Credit: Illustration: Phil Marden/Munro Campagna

HomeCrafters, in Frederick, Md., is proactive about ensuring that mismeasures don't happen. Owner Geoff Barker has systems in place. A salesperson measures the openings during the course of the sales presentation, essentially for pricing purposes, then a HomeCrafters technician remeasures ? it takes about half an hour for, say, 10 openings ? and that person also prepares the purchase order that goes to the manufacturer. If the installation is subcontracted, remeasuring is the installer's responsibility; so is any error.

Extra Steps

Not all window replacement companies favor multiple measurement. For instance, at A.B.E. Doors & Windows, in Allentown, Pa., all the sales reps were once themselves installers, so the measurements they take during the sales call are considered sufficient, general manager Marc Rapchack says. "The homeowner has already taken time for the sales call, so to go back and remeasure is more time for them and for us," he points out.

Kelly Window and Door, in Cary, N.C., has its sales rep measure, while also explaining that the company's operations manager will be by, assuming that Kelly Window gets the job. Even though, owner Mike Kelly notes, the measurements taken by the salesperson are "more times than not, spot on." At Kelly Window, the person preparing the purchase order compares the sales rep's measurements with those of the operations manager before actually placing the order. Discrepancies trigger a remeasure.

Red-Hot Rush

At all three companies, mismeasures make up less than 1% of windows ordered, usually much less. Kelly Window has had five mismeasures so far this year. When it happens, the company puts a "red-hot rush" on the window order, since a dissatisfied customer and delayed payments are mismeasurement's worst consequences.

Since mismeasures occur infrequently, companies often just eat the cost. But some build safeguards into their systems. In 2007, managers at A.B.E. Doors & Windows agreed with sales staff that the company would pay up to $2,500 worth of materials costs per salesperson per year for mismeasures; between $2,500 and $4,000: reps would cover half the cost of the mismeasured item; $4,000 and above: at this point, the rep would be responsible for paying for the mismeasured windows. A.B.E. reps double-check and initial purchase orders to verify measurements.

For all companies, disposing of the contents of "the boneyard" is a perennial problem. Some donate mismeasures to Habitat for Humanity or a similar charity. A Kelly Window and Door employee sold a large number of boneyard windows at a garage sale to a man planning to put an addition on his house.