There are lots of considerations when choosing windows, whether it is for replacement units or for new construction. Frame materials, glazing options, and energy efficiency are all important elements, but before you even get to that determination, you'll need to consider the basic operating style of the windows, each of which has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. There are also window style variations, some of which are modifications or combinations of other styles.
Most homes will feature more than one style of window, but most designers advise against mixing too many different styles in a single home, as it creates a disjointed look. It's very likely that when you replace a single window you will stick with the same style, but large-scale replacement of all windows at the same time gives you the option of changing the style of all of them for a more radical makeover. House style also plays a role in window selection, since certain window styles are often associated with defined architectural styles.
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Though you may not recognize its official name, this window style is probably the one you are most familiar with. Double-hung windows feature two large sashes (frame units surrounding glass panels) that slide up and down within vertical tracks. In older styles, the sashes are counterbalanced by weights hidden in wall pockets behind the case moldings, but in modern double-hung windows, it is more common for the sashes to be counterbalanced by springs hidden in the side tracks.
Uses: Double-hung windows are used most often in homes with classic traditional styling, though they are also found in traditional-modern homes. The classic rambler, farmhouse, and bungalow styles, for example, make extensive use of double-hung windows.
- Double-hung windows are made by many manufacturers, so your selection is very wide.
- Prices are generally reasonable, due to the wide availability of this window type.
- Double-hungs are normally easy to open and close, thanks to springs or weights.
- Tracks are vertical, so they generally don't fill up with dirt.
- Double-hung windows can be a safety hazard for children when they are mounted low in a wall, since they provide a large opening when the bottom sash is open.
- Over time, counterbalance springs can wear out or sash cords can break. These windows require occasional maintenance to keep them operating smoothly.
- Large opening can make this type of window a break-in hazard for determined intruders.
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Double-Hung Windows With Muntins
This is a simple variation of the double-hung window in which the larger sashes are subdivided into smaller panes within the larger frames, using a grid of horizontal and vertical muntins. In older windows or expensive new windows, the muntins may actually hold individual small glass panels, but in many modern muntin windows, the effect is an illusion created by a grill of wood or plastic pieces that simply rest over a large pane of class. On many double-hung windows, muntins are an accessory you can add. In double- or triple-glazed windows, the muntins sometimes fit between the large panes of glass, giving the illusion of smaller glass panels.Uses
A double-hung-with-muntin window is used in much the same way as a standard double-hung, but it gives a slightly more classic, ornate look that might be appropriate for colonial-style, Victorian style, or other classic styles.Pros
- Same as for standard double-hung windows.
- Provides an old-style classic appeal.
- Same as for standard double-hung windows.
- With true muntin windows, the muntins may separate from the glass over time, compromising the energy-efficiency of the window.
- Fake muntin grills can look cheap and inauthentic.
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Casement windows are those that crank open horizontally on hinges mounted on one side at the top and bottom. One side remains stationary, while the other side of the window pivots open like a door. They are very common windows, second only to double-hung windows in their popularity.Uses
Casement windows have slightly more modern style than double-hung windows, and when properly positioned, they can be very useful for catching and directing cooling breezes into the home.Pros
- Casement windows are considered better than double-hung windows at keeping out drafts since the window seal is generally quite tight.
- Casement windows are good when you want to "scoop" cooling outside air into the house.
- Casement windows tend to be securer against intruders—the open space is fairly narrow when the windows are open.
- When fully extended, casement windows can be broken off by strong winds.
- Mechanical cranking mechanisms are subject to wear and have a high failure rate.
- Casement windows do not qualify as egress windows unless they are quite large.
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Awning windows operate in exactly the same way as casement windows—with mechanical cranks that open and close them. Awning windows, though, open from the bottom when cranked, with the top edge fixed in place while the bottom pivots outward and up.Uses
They are frequently used in low-level windows where intruders might be a problem, or in wet climates where you want to open windows even when it is raining. Small awning windows are often used in the basement or in below-grade applications.Pros
- Awning windows are fairly secure against intruders.
- The windows can be left open during rain since the glass serves as an awning that prevents water from entering.
