The First Thing You Notice
Door Distributors Bid for Residential Retrofit
by Holly Biller
Real estate agents will tell you there is no impression
like the first impression and that your entry door makes a statement on
your behalf. That being said, my 12-year-old oval glass with the wood
trim pulling away from the door slab stated the obvious: “please replace
We have been searching for the right entry door for more than six months
now. This journey has seen the bad, the good and the great. So instead
of offering just one peek into a single local door company, I’m going
to compare four that offered their expertise, some much more helpful than
We started the project with a do-it-yourself approach; the sidelites,
while weathered, are still in good repair and, as such, we were looking
for an inexpensive way to upgrade the door. From an energy efficiency
standpoint we needed to stop the fact that more weather was coming through
the cracks and broken seals than was remaining outside.
We intended to replace the door slab only. We decided to go to our nearby
big-box store to make the purchase. A representative there instructed
us on how to measure the door frame and various elements. We asked, “what
if it doesn’t fit properly?” The gentleman said that “wouldn’t be a problem.”
We were excited about the upgraded door we had selected. However, the
door arrived at the store and when it was delivered we discovered the
hinge placement wasn’t even close. We’re not talking being off by 1/8
of an inch, we’re talking off by more than a full inch for each hinge
placement. We returned the door, but when the company suggested we try
again we politely declined. Vindication came two weeks later when we found
the incorrect door on sale for 50 percent off in the showroom.
We decided after that trial we would simply replace the entire door all
the way to the brickmold. So I began by calling door companies found online.
My experience with the customer service representative (CSR) on the phone
was amazing. She returned my call the next day. (Note that of the six
I left messages, only two returned my call.) She set up an appointment
for a quote within the same week and also suggested I come by their showroom
to pick up a catalog. She said this would help speed up the selection
process if I already knew what I wanted prior to the estimators arrival.
The showroom was cluttered, but she was kind as could be and walked me
through the various gauges for steel doors with samples and we discussed
finishes and insulation. They carried ProVia Doors and she said they were
all Energy Star®-qualified. I mentioned that I was interested in the
tax credit and she said she was familiar with the program and, once we
selected the door, she would check into it.
The estimator’s visit that followed, unfortunately, wasn’t such a positive
experience. Gruff by nature, he came across with a “take it or leave it”
attitude. He didn’t offer much education on the product line, even after
I mentioned some of the helpful items the CSR had stated to try to open
the floor for conversation. The bid came in much higher than we were prepared
for and the overall experience was just brusque.
A second company returned my call. The estimator turned out to be the
owner of the door and window company, as well the owner of a Mr. Handyman
company. His presentation was very thorough and helpful in terms of demonstrating
samples, showing color swatches and providing insulation models. However,
he wouldn’t be doing the installation work; he told us he would outsource
that to another company.
Sadly, he had given a rough price estimate to my husband during a brief
conversation they shared, which we were very excited about. He returned
that evening when I was home as well and he brought out the ProVia Door
software system on his laptop to give an instant quote. Turns out, the
true price was double what he had said originally. It would have been
better if the lower numbers had never been given because the low-ball
price had been lower than Contractor B. That was no longer the case.
He explained the differentiation points well, such as security items placed
within the ProVia Doors, and the various upgrades are standard on the
door that we wouldn’t find with other manufacturers. And as he said, “You
get what you pay for.”
We wanted one more opinion prior to making a decision, so we went back
to the drawing board and called another company. A representative called
back within a few hours, gave me his personal cell and was willing to
come that same evening so we could meet and discuss the issue. He already
could tell we knew what we wanted and so he simply cut to the chase.
He explained his company primarily consisted of repeat orders and referrals.
He said he would do whatever he could to meet or beat prices and to find
the best method to get us a door we loved. He would be the job foreman
and the company would do the installation as opposed to outsourcing.
I appreciate forthcoming pitches when it comes to sales. I’m willing to
pay more for a better product, but if other areas can give on price I
want to capitalize on that as well. Based on this, we crunched some numbers
and he more than met us halfway.
Crunching the Numbers
Door Measurements 36” width, 80” height, 5 9/16” frame depth with
Contractor A $427 (for door slab only)
Contractor B $7,306
Contractor C $6,883
Contractor D $6,000 (The winning bid)
We have a non-standard door size currently, and he said that would create
some trouble for trim work and spacing considerations, but at every obstacle
he came up against, he had ideas and offered solutions. He also called
multiple times a day, brought out his own personal carpenter to assess
the doorway and then brought catalogs—from mouldings to wood—to our home
for us to select trim and other components.
The company installs both ProVia and Therma-Tru doors, which always had
been our top two choices. When he brought us our final quote it was the
door I had fallen in love with, which is brand-new for ProVia—the 2010
Signet line and we felt comfortable with the price. It qualifies for the
tax credit and he brought us extra quote sheets and pictures so we could
present it to our homeowner’s association for its approval (which they
Alas, we decided to go with Contractor D, due to his quick response time,
not outsourcing the installation and his focus on making this an easy
and enjoyable process for us.
Though our busy schedules haven’t permitted us to have the door installed
yet, unfortunately, please stay tuned to DWM magazine for updates in the
Holly Biller is vice president of digital media services for DWM/Shelter’s
parent company, Key Communications Inc.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.