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Window Types And Styles

A Marriage Of Form & Function

Choosing among the various window types and styles is just one piece of the window-buying puzzle but it's an important piece. Sure, you need to understand the technical things like energy efficiency but before you even go there you first need to first choose the type of window that you want. Should it be double hung or casement or some other type? Then there's the style to consider. Do you prefer a 12-lite pattern, colored glass or some other style characteristics?

Lots of articles and websites lump the terms "window types" and "window styles" together to mean the same thing. This web page takes a different view in that the "type" of window defines its functionality whereas window "style" speaks to its aesthetic form.

The right type of window impacts the livability and functionality of your home. In other words, how they function, open and operate can be easy and convenient or annoying and difficult (which means you ultimately should have made a better window choice).

And windows are more than portholes that bring in light and keep weather out. Windows are (or can be) highly stylistic and have a big impact on the overall aesthetic appeal of your home.

To make good window choices consider the type of window that best suits your needs. But don't forget about style and how windows impact not only how your house looks from the outside, but how it looks and feels on the inside as well.

Understanding the distinction while keeping both in mind can help you make the right overall choice.

The Types Of Windows At Your Disposal

There are a variety of window types that you can choose from and each has its particular attributes that distinguish it from other kinds of windows.

On one hand it might seem like they're all the same, just different shapes. There's obviously some overlap but there's a reason why there are specific types of windows like casements, awnings and double-hungs. Using the right window in the appropriate situation makes for a more efficient and functional space, whether it's your kitchen, family room or bathroom.

As you read the details about the various kinds of windows you'll see that one type might be a better choice than another in a particular location in your home.

Note: In the following information the term "sash" refers to the framework that holds the pane or panes of glass together. The sash is movable in operable (opening) windows and stationary in fixed windows.

Single / Double Hung Window

double hung window

Single and double hung windows consist of two sashes with one installed above the other. A single hung window has one movable sash and one fixed sash. Both sashes are movable in a double hung window and slide over one another.

These windows work well in just about any application in a home. Today's technology makes them easier to use and more efficient than their older predecessors.

One benefit is that they don't use up exterior space like a casement window with a swinging sash. That makes them a good choice in spots where outdoor activity (patio, walkway) or obstructions (hedges, shrubbery) would get in the way of an open casement window.

Double hung windows are also advantageous because the top sash can be lowered offering ventilation while the bottom sash stays closed, providing safety against children or pets falling out of the window.

Tilt-in sashes are very convenient when it comes time to clean the windows. There's no need to go outside nor climb a ladder to clean second story windows.

The only spot where these kinds of windows aren't a great choice is where you can't get full access to open and close them. A good example is above a kitchen sink or any similar location where you have to bend forward to open and close the window. Moving the sashes can also be difficult for individuals with limited mobility or strength unless the windows have options that include universal design features

Casement Window

casement window

Casement windows operate like a door, swinging out from one side or the other. They're typically operated by a crank mechanism though there are push-out styles.

You can find casement windows in a wide variety of sizes and can even order custom sizes from manufacturers that offer custom window designs.

The benefits of casement windows are several-fold. Because of the way they open they act as a "scoop" to catch breezes and direct them into the room. They typically offer better sight lines because there is no sash frame in the middle of the window to obstruct the view like there is with single/double hung windows. However if you want a casement that mimics the look of a double hung so that it matches similar windows on your house you can certainly find these styles in casements.

Another benefit of casement windows is that they offer some of the best energy efficiency you'll find among windows, all other things like type of glass and frame materials being equivalent. That's because of the way a casement window closes; it pushes against a seal and a latch mechanism provides positive force to pull the sash into the seal.

Finally, casements work well in scenarios where limited reach or physical accessibility is restricted. Because it's opened using a hand crank it's easier to reach and open. This is something to consider when thinking about making your home adaptable to aging in place.

If there's any drawback with casement windows it's the fact that they "take up space" when you open them because of their swing-out design. If the area outside the window is a walkway or a patio the open sash might be an obstruction. Built-in obstacles like a roofline or shrubbery can limit how far the window can be opened. In these kinds of scenarios a double hung window may be a better choice.

That being said, in-swing casement windows are available. You just have to remember that the same constraints regarding swing-space apply, except for the inside of your house rather than the outside.

Slider / Glider Windows

slider window

Slider windows are essentially single or double hung windows that are flipped on their side. They're also called glider or gliding windows depending on which manufacturer you're dealing with.

Sliders can have one sash that moves (similar to a single hung window) or two movable sashes. They simply slide over each other from right to left or vice versa depending on the design. You can also find triple slider windows (sometimes called "picture sliders") where there are two movable sashes and one stationary sash (usually in the center). Glider windows typically have a means of easily removing the sash from the inside for easier cleaning.

