Selecting Suncoast Designers
The rear picture window on our fifth wheel started fogging back in 2012, and we had it repaired at an RV glass specialist in Oregon. Well, a few others started fogging late in 2014, and since we are on the east coast and wintering in Florida, we decided to make an appointment with Suncoast Designers in Hudson, FL north of Tampa.
It seemed like a strange name for an RV window place, but we'll get to that later.
Usually, you can get an appointment about two weeks out, however in their busiest season, December through March, it may be five or six weeks out. But you can always call to see if perhaps they've had a cancellation or can squeeze you in.
After postponing our December appointment, we re-scheduled for Wednesday, February 18, knowing it would be a very busy time for them. But it worked well for us as we needed to leave our rig somewhere to fly to Ohio to speak at an RV show. They could work on it while we were gone, we wouldn't be in the way, and we could leave our RV plugged in one of their 24 water and electric sites.
We arrived at Suncoast Designers a day early.
All their RV sites were full. But, after waiting about an hour in their back parking lot, we were able to get a spot near the shop.
I parked the truck out of the way, next to the building.
As I mentioned, they have 24 RV sites with water and 50-amp electric. They also have a dump station, and there is no fee for their customers having work done. Oh, and they do have Wi-Fi. :)
Now, we had three or four windows that were clearly fogging, and a couple more that we were pretty sure were fogging but were harder to see. When we made our appointment, we told them we wanted six windows repaired. Having "standard" windows, that should take 3 - 4 days per their schedule below.
Window De-fogging Timeframes
Standard RV Windows:
- 1-2 Windows = 1-2 Days
- 2-4 Windows = 2-3 Days
- 4-6 Windows = 3-4 Days
- 7+ Windows = 4+ Days
Flush Mount RV Windows:
- 1-2 Windows = 3 Days
- 2-4 Windows = 3-5 Days
- 4-6 Windows = 5-8 Days
- 7+ Windows = 8+ Days
On the day of our appointment, Wednesday the 18th, we went over the windows we wanted repaired with the scheduling manager, and he marked them with tape. We were waffling about whether or not to just have all 14 of our windows removed and re-sealed.
Our windows are almost ten years old, and my research showed that the seals on all of them would eventually fail. So, rather than waiting and fixing them one or two at a time over the next few years, we decided to go ahead and bite the bullet and have them all done.
All of the windows were marked with tape and numbered.
And since we added eight windows to our original appointment, we discussed the schedule to complete all of them. As busy as they were, they told us it might be as late as Friday of the following week. Since we were okay with that, that's where we left it.
We left on Thursday and flew to Ohio to speak at the RV show. When we returned Monday afternoon, they were taking out the last window.
They put cardboard over all the windows with lots of green tape.
It was hard living in the RV with all the windows gone. Screens and exterior trim were laying around ....
and the window treatments were piled up ....
but at least it was functional. We quickly learned that our biggest issue was noise. It's pretty amazing how much noise insulation the windows provide. If you are going to stay in your rig for a number of days, I would suggest you take a spot away from the C & C loading dock where the traffic is heavy, it starts early, and it gets very noisy.
On a rainy day, our large, back window opening was leaking, but after a phone call, they quickly came out and re-taped it. If you drop off your coach, they double-check all window openings in heavy rains.
Tuesday and Wednesday, they took the windows apart and got them all re-sealed.
During that time, I had the opportunity to talk with Stacy, the wife of General Manager, Jeff Heyen. She's very knowledgeable about the window re-sealing process, so I asked her lots of questions. Due to their current high volume, Jeff was involved in helping get windows repaired and back in coaches.
Suncoast Designers History
Suncoast Designers started in 2002 as a branch of it's sister company, C & C Window & Door. They share the same buildings.
Suncoast Designers was originally set up to produce and install specialty windows for homes and businesses. It had nothing to do with RVs. They purchased some really expensive glass insulating equipment, and in the first few years the business wasn't doing very well.
Along the way, about eight years ago, an RV owner asked them to repair a window. That worked out and the one RVer told other people on a forum. The word spread and they were smart enough to know they were on to something.
They already had the equipment to manufacture dual-pane windows, so they realized they could use the equipment to take existing RV windows apart, clean them, and put them back together again with a residential grade seal that is much better than what the RV window manufacturers use. That is their competitive advantage.
They have expensive equipment that is a barrier to entry for most RV window repair facilities, and they have the ability to use the Duraseal® insulated window seal system, a much better way to re-seal RV windows. Now, their business is almost all repair and replacement of RV windows.
"De-fogging" of the windows is sort of a misnomer. What really happens is the old seal is removed, the panes are split, they are cleaned, a new seal is placed between the panes, and the seal and panes are all bonded together.
Suncoast Designers RV Window Repair Process
Let's take a look at the process. A young man named Kevin gave us a tour, and I took a few photos.
