It's All in Perspective

Jim Snyder
January 1, 2013
COLUMN : From the Field | Operations, Methods & Techniques

Successful projects result from careful communication between the salesperson, client and installer. This communication is necessary because, initially, all three have different perspectives. Of course, there is a common goal: a quality product, properly installed, in a reasonable timeframe, at a fair price for all. To reach that goal, all perspectives should be considered, including the installer’s.

Typically, the salesperson and client assess the project, discuss options and envision the end result. They are essentially discussing the “before” and defining the “after.” The installer, on the other hand, is tasked with the process. His job is fitting the new units to the existing condition: a physical job that involves many steps beyond simply the “installation.” Because of this, his perspective is completely different. It could offer valuable insight for reaching the common goal.

From the moment he sees the jobsite, an experienced installer is programmed to see past the existing windows and anticipate the process ahead of him. He’s thinking about sizing, studying the structure condition and considering access. These three elements vary at each jobsite and directly affect him. This insight can affect labor charge, better predict the timeframe, influence how the new units are ordered and even help prepare the job site.  Let’s look at how these three elements can affect reaching the common goal.

Sizing
Beyond the united sizing (width and height), other “sizing” factors affect the precision and speed of the new fit. These include jamb depth, sill nose thickness, and possibly mull spread to name a few. While these dimensions can be built up in the field (and sometimes must be), it is a huge time saver for the units to be ordered as installation-ready as possible. Sometimes these details are only visible to an experienced installer.

Structure Condition
Because an installer is disturbing the interior and exterior surrounding of the window, the structure condition of those surroundings is important. For instance, if the siding is frail, it could crumble upon removal of the old window. Evidence of water intrusion at the head jamb or on the wall interior suggests other issues that could be problematic. The project might lead into more than just replacing the window. By making these observations, the installer is able to notify the salesperson and homeowner, prior to beginning the work, of potential additional expenses.

 
 

Access
Access limitations are the proverbial time killer. It’s just a shame that all windows aren’t on the first floor. Whether needing a stepladder, extension ladder or maybe even scaffold, climbing to reach that higher destination takes time and energy. Sometimes this is even necessary on the interior–if the head jambs are 8 feet off the floor or if there is a window up high in a two-story foyer. 

Another form of access restriction is interference. Pushing in front of overgrown bushes, moving furniture, stretching over a kitchen sink, or carefully contending with surrounding library paneling all slow progress. Window treatments can be an additional interference. Drapes, blinds, or shutters (both interior and exterior) may need to be removed. Additionally, will they adapt to the new windows? An installer can usually tell in advance it they will. If they won’t, or it’s uncertain, he should disclose that to everyone up front to avoid an awkward surprise.

Sizing, structure condition and access can all drastically affect productivity. To give a personal example, I have installed as few as six sash kits in one day and as many as 15, singlehandedly. Why the difference? The surrounding circumstances of each jobsite.  Here’s how to get the most out of the installer’s perspective:

  • Discuss sizing details with your installer
  • Consider structure condition
  • Prepare the client for potential extra expense if clues indicate such
  • Realize multiple access issues might justify more labor
  • Discuss with client who will prepare the site (e.g., trim bushes, address furniture and home d├ęcor for access)

These variables can affect the installation time dramatically, in some cases even doubling the time. Considering the installer’s perspective can help you reach your common goal.

Editor's Note: With this issue, we are pleased to welcome Jim Snyder as a new regular columnist for Window & Door.  As a member of the Window & Door Dealers Alliance advisory board, he also contributed its Dealer Perspectives column, entitled Better Reputations Through Proper Installations, in the October/November 2012 issue.

Jim Snyder is an AAMA-certified FenestrationMaster and InstallationMaster who shares his years of installation field experience as an industry writer, speaker, trainer and project/product consultant for dealers and manufacturers. A member of various industry organizations, Snyder also is involved in instructional document creation and revision. Contact him at jim@windowjim.com.