Slider windows are a good choice when you want a wider window, similar to a picture window, that can be opened. They're available with a variety of grille options so you can style the window as you'd like.

The sliding operation of a glider window may also be easier to open for some individuals than the push-up/down motion associated with single and double hung windows.

One thing to consider with slider windows is the type of handle or mechanism used to move the sashes. Some manufacturers use a small latch that pulls out of the side of the sash whereas others use a handle. You may want try out different kinds to see how easy and comfortable it is to open and close the window.

Like single and double hung windows, sliders are space savers because they don't have any swing-out space considerations to contend with.

Awning Windows

awning window

Awning windows are similar to casement windows except that they swing out horizontally from the top, rather than vertically on the side like a true casement. Awning windows open at the bottom and usually open outward although there are some that can open inward.

Because the design is essentially the same as a casement, awning windows share similarities with respect to energy efficiency and operation. They open and close by means of a crank handle and they have a latch mechanism that locks the sash up tight against the seal. However you can also get push-out awning windows that use a simple latch that you unlock and push to open the sash.

One application for awning windows is a location higher up on a wall above standing height. This type of window design known as "clerestory" allows light to enter the space while keeping it private. The benefit of an awning window in this setting is that it can still be opened for ventilation, provided the crank handle and latch are within easy reach on the lower edge of the window. But even if the windows are out of reach you can still open them using electric motor capabilities offered by some manufacturers.

Do you live in a rainy environment but still want good ventilation? Awning windows are a good choice in this scenario because they open outward and upward, keeping the rain out while letting the air in.

Hopper Windows

hopper window

A hopper window is similar to an awning window except that it's flipped over -- in other words, it opens at the top instead of the bottom. The one big difference however is that hopper windows open to the inside rather than the outside.

Hopper windows are a good choice for small window applications where you still want an operable window for ventilation. The inward-opening feature works well in these situations because it opens more than a similarly-sized slider or double-hung window could. It also has less framing to block the light than those other types of windows.

Many below-grade basements have small windows at the ground level and hopper windows make a good choice for an operable window in this application. That's why you'll find hopper windows used in both unfinished and finished basements.

Another benefit of hopper windows is the ability to clean both sides of the window from the inside. Because the sash opens inward (and the screen is on the outside) you have easy access to both sides of the window. That's a handy feature for basement windows that tend to accumulate a lot of dirt from rain splatter at the base of the foundation.

Hoppers also work well in combination with casement windows when "mulled" together ("mulled" refers to the joining of two windows where the joint is covered on the interior with trim work). A typical configuration is one where a hopper window is positioned below a casement.

Tilt-Turn Windows

tilt and turn window

The tilt and turn window is a hybrid combination of a casement and a hopper window. It can swing open like a casement window and also tilt inward from the top, like a hopper. The key difference however is that when it acts like a casement the sash swings inward instead of to the outside like most casement windows.

The main benefit of the tilt-turn window style is design and operational flexibility. In other words, it simply gives you a window that can "do more things" and thereby offer you more choices as far as how you can use it. When used as a casement window the sashes can be opened wide to let in copious amounts of airflow. This also means the open sash will take up room in your interior space since it's an in-swing window, depending on how wide you open it.

If you want just a little ventilation you can tilt in the top of the window like a traditional hopper. This lets the air flow while giving you the security against anything or anyone getting in or out of the window.

Tilt-turn windows are usually controlled by a single handle. The direction or extent to which you turn the handle determines whether the window will open as a hopper or like a casement.

Bay / Bow Window

bay and bow window

Bay windows and bow windows are variations on a theme. They're similar in that they both project outward from an exterior wall. On the inside they offer a great spot for a window seat or a place for small decorative accessories.

They differ in the number of windows that make up the complete assembly which in turn makes them slightly different in shape.

Bay windows are usually made up of 3 windows; a center window that's flanked by two windows that are angled back from the center window. The angle of the side windows depends on the make and model but typical angles are 30 degrees and 45 degrees. A 45-degree bay window is "pushed out" farther than a 30-degree window, offering more inside space as a result. One alternative style is the box bay window which has the flanking windows at a 90 degree angle from the center window, forming a box.

Bow windows are made up of 4 or more window units and form a more gentle curve compared with the more angular bay window. You might see 4, 5 or even 6-unit bow windows. This means there are that many individual windows that make up the bow window assembly. More window units makes for a wider overall bow window.

The benefits offered by these types of windows include broader views outside, additional interior space and the ability to capture more light. They also provide an interesting architectural detail and add visual interest to the outside of your home.

Bay and bow window assemblies are made from one type or a combination of window types. For example, they can be made using single/double hung windows and/or casements. Or they can be a combination of fixed (stationary) and operable windows. The ability to customize depends on the specific window brand you choose.

