Double-Hung vs. Single-Hung Windows: Which One To Buy

Double Hung Sash Window
Double Hung Sash Window. Getty / BrettCharlton

The iconic window style is not the garden window, the bow window, the bay window, and categorically not the slider window.  When we think "window," we tend to think of the double-hung or the single-hung window.  It's that traditional style that allows for charming muntins and mullions; for cats to curl up on the window sills; and for soft summer breezes to waft through opened upper sashes (more on that, below!).

But between the two, what's the difference?  

Double-Hung Windows

  • Classic window appropriate for traditionally styled homes.
  • 2 sashes, both movable.
  • Allow for upper section to be open, while lower section is closed.
  • Single or double paned (glazed)
  • More available than single-hungs.
  • Better for second story windows.

The double-hung window is the most common style of window available. Most likely, you have seen a double hung window and not even known what it was called: it consists of two window sashes (i.e., panes of glass), one on top, one on the bottom.

Double hung windows are sometimes confused with double-glazed or -paned windows. a method of sandwiching two sheets of glass with an air barrier in the middle.

On modern windows, both sashes usually tilt inward for easier cleaning.

Many homeowners like double hung windows because they are very good at inhibiting air intrustion into the house.  Because the style is so popular, you will find more double-hungs on the market than single-hungs.

 As a result, window manufacturers and installation companies tend to price double-hungs competitively.

Double hung replacement windows are available, as well as double-hung new construction windows.

Single Hung Windows

  • Exactly the same look as double-hung windows.
  • Top sash is fixed; lower sash moves.
  • Better at limiting air intrusion than double-hungs.
  • Less prone to mechanical failure.
  • Single or double glazed.
  • Better for first story windows.

A single hung window consists of two sashes, one on the top that does not move and another one on the bottom that does move vertically. Contrast single-hung windows with fixed windows (consisting of one sash that does not move).

Single-hung windows are available in both new construction or replacement window styles. The chief advantage of the fixed upper sash is that it limits air intrusion, since there are fewer seams that must be blocked with window seals.

As time goes by, window seals begin to dry and hard, creating cracks which allow for air seepage. Also, single hung windows are less expensive than double-hung or casement windows, due to fewer mechanical parts.

Which One To Buy?

New-construction single-hung windows tend to run about $25 per window cheaper than comparable double-hungs.  While this is a small amount, it can reach to a major proportion during a whole-house window installation.

Owners of second story windows usually benefit from double-hung windows on that level because they are easier to clean--no need to go outside, no ladders, no danger.

 First story windows can be either type of window, because you will be cleaning them from the outside anyway.

"Anything that moves will fail faster" applies to double-hung windows, with its mechanically moving upper sash and weather stripping.

In the end, there is little difference between the two windows, other than the need for cleaning and your own personal desire (or not) to have upper sashes open for airflow.