How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off On Your Next Window Covering Project

​By Daniel Erbrecht. 

​Have you ever watched Holmes on Homes? Mike Holmes is one of Canada’s most well-known contractors who gets called in to fix home renovations gone wrong. His well-known TV show features himself and his crew removing, repairing, and finishing the home improvement projects that other contractors screwed up. 

His projects are usually quite large remodeling jobs of $50,000 – $500,000, which is quite a bit more than the average custom window covering job of about $5000 for a house. But the principals are the same. 

When choosing a company for your next window covering project, how do you avoid getting ripped off? ​Potential issues​ such as blinds not working, blinds falling down (believe me, I’ve seen this happen), ​and unexpected cost increases are all problems that could happen if you select the wrong ​company for your project.

I’ve listed 7 essential steps below for selecting the right window covering company for your next project.

​[Note: Due to Trademark laws, ​none of our competitor names will be mentioned in this post]

​1) ​​Understand the different types of ​companies in the window covering industry

​Cheapest: Factory-direct

​This group represents about ​​30% of your local window covering ​industry. They proudly advertise on their website that they manufacture their own blinds or shutters and are “cutting out the middleman”. The problem is, because their products are made in-house, quality control is somewhat lacking. Afterall, there’s no brand attached to their products, they are essentially no-name products. 

​Some of these companies even advertise 2-3 day turnaround time, which is generally not possible with truly custom-made products. These companies can offer those timelines because their blinds are mass manufactured ahead of time, and then cut to size as required for your job. They have a lot less colour options available than the major brand name manufacturers​. Their products are not truly custom made. 

​​​Even Cheaper: Blinds for sale online

​This market represents about another 10% of the industry. These companies also manufacture their blinds in-house, however they are typically located in Mexico or overseas and sell ​their products exclusively online. Their prices are about as cheap as you can get when it comes to custom blinds. 

The problem here is similar to the issues from the first group, with an added complication: these companies are not local. You need to measure the windows yourself and hope that everything is accurate. What if the blinds need to be shipped back to be cut-down? How do you know what the blinds will look like beforehand i​f you can’t physically see the material or hold it up against your window?  

Middle of the pack: Small-medium size dealers

This is the biggest part of the window covering industry, and it’s where ​about ​​40% of the market is. This is the category where my company, Dan’s Blinds & Shutters fits into. These are your ​independent contractors who typically work alone or with 1-4 employees. They sell brand name products from manufacturers such as Elite, Maxxmar, and Eclipse​, and Hunter Douglas

​Most Expensive: Large retailers​, such as big home improvement chain stores​

​These are generally the most expensive companies in the custom blinds business and represent the final 20% of the market. They are your large, multinational home improvement chain stores. They typically have sample displays in their stores with ​the custom blinds and shades they sell, but all the of the work is outsourced to independent contractors. They charge more due to their name and higher overhead, but you aren’t necessarily getting better service.

​2) Get quotes and ​ask for details

​After reading the section above, you ​should be prepared for some price differences in the quotes you get, depending on what category the companies fit into. 

​It it not unusual to have quotes ranging from $2000 – $​5,000 for the “exact same ​job”.

But is it really the exact same ​products? Read the fine print on your quotes. What are the brand names you are being quoted? What are the actual material names? How many windows are included? 

​​What are you really being quoted?

​I once gave a quote to a client for Elite dual Hi-Lite shades. My quote came to $2000 even, and the customer said “I got a quote from another company a few months ago with the exact same product for $1650”. 

I asked the client to find the actual quotation sheet that she was given so that I could properly compare the quotes. It had been a few months since that company quoted her and I wasn’t sure she remembered all the details. She assured me that the products were the same, but reluctantly went upstairs to dig through her paperwork.

As it turns out, the company that quoted her listed a material called “Seaside”. The material I quoted was “Seashore”. ​”Seaside” is not even a dual Hi-Lite shade, but a regular single roller-shade. The company had quoted her on a completely different product!

​​Bottom line: ​compare your quotes carefully. Ask questions, and make sure to get all the details.

​3) ​Listen carefully to the advice they give you during your estimates

​Do the sales people who are in your home really know what they are talking about? ​Do the recommendations that they are giving you make sense?

If one company is recommending vertical blinds for your rental property, and another is recommending roller shades, whose advice do you trust? Hint: roller shades are more expensive, but also more durable, and can better withstand possible tenant neglect / abuse.

Find out why each of the companies quoting you are making the recommendations that they are making. ​Consider their knowledge of the products they are selling. It goes a long way to showing how professional they are.

​​4) Investigate further. Read reviews and check social media

​Look up the companies who are quoting you. Do they have reviews? Are they all positive? Do they respond to negative reviews? That shows that even if they made a mistake, they cared enough to follow-up and do something about it. 

Do they have a website? Are they active on social media? Do they post photos of their work? Do they have followers engaging and sharing their content? 

It doesn’t take long to see which companies care about the quality of their work as well as their client base

​​5) Ask for proof of insurance

​This is a big one. No insurance generally means lack of professionalism. In the home improvement business, serious contractors have insurance. Ask about it at the time of your quote. If the company has it, they shouldn’t have any issue providing an insurance certificate.

​6) Check payment terms

Is there a deposit required? How much? When ordering custom window coverings, its not unusual to see companies ask for ​30 – 50% down, due to the fact that the products are custom-made and cannot be re-used for another job if you were to change your mind later.

​Is their price a quote or is it an estimate? There’s a big difference:

A quote is a firm price that does not change regardless of any issues the contractor may stumble upon before or during installation. I.e if he thought your ceiling was drywall and it turns out to be concrete, he’s not going to surprise you with a concrete drilling surcharge.

An estimate is a rough price that is not final. The final price may be 10-15% more or less depending on installation ease and time. While this type of pricing is more common for larger remodeling jobs that have unknown variables, some ​window blind companies may be using it, and its important to understand the differences.

​7) Putting it all together

​​Which company is your favourite? Which company do you think will provide and install the best products for your home/office? Which company do you think will provide the best service? ​Will the guy with the cheapest price and no insurance still be around a year from now if you have problems with your blinds?

Take your time and consider all the variables when choosing your next custom window covering company. And remember: cheaper is not always better.

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