Choosing a window today is nothing like what it was just ten years ago. Today there are more window types than ever before, and choosing just the right window to complement a home and to match a homeowner’s pocketbook can be a Herculean task.
How many different choices does a homeowner have when it comes to picking just the perfect window? There are fix (also called picture); single and double hung; casement and bay; awning and sliders; skylights, and greenhouses.
The most basic window is a fixed, or picture window. This window does not open and can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Its primary advantage is that it provides a relatively large, unobstructed view of the outdoors. Its primary disadvantages are that it does not open to allow for air flow, and the outside of the window can only be cleaned from the outside of the house.
Of the windows which open, the simplest is possibly the single hung window. This is the vanilla ice cream of windows: plain and basic. Two sheets of glass within a single frame, one sheet in the bottom half of the window and the second sheet in the top half of the frame, each sheet framed within the overall frame of the window. The two sheets of glass are offset just enough that the lower portion of the window can be pulled upward, allowing outside air to enter a room. The main advantages of this type of window include its relatively low cost and the fact that it does provide some ventilation. Its disadvantages are that most of its ventilation only takes place if there is wind outside and the cross bar obstructs the view.
The double hung window is similar to the single hung window described above, except that with the double hung window, not only can the lower pane of glass be raised upward, but the top pane of glass can be lowered downward to create a window that can be open at the top as well as at the bottom. It is also possible to partially open the top pane as well as the bottom pane at the same time. One of the primary advantages of this type of window is that when both the top and bottom of the window is open, cool air can come in through the open lower pane, while hot air escapes through the open upper window. The only real disadvantage is the rail in the center of the window which obstructs the view.
A casement window is a single sheet of glass in a frame which is hinged on either the right or the left side and can be opened outward with a hand crank. The advantage of a casement window is that they provide excellent ventilation, and a well-made casement window also seals tightly against outside noise. The disadvantage of a casement window is that, because it opens outward, it cannot be used next to a sidewalk or even a deck. Also the hand crank can become tiresome.
An awning window is similar to the casement window, except that it is hinged at the top and opens outward with a crank handle. An awning window is often placed near the top of a wall so the window can let hot air escape. Its main advantage is that, because of the way this window opens, it can be left open when it rains. Its primary disadvantage is that, because it is so small and only opens partially, it cannot be easily used to escape in case of an emergency.
A gliding window consists of two panes of glass with a vertical bar between them. The panes are offset just enough that one pane can be slid to either the right or the left. The main advantages of this type of window are that, because it does not open outward, it can be used next to sidewalks, patios and decks. This type of window also has a large enough opening to use in case of an emergency. The primary disadvantage of this type of window is that you can only open one side at a time.
A skylight, also called a ceiling window, is installed in a ceiling. Some skylights do not open, and others open just slightly to allow for ventilation. The primary advantage of a skylight is the amount of light that can be let into otherwise somewhat dark spaces. The primary disadvantage is that the homeowner must climb onto the roof to clean the exterior of the window.
A bay window, also known as a bow window, can create a very dramatic effect. This window extends out from the wall of the house, giving a room the feeling of additional space and providing a great deal of exterior light. Generally a bay window’s central pane of glass is stationary, but the panes on the extended sides of the window may open.
The primary advantages of a bay window include the dramatic look it gives to the home’s appearance and the extra light it allows in. The primary disadvantages of a bay window are the cost and the difficulty of cleaning all of the various panes of glass.
A greenhouse window is sometimes added in a kitchen. This is in effect a small bay window, designed to hold a few small potted plants, often herbs. The primary advantage to this type of window is that it allows a homeowner to grow fresh herbs virtually all year round. The primary disadvantage is that, when the home is sold, this type of window only adds to the value of a home if the new owner wants a mini greenhouse built into the kitchen.
The homeowner must keep in mind that each type of window comes in a variety of frames: wood, vinyl, aluminum or steel. Each window also comes with a variety of coatings available on the glass and most come single or double-paned, many with an inert gas (such as argon) between the panes for added insulation.
The choice of windows may seem overwhelming, but homeowners can get great advice from the window specialists at United Home Experts. These design experts have years of experience here in the northeast and can quickly help a homeowner determine the exact window that complements any portion of a home and the exact window that also fits into the homeowner’s pocketbook.
The point is, a homeowner need not feel as if he or she is all alone out there in the window jungle – help is always available. For more information on windows, read our main window page!