Different Types of Windows: How To Choose the Right One

Triple Glazed Window Construction Cross Section Diagram

When you’re considering new windows, there are two primary considerations. One, the material from which your window is made, and the type of window in terms of it’s function. There are four basic window materials used in various combinations. Wood, PVC, Aluminum and Fiberglass. They all have their place and function, as well as their price point. As far as function goes, there are about eight types which cover over ninety percent of all windows. They are: Casement, Awning, Double-Hung, Slider, Tilt and Turn, Fixed or Picture, Bay and Casement. Let’s dig in a bit deeper.


Wooden Exterior French Doors

Window Construction Materials

Wood is first on the list. It’s the traditional choice, and so always popular. There’s not much that can match the beauty of natural wood. The biggest drawback of course is that wooden windows can require substantial maintenance to keep them looking good year after year. In terms of a compromise option, the exterior part of wood windows can be clad with either PVC or Aluminum. The quality of these windows vary so check to make sure that the cladding is thick enough if it’s PVC.

PVC is generally at the low cost end of the window value spectrum. But, PVC windows are easy to maintain, though the quality can vary greatly among manufacturers, so you have to be careful when choosing one. They can also be sensitive to temperature fluctuations.

Aluminum framed windows are the most rigid and have a very long life span, while requiring virtually no maintenance. The only mentionable drawback is that they are quite poor from an energy efficiency perspective. Now, given that NO window is really efficient, this may not be a deterrent for you.

At the top of the window material quality pile, sit fiberglass windows. They are rigid, energy efficient (as far as windows go), are versatile, and are of superior quality. The only drawback is that they’re very expensive. If that that’s not an issue for you, then this is the best choice. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t “over improve” your home in your neighborhood, because you won’t recover the investment. If a bag of money fell out of the sky and onto your front garden in a standard subdivision, then consider moving before outdoing your neighbors. If you live in a high end area, then fiberglass windows may be a must. Just to keep the value.


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Popular Window Styles

Popular Window Types

Casement, sliding and double hung are by far the most common window styles installed. Casement windows generally open outward, though some are available with inward opening mechanisms. Double-hung, also known as sash windows open by either raising the lower half or lowering the upper half of the window. Sliders are probably the most recognizable, and open by sliding the left or right part side to side.

You’ll also see awning windows which are hinged at the top and open outward, usually with a crank mechanism. An interesting style, which makes it easy to clean, are the “tilt’n turn” windows. They either open from the side or pivot from the middle. A fixed or picture window is just that. They can’t be opened. Greenhouse windows are usually glazed on all sides and jut outwards. Their original use was for planted areas, but are often used for additions which lend themselves to greenhouse type rooms for kitchen and lounge areas. Casement bolt windows are hinged on the side and open inward. So there’s a lot to chose from. Each window style has it’s use, so consult with our experts to determine which one is the right one for your particular application.

Not Energy Efficient Window with Rotting Drywall from Condensation

Energy Efficiency of Windows

No matter how you look at it, the main cause of heat loss in any home are the windows. It’s almost impossible to drive up the insulation value of windows. Today, double glazing is standard for all windows, yet the insulation value remains at about an R-2 rating.

Even the more sophisticated manufacturing processes which trap inert gasses (like argon or krypton) between the panes can only achieve an R-9 rating. When you compare that to a standard wall insulation rating of R-20, it’s not very efficient. But still pretty good.

Something that should however be kept in mind when chosing your glass is the location of the window. Ideally, you should consider installing higher quality glass in areas that don’t get much direct sun.

Retrofit or New Installation

This is an important point to keep in mind. Whenever you replace existing windows, you have two options. You can “retrofit” with new windows or completely replace the window. You’re probably wondering what’s the difference? A lot.

A retrofit window installation essentially represents the installation of a new window inside of your existing window frame. This means a couple of things in practical terms. The original window jamb and frame will stay in place. The windows are removed and the tracks are also taken out. A new window is measured to fit inside your old window. Unless your existing window is quite large, you’ll lose window area. This could be as much as three or four inches all round. But, it’s cheaper to do it this way.

New window installation in the sense that it’s all new, means that the old window is taken out completely. Including the frame and the jamb. Right back to the studded opening frame. This means that your new window will actually be the same size as your old window. The removal and installation will take longer, and there’s more work to do overall. This type of window replacement ensures that there are no hidden problems – like rot – anywhere around the widow. Although it’s really the recommended way, it does cost more. So the question becomes, why are you installing the new windows. If you’re planning to sell anytime soon, it probably doesn’t matter. Also, if you don’t mind losing a couple of inches at the perimeter and can save some money, that’s okay too. Most people will probably never notice that your new windows are a tiny bit smaller.

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