Both bay and bow windows require a roof since they project out from the side of the house and the roofing material will need to tie into the home's siding with proper flashing and weather-proofing.

Garden Window

garden window

A garden window, also called a greenhouse window, is essentially a window box that juts out from the side of the house with glass on the front, sides and top. It's different from a bay or bow window in that it's usually a pre-built unit, it's smaller and it also comes with it's own glass "roof".

Garden windows are a good spot for cultivating house plants (hence the name) or to simply gather more light and bring some of the outside environment into the home. A common location for these kinds of windows is above a kitchen sink. However one thing to consider in this scenario is whether the particular garden window has openings or vents and how easy it is to reach over the sink to access the openings.

Some garden windows are available with a shelf located in the middle of the window box. It offers more space for whatever items you might locate there. The depth of these windows varies too, depending on the brand, with both deep and shallow varieties available.

Garden window frames are typically made from vinyl or aluminum. If there's any drawback to these kinds of windows it may be keeping them clean and clear. All of the glass, including the sloping glass roof, is out in the elements for the most part and is subject to rain, dust and whatever else the environment throws at it.

Fixed Windows

fixed window

A fixed window is a non-operable window, which means it can't be opened. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and if you go with custom windows, they can look like just about anything you want.

Fixed windows also go by other names depending on their particular shape or geometry. "Radius" or "arch" windows are half-circle fixed windows and are used frequently to top off a square window below it. They can complement a room with a vaulted ceiling by bringing in additional light at the apex of the wall where it meets the ceiling.

"Picture" windows are another form of fixed window. They tend to be larger in size and usually have minimal grillework for an unobstructed view. Another application for smaller style fixed windows are transom windows above larger operable windows like casements, double hung or sliders. They're also used as clerestory windows, smaller windows installed at the top of a wall that provide light while offering privacy.

Fixed windows are a great choice when you want a view, more light or both but don't need the ventilation. They can also be a great way to add architectural detail both inside and outside your home. They're also energy efficient, compared to operable windows, because they're factory sealed and there's no seal or weatherstripping that can break down over time.

Glass Block Windows

glass block window

Glass block has long been used in windows to achieve specific design purposes. One of the main uses is for privacy. Glass block allows the light to shine through while keeping whatever's behind it private.

While these kinds of windows were originally made with glass block the arrival of acrylic (a type of plastic) has opened up new possibilities. Acrylic is lighter than glass and ultimately makes for a lighter window. In the past glass block windows couldn't be opened, mainly because of their weight. With the advent of the lighter acrylic blocks this type of privacy window can now be made to open.

In the past glass block windows were manufactured "brick style", using mortar to adhere the blocks together within a frame. That process can still be used today but there are alternatives that include the use of mechanical joinery and non-mortar joint compounds.

Glass and acrylic block windows are available in a variety of textures and colors, giving you some design flexibility. Click here to read more about glass and acrylic block and the design options that they offer in both windows and other applications.

Jalousie Windows

jalousie window

A jalousie window is simply a louvered window. It's another specialty type of window that works best in specific settings and climates.

Jalousie windows are made in a variety of sizes and can be combined to form banks of windows that cover a large area. The frames are made from aluminum or vinyl.

Modern jalousie windows are made with seals to close off the outside environment when the louvers are closed. Screens keep the inside of the house free of bugs when the windows are open. Some jalousie manufacturers also make the glass available with energy efficient coatings similar to those on conventional windows. Security features are available to prevent the louvers from being forced open from the outside.

Jalousie windows offer some of the best ventilation possible among the various types of windows. In a warm climate they provide a quick way to regulate breezes with the simple movement of a rod or crank. The small size of the louvers also presents a small profile and avoids the space implications of a swing-out casement window. If a louver breaks all you need to do is replace the broken one and not a complete window.

Drawbacks might include cleaning the individual louvers which is more time consuming than wiping off a single sheet of glass. Jalousies also have more complexity in their operating mechanism and might be susceptible to breakdown over time.

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Window Styles

The terms "window styles" and "window types" are often used interchangeably and while there's probably some justification for that, there's also a rationale for separating the two. Whereas window 'type' refers to its functionality, window 'style' is really about how a window presents itself to the world.

window style

For example, there are a number of ways to style a double hung window. They might have only two lites ('lite' being an individual pane of glass bordered by the edges of the sash or grille dividers) or they may have twelve. It might have a 2-to-1 height-to-width ratio or it may be square.

A Big Part Of The Home's Appeal

The important point here is that the style of the window plays a big role in how your house looks not only from the outside but from the inside as well. Regardless of whether you choose casements, double hung, awnings or a combination, the "style" is really how they're shaped, trimmed, grouped together and/or located relative to the home's architecture.

Think of it this way: if you see a home with vertically rectangular windows and they each are divided into 16 small panes, do you get a sense that the home is a colonial style?

