Salespeople at Toms River Door & Window, in Toms River, N.J., know it can be a touchy subject but that it's one that needs to be addressed. Homeowners, owner Bob Mikaelian says, must be clear about their responsibility for removing blinds, drapes, and other window treatments, getting furniture out of the way, taking pictures off the wall, tying shrubs back, disconnecting any alarm system tied into windows, and ensuring that pets are somewhere they can't get out. Setting those expectations is “part of our 10-step selling process,” Mikaelian says. But besides orally explaining all that, the company also sends customers a letter before installers arrive.

WINDOW TREATMENT WORRIES Any object in or around the window can slow installers or even cause injury. Many window replacement companies put their expectations for customer responsibility in writing, whether that's a Home Preparation Checklist — used by Renewal by Andersen of Phoenix — or a letter. Roeland Home Improvers, in Rockaway, N.J., has customers “autograph” the letter at closing. “That way if there's any extra concern, we can address it then rather than during the installation,” owner Arnold Roeland says. Clients need to be particularly clear about their obligation to both take down and then reinstall window treatments. “There are blinds that cost $3.50 and there are blinds that cost $350,” he points out.

Other owners have learned about window treatments the hard way. Mike Kelly, owner of Kelly Windows, in Raleigh, N.C., says that he moved to his current policy — homeowners will take charge of drapes, blinds, shutters, etc. — after a situation in which his installers removed and reinstalled drapes, only to have the homeowner inform him that the rehung drapes were unsatisfactory and that a bill from her decorator (for rehanging) would be forthcoming. It came to $800.

EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE Even with these oral and written reminders, it still happens that installers show up and nothing has been taken down or moved. Having a window installation crew prep the work area usually takes about 15 minutes per window, depending on what's in or around the window. Some companies charge an hourly rate for that. Some find it rare enough to do gratis. Many make provision for handicapped or elderly people. “All the rules change,” Mike Kelly says. “We will do anything they ask us to do.”