Updated Dec 1, 2022
New windows are an important investment in your home’s curb appeal and quality of life. They’re also pricey – often costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars to install or replace. For this reason, you need to know which styles, sizes, and features will best suit your needs as a homeowner before you pull out your wallet. To make sure your understanding of windows is crystal clear, we’ve compiled this guide to choosing the best windows for your home.
You can’t choose the right windows for your home without first understanding important factors like designs, sizes, framing, and energy-efficient components. These characteristics make all the difference regarding the visual appeal, functionality, and money-saving benefits good windows can provide. We’ll review these considerations in more detail to help you make the right choice.
First, we’ll discuss the most common types of windows for residential spaces. Each option has benefits and drawbacks, largely depending on where you plan to install them. As you read, consider which window style best fits the spaces throughout your home.
A single-hung window is a traditional style that opens vertically when pushed. Single-hung windows have a fixed upper sash – the portion of the window surrounding the glass pane – and a movable bottom sash. The bottom sash is the part of the window the homeowner will push upward to allow air to flow in.
Single-hung windows are most common in historic and craftsman-style homes. Their limited functionality has made them a less popular choice than double-hung windows.
A double-hung window is similar to a single-hung in that the sashes move to open the window. The difference is that neither of the double-hung window’s sashes is fixed; the bottom moves up, and the top moves down to open the window. If opened simultaneously, the two sashes will overlap in the middle to allow airflow through the top and bottom sections of the window.
Double-hung windows have a traditional, versatile style, making them incredibly common in modern homes. Many homeowners opt for double-hung over single-hung windows because of the two operating sashes that allow for greater ventilation and easier cleaning.
Arched windows are the most common specialty window shape people choose for their homes. They have a square or rectangular bottom half and a rounded, semi-circular top that forms an arching effect. Arched windows are an excellent choice for homeowners looking to add an elegant touch to their spaces. Though traditionally used in gothic architecture, arched windows are gaining popularity in modern home design. They can be used in these scenarios to soften the otherwise sharp appearance of geometric structural features.
Arched windows are typically classified as a specialty shape, so they’ll likely have higher labor and installation fees than traditional ones. Achieving the rounded shape at the top of the windows requires more precise installation work, so you’ll need professional assistance to add these windows to your home.
Awning windows are hinged at the top, allowing them to open outward. These windows typically open and close with an easy-to-use crank mechanism, making them a great choice for hard-to-reach spaces that need extra fresh air and light. The crank allows you to open the window to various angles for different ventilation and privacy needs. This feature makes awning windows popular for bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchens.
Bay windows are the protruding casements often used as dining or reading nooks. They’re a fantastic choice for homeowners looking to improve the appearance of a room with dimension and natural light.
If you plan to install a bay window, know they have higher labor costs and more demanding installation processes. Bay windows include three sections extending out past your home’s exterior wall. For this reason, the contractor will likely need to add additional structural features for support. This process may involve moving load-bearing beams within the exterior wall or adding additional support beams to keep everything steady.
Bow windows are similar in structure to bay windows. They include sections of glass that angle out to form a structure extending past the home’s exterior wall. Bay windows typically have three sections that form a small nook within the home. On the other hand, bow windows include five or more sections to create a semi-circle-like structure.
Bow window installation typically involves the same considerations as those for bay windows. However, bow windows include more windows and framing, which will add to your overall material and labor costs.
Casement windows are similar to awning windows in the sense that they’re hinged to the frame. The difference is that casement windows are hinged on one side and function like a small glass door. The homeowner can open and close their casement windows by maneuvering a crank at the bottom of the frame. This feature makes casement windows a great choice for tight, hard-to-reach areas.
Casement windows are one of the most energy-efficient window models on the market. They close securely with a weather-tight seal and multiple locks that keep outside air from entering the home. They’re a good choice for areas like bathrooms and kitchens that need quick, effortless ventilation.
This video from Ecoline Windows demonstrates how to open casement windows:
Picture windows have large panes of glass without any crisscrossing rails. They create a “picture” by providing an unobstructed view of the outside of the home. Picture windows are sometimes called fixed windows because they’re permanently set in the wall with no ability to open. These windows function as a glass portion of the wall that visually opens up the space and allows light to enter.
Picture windows are a good choice if you want a better view of your outdoor landscape. They’re also excellent for adding a burst of natural light to any space in your home. However, picture windows aren’t useful for spaces needing extra ventilation. Their fixed, airtight design prevents you from opening them to let fresh air into your home.
Transom windows are decorative features that typically frame exterior doorways. Though you’ll typically install transom windows as part of your door, you can add them to your home anytime. They’re an excellent window solution for homeowners seeking increased natural light and ventilation without adding a full window to the front of their homes.
Before selecting transom windows for your home, you must determine whether the chosen wall is load-bearing. No matter where you install the windows, the contractor must cut through the drywall to insert the windows. If the chosen wall contains structural beams, those will have to be removed and placed around the windows to maintain the wall’s structural integrity.
Size is another important factor to consider when comparing your home’s window options. You’ll need a window that fits both structurally and aesthetically in your home. Depending on the size and architectural constraints of the area, you’ll likely choose from one of several standard window sizes.
Sizes for traditional double-hung windows range from 36-72 inches tall and 24-48 inches wide, so you’ll likely find what you need without having to go custom. However, if your unique home needs a customized window solution, most window installation providers like Renewal By Andersen can provide a quote for your specific needs.
