Our Excoriatingly Negative Review of Champion Windows

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:24 am

This review is both long and long-winded, for which I apologize. However, it tells a story that should be of great interest to any potential Champion customers, so I would recommend wading through it.

In March of 2019 we signed a contract with Champion to install a 15 x 10 foot sunroom on our Western Washington house. Paid $52,000 for it. Install went well as far as we could tell, but the first time it started to rain the floor was covered in water. The workers who built the structure came out to deal with the issue multiple times: caulked around the interior and exterior of the wall, drilled holes around the base of the structure (something they were apparently supposed to do upon install), added more holes/bigger holes around the base. Nothing would stop the flooding. A few weeks in, the person running the job on the ground (one rung below foreman, I believe) came to tell us that he had been drilling the wrong type of holes in the base, that he had just been informed that perfectly round holes won’t drain properly, that they needed to be oval in shape. He ovalized the holes, problem solved. That problem, anyway, and only after weeks of ineffectual bumbling.

Next–and ongoing, as of this writing–problem: the roof started leaking almost at the same time as the floor started flooding, every time it rained more than a sprinkle. First leaks were right up against the join between the house roof and the sunroom roof, water dribbling out up and down the width of the junction between the two. Same crew that didn’t know they were supposed to drill holes in the base came out to address the new problem, basically blamed the leaks on the fact that our fascia and soffits were somehow strange and unlike other fascia and soffits. Went on the roof and tightened things up in some way. Leak continued, they came back and tightened things up again, or more, or whatever it was they did. My memory isn’t perfect, but I believe they came to our site three times to fix that particular leak. Eventually it stopped.

That is to say, it stopped leaking at the roof/roof junction. Instead it began leaking further down the roof line. I don’t think it would be inaccurate for me to assume that what the previous crew had done was to plug up all of the most upstream leaks that allowed water to breach the sunroof’s interior at that particular spot without actually preventing the water from penetrating the roof itself, and now the water was traveling down the interior of the sloped roof and finding its way out anywhere it could. Causing God knows what kind of damage to our new and existing structures along the way.

Parenthetically, during their time on our job, we learned that the person on the ground in charge of our project had never led one of these before, that we were his inaugural sunroom. We also recently learned that neither of the two people who put in the vast majority of the work on our site is still with the company. Frankly, nothing we have learned about this whole situation has made us feel anything but less confident in the work done on our home. The impression we got was that an inexperienced, unprepared and under-supervised team was sent out to perform the construction at our site, and that the quality of the build suffered for it. Tremendously.

Over the next two years Champion sent people out to our house perhaps two or three more times. Asking them to come out every time the roof leaked would have been ridiculous, because a) the roof leaked every time it rained for more than an hour or so and b) it would be near-impossible to successfully attend to the problem in the middle of a season of perpetual precipitation. So I reached out to them about once or twice a year, and they came out once or twice a year to try to resolve it. Their general strategy was to apply one or another type of fix (caulk this, add more screws to that, re-tarpaper the roof etc.) then tell us to call back if that didn’t fix the problem. It never did.

The last time they came out, in the dry season of (I’m almost certain) 2021, the person they sent ran water down our roof from just above the line of the roof/roof junction, onto and down the sunroom roof. He ran it for about an hour, saw no leaks inside the sunroom, and claimed to have “proven” that the problem had to be occurring above the line where Champion’s work was done, and was therefore not their responsibility. He suggested that the leaks were coming from the supports that hold up our photovoltaic panels, so we had the company that installed them come out and inspect the braces, no issues there. And anyway, the PV panels were installed the year before the sunroom, and we had experienced no issues with leaks during that time; only after the sunroom was built. On top of that, however, the most glaring problem with Champion’s “proof” is this: having come out to inspect the building during a period of sustained clear days and high temperatures–with sunlight beating down on the roofline of both the house and the sunroom, causing everything to expand and shift in the heat–the inherent makeup of both roofs and the intersection between them was totally different than in in a period of sustained lower temperatures and precipitation. There is absolutely no justification for coming out in a period of hot, dry weather and claiming to have proven that no leaks can possibly be occurring in cold, damp weather. Claiming so defies logic and common sense.

In December 2022 I reached out to Champion for what was ostensibly going to be my very last time before giving up. I managed to get hold of Roy Richter, Regional Manager for Champion in the West. He agreed to come out and take another look at the work that had been done. I didn’t tell him this of course, but if (as he had over the phone) he denied any responsibility on behalf of his employer for the damage and/or poor workmanship we had paid tens of thousands of dollars for, I was going to ask him for his recommendation as to what sort of company (roofing, general contractor, exorcist, whathaveyou) he would recommend we bring out to completely repair the roof from peak to gutter over the affected area, and call it a day. Roy and I arranged a time for him to come over.

