When Mark Geller finishes explaining his company's lifetime warranty on windows to prospects, he stops and waits. “Because,” says the owner of Buy One Window Get One Free in Denver, “it takes a while for it to sink in.” The most common reaction is blank incomprehension. Geller says that prospects often have no idea what's covered, by whom, or for how long.

What's It Mean? Many window manufacturers warrant their products for a lifetime. Some home improvement companies back that up with a substantial warranty on labor. But if they don't, what then?

What homeowners often fail to understand, says Bob Blackburn, vice president of Burnett Inc. in Tulsa, Okla., is that it's often up to them to contact the manufacturer if the product fails. And although the manufacturer will honor its obligation to replace the product, homeowners are often obliged to pay for the labor. Which is why Burnett Inc. — in contracts and on its Web site — states it will warrant both products and labor for a lifetime.

Letting customers know that you, the dealer, will warrant your company's work provides the kind of reassurance that many homeowners seek when they're selecting a contractor. It says that you plan to be around. For instance, Blackburn says that 65% to 70% of the business at 35-year-old Burnett Inc. is repeat/referral.

Warranty FAQs When it comes to warranty, what customers will want to know is:

  • Is the warranty prorated or non-prorated? If a window under a prorated warranty proves defective, the customer picks up a percentage of the cost of replacing it, depending on how long ago it was installed. A non-prorated warranty means that the defective window will be repaired or replaced at no charge during the warranty period.
  • Does the warranty cover hardware, moving parts, glass, screen, frame, and sash — or just some of those?
  • Who should customers contact in the event of product failure — the home improvement company or the manufacturer?
  • Is the warranty transferable, and if so, does the company have to be notified, in what time frame, and is a fee charged?