sense to seek several bids on your job, it also makes good sense to ask several different contractors these same questions. We’ve also outlined some important points to consider as you evaluate the terms of your proposed job contract.

Having confidence that you’ve selected the right contractor will help ensure that you receive a high-quality installation, and that your hard-earned money will be wisely spent. Any top-notch, professional contractor will be only too happy to supply you with answers to the following questions.


INTERVIEW THE CONTRACTOR

At Highrise Glazing Services, we suggest that you evaluate your contractor as carefully as you would a doctor or lawyer to avoid having to rely on either if problems do come up. It is certain that you will want a glazing professional who employs capable workers to install the windows themselves. It is also clear that you will need to look closely at the proposal offered, the products selected, and the price/value relationship of the entire package. But which criteria should you use to determine whether the contractor you choose is a true professional who will stand behind their work? While there is not a single, clear-cut answer, there are a number of indicators that you can look for during the evaluation process.

You cannot choose a professional glazing contractor just by looking at an estimate and comparing prices. Allow yourself ample time to sit down with each contractor. You might be speaking with an estimator/salesperson, project manager or owner. Both of you need time to ask questions and explore the possibilities. You will be surprised at how many options you have.

Good contractors take pride in their work, and the person representing the company should, too.

• The person should show pride and enthusiasm in discussing other jobs. • The person should be knowledgeable about other jobs (this indicates their degree of involvement in the actual work).


SEVEN QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK ANY GLAZING CONTRACTOR

1. WHAT IS THE FULL NAME AND ADDRESS OF THE COMPANY?

It sounds obvious, but getting the complete address of the company can be an important factor in determining a company’s business standing. If a post office box is given, ask for a full street address as well.

2. DOES THE COMPANY CARRY INSURANCE?

A contractor should carry comprehensive liability and workers’ compensation insurance to protect you in the event of an accident. This can be verified by asking to see the contractor’s certificates of insurance (workers’ compensation and general liability). Let the contractor know you want current certificates sent to you by their insurer before the job starts.


Contractors may also carry other kinds of insurance including health, life and auto insurance. Bland assurances of insurance coverage may refer to these. Don’t be confused. Specifically request proof of general liability and workers’ compensation coverage for any projects. It should be noted that contractors who carry all recommended insurance and follow all safety guidelines also tend to carry higher job overhead costs. These expenses could be the cause of price variations between contractors who follow the standards versus those who ignore them. Workers’ compensation premiums can increase wage costs from about 20% to as much as 100%, depending on the province.

Beware of uninsured contractors. They are likely to charge less, since they don’t have to factor large insurance premiums into their wages, but their lack of coverage could cost you far more if something were to go wrong.

There are a variety of reasons why full insurance may not be carried by a contractor, such as, the contractor:

• May not be a full-time contractor • May operate as a partnership, or is self-employed without employees • May be new in the business • Can’t afford insurance premiums • Doesn’t stand behind their work It is up to you to determine if and when it is worth the risk to hire a contractor who does not carry insurance.


3. IS THE COMPANY LICENSED OR CREDENTIALED?

When you pose this question, you are, in effect, asking if the contractor is licensed to work in your province and/or city.

Not all provinces require contractors to be licensed, and the criteria for obtaining licenses are varied. Some states require applicants to pass a written examination in their specialty, while others require records of a certain number of work hours. A number of cities also operate their own system of professional licensing. Check with your local licensing authority for details.


4. HOW LONG HAS THE COMPANY BEEN IN BUSINESS?

A company that has been operating for decades is generally a safer bet than a young upstart. In addition to providing manual labor, a subcontractor should also be well-versed in the standard operating procedures, protocol, safety rules, zoning conditions, permit requirements, and legal proceedings of their trade. These nuances take years–and often, a lot of trial and error—to master. A younger business is more likely to be low on this learning curve, and you don’t want your project to be the one they’re learning from.