After the windows are removed from the coach, they are then removed from the frames.
Then the seal between the two panes of glass is cut out and removed, and the panes are separated.
There are different types of seals that RV window manufacturers use, but the actual seal is small and it is surrounded by coating that doesn't really help the sealing process.
The steps of removing the seal and separating the panes takes two to three times longer for "frameless" windows. Therefore, "frameless" windows are more expensive. Also, they told us that the "frameless" windows' seals tend to fail more often and faster than "standard" framed windows.
The glass panes are then inspected and cleaned. It's at this point where it is determined whether the glass can be re-used or whether it has to be replaced.
If the window has remained in a fogging state too long, the moisture can "etch" the glass due to extreme temperatures. If that happens, like the example below, the glass becomes "milky" and can't be cleaned or repaired and must be replaced.
Usually, both panes become "etched", but sometimes one pane will be okay and can be re-used. Each pane that has to be replaced is $50, and that's on top of the labor charges.
After the panes are separated, the usable ones are run through this cleaning machine, a very important step.
On the other side of this machine is a controlled environment .....
where the Duraseal® seals are placed around the edges by hand.
These seals have metal woven into them which helps the panes remain at the proper distance apart.
The second pane is placed on top of the first pane and seal creating a glass "sandwich" with dry air in between the panes. There is no gas infused, it's just dry air.
Then the window is run through the compression equipment or press.
That bonds the seal to the glass and completes the process of re-sealing the window.
The seal itself is much larger than the original and it doesn't include the extra, unnecessary coating that includes chemicals which may in itself be part of the original seal failure. It has sort of an "unfinished" look compared to the old seal, but it is far better seal.
Then the re-sealed windows are placed back in their frames. And that's it. The windows are ready to be re-installed.
For those interested, here is a 2011, 6-minute video with Jeff going through the process. Keep in mind prices have changed, the warranty was only five years back then, and the Duraseal® application was off limits at the time. :)
After our tour, we continued to ask Stacy questions, and she showed us another "etched" pane that needed to be replaced.
Suncoast Designers Warranty
We then discussed warranty information. Their written warranty is a 10-year, pro-rated, limited warranty. It reads, in part:
Suncoast Designers, Inc. warrants to the original owner that its insulated glass units will not materially obstruct vision as a result of dust collection or moisture collection in the dead air space of a sealed unit for a period not to exceed TEN YEARS from the date of invoice. This is a prorated insulated glass limited warranty based upon the following schedule:
Originally, the warranty was a five-year warranty, but now it is a 10-year warranty, and they are considering re-writing it again to make the written warranty more in line with their more liberal application of it.
They told me that they always fix fogging without invoking the proration percentages. They are so confident in their process and seals that they stand behind their work and fully cover fogging claims within the warranty period, regardless of what the warranty says.
Also, the warranty is transferable if you sell your RV and there is a claim within the warranty period. The new owner just needs to present the warranty document or, at a minimum, know the name of the prior owner that had the work done.
They are a small, family-owned company and they do their best to make sure customers are happy and comfortable referring their friends. Just the type of company we like to do business with.
Suncoast Designers Pricing (as of the time of this writing)
Standard RV Windows - $225 per window*
Frameless RV Windows - $450 per window*
Prevost and Newell Motorhomes - Call for quote due to more difficult removal
* - This means all panes within a window frame. For example, we have two picture windows with two slider windows below, but all are within the same frame. Our price for those windows was still $225. When we had our rear picture window repaired back in Oregon in 2012, they charged us for each of the three windows within the one frame.
Replacement Panes - $50 per pane**
** - This is per pane of glass. For example, on our picture window, if all glass was etched and needed to be replaced, that would be a total of six panes for a total of $300 on top of the $225 labor charge.
We have proposed a 10% coupon for RV-Dreams readers, and we hope to have that approved soon. In the meantime, they have a 10% coupon in the Florida RV Trade Association's 2015 RVers Guide To Florida.
They might be willing to negotiate on price depending on the number of windows you have done, whether you are paying cash, and the time of year. They are known to offer "summer special" discounts during July and August. Certainly they will honor their published coupons/discounts, but everything else is a case-by-case basis.
Suncoast Designers - Finishing Up
On Thursday, February 26, all of our windows were re-installed. It took about three hours to get all 14 windows in, replace the inside trim, re-hang the window treatments, and re-caulk around the exterior of the windows.
The windows were all clean, and the inside of our rig was treated with care. They replaced any window latches that had broken in the removal and re-installation process.
After testing all the windows, we discovered that three of the slider windows were hard to open. So, Kevin and a partner came back in and waxed the tracks with "saw wax" and adjusted them until they worked properly.
We're very pleased with the work done, but like all of our recent improvements, we won't know the full extent of the quality until a few years down the road. In the meantime, I think our decision to use Suncoast Designers to re-seal all our windows was a very good choice.