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- Awing windows do not scoop in outside fresh air as effectively as casement windows.
- Like casements, the mechanical cranks on awning windows are subject to wear and have a high failure rate.
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Slider windows are mechanically quite simple, consisting of side-by-side windows that slide horizontally along the top and bottom tracks. In some styles, both windows slide, while in other styles, one window is fixed while the other moves side to side.Uses
Slider windows are popular in mid-century modern homes styles (they were popular in new construction during the 1950s and 60s). Sliders are a good choice when you need to constantly open and close windows.Pros
- Sliders have no cranks or mechanisms, so they are very durable.
- Windows tend to be cheaper than other styles, due to the simplicity of their design.
- Style tends to be somewhat dated.
- Tracks can fill with dirt and debris, requiring frequent cleaning.
- Sizes and shapes are limited.
06 of 09
A fixed window refers to any window that uses a glass pane fixed within a window frame that does not open or close. The classic picture window is the most familiar example of a fixed window, but there are other types.Uses
Fixed windows are used to provide view or light where ventilation or egress is not a need.Pros
- Fixed windows are permanently sealed, so they offer better energy savings than other windows types.
- Simple design lends itself to modern home styles.
- Fixed windows tend to be cheaper than other window styles
- Fixed windows can create too much energy gain in warm, sunny climates.
- Because they can't be opened, fixed windows provide no means of admitting fresh air.
07 of 09
Skylight or Roof Windows
The terms roof window and skylight are sometimes used interchangeably, but traditionally, a skylight is defined as a fixed window installed in a roofline, while a roof window refers to a similar window that can be opened and closed to provide ventilation.Uses
Roof windows and skylights are most useful for introducing light into attic spaces or upstairs spaces where wall space for windows is limited. They can also improve light and ventilation in large "open-concept" rooms through the use of framed shafts, or chases, that extend from the skylight through the attic to the ceiling below.Pros
- They provide a good way to add light into the attic and second-story spaces.
- Venting roof windows can help exhaust hot air in summer.
- Constant, direct exposure to the sun means these windows can help heat spaces in winter.
- Skylights and roof windows take a heavy beating from sun and rain; these windows are prone to problems and have a shorter lifespan than other windows.
- Installation generally requires a pro, since cutting open a roof is beyond the abilities of most DIYers.
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Bay or Bow Window
A bay or bow window refers to a combination of windows that together form a unit that extends outward from the wall surface of the house. These windows are called bay when the shape of the extension is more-or-less square, and are known as a bow when the shape is more curved.
Bay and bow window are traditionally formed with a fixed center picture window flanked on the sides by one or more pairs of double-hung or casement windows.Uses
A bay or bow window can be used as a visual centerpiece in large living rooms, family rooms, or parlors. They very often look out on an attractive view or a landscaped setting, such as a front yard.Pros
- Bay or bow windows create a design statement like no other home feature.
- These windows are ideal where you want a constant view of the outdoors.
- These windows offer shelf space for growing plants or displaying decorative items.
- Small bay windows can serve as greenhouse windows for growing herbs and other plants.
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- Bay or bow windows are quite expensive.
- Installing these windows requires a considerable amount of framing work, including headers and roof coverings.
- The large surface area can create a heat loss issue.
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Glass Block Windows
Glass block windows refer to fixed windows made with architectural glass blocks, usually mortared in place. The thick blocks are typically made from semi-opaque glass that allows light to pass through but still block views.Uses
Glass block windows are most commonly used in bathrooms or other spaces where you want to introduce light while obstructing visibility. Glass blocks can also be installed in foundation walls to introduce light into basements. Some styles include ventilating panels built into the unit.Pros
- Glass block walls are the most secure of all windows since the heavy, thick blocks are mortared in place permanently.
- Glass blocks are semi-opaque, so they are ideal for areas where privacy is important.
- These windows have very good insulating properties.
- Glass blocks are very durable; such windows rarely need replacement.
- Glass blocks can be difficult to integrate into a home style. These windows are utilitarian, not very decorative.
- On south-facing walls, glass block may heat up indoor spaces.