Floor-to-ceiling windows, often referred to as window walls, instantly give a space the feeling of open, airy elegance. Abundant natural light and an unhindered view help blur the line between the outdoors and the indoors. These window walls are lovely to look at, but what exactly should you think about before installing them? What are the pros and cons? Consider what you need to know when deciding on whether floor-to-ceiling windows are the right choice for your home.
The Pros and Cons of Floor-to-Ceiling Windows
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer obvious aesthetic appeal and maximum natural light. However, the tradeoff for this design feature is a loss of privacy, more maintenance, and a higher install cost when compared to typical window styles. Carefully weigh all factors when deciding whether floor-to-ceiling walls are the right choice for your space.
Abundant natural light to brighten a space
Uninterrupted views of the outdoors, melding outdoor and indoor living
Makes a room feel larger
Operable windows allow an abundance of fresh air into the home
Can add elegance
Create a focal point in a room
Exposure to natural light can fade fabrics, carpets, and furniture
Loss of privacy without the addition of curtains or blinds
Higher cost of installation
Structural changes may be necessary to support such large windows
Greater risk of damage from vandalism or flying objects
More glass to clean
Considerations for Installing Floor-to-Ceiling Windows
With their spacious views, window walls offer beautiful scenery. But this viewing aspect goes both ways: your neighbors can see just as much inside your home as you can see out of it. For someone living in a rural area or somewhere with a scenic view, such as over a lake, this may not be a cause for concern. But for someone living in an urban area with neighbors or frequent foot traffic, privacy is a factor to consider.
Also keep in mind the loss of wall space associated with installing floor-to-ceiling windows. While these beautiful windows make a small room feel larger, they also eliminate available space that could be used for storage, furniture, or other essential home items. Therefore, it is important to consider whether a large wall with no function beyond offering a view is a realistic option for your room layout.
On a related note, you’ll want to choose the right location in your home for a window wall. Be sure to consider what your view will be like when deciding on where to place floor-to-ceiling windows. If the only wall you can place them on faces another building, it probably isn’t the best fit for a window wall. On the other hand, if you have a view of a lake, a forest, or some other scenic landscape, a window wall would really make your location shine. Also consider what room they will be in. Kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms are the most popular choices for a window wall.
The type of window you choose will change the look of your window wall, making it another important aspect to consider. Options include large, single-pane windows that offer unobstructed views, multiple smaller windows that form geometric designs, or cathedral windows.
Installation Costs of Floor-to-Ceiling Windows
Because of their size and complexity of installation, floor-to-ceiling windows are more costly than small, standard-sized windows. The cost of each window will be different depending on the materials, coatings, size, and type of window—whether you select operable or inoperable (also called a fixed window).
Other factors that affect the price include installation fees and whether or not structural elements need to be reworked to support such large windows. On average, floor-to-ceiling windows may cost anywhere from $1,000 and upwards. Many factors can influence the price such as ceiling height, frame materials and how much work is required for installation.
Because such a large amount of wall space is going to be replaced with glass, be sure to inquire about the type of glass and glazes being used. Energy-efficient windows are the best choice, since they are designed to keep your home’s temperature steady. Such large glass areas can let in a lot of cold or heat, depending on the light and temperature outside. It’s also important to consider the materials of the window frame itself, since wood, fiberglass, and vinyl have their own advantages and disadvantages.
You can also offset energy loss from floor-to-ceiling windows by using thermal curtains. These curtains can act as a layer of insulation, keeping warm in. Curtains can also block direct sun, which can assist in keeping a room cool during the summer months.
Window Types and Technology. United States Department of Energy.