The day before the appointment he called up to say that the employee he was planning on sending to our house (beg pardon? I thought you were coming out personally, Roy; that’s what you said over the phone) Had called in sick and that he (Roy) would not be available until after the 13th because he was going on vacation. I said no problem, let’s meet up after the 13th.

Since then I have emailed Roy directly twice and called his mobile number twice, with no response of any kind. I don’t think it’s out of bounds to interpret this as indicating an attitude of, “f— this guy, I’m sick of hearing him complain about his roof.”

Well Roy, if you’re sick of hearing about our leaky roof, imagine how we must feel, living as we do underneath it.

I find it noteworthy that Champion has been acquired by other companies at least twice since 2020; first by a real estate management company and then by a property improvement conglomerate. (https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20211228005195/en/Great-Day-Improvements-Acquires-Champion-Windows, https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2020/04/02/exclusive-one-of-world-s-largest-real-estate.html)
This sort of situation does not speak well of the motives of the buyers or the outcome for the company purchased. Typically the plan is to use the good name and reputation of the company acquired to produce a short-term profit (usually by some combination of dramatically cutting costs, trimming staff and reducing quality of products/services), then either strip the carcass bare or resell the business while there’s still some scraps of meat left on the bones. Based upon our experience, the strategy with Champion would appear to have been the latter.

When we first did our research on Champion prior to signing our contract, the company was apparently still hanging on to the last fraying threads of its reputation, as both institutional and customer online reviews were still quite positive. Since then their reviews have plummeted; currently have an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau, for instance. And while the reviews on sites like TrustPilot skew towards the positive (3.8 out of 5 on that site at the time of this writing), we noticed that the bulk of the positive reviews were focused on the friendliness and knowledgeability of the sales reps, and the negative reviews were mostly about customer service and–of particular note to us–the failure of representatives to respond to repeated inquiries about problems with the company’s work.

I truly wish we had never let these people through our door. We had quotes from two other, locally-based companies to do the work, but we ended up going with Champion because they had a good reputation (at the time) and a national infrastructure, which we thought would mean stability and longevity. We will be kicking ourselves for the rest of our lives for having been suckered in by the siren song of “Over 70 Years of Total Awesomeness!” As far as we’re concerned, Champion is now just another of tens of thousands of companies that exist primarily as a fine-mesh screen to filter money out of consumer’s pockets. That is literally all you will ever mean to them, in our experience. Even if the people who come to your door or to your job site want to do good work, they won’t be given the resources, and certainly not the mandate, to actually do so. Find a local or regional company, do some deep research, save yourself the aggravation and disappointment that comes from paying thousands of dollars for the pervasive feeling that you have been had.

ADDENDUM: In January 2023 I gave up trying to get Roy to respond to my repeated inquiries and instead reached out through Champion’s customer service Web portal. I was contacted shortly thereafter by Rodney Lacheney, the Install Manager for Champion in the Northwest, or perhaps just the Puget Sound area, not totally certain. Instead of denying the obvious or actively refusing to communicate with us, Rodney agreed (he might even have broached the subject himself, I don’t recall) to send out a roofing contractor with which they work, Forever Roofing, to check out the situation. Sam Josan from Forever Roofing contacted me shortly thereafter and we arranged to have him come out and check out the situation. After arriving, Sam took a five-minute walk around the roof and announced that he had found the problem: the people who had installed the sunroom had laid the new section of the roof over the existing roof rather than tucking it under. There was never any chance in any plane of existence that the roof was not going to leak, and no less (and possibly more) than four different people from Champion had walked around on this same roof and failed to notice this. Sam’s team came back and fixed Champion’s glaring, stupid, infinitely avoidable error, and our sunroom did not leak through a typically rain-soaked Puget Sound Winter and Spring, nor has it since. Check Forever Roofing out if you need some roof work done, they’re good people. And to give Rodney credit, Champion paid for the repairs.

Who will pay for the table ruined by the leaks, any possible damage caused inside our walls and ceiling by consistent exposure to water over a period of three-plus years, the abatement of any Stachybotrys, Aspergillus or other “Sick House Syndrome” fungi that might be accumulating in our now-waterlogged structure, or any health effects we might suffer from exposure to same, remains in question. Not to mention compensation for the hours we spent on the phone and in person trying to convince various representatives of Champion that our roof was still leaking and that they were at fault. I suppose we’ll have to bring that up with whomever buys Champion next, should the need arise.

To summarize this addendum, Rodney was the one person we came across at Champion who didn’t seem to be either incompetent, uncaring and/or unscrupulous, and I thank him for that. He is, by all appearances, a good egg. The rest of the organization seems to be a company in severe decline, and we would recommend, in the strongest possible terms, that you stay away.

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