When it comes to time-consuming callbacks and the long, pointing accusatory finger of a dissatisfied job super, perhaps no other building material generates the same amount of high-maintenance ire as the window. While it's a mainstay of pro dealer business and typically a high-margin product to boot, the window nonetheless still is uniquely adept at catalyzing the name-calling and unvalued muttering that follows an installation gone awry.

As president of Criterium Engineers, a Portland, Maine–based home and building inspection firm, Alan Mooney has seen it all. “I've actually seen windows fall out of walls when the house's siding was removed,” Mooney tells Cati O'Keefe in “Perfect Fit,” an article on improper window installation in the March 2004 issue of BUILDER, a sister publication of PROSALES. Mooney reports seeing windows installed with inadequate flashing or even with head flashing still sitting in the box. “I can tell you what the problem with window installation is in one word,” Mooney tells BUILDER. “Skill.”

Indeed, while windows may be block and tackle as part of the pro dealer sales effort, and even an elementary component of the residential construction process, in many markets proper installation techniques are often overlooked in the name of productivity or passed on to framing subs or other laborers who may be focusing both their tactical skills and mental patience elsewhere on the jobsite. That limited availability of skilled—and dedicated—labor is the reason that many pro dealers have entered into window installation in the first place, including California Building Specialties (CBS), the 2003 PROSALES Excellence Award winner for installed sales. The key driver behind CBS' installation program, according to company president John Kusmierz, was the hassle of callbacks on poorly performing windows and the guessing game of where to lay the blame—at the feet of the installer, the supplier, or the product designer.

Whether you are sending your own crews or outside contractors to the jobsite, a window install refresher course like InstallationMasters—developed by the Chicago-based American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and recently endorsed by the American Subcontractors Association—can be both a morale-boosting training effort and a value-added sell to the skill-starved and fenestration-frustrated builder. AAMA program manager Larry Livermore offers BUILDER five summary tips to get contractors on the way to a more solid found the installation:

  • Modifying the building wrap to integrate properly with the flashing and window.
  • Integrating the flashing and installing all materials in “weather-board fashion.”
  • Selecting the correct sealant.
  • Setting the window plumb, level, square, and true.
  • Performing a final operation check.
  • With interest in both training and customer service still at all-time highs, refresher programs like AAMA's offer the pro dealer a relatively low-cost and painless alternative to returning to the jobsite or, worse, hauling windows back to the warehouse. Dealers also can look upstream to many window vendors for clinics and training programs that put dealer, contractor, and manufacturer together in a low-pressure atmosphere emphasizing partnership, skill development, sales continuity, and jobsite success. Now wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air?