However, that doesn’t mean you should never hire a new company for your project. Many younger businesses were founded by people with years of industry experience, and companies with fewer projects under their belts generally have more to prove. This could translate to more competitive rates and more diligent quality control than their comfortable, more established counterparts are willing to provide. That being said, it’s reasonable to be a bit more cautious when considering the proposals of a less experienced subcontractor. Be sure to really investigate your references, and if a company looks newer, don’t be afraid to take a deep dive into the nitty gritty. If they really want your business, they’ll be happy to comply.


5. WILL THE COMPANY PROVIDE REFERRALS OR REFERENCES FROM PREVIOUS JOBS?

Any subcontractor who deserves your business will be happy to provide whatever references and resources they have available regarding their past work. Request a list of 10 names and phone numbers of recent customers from the last 12 months, and ask them to send any photos of previous work they can provide (these may or may not be available, depending on the type of subcontractor you’re speaking with). Once you have your list of references, pick three or four at random to follow up with. This will give you a more balanced view, as businesses are likely to list their best partnerships first.


6. WHAT IS THE COMPANY’S WORKMANSHIP WARRANTY?

Typically, contractor workmanship warranties extend for at least one year. The length of the warranty is less important than its intent, and the company’s ability to uphold its terms. Warranties are best evaluated via customer referrals. When speaking to the business’ references, specifically ask these four questions:

• Did the subcontractor perform the work in a timely manner? • Was the subcontractor responsive when asked for information and changes? • Did the subcontractor act as if he/she cared about the customer’s interests? • And finally, would you call the company trustworthy?

This should give you a sense of how the company will act in the case of a warranty request. It’s important to understand the difference between a workmanship warranty and a manufacturing warranty. Subcontractors warrant their workmanship for errors pertaining to setup and installation, while the manufacturer’s warranty covers defective materials. Combined, the two warranties will cover the entirety of the system in question, whether it’s a window, a door, an electrical system, etc. Understand them both. If this is an off-the-shelf project, ask for a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty pertaining to the specific products you are considering.

Usually, problems of either workmanship or material show up very quickly. Therefore, the near-term warranty given by the contractor or manufacturer is more important than the warranty coverage during the later years of the warranty. Even if problems of workmanship arise after the workmanship warranty has lapsed, a reliable contractor usually will want to stand behind their work and fix any issues.


7. WHAT IS THE COMPANY’S TRACK RECORD FOR SOLVING CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS?

Problems arise. It’s a fact of life. Do your best to find out how your contractor handles them. While businesses generally don’t like to advertise less-than-ideal jobs, obtain at least one referral that involves a complaint. Additionally, be sure to ask your prospective sub the following questions:

• Has your company ever lost a job-related court case? • Have any of your company’s licenses ever been suspended, and if so, why?

Also make sure to check with the appropriate authorities, such as the licensing departments, to find out if any complaints have been filed against any subcontractors you’re considering. Most contractors that have been in business for any length of time have been involved in some kind of a dispute. If this is the case, find out how the dispute was resolved to test your contractor’s reputation.


EVALUATING THE CONTRACT

By the time you get to this stage, you will have received either a job proposal or an estimate from your chosen contractor. While both serve as the basis of your contract, estimates and proposals serve different purposes. It’s important to know the differences between the two and what kind of jobs each pertains to.

WHAT IS A REPAIR ESTIMATE?

To simplify, an estimate will typically offer a single price for a specified product or list of products to replace or repair something that currently exists, whether it’s a window, door, storefront, etc. This is traditional and legitimate.

WHAT IS A PROPOSAL?

A proposal, on the other hand, is much more extensive, as it’s used to identify all of the elements involved in a larger project. Simply put, a proposal is a tentative agreement for a project. It offers a choice of products by brand name, prices, services and even designs. Many other provisions may also be included such as change order conditions and financing options. The specifier should expect multiple product choices. These could be presented in the typical range of good, better and best. Appropriate product literature and samples should also be offered. In conclusion, a proposal is relationship-friendly and is often the result of substantial amounts of time spent discussing the project with the client.


DETAILS, DETAILS!

