Picking windows for your home can seem overwhelming because there are so many kinds and shapes to choose from. Different types of windows open in different ways and come in all kinds of shapes — square, round, rectangular and every custom shape you can imagine. New innovations and technology have made older styles of windows far more efficient and maintenance friendly than they used to be. Don’t just assume you need a standard, rectangular window. Take a good look at the style of your home, where it is situated, as well as the room you are working with. These factors should be considered when choosing among different types of windows.
Obviously, windows that best complement a home’s design are the optimum choice. That said, there are times when cost is the biggest factor in choosing windows. According to Modernize.com, the most cost-effective style of window is the single hung window in standard sizes. Besides being the most common type of window, they cost about 20 percent less than double hung or other types of windows.
Aside from cost considerations, maintenance is probably the next most important factor. The easiest to clean and maintain are double-hung types of windows. Double hung windows are easy to clean from the inside because you can easily reach each sash. It’s also possible to tilt the windows to direct airflow in a more targeted way, increasing comfort.
Speaking of single-hung vs. double hung, before you start choosing among the types of windows, it’s a good idea to understand all the different styles and any advantages or disadvantages of each style.
Single and Double Hung Windows
Double hung and single hung windows are two of the most common types of windows that you’ll see on any home today. Both are considered sash windows, which were invented by Englishman Robert Hooke. The main difference between single hung and double hung windows is how the window sections move. With a single hung window, only the bottom part of the window — the lower sash – can be opened. This part can be pushed up and down while the upper part of the window is fixed and does not move. This means that when you open the window the upper sash is covered on the inside. In a double hung window both upper and lower sash can be lowered and raised. Single and double hung are among the more energy efficient styles.
These types of windows were popular in the UK before sash windows were invented. Casement windows hang on hinges and open back and forth like a door. The style is still popular in many parts of Europe but are less common in the United States. This type is also very energy efficient because there are fewer pieces. Thanks to the large pane of glass they use, casement windows offer a more unobstructed view than single or double hung windows.
Bay or Bow Windows
These types of windows extend beyond the façade of the house, adding floor space, a window seat, or a shelf to a room. From the outside, bay and bow windows are an architectural feature. While they are similar, there are differences. Bay windows are composed of sections that have flat glass panes and the frame of the window is shaped into a bay. Prized for the way they let in an abundance of light, bay windows have been used since the heyday of castles during the English Renaissance, writes Bob Vila. Bow windows are custom curved windows that are arranged to make a circular extension from the home.
From the perspective of style, bay windows are typically used for modern homes while Victorian style homes are the best kind of home for bow windows. The desired interior feature is also a consideration for which type to choose. Bay windows allow for larger window seats or shelves in a room than bow windows do. When choosing between these two types of windows, cost is also a major factor to consider. Generally bay windows cost less than bow windows, which can cost about 2.5 times a bay window the same size.
To add a sense of drama and architectural dynamism to a home, incorporate arched windows. The tall, rounded top of these types of windows let in plenty of light as well as draw the eye upward, lending the space the feeling that it soars upward. Even in a shorter space, they add height. These windows are also fixed and are often installed above traditional functional windows for their stylistic flourish.
Natural light is an important element in a home and skylight windows are an excellent way to bring in more light. These types of windows are very useful in the middle of a house or in a room that has limited wall space that can be used for traditional windows. Skylights are basically a window in the roof. Some styles can be opened for ventilation while most are fixed closed.
Skylight windows are definitely not a do-it-yourself project and require professional installation. Because these are set into the roof, installation is very important to prevent leaking, to which these types of windows are prone. They can also leak energy and can impede proper roof ventilation, ice dams and rot. This also means the cost of these types of windows is higher.
Glass Block Windows
More an accent than a functional window, a glass block window is often used to let in additional light in an area where privacy is key. Glass block windows are commonly frosted or manufactured with designs in the glass. This type of window has seen surges of popularity over time and is typically used in bathrooms and other spaces where you want light but don’t need the window to open or close. Glass block windows cost about the same as single hung windows, however they are heavier than standard windows and require the proper support, especially if used in larger quantities, whether as an actual wall or a decorative wall.
Installing a garden window is like adding a little greenhouse to the wall of the house. These types of windows are like a mini-bay window just for plants, and some styles incorporate shelving to hold an abundance of plants. Garden windows are ideal for those who like to grow indoor plants as well as culinary herbs and flowers. The bay shape provides a longer stretch of sunlight during the day, enhancing growth. These are a particularly popular addition for the window in front of the kitchen sink, says Window Nation.
