Working to seal the deal on couple's windows

The Cook family passes around The Watchdog the way people pass around the plate of rolls at dinner. First, Brian Cook complained to me about how he diligently searched for an honest window installer, found one, he thought, and paid the man $2,000. Then he never saw him again.

It bothered me that Cook did the research and still got burned. So I started calling the missing-in-action installer. Sure enough, after some prodding, the man repaid the $2,000.

Cook, who lives in Bedford, tells his parents about our window adventure. They live in Robson Ranch and, coincidentally, they also have a window problem, along with seven of their neighbors.

So the parents, Gayle and Robert Cook, contact The Watchdog. But their window problem is a little more complex.

At Robson, a 1,200-home, age-restricted community south of Denton, a new phase of 200 homes opened in the last few years. While buyers had choices on cabinets, backsplashes, flooring and other matters, there were no choices for windows. All 200 homes got Ply Gem windows.

Problem was, these windows apparently aren't so suitable for the legendary Denton County rainstorms. Several times in the past year, owners of at least eight of the new homes have complained that when it rains hard, the tracking system of the horizontal sliding Ply Gem windows overflows with water that sometimes seeps into the house instead of draining outside. Floors, walls, carpets, furniture and curtains get soaked.

What caught my attention was that the Cooks and other residents say that when they complained to Robson and to Ply Gem, they were told that the windows are designed to bring some water inside the tracking system.

Call me old-fashioned, but when I buy a new house, I don't want to see water inside, ever, even in a window track that is supposed to release the water outside. Especially not in Texas, and especially not in storm target Denton County.

Chris Pickering, Ply Gem's vice president of marketing, described the "interior dam system" of the windows, in which the tracks have weep holes that are covered. The cover flaps pop open and allow the water to drain outside.

Only in "very, very rare" cases is the rain strong enough to overwhelm the dam system and seep inside, he said.

Ply Gem didn't ignore the eight homeowners. The company installed thicker weatherstripping on one panel of the sliding doors. An installer also drilled more weep holes in the draining track.

Since then, there hasn't been a major storm to test the fix.

The Cooks, however, insist that they don't want these windows anymore, even with the fix.

They not only fear the next big storm but also fret that the windows, on cold days, collect moisture that seeps into the house.

After a tough round of negotiating, Robson has offered the Cooks a deal. Robson, at its own cost, will replace five sliding windows with single-hung windows if the Cooks will pay $800 toward the cost.

Robson Ranch corporate Senior Vice President Deborah Blake says the company will pick up remaining costs that are "significantly more than that."

The Cooks still aren't happy.

So I came up with a solution: Why not just wait until the next big rainstorm to see what happens? If there's no leak, maybe everything is fine.

But if anyone can show water inside the house, well, I've got commitments from both Ply Gem and Robson that they will replace the Cooks' windows for free. The Watchdog hopes that others at Robson would get the same deal.

One snag here is that Ply Gem windows come with a "Limited Lifetime Warranty." Other companies offer a "Full Lifetime Warranty."

The difference is just as it sounds -- one is limited and one is full, meaning its owners get a lot more repairs and replacement costs covered for a longer time.

Robson Ranch is no longer using Ply Gem windows in home construction, but officials there won't say why. For new homes, the builders have switched to Milgard, which offers a full lifetime warranty.

The Watchdog column appears Fridays and Sundays.

Dave Lieber, 817-390-7043

Twitter: @davelieber