Windows are one of the essential parts of your home, being the feature that brings natural light into your living quarters while providing views to the outside. Therefore, it is important to know about window styles, materials, label numbers and anatomy so you can make the best choice whenever you shop for replacement windows. It is also crucial to know how to find a window replacement contractor.
What Type of Window Do You Want?
The types of windows that would best suit your home could all depend on the layout of your rooms and the position of your walls concerning the sun. The façade and architectural style of your home could also be determining factors when it comes to window options. Of all the window styles on the market, the following are the most common.
- Awning windows: An awning window consists of a single sash, either square or rectangular, that is hinged along the upper frame and opens at the bottom. When open, an awning can extend to about 45 degrees outward. An awning is usually a horizontal element above a single- or double-paned window assembly. Awnings supply an added source of ventilation and sunlight in rooms with high ceilings.
- Casement windows: A casement window consists of a single pane of glass that is usually rectangular and hung vertically, either alone or beside other windows. Casement windows have hinges along one side and open outward like doors along the other side. Each casement window has a crank handle owners can use to create the desired draft, whether you prefer a slight crack or a 45-degree outward extension. Casement windows are standard features in many bathrooms.
- Bay windows: A bay window consists of three frames that protrude from a wall in the shape of a half-relieved hexagon. Each frame usually contains four or six panes, divided by grilles. The center frame aligns parallel to the wall, while the left and right sashes extend from the wall at a 45-degree angle. Each side sash can crack open on one side. Bay windows also consist of a top and bottom panel that hold the assembly together and seal it to the wall. Bay windows add interior space to a room, and provide counter space for displaying plants, candles, vases, light fixtures, statues and other decorative elements. The bay window is a desirable feature in upscale homes, both modern and vintage.
- Bow windows: A bow window is much like the bay window, but with two additional side sashes. In total, a bow window typically consists of five sashes. As with the bay, the middle frame aligns parallel to the wall of the house. However, each pair of side sashes splits the 45-degree angle extension between the walls and the center sash. A bow window protrudes from the wall of a house like a half-relieved decagon. Bow windows create even more additional interior shelf space. The bow window is a frequent feature in the living rooms of large, lavish homes.
- Single-hung windows: A single-hung window consists of two horizontally stacked frames, either with or without grilles. To open, owners can raise the bottom sash internally to a partial or full elevation in front of the upper frame. The single-hung design is one of the more common types of windows found in homes, condominiums and apartment units.
- Double-hung windows: A double-hung window is nearly identical to the single-hung, consisting of a top and a bottom sash, sometimes with grilles. The difference is that both the lower and upper frames can open on a double-hung window. The bottom sash raises internally in front of the upper sash, while the latter can lower externally over the former.
- Garden windows: A garden window is like a combination of an awning and a bay window. As with the latter, a garden window protrudes from a house with a central sash that aligns parallel to the wall. However, the sash is a single-pane awning extended outward at 90-degree angles by two side sashes, each shaped like right trapezoids. The acute angles come together in a 45-degree angle top sash. Garden windows provide expanded interior shelf space and are sometimes an alternative to bay windows in smaller homes.
- Picture windows: The picture window consists of a single, stationary frame that does not open. Picture windows are usually square or rectangular. A picture window may or may not contain grilles. Picture windows are common alongside sliding or hung windows for additional sunlight.
- Sliding windows: A sliding window is the vertical equivalent of a hung window. Slide windows consist of two rectangular frames placed side-by-side. The right sash opens internally in front of the stationary left frame. Some designs have three sashes, where both the right and left sash open internally in front of the stationary center sash. The two-sash slide window is common in homes, apartments and office buildings.
Depending on the style and façade of your home’s exterior and the size and scheme of your interiors, it should be obvious which window styles would best suit your home.
What Window Material Do You Need?
The type of window material that would best suit your home could all depend on the age and style of your house and the climate of your area, in addition to your aesthetic preferences. On today’s market, homeowners generally consider three basic types of window framing materials acceptable.
One of the most popular types of framing material is also the most organic: wood. As a natural product derived from trees, wood frames come from hard timbers like cedar, as well as soft ones like the Douglas fir. Some frames are composites of hard and soft wood. In certain assemblies, hardwoods serve as veneers on soft frames.
- Pros: Due to its organic quality, wood has a timeless appeal that has spanned the centuries. In older homes built before the mid-20th century, many homeowners consider wood to be the only suitable option from an aesthetic point of view. Wood also meshes well as a complementary texture in modernistic interiors. Since it’s possible to paint, coat or varnish wood frames, there is also a broad range of color options. Moreover, wood provides optimal insulation and soundproofing. Compared to metal frames, wood insulates up to 1,800 times better, allowing you to enjoy warmer winters with lower heating bills.
- Cons: Wood can deteriorate if homeowners do not adequately maintain and protect it from the elements. If you hope to get upwards of 20 years of use from a wooden set of window frames, you will need to repaint or recoat them every few years. Wood can be especially vulnerable in climates with moist, salty air, which makes wood an impractical choice at beach resorts.
Overall, wood is a sensible option in both hot and cold climates, including the northeastern U.S.
Composite window frames include two different materials, such as combinations of vinyl and plastic or steel and aluminum. The most popular composites consist of coated hardwood, where transparent vinyl or aluminum cladding covers the finish.
- Pros: Composites of wood and synthetics or metals offer the best of both worlds. Like hardwood frames, composites of vinyl/aluminum and wood provide maximum insulation and soundproofing, making them an optimal choice in harsher climates. The organic quality of the wood itself shines through in vinyl or aluminum-coated composite, making these materials aesthetically appropriate for vintage and modern homes alike. There are also various style and color options when it comes to wood/vinyl or wood/aluminum composite frames. Composites provide superior impact resistance to other frame materials.