What about a wall of windows characterized by different geometric shapes. Does this evoke a more modern feel?

You get the point. The style of windows you choose is an independent feature to some degree from the type of windows they are and this also contributes to the overall style of the home itself. Obviously there are other features of a home that define the architectural style but windows certainly play a role in a home's "look and feel".

Can I Mix Window Styles?

A large part of choosing a window style is finding what looks good to you. The process is no different than finding ideas for a bath or kitchen remodel.

window style

You look in magazines, product catalogs, on the internet and at other houses. Ultimately you find a look that appeals to you.

With windows it's no different. Some window manufacturers have good catalogs and/or websites where you can see a wide variety of the styles of windows they offer. As you look at other homes too, you'll find styles that appeal to you and those that don't.

When it's time to choose new windows, particularly for a remodel or a new home altogether, you have the option to define your window styles, in addition to the type of windows you want. Take this opportunity to not only get good, efficient, functional windows, but windows that reflect your style and the style you want your home to show.

Do you have to be consistent across the whole house? That's up to you. Mixing window styles doesn't break any laws and there is no window style police. That being said, you might want to consider carefully how the differences in window style will change the look of your house. Styles that are complementary or that look to be from the same "gene pool" can usually carry this off.

If you're really tied in knots about what to do, ask the opinion of friends and family as well as professionals in the building and design fields, like your architect, designer or contractor.

window style

Publisher's Comments

I'll give you a real life example of mixing window styles, not only with regard to how they look but their "type" as well (how they operate).

My home is two stories with a 'nod' toward a colonial design. In truth it's better described as a mid-century, non-descript, suburban cookie-cutter home. It has good bones but it's not going to be mistaken with true colonials.

The house as we bought it had original windows in a mix of styles. Most were double hung. Some were (and still are) 16-pane windows whereas the others were 2-pane double hung. So, right from the original design we had two different styles of windows.

Fast-forward to our home remodel. My wife and I wanted a different look and chose a style that got rid of the bland 2-pane windows and replaced them with 4-pane double hung windows -- a 3-pane top sash over a single pane lower sash. We wanted a style that was more suggestive of a craftsman style. We carried that theme (not necessarily the same exact window style) through with the new windows in the addition.

Some of the new windows we chose were casements while others were double hung, like what's shown in the picture below. This was dictated in part by egress and/or design geometry considerations.

window stylesWindow On The Left - Casement
Window On The Right - Dbl Hung
Similar "Styles" But Different "Types" Of Windows

We weren't able to afford a whole-house window replacement so for the time being we left the 16-pane windows in place on the front of the house. If you look at the corner of the house you'll see the two different styles of windows. I'll argue that from an aesthetic point of view, they "work", despite not being the same style. But then again I'm not worried what some design purist might say.

At some point when funds are available we'll change them out to be consistent. However, they'll still be a slightly different style from the windows we chose for the addition. And that's intentional, because the windows on the addition are styled without any grille work in the line of sight that could impact the view.

Moral of the story? Not every window style on our house is an exact match and that's by design. They're stylistically consistent but we made accommodations for specific intent and budget. We did what worked for us and our taste, intentionally changing the overall style of the home's windows somewhat, without concern that everything must be 'matchy-matchy'.

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Find A Local Window Supplier

Choosing the type and style of window you want is half the effort. The other half is finding a contractor who can install them for you. That part is easier however when you've educated yourself about windows and have a good idea about the type of windows you want.

If you're remodeling or building a new home your builder or contractor will most likely handle the installation of the windows for you. However you should have input on the specification part of the process, where the decision is made on the type and style of your windows along with the options that come with them. Even if it's a collaborative effort it's best to do your homework ahead of time so that you're knowledgeable enough to make intelligent window decisions with your builder. Windows are too big of an investment to simply leave up to someone else without input.

If you're going to handle choosing and buying your own windows then local window suppliers are the place to start. Some sources carry a selection of window brands while others are aligned with only one particular manufacturer. You have several options for finding local sources:

  • Local internet and/or phone book search

  • Ask for references from friends/relatives who've recently had windows installed

  • Checking the local dealer directory at window manufacturer websites (if you've decided on a particular brand of windows)

Another way to find local window installers is to have them contact you through a referral service. If you'd like to have several local qualified window suppliers contact you and provide a free estimate you can fill out the form below. There is no obligation and they will contact you at your convenience.

Here's Some Additional Information That Might Be Helpful...

Choosing Windows For Houses - Knowing the right type of windows to put in your home is certainly necessary but what should you really consider when choosing windows? This article lays out the key steps in making a good window choice.

Making The Right Siding Choice - Depending on your scenario you might need new siding as well as new windows. Find out what's available in house siding and the pros and cons associated with these products.

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