Windows frame the outdoors and ventilate our homes, so it makes sense to know the different styles before you shop so you can choose the appropriate windows for your home.
We drape them, dress them, shade them and gaze through them, but we often ignore their functional aspects. Windows frame our views and connect us to the outdoors, so whether you’re installing anew or replacing existing panes, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the different window styles.
“Windows can set the style of a house, blur the boundaries between inside and outside, and open up a room,” architect Jon Chambers says. “They are the eyes of a home.”
So what should you know about the different styles? We asked Terry Marcovich, president of Accent Windows headquartered in Westminster, and Chambers, owner of Chambers Architects & Builders in Boulder, to tell us the pros and cons of the popular window styles. Here’s what they said:
Pros: These are hinged on the top and swing outward, usually via a crank. They’re often paired with a fixed window and are a good choice for basements, bedrooms or small spaces where privacy is a plus. Because they open outward, awnings can be left open in light rains.
Cons: Though they do offer some ventilation, they often don’t open terribly wide. If you’re a fan of winds whipping through the house, this may not be your best choice. Avoid using awnings along walkways, where people may run into them if they’re open.
Pros: Hoppers are similar to awning windows, but the hinge is at the bottom and the windows open inward from the top. They’re ideal for small areas like basements and bathrooms, and are often used as ventilation windows. When placed above doors, they’re called transoms.
Cons: Because they tilt into the room, you could come home to puddles if you leave them open during rain.
Louvered (or Jalousie) Windows
Pros: Louvered windows have several glass strips that tilt open using a lever or handle to allow for air flow. They’re popular in mild tropical climes, where air conditioning may be impractical or unaffordable.
Cons: They don’t seal in heat or air conditioning well. In short, they leak air and are energy inefficient. Because the glass strips can be easily removed, these windows are security risks.
Pros: These windows are hinged on the side and swing outward to the outside via a crank, or even just a push. They’re easy to install and blend with just about any architectural style.
Cons: Because they stick out from the house, casement windows can block breezes blowing from the side, and they’re often not easy to clean. Avoid using casements along walkways, where people may run into them if they’re open. The crank mechanisms can break and stick.
Pros: Sliding windows have sashes that move horizontally. Both panes open in a double-slider; only one pane opens in a single-slider. Since they’re conveniently operated and allow for good airflow, sliding windows are the preferred choice of many homeowners. They have fewer components than conventional windows, which means fewer repairs.
Cons: These windows slide along a track, which may warp and will very likely collect dirt.
Picture (or Fixed) Windows
Pros: Because they don’t open, picture windows can be made in any configuration using many different materials. They usually frame dramatic views, and add architectural interest because they can be made into custom shapes.
Cons: Because they’re non-operational, picture windows don’t allow for ventilation. A pro will know how to deflect light or gain solar heat on a picture window, but it’s often wise to combine these windows with windows that open.
Pros: These typically three-sided windows add elegance to any room, and are often used to frame stunning views or make a room appear larger. Because bays protrude from the house in a square, hexagonal or octagonal shape, they can add upward of 2 feet to a room. It’s common for a bay’s two outside panes to be operable windows.
Cons: Because they’re set outward from the face of the home and add additional length, bay windows may require a special permit. If you do need a permit, but you simply want to open up a room to light and views, consider a recessed bay that projects inward into the room instead of outward.
Pros: With a single-hung window, only one pane opens. With a double-hung window, both glass panes slide vertically, so you can open them from top or bottom. Newer models often have a tilt-sash feature that makes cleaning a breeze.
Cons: Sometimes more expensive to install, and the sliding sashes are sometimes difficult to seal, making these windows less energy efficient.