- Cons: Pricewise, composite frames cost only slightly less than hardwood frames, so they are not much of an alternative from a money-saving perspective. Composites are also less sought-after among hardwood purists, as the appearance is subtly different. If a composite contains noticeable amounts of vinyl or metal, it might not mesh with the interior or façade of a vintage home. Some composites are not as well-made as others, so you should always research the brand and its reputation before you invest in a set of composite windows.
Composites are among the best of all options in a wide range of climates.
Vinyl window frames use PVC, which comes in various forms. Some vinyl frames contain hollow portions that boost strength and reduce condensation. Certain types of vinyl are made in a hardened sponge-like form, which creates some of the most durable frames on the market.
- Pros: Though they are generally white, there is a vast range of color options for vinyl frames. Since the color gets embedded throughout the material, a mere surface scratch will do little to change the overall appearance. Unlike hardwood, vinyl does not require paint or finishing coats, and the color will retain itself through most conditions. Over their life expectancy, vinyl frames require little maintenance beyond dusting and occasional warm-cloth cleaning. Compared to aluminum, vinyl offers superior heat resistance and soundproofing qualities. Regarding price, vinyl is one of the more economical window options.
- Cons: Vinyl frames lack the impact resistance of composite hardwood and metal. Since it’s not possible to paint it, vinyl might clash with your interior scheme or façade if you ever choose to repaint your house or living quarters. Vinyl frames can become irreversibly discolored through prolonged exposure to extreme heat, which makes them unsuitable for homes in tropical climates. Despite its inexpensive cost, vinyl could be a costly option if you want a customized set of frames.
Vinyl is most suitable for homes situated in moderate climates.
Match Your Windows to the Climate — Know the Numbers
Windows that bear labels from Energy Star and the National Fenestration Rating Council list representational numbers in the following categories:
- U-factor/U-value: This number will usually range from 0.20 to 1.20. A lower number indicates a higher insulation quality.
- Solar hear coefficient: A figure that ranges from 0 to 1, representing the heat-resistance of a window set. In cold northeast climates, a higher number would be the preferable option. In tropical climates, you would want the lowest figure possible.
- Visible transmittance: With figures ranging from 0 to 1, this indicates the intensity of light a window will allow into a house, with a rating of 1 representing maximum brightness.
Using these figures, you can more accurately determine the best materials for northeastern windows.
Anatomy of a Window
A window assembly consists of multiple components that hold the glass and frame together. On modern frames, additional treatments improve the insulating factors.
- Sash: A sash is the moving part of a window. On a sliding window, this would be the half that opens. On a bay window, the sashes would be the left and right frames.
- Grilles: Decorative dividers that split window frames into grids of two, four, six or eight. Grille placement can be either superficial on the surface of a single pane, or between multiple panes of glass.
- Insulated glass: Most double-layer windows contain insulating gas between the two panes. Argon is the most common insulating gas.
- Low-E coating: Low-E is a transparent coat applied to glass panes for heat protection and light flow. In colder climates, the coat is applied to the inside of windows to prevent heat from escaping homes. In hotter climates, the coat is applied to the outside to help prevent heat from entering homes.
Insulation gas and low-E coating are recent developments in window manufacturing that, while optional, are generally in favor among today’s homeowners.
Replacement Window FAQs
Consider the following questions before you invest in a new set of windows.
How Often Should You Replace Windows?
Windows generally last anywhere from 15 to 20 years. If you feel your winters have gotten colder despite a correctly working heating system, there might be drafts coming through your frames and panes, which would indicate the time has come for new windows. If you notice wear and tear on the frames, you should start considering replacement options.
How Long Should It Take to Replace a Window?
Often, window replacement contractors can finish the job in a single day. It generally takes a half-hour to switch out a set of windows. If you count the number of windows you need to replace and multiply by 30, you should have a rough estimate of the time required for the whole task.
What Replacement Windows Are Best?
It can all depend on your budget, aesthetic preferences and the dimensions of your walls. If you live in a large contemporary or classic home, bay or bow windows could be a complementary choice. If you need something practical for your bedroom, hung or sliding doors would probably be appropriate. If you want to have more light and ventilation in your living room, consider adding awnings or casement windows above your front door or existing window spaces.
How Much Does Home Window Replacement Cost?
The price will depend on various factors, such as the materials you choose and the number of new windows needed throughout your house. Overall, the cost could range from three to five figures.
What to Look for in a Window Contractor
As you shop around for replacement windows, check the customer ratings of any company you consider choosing for the installation work. Contractors must precisely execute all the steps in a window replacement — otherwise, the windows might fail to secure and insulate your home. A search of Yelp and other business review sites should give you a good idea of a window seller’s standing with prior customers.
When it comes to how to find an expert window installer, two things to beware of are super-low prices and promises of a speedy installation. Sometimes, an installation company will be more concerned with haste than with the quality of the finished work. Knowing they’ll sell more products by making promises most customers want to hear, these installers will cut corners to install windows hurriedly at low rates.
To ensure you get the quality of work necessary for lasting insulation, speak with a window installation representative before you finalize a contract. Make sure the installer has a full understanding of the dimensions and layout of your walls. That way, the installer can arrive prepared and fully equipped at the scheduled time.
Replacement Windows From D&E Window and Door
If you are looking to replace your old, drafty windows, explore the catalog here at D&E Window and Door. We sell windows in a range of styles and materials, all backed by labor and manufacturer warranties. For more information, fill out our contact form and explore the rest of this website.