More experienced contractors dealing with larger projects will provide longer, more detailed contracts than a smaller company tending to less extensive demands. But whether the contract is simple or complex, it’s imperative to read every line when reviewing it. Misunderstandings are more often the cause of contract disagreement than actual dishonesty or incompetence. It is in your interest that certain items which are important to you be stated in writing in the contract. The following are some of the basics that should be covered:

• Compliance with local codes and ordinances.

• Will they be observed? • Are permit costs included? • Who will obtain the permit? • What about provisions for posting zoning notices? • Have inspections been planned? • Will work take place during normal work hours and weekdays, or will overtime be required when tenants won’t be in the way?


PRODUCT CHOICES

Have you been offered a choice of good, better, best? Are these choices identified by brand and manufacturer name? Is there a clear reference to the warranty which will cover the installed products? Is the manufacturer’s name for the product you are buying clearly stated in the contract? Do you understand the differences in the aesthetics from one manufacturer option to another (including not only color but also style, glass options, grids, lock colors and handle styles)?

SCHEDULING

Start and stop dates are difficult to pin down due to the unpredictability of everything from the weather to product-specific items and their manufacture. You can, however, control exceptions. For instance, negotiate a “no-later-than” clause. Be reasonable, but do make it clear that these terms will be enforced if necessary. If early completion is important, offer an award for completion by an early date in addition to a no-later-than clause.

Also consider including a right-to-rescind clause, which establishes a time period in which the contract can be cancelled without penalty. Some states require such a clause in contracts. Check with your local authorities. If the project cancels after the right-to rescind period has elapsed, then the contractor may request a certain dollar or percentage value of the contract in return. This is especially true with custom glass, glazing and curtain walls that cannot be returned once they are ordered from the factory.

MANUFACTURER’S WARRANTY SPECIFICATIONS

Confirm that the agreement states that all workmanship will conform to the requirements of the manufacturer’s warranty and installation instructions in the contract.

CLEANUP

Call for a daily cleanup of the premises. This becomes very important if the project is expected to take several days.

PAYMENT TERMS

Schedule, terms and method of payment should be written out fully with no room for misunderstandings. It is customary for a contractor to ask for a deposit, typically 33%, to cover the cost of the materials up front. Another payment may be negotiated at the start of the job, with the balance due upon completion.

PRELIMINARY INSPECTION

Finally, agree to an inspection before the job starts with the project manager or job supervisor. Establish the condition of the property before any work is done. Take special care to list the conditions of landscaping and equipment located where the crew may be working. If you have furniture or items on the walls that could be damaged, make sure to remove them and place them in a safe place before work begins. Do not be unreasonable with your expectations. Discuss and agree on what is reasonable. Prepare a checklist as you go and co-sign it, indicating that both parties understand the present condition of the property. A thorough inspection after the job will determine if any valid property damage claims exist.


INSIDER TIPS — UNDERSTANDING THE CONTRACTOR

This outline serves as a guide to shopping for a good contractor and negotiating a good contract. However, you should keep in mind that your contractor is also shopping. A contractor is shopping for good jobs that will make a fair profit and bring future referrals. Many contractors have had experiences with unreasonable or dishonest clients. Therefore, they look for warning signs of customer problems during the initial job interview. Show the contractor that you are informed and that you have both of your best interests in mind.

GETTING A CONTRACTOR TO WANT YOUR JOB

Contractors are usually very busy (especially if they’re good). Sometimes, this results in a seeming lack of interest or response regarding your job request. In order to break through, you have to play the game a bit. If you’re having trouble getting the responses you need, here are a few reliable ways to get their attention.

• When you call the selected contractor, detail your project’s needs and explicitly state that you’re interviewing multiple companies for the job. This indicates that your job is legitimate; serious inquirers will interview at least 3 contractors on a small-to-medium-sized project. • Tell the company that you call that you are not looking for the lowest bid, but rather the best value. And ask for a “good-better-best” proposal. • If you have seen work by a contractor and you liked it, or if someone referred a contractor to you, call him. And when you do call, mention how you received the contractor’s name.

By following these tips, you can help a contractor determine that you are a good prospect and worth his effort.


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