By: Julie Washington
August 17th, 2015
TWINSBURG, Ohio -- As teenagers, brothers Aaron and Harley Magden learned about the home improvement business by filing paperwork and writing up estimates at Regency Windows, their father's Cleveland-based business.
When Regency Windows was sold and then shuttered, the brothers teamed up to start their own windows, siding and doors business. The new venture, Window Nation, started in Baltimore in 2006 and now serves Northeastern Ohio, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, northern Virginia and all of Maryland.
Harley Magden, 39, oversees marketing and finance as Window Nation's president. Aaron Magden, 35, is vice president of sales. The $40 million company has 50 employees and is the 11th largest window company in the country, according to the Magdens.
Have you purchased replacement windows? Describe the experience in the comments.
The brothers grew up in Solon, earned degrees at John Carroll University and currently live in Baltimore, although they consider Cleveland as home. Let's get to know them – and learn about the window repair business – in this Q&A profile.
I understand this is a family business. How did it get started?
Aaron: Our grandfather started in the home remodeling business in the 1960s. Regency Windows was started by our father, Mike Magden. In 2004, Dad retired and sold Regency Windows to a venture capitalist. My brother and I decided to go our own way. We really love the home improvement industry; it was in our blood. So we took our talents to Baltimore in 2006. That's when Window Nation originated.
Harley: Aaron and I picked the Baltimore/ Washington, D.C. area for several reasons. We had a non-compete (agreement not to compete with Regency Windows), yet wanted to stay within driving distance of Cleveland. The Baltimore-Washington, D.C., is one of the largest markets in the country.
What brought you back to Cleveland?
Harley: The company our father sold ended up going bankrupt. We opened a showroom in Twinsburg in 2008. A lot of the people who worked for Regency Windows now work for us. We pride ourselves that the windows are made locally in Streetsboro.
How have windows changed through the years?
Aaron: It started off with wood, double-hung, single-pane windows that operate with a rope and a pulley.
As you get into the late 1960s and early 1970s, they came out with vinyl windows. People said, the wood's beautiful, but we're painting them, we're staining them, we gotta maintain them. So geez, what if we came up with a product that was maintenance-free? And, it would be two panes of glass hermetically sealed together (for better insulation). Now the windows tilted in for cleaning. It was the best thing since sliced bread.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they started adding coatings to the glass to make it more efficient in blocking the sun's rays in summer and letting the warmth in during winter. At this time, vinyl windows were made with argon gas between the panes of glass for insulation.
Why test for lead paint before a window replacement job?
Aaron: In houses built prior to 1940, there's a high chance there is lead in the paint.
Yeah, you can paint over it, but when we're taking out the window, we're scratching through different layers. That lead becomes airborne dust that is very damaging to your health.
We have to perform a lead test on every window. If a job has lead paint, we do containment. We cover up all of your furniture and put plastic up as if we were doing sanding.
How much do new windows cost?
Harley: The average price of a new window ranges from $400 to $1,000 per window, depending on the labor involved to install it, the window's size and its options.
About 60% of our customers get all the windows in their houses replaced all at once. We actually track that.
(The 2015 Cost Vs Value Report estimated that, in Cleveland, the cost of replacing 10 double-hung windows with insulated vinyl replacement windows would run between $10,000 and $13,000.)
Why do homeowners buy replacement windows?
Aaron: Obviously, efficiency. If they have drafts, heavy condensation or ice buildup in the windows in the wintertime, they know it's time to replace the windows. Houses built in the 1970s and 1980s often have dual-pane windows with metal spaces between the panes. Water and ice can build up between the panes, which leads to mold.
Having maintenance-free windows is another big thing; you don't have to paint vinyl. Some people are getting older and they can't wash the windows anymore. They want them to tilt in.
Newer windows have coatings that filter out UV rays. It's pointless to get new furniture when it's going to get faded (from sunlight); this protects the furniture in the house.
Harley: Many houses built in the 1980s and 1990s were built with builder-grade windows made of thin vinyl or inexpensive wood and clear glass with no coatings. Because when a homeowner is building a house, what do they want to focus on? The kitchen, the bath. Who cares about windows? Most of our work is replacing old vinyl windows that have already failed in newer homes.
Another big thing is seal failure, which makes the interior glass surface look foggy and cloudy, and you can't wash it. This condition is caused by moisture getting in between the panes.
If all of the windows in an average three-bedroom home were replaced, what would be the savings in energy costs?
Aaron: It depends on how bad the old windows were, how well insulated the house is, and how warm the homeowners like the temperature of the house. We don't guarantee anything, but homeowners should see heating bills come down by 15% to 25% in houses built from the 1920s to 1950s. Newer homes will see comparable savings. That is the number-one reason why reason people replace their windows.
When did you first realize your passion for the home improvement business?
Harley: I went to school full-time at John Carroll University – double majoring in finance and marketing --while working at Regency Windows 30 hours a week. I started writing up job folders and doing filing in the office. After five to six years, I was able to apply what I was learning in school to the business.
Aaron: When I was 17, my dad let me start going to clients' homes and providing estimates, and that's when I fell in love with meeting with homeowners and helping them out. It really just clicked.
We take the same philosophy that our dad always did, that family touch. We know every employee. We travel to all the branches all the time. We're not these arm chair quarterbacks sipping pina coladas in Florida. We're working all the time.