Credit: Photo: George Brown

How long does it take to train a rookie to install replacement windows? Doug Cook, president of Feldco, in Chicago, suggests four to six weeks, followed by three months with an experienced installer. California contractor and window replacement instructor Bill Robinson believes a novice “with reasonable manual dexterity, who can follow or read instructions” should be ready to go in six to 12 months. Dan McDowell, owner of All-Weather Seal, in Burton, Mich., estimates it takes three years. “There are so many applications,” he notes, and mastering trim and window types — especially for a company installing a variety of windows — isn't simple.

MANAGE THIS Company owners don't always agree on how much time it takes to master window replacement installation, but most would concur that that's only half the process. Managing client expectations is the other half. “The actual installing doesn't take that long,” says Don Darragh, vice president of Energy Swing Windows, in Pittsburgh. “Learning how to treat the customer takes a while.”

What many owners find is that the mechanically inclined are not necessarily the most socially amenable. “Customer service doesn't come naturally to folks who are tradesmen,” notes Mike Kelly, owner of Kelly Window & Door, in Cary, N.C. The company's installers leave behind a survey card with the firm's warranty package,.

Installers at All-Weather Seal let homeowners know up front that they'll be asked to fill out a report card at the end of the job. Installers are required to “get the check and the report card,” McDowell says.

HOW'S THAT WORKING FOR YOU? Robinson, a veteran of many window installs, says two things to homeowners that make a difference. Before he begins working, “I ask them: ‘What is your biggest concern?'” That one question allows the installer to avoid inadvertently annoying the client. Similarly, Robinson says that when he's finished, he asks customers “What could I have done to make it better?” It might take them a moment to think of something, and it might take the installer a few minutes to address it, but, once all that's done, “you're golden.”