You've just spent an hour on the phone with one of your builders, listening to yet another complaint about windows leaking and poor performance. Despite his claims, you know that the windows are not at fault—they're one of the best brands available—and you also know how carefully they were handled and delivered by your drivers. But you end up accepting the blame and send your service rep out to “fix” the problem anyway.
When it comes to window callbacks, we don't always know the true cause until we arrive at the scene. I realized this firsthand recently when I went to a jobsite to meet with a new builder and look at his first spec home. When we arrived, my immediate reaction was, “Nobody is going to believe me, I've got to take a picture of this.”
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this house, pictured above, was headed for trouble. Instead of installing the housewrap correctly—i.e. using modified I-cuts and flashing around each opening before windows are installed—the contractor wrapped up the house like a Christmas present, over top of already installed windows, then cut out holes around each opening. It not only looks messy, but will most likely create a mess come the first rainstorm.
The builder said that he hired a day laborer to install the housewrap because his framer didn't want to bother with it and the siding installer expected it to be installed by the time he got there. In other words, he had someone totally unqualified and untrained install a critical component of his system.
If this photo doesn't make a good argument for installed sales, I don't know what does. In this case, we didn't install the windows, housewrap, or siding, but if the window leaks, we're still likely to get a call, right? How can you protect yourself from liabilities like this? Well, I'm not a legal expert, but I would venture to guess that if your own installers showed up when the rough framing was ready and properly installed the housewrap, flashed the window openings, and installed the windows, you'd probably sleep better at night. I certainly would.
Every owner and manager that I know routinely gets calls about windows that don't work properly or that leak. The builder blames faulty product, but we all know that in most cases the problem probably is the installation. The sad thing is that if you don't happen to show up at just the right moment on the jobsite with a camera (like I did) most of the problems will appear after the house is finished and the faulty construction is covered over with cladding and wall-board. However, if you install the windows yourself—and document your work—you can not only guarantee better installation, but can prove it as well.
We hear the words “due diligence” a lot in this business, but unfortunately we rarely pay enough attention to them. But due diligence is the best way to limit your liability and reduce your risk of exposure. Properly train your crew in the correct way to install products, document training and callback repairs, verify proper procedures on the jobsite, and hire an installed sales manager to manage jobsites aggressively. Practiced correctly, installed sales can not only help your customers build better homes, but it can provide you with a winning hand when your customers want to play the blame game.
Mike Butts is director of installation services for United Building Centers. 507.457.8453. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.