Here are the standard minimum and maximum sizes for a few of the common window models:
|Window Type||Typical Height Range||Typical Width Range|
|Double-hung||36-72 inches||24-48 inches|
|Awning||20-92 inches||24-46 inches|
|Bay||36-78 inches||42-128 inches|
|Casement||30-78 inches||14-36 inches|
|Picture||12-96 inches||24-96 inches|
Energy efficiency is another important quality to consider when shopping for new windows. Windows with higher energy efficiency are better at keeping unwanted outdoor air from entering your home. While this characteristic is undoubtedly important to your comfort, it also has the potential to lower your energy bills.
Instead of selecting cheaper single-pane windows, opt for multi-pane models with improved insulation and low emissivity treatments. Window insulation reduces temperature transfer from one side of the glass to the other. Windows treated for low emissivity or low-E block infrared light from penetrating the glass. Both of these qualities help retain the temperature your HVAC system works hard to maintain in your home. The less the system has to work, the less you’ll pay on monthly energy bills.
Double-pane windows are a good place to start if you’re looking to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Unlike traditional single-pane windows, double-pane models have two glass layers called glazing, separated by a thin gap. The gap is typically filled with air or argon gas, a dense element useful for improving insulation between the panes.
Triple-pane windows are another energy-efficient home improvement. These windows have three layers of glass instead of two, thus improving their insulative abilities. These windows are a good choice for homeowners in extreme climates where cold air threatens to make the HVAC system work double-time. Triple-pane windows also have the best noise reduction qualities of any other window, making them an excellent choice for homeowners in noisy areas of town.
When deciding between double or triple-pane windows, consider how long it will take to recoup the cost of the windows in energy savings. Triple-pane models are undoubtedly more expensive but will potentially save you more money on heating and cooling your home – especially if you live in an extreme climate.
Need energy-efficient windows you can trust? Look for windows certified by Energy Star, the government-backed energy efficiency agency. Energy Star-certified windows have undergone strenuous testing to ensure they perform in a way that’s best for the environment, your home, and your budget.
The window frame material you choose will affect a window’s price, appearance, and functionality. We’ll discuss some common window frame materials and their potential pros and cons.
Aluminum window frames are lightweight yet durable, making them a popular choice for larger windows. They’ll support your home’s windows while withstanding environmental factors outside. Their durability also lends to fewer maintenance needs and less cleaning, which greatly benefits hassle-free homeowners.
A downside of aluminum windows is that they aren’t very energy efficient. Aluminum is a poor insulator, which means outside temperatures will likely weasel their way into your home through the frames. For this reason, aluminum frames aren’t a good choice for homes in cold environments.
Fiberglass window frames are one of the pricier options but have the longest life span. Fiberglass is incredibly durable and able to withstand harsh outdoor conditions. Better yet, it’s available in diverse textures and styles. Fiberglass is a poor temperature conductor, making it an excellent insulator for your home.
Along with higher costs, installation requirements are a downside of fiberglass window frames. Unless you’re a skilled DIY window installer, it’s likely best to call in a pro to put in fiberglass windows – the material requires skill and precision for the best results.
Wood window frames are a traditional option for a wide range of home styles. It’s a good choice for homeowners seeking a classic aesthetic for a mid-range price. The material is also a fantastic insulator, making it a solid option for improving the energy efficiency of your windows.
Before installing wooden window frames in your home, beware that it has more maintenance needs than other options. Wood is susceptible to warping, rotting, and discoloration – factors that ultimately lower its life span. Depending on the climate, you may need to seal, clean, and caulk the frames regularly to keep them in good shape.
Vinyl window frames are a cost-effective option suited for many homeowners’ needs. Vinyl frames are made of PVC, a plastic material resistant to mold and water damage. The material doesn’t need staining, painting, or sealing to remain in top condition. While this is a major benefit for homeowners seeking a low-maintenance frame option, those seeking highly customizable window frames might see it as a drawback.
Vinyl window frames once had a reputation for being low quality, but this is no longer the case. Improved high-quality vinyl materials are durable, long-lasting, and provide excellent insulation around your windows.
Selecting the right windows also depends on how long you plan to stay in your home. You’ll want to determine the life span of different window materials to understand the value they’ll retain over time. Plus, the longer a certain material lasts, the longer you can go without paying for costly replacement windows. Some framing materials like aluminum and fiberglass cost more to install and replace but last much longer than wood or vinyl. If you plan to live in your home for the foreseeable future, a larger investment will likely be worth the high-quality materials you’ll get.
This table from our Window Replacement Cost guide shows the average life spans and potential replacement costs of common framing materials:
|Material||Average Life Span||Average Replacement Cost (Per Window)|
After determining the quality and life span of different window framing options, you’ll want to consider how much it could cost you to replace entire windows. Windows generally need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years. According to Clera Windows & Doors, your windows will likely exhibit frequent repair needs around the 20-year mark. You may notice cracked panes, warped framing, foggy glass, and stubborn sashes. At this point, replacement is likely the solution to the repeated repairs and higher energy bills old windows cause.
The table below shows potential replacement costs for the different types of windows you might choose for your home. Consider these cost differences ahead of time to determine how much you need to budget for different window styles.
|Window Type||Average Cost (Per Window)|
Remember – these figures don’t account for labor and installation fees, which often range from $30 to $50 per hour. You’ll pay higher labor fees depending on the time and scope of work required for your specific project.
Now that you know all the ins and outs of windows, you’re ready to start shopping for the best option for your home. Appearance is likely your top priority when choosing new windows, but life span and energy efficiency are also important factors to consider. These qualities can significantly affect the return on your window investment, so don’t forget to think long-term.
No matter what you select, you can look forward to fresh air and natural light filling your home from your new windows. If you need a better solution down the road, some qualified – and affordable – industry experts are ready to make your design goals a reality.
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