Windows 101: The Basic Types

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for Direct from the Designers™

So, you’re looking for a new house to build or perhaps want to update the home you already have—do you know just how large an effect the windows you choose have on the overall picture? Style should be taken into account, of course, but you might want to consider practical requirements as well. Arm yourself with the right vocabulary to make sure you can communicate your wants and needs when shopping for windows for your home!

Integrity Windows Wood-Ultrex Casement Windows

Wood-Ultrex Casement Windows from Integrity® Windows are used here alongside a larger, fixed picture window to allow for ventilation and clear views. On the upper level of this home, the windows swing out without inconveniencing anybody.

Windows That Swing Open

Many windows swing open with hinges on one side of the frame, and the types that fall into this category are popular for brighter modern designs and address lighting concerns in tricky spaces. Hinged windows are also a good choice for easy operation, in case you or somebody in your household has difficulty moving sash-type panes. If you’re interested in swinging windows, the different kinds include:

Casement – One of the most popular windows by far, the casement variety comes in many flavors. All have hinges on the left or right side and are taller than they are wide. Unless otherwise noted, casement windows open out and you use a crank to operate them. You’ll also find push-out and inswing varieties, and even double configurations that open like French doors for larger apertures.

Awning – Most often used in tandem with large windows or in basement applications, awning windows have hinges on the top edge and swing out. They are small, wider than they are tall, and make a great choice for daylighting below-ground rooms. