Window Basics: Learn the Types and Styles
Windows are available in a variety of designs and sizes. There are differences in opening mechanisms and structure, as well as glass. Learn about replacing and renovating windows, as well as installing catches, shutters and glazing.
Types of Windows
There are several different types of windows. Traditionally, most windows were side-hinged windows, referred to as casements, and sliding sash windows. New opening mechanisms such as friction and pivot hinges are increasingly popular. Window materials, shapes, and sizes vary considerably, as does terminology, so you should read your manufacturer's literature carefully. Replacement windows for older homes often need to be custom-built to your requirements.
Commonly, the material and mechanism of a replacement window is chosen to match the originals. There are some exceptions-new sash windows, for example, will often be equipped with modern spiral balances, although they look the same as original lead counterweight versions. If you are replacing all the windows in your property, or building a new home, then take time to consider energy-efficient products such as double and even triple glazing. Frames may have a sill attached, an optional sill, or none at all. If your old frame has a sill attached, make sure your replacement has one.
Most styles of windows are available in a number of different materials. Each material has advantages and disadvantages in terms of maintenance and appearance.
Windows were traditionally made of wood, and it is still popular because it is so versatile. If old windows are drafty, you can install weather stripping. Hardwood is expensive, but is durable and only needs the protection of oil. You can also paint hardwood windows or give them a natural finish. Softwood windows need to be protected by paint or a natural wood finish, and regularly maintained.
Double-glazed, vinyl windows offer excellent heat and sound insulation. Old windows are often replaced throughout a house by new vinyl windows. In addition to white, other finishes are available, such as wood-grain. Vinyl requires little maintenance.
Where maximum light is required, aluminum windows can be an excellent option-the strength of aluminum means a thin frame can support a large expanse of glass. However, aluminum conducts heat out of the home and is prone to condensation. Double-glazing may be required by building regulations to reduce heat loss. Old aluminum windows were prone to rust, but modern versions are coated during manufacturing and are durable and low-maintenance.
Windows can be made from a combination of materials. Aluminum windows, for example, often have a wooden core, and steel casements can be housed in wooden frames to reduce heat loss. Frames with decorative real wood on the inside, and maintenance-free fiberglass or vinyl exteriors are also available. Traditional lead lights are made up of small pieces of glass held between strips of lead within a wood frame. Other types of windows are available with lead-light-effect double-glazing.
Parts of a Casement Window
The window is made up of one or more opening casements, hinged along one side. Top-hung and side-hung casements are available.
In this example, a glazing bar divides glass in the same casement.
A distinctive, traditional design with two vertically sliding sashes. Modern sashes are made of wood or vinyl, and some versions allow tilting of sashes for easy cleaning. In this example, the top sash slides down, and the bottom sash slides up.
Check with the local building code department before replacing any windows. New windows may be subject to energy regulations or emergency escape and rescue requirements.
If you are working on a historic building, you must check with the local building department and/or the historical preservation board before replacing any windows.
Custom windows offer you a selection of sizes and styles that can meet any needs. When you order custom windows, you have options to include special glass, lites, or other features like this window screen.
In this custom window, the side swings out, and the screen fabric rolls down.
Grilles and Divided Lites
Windows divided with smaller panes were historically easier and much more affordable to produce than large sheets of clear glass. Today, even though technology allows us to create larger panes of glass that are much less expensive, the traditional look has become very popular. The smaller panes of glass in a window are called divided lites. They are separated by strips of wood called grilles. True divided lite windows are manufactured in the traditional method with a solid wood frame broken into shapes with wood strips.
Grilles are a popular choice on newer homes' windows. Adding a touch of historic style, grilles are offered in the same material as your window frame. Some manufacturers offer removable grilles.
Removing or Adding Grilles
If you would like the look of a divided lite window, but are not concerned about having true divided lites, manufacturers offer detachable grilles. These provide the same look as the true divided windows, but are available at a lower cost. With detachable grilles you also have the option of removing them and cleaning behind the grilles when necessary.
Butt hinges are used along the top edge of older designs; newer awning windows use friction hinges at either end of the top edge. Both arrangements allow the bottom edge of the window to swing open.
Choosing the type of window for your home may seem like the most important part in the process of replacing your windows, but making sure you understand all of the operating and maintenance directions is even more important. For example, awning windows are designed to open to only about 45 degrees. And, wood windows that are installed unfinished should be painted or stained as soon as possible to protect them from wear and weather. Finishing windows seals wood from UV rays, preventing them from turning a gray color.
Finish your wood windows with the appropriate outdoor wood sealer that your manufacturer recommends. Always use a water-repellent preservative and do not use caustic or abrasive cleaners. Make sure to caulk between the window and the wall opening after installation. Learn how to properly open every type of window installed, and the recommended ways to clean the glass of the exterior parts of the window to protect your investment in your home. If there are any accessories with your windows, make sure you know how to care for each of them.