Many people liken the front door and accompanying side panels as a home's "face."
It gives both visitors and passers-by their first impression of the house and gives one a glimpse of the homeowner's personality.
So it is important to choose that "ambassador to your home and family" well.
Windows serve a similar function. Eye-catching bay, picture and other specialty windows add personality to a home while also keeping the interior of the house comfortable.
Windows keep heated or cooled air inside where it is supposed to be, let natural light in, and, when open, improve a home's indoor air quality. They also save homeowners money in the long run, said Iver Johnson Sr., owner of Sahara Window and Doors of Mount Prospect and American Thermal Window of Chicago.
Johnson, a former Chicago police officer, has been providing windows and doors to Chicago-area homeowners through his American Thermal Window Co. for 37 years. Then, nine years ago, he acquired Sahara Window and Doors.
Both stores have retained their individual names, but the two showrooms function as the same company with identical offerings and crews that skillfully install a variety of products in single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and commercial properties.
The combined company is very discerning when it comes to product selection, Johnson said, carrying nine window lines, including Marvin and Pella.
"We only offer the best. If it isn't up to our standards, we don't carry it," Johnson said.
The same is true of its installation crews. Because a product's performance is only as good as its installation, all installation crews are employed directly by American Thermal Window and Sahara Window and Doors. Crews are highly trained and held to exacting standards, Johnson said. They always arrive in company trucks and the average installer has a minimum of ten years of experience, he added.
"Window manufacturers are continually upgrading their products. Today's windows, which are generally available in wood, vinyl and aluminum, have much higher energy ratings than those being replaced, of course, so they save on heating and cooling costs," Johnson said.
In addition to selling windows, American Thermal Window and Sahara Window and Doors offer 58 different door styles with 36 standard paint and stain combinations, with more than 200 custom glass options. Custom colors are also possible.
Fiberglass is a common modern choice for outside doors because it is very durable, Johnson said, but his two companies also offer nationally recognized Simpson Doors, which are made of solid oak, birch, cherry, poplar and other woods, produced in America. Doors that must be fire-rated, however, (like those between a garage and a home) must be metal and the showrooms also sell those.
Johnson's two companies also offer and install custom patio doors. Custom cuts, designer glass and designer grids are readily available. Steel security storm doors are also part of the inventory for unbeatable protection, as are specialty products such as garden windows for growing plants, and windows with built-in blinds between the panes.
He cautioned that homeowners shopping for replacement windows and doors need to do their homework before choosing somewhere to buy and install them. When you contract with a company, it should have a long track record and high standing on rating services like Angie's List and Yelp, Johnson said.
"You can't purchase those ratings. They have to be earned. We have been awarded with the Angie's List's Super Service Award for several years in a row and have an exceptional rating on Yelp. Those ratings reflect the way our customers feel about us. We also have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau," Johnson said.
Johnson's companys also have a good following with condominium and townhouse associations because they are willing to attend association meetings at no charge. They also offer a wide variety of fire-rated windows and doors for mid- to high-rise residential buildings and commercial properties.
Delivery takes three to six weeks, depending on the order's complexity, he said, and Johnson's crews work year-round "because we are capable of doing all of the windows in an average house in a day without causing an undue temperature drop, even in the middle of winter."
Johnson learned carpentry skills by working a second job for another window company for more than five years while still working as a full-time Chicago policeman. Then, in 1980, he established American Thermal Window and ran it while still working for the city. In 1997 he retired and turned his full-time attention to the window company, hiring other retired police officers as salesmen.
Johnson's son, Iver Jr., and daughter, Andrea Jager, have both been with the business for more than 20 years.
"We all understand what it is to own a home, so we are easily able to relate to our customers," Johnson said. "We strive to make sure our customers receive a positive experience from beginning to end, from their initial phone call, to their interaction with the sales rep and the showroom staff, to their experience with the installation crews. We want nothing but positive experiences!"
The American Thermal Window showroom is at 5304 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago and the Sahara Window and Doors showroom is at 150 S. Main St. in Mount Prospect.
"We encourage people to come in to one of our showrooms and see our displays," he said. "There is always someone to serve you."