A Beginner’s Guide to Picture Windows

Picture windows are large windows that don’t open. Their purpose is to display a view outside, like a picture frame, which is where they get their name.

Picture windows are ideal when you want to let in a lot of natural light or create a focal point. These windows can stand alone or be part of a larger design scheme with operational windows on each side.

If you’re considering adding a picture window to your home, here’s what you need to know.


What is a Picture Window?

Picture window

A picture window is a large window with a thin, low-profile frame. Its purpose is to maximize the view outside. Some homeowners use picture windows independently, while others incorporate them into a design. 

For example, picture windows are often the center of a bay window setup. Another popular configuration is a picture window flanked by a double-hung or casement window. Since casement and double-hung windows can open, they allow for ventilation that a picture window doesn’t provide.

What is a Double Hung Picture Window?

Picture windows are fixed windows with one large sheet of glass in a thin frame. Double-hung windows are tall rectangular windows with two sashes that open – they’re the typical window in most homes. 

While one popular design is to flank a double-hung window on each side of a picture window, double-hung windows are not the same as picture windows.

You can purchase a fixed double-hung window, though. A fixed style will look like a standard double-hung window -only it won’t open.

What is a Casement Picture Window?

A casement window has hinges on the side and opens outward. While these windows are great for ventilation, they are not a type of picture window. Sometimes casement windows are flanked on the sides of a large picture window, though.

You can also purchase fixed casement windows that look like the real thing but don’t open.


How Much Does a Picture Window Cost?

You can find smaller 48” x 24” vinyl picture windows for as low as $250. Large picture windows can exceed $1,000.

Many factors influence a price of a picture window -namely size and material. These windows are less expensive than other large decorative types, including bay or bow windows.


What are the Most Common Picture Window Sizes?

Picture windows come in sizes ranging from 2-8 feet in width and up to 8 feet in height. So, no matter the setup you’re after, you can likely find a picture window in a suitable size.


Fixed Window vs. Picture Window: What’s the Difference

Many people think that fixed and picture windows are the same, but they’re not. While neither open for ventilation, the difference is in the purpose and frame.

The purpose of a picture window is to provide a view outside. These windows have a low, thin frame and one large sheet of unobstructed glass. 

Fixed windows often imitate other styles. For example, a fixed casement window looks like a standard one but doesn’t open. Fixed windows can be any size or shape and have frames that match the style and thickness of other windows in the home.


Pros and Cons of Picture Windows

There are many benefits of installing a picture window in your home but a few drawbacks, too. 

Pros:

  • Highlight outdoor scenes – A picture window will act as a picture frame, highlighting the outdoors.
  • Excellent natural light source – Since these windows are so big, they allow natural light to enter the home.
  • Energy efficient – Picture windows are one large window that doesn’t open. Because of this, they have a tighter seal and are more energy efficient.
  • Design focal point – These large windows can create a focal point inside and outside your home.

Cons:

  • Picture windows don’t open – If you want to let air in, you won’t be able to do it through your picture window.
  • Cleaning – The large glass panes of a picture window are a prime spot for fingerprints and dirt smudges. And if your picture window is on a second floor, you’ll need a ladder to clean its exterior.

What are the Best Blinds for Picture Windows?

There are bound to be times when you want to cover your picture window for privacy. So, what are your best options?

Look for a blind or shade that’s easy to open and close. Rather than standard Venetian blinds, consider woven roller shades for a modern look and plantation shutters for a farmhouse style. You can find many colors and design variations within each kind.


What are the Best Picture Window Replacements?

Do you have a picture window but are ready to replace it with something different? Here are some of the top picture window replacements:

  • Double casement window – A double casement window is two casement windows side by side. You can add three casement windows if you have a large opening. These windows open outward toward one side by the use of a hand-crank.
  • Multiple Double Hung WindowsDouble hung windows are tall rectangles with two operable sashes. You can use two or three of them to fill your picture window space.
  • Horizontal sliders – A wide horizontal slider with 2-3 sliding panels is an option.
  • Bow window Bow windows arc away from the home’s exterior wall, creating a nook inside. They feature 4-6 individual window panels.

The ideal solution for replacing your picture window depends upon its size and your budget, but you have many options.

How Do You Clean a Picture Window?

Because picture windows are one large sheet of glass, they require frequent cleaning. You can clean your window with a glass cleaner or a combination of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. Spray your cleaner on the window and use a lint-free cloth (like microfiber) to wipe away dirt. Work in small sections.

You can clean the exterior window using the same method. If the window is on the first floor but too high to reach, consider purchasing a window cleaner with an extendable rod.

If your picture window is on the second floor, you’ll need a ladder to reach it for cleaning – exercise extreme caution.

How Long Do Picture Windows Last?

Since picture windows don’t open or have moving parts, they tend to last longer than other types of windows. Depending on the material, you can expect your picture window to last 20-50 years

Vinyl and fiberglass framed picture windows last longer than aluminum or wood frames.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is a picture frame window?

A picture frame window is the same as a picture window – a large glass panel with a thin frame that allows you to display outdoor scenery.

Can you install a picture window sideways?

You can’t install a picture window sideways – the glass is set in the frame in a specific way to distribute the weight. If you install your picture window wrong, you up the chance for leaks and void your warranty. 

Are picture windows cheaper than double-hung windows?

If you compare a double-hung window of the same size and material as a picture window, the picture window will be cheaper. 

Can you put a window seat under a picture window?

While a picture window doesn’t extend out like a bay or bow window, you can still place a seat underneath it. Just be warned that putting a seat directly under your window may lead to many fingerprints and smudges.

Where are the best spots for a picture window?

While you can put a picture window in any room, the most common spots include the living room and dining room.

Final Thoughts

Picture windows allow you to enjoy the outdoor scenery from the comfort of your home.

These windows feature a large, unobstructed sheet of glass with a thin, low-profile frame.

You can install a single picture window or incorporate it into a large design.