Unlike some companies, John McCarter Construction, in South Lyon, Mich., is happy to take on a one-window job, especially because "everybody else" has told the homeowner No. But such jobs don't come cheap ? nor should they. Set-up and clean-up for a single window can involve just as much work as installing four windows. So there's an up-charge, depending on window quality and the scope of work. Many companies are happy to leave "onesies and twosies" to the handyman rather than be a hero. "You're damned if you do and damned if you don't," notes Don Darragh, sales manager at Energy Swing Windows, in Pittsburgh.

Setting Limits

The customer who inquires about a small window job and is, essentially, told to go elsewhere, is unlikely to call again. But for larger companies, it is almost essential to require a window minimum, just to balance costs. Euro-Tech, a home improvement company in suburban Chicago, manages small jobs with a minimum order rule: $1,000 regardless of the specific number of windows. Homeowners "might not be ecstatic about it," president Fred Finn says, "but no one's ever had an issue."

At Weatherite, a Sacramento company that operates the largest window showroom in California, operations manager Andy Garcia says that a common minimum is three windows. "If somebody is going to do at least three windows," he says, they're "more committed to the project" than the homeowner who wants just one or two.

At Kelly Window & Door, in Cary, N.C., "we try to work with a minimum of five windows," says Doug Kelly, general manager. But that policy is flexible, and small jobs can turn into bigger jobs on the spot, such as the two-window job that Kelly recently sold, which came to include an entry door.

Long-Term Benefits

For many companies, the upside of a partial window job is that it introduces the possibility of additional projects. "If I do 30 feet of gutter now, I might get a house full of windows and a roof two years from now," Darragh says.

But small jobs must be carefully priced. "It costs us more money to do one window," says Bill Conforti, owner of Siding-1/Windows-1, in Chicago. "But you can control some of those expenses." For instance, with an up-charge for travel.