Round windows are an architectural element that adds style and interest to a home. They can be fully round, half round or oval, whichever fits the design you have in mind. These types of windows were common in Victorian and gothic homes and can be dressed up with fancy grilles or stained glass to given them an artful touch. Windows that have round shapes are also appropriate to pair with more standard-shaped windows. They also lend distinction to a home because they are unusual, and for older homes, they add a historically accurate touch. Of course, because they are special the cost is also higher for these windows.
More about function than form, egress windows are primarily for safety. These types of windows are installed in places where an emergency exit is needed, such as in a basement. They are generally large enough for a person to climb out in case of an emergency, such as a fire. Parts of a home that don’t have a reliable exit need to have an egress window. In most locations, building codes and regulations govern the size, type and location of egress windows.
These are the small windows that are installed above regular doors and windows for decorative reasons and, in some cases, for ventilation. These types of windows are often a semi-circular shape, but can also be squares or rectangles. Today, most are purely decorative, but if they are designed for added ventilation, they open up by tipping the bottom outward, like an awning. These windows are great for supplying fresh air in a location where the main window doesn’t open, or at a time when it’s not ideal to open a larger window. There’s a reason that the concept of transom windows has endured since the 14th century. While they did start falling out of favor in the 1970s, they are making a welcome return to new construction and remodeling projects.
Transom windows can also be used as a design element in interior spaces. They can add a more open feeling to a tight space by letting light from above a door between rooms, while maintaining privacy between the two spaces. They are also the perfect place to use a stained glass or embellished glass accent.
While the name is French, Jalousie windows are decidedly American and pretty retro. These types of windows are the ones that you see in older homes. They consist of strips of glass that open and close just like a venetian blind does. Invented in 1900 by Joseph W. Walker of Massachusetts, they are often found in older homes. The slats are controlled by a crank level that opens and closes them, letting in fresh air and allowing those inside to see out. In fact, this is where they get their name – jealousy – because those standing indoors can see out and outsiders cannot see in. Ease of maintenance and affordability made them very popular in decades past. That said, they were commonly used in warmer regions because the seal is not tight and they do not offer proper insulation for homes in colder climates, explains Modernize.com. These windows also do not offer security from intruders, even though newer technology has improved the concept and made them more desirable.
A perfect example of how less is more, picture windows let the view outside provide the pizazz. Essentially, they are nothing special – just a really big pane of glass without grids, frames or other embellishments. These types of windows are perfect when you have a beautiful view to enjoy outside because of the unobstructed view they provide. In fact, this is how they got their name – who needs art when you have Mother Nature to admire!
Picture windows do not open or provide ventilation for your home, however, they do bring in an abundance of natural light along with the unparalleled view of the landscape outside, notes Newman Windows. These types of windows are also a great way to modernize an older home when it comes times to replace leaky or old windows. Picture windows can also be combined with smaller functional or decorative window styles for a dramatic wall. It’s also possible to up the drama with the choices of glass that are available, such as those tinted in green, blue, grey or bronze. The framing can also be done in different materials and colors to add personal style.
As an added bonus, picture windows are fixed and don’t open, which means they are energy efficient and cost-effective to maintain.
Just like a sliding door, sliding windows have glass panels that slide sideways instead of up and down. Yes, these types of windows only allow half the space to be open, but can be convenient in homes where wall space is an issue. Rooms that have short walls are a good place for sliding windows since they are more horizontal than vertical. This gives the illusion of taller walls, and make designing the room and positioning furniture easier by providing more wall space.
This three-part window offers high drama to a space because it features a large central panel that has an arched top paired with two smaller side windows. These types of windows originated in 16th century Venice, created by Italian architect Andrea Palladio, write Encyclopaedia Britannica. It was popular during the 17th and 18th centuries in England and Italy. For historical reasons, it is also called a Serlian window or Venetian window. Just like other windows that have special architectural features, Palladian windows can draw the eye upward and add a good dose of visual drama to a space.
The design of these types of windows is perfect for providing ventilation in small spaces. Unlike most other styles, they tip open from the top, coming down into the home. Typically, they have a crank mechanism, making them useful in basements, garages and small bathrooms in particular. Hopper windows also provide excellent energy efficiency because they seal tightly.
These are not a style of window in and of themselves, but rather an addition that helps make old windows more energy efficient, particularly in cold climates. They can be a more affordable option than replacing windows in an older home. That said, there are several factors to consider before choosing to install storm windows. These are essentially extra glass windows that you install over the existing window but inside the same frame. While they are easy to install, they must be removed at the end of the cold season because they typically do not provide ventilation and prevent you from using the original window. These can be a fantastic option for improving energy efficiency in a home with historic value without the major expense – and preservation nightmare – of replacing the entire window.
As you can see, the choices for windows are many. The first consideration in every case – after budget of course – is the style of the home and constraints of the space where the window will be located. After that, it’s up to the designer and the homeowner to choose a type of window that is stylish and achieves the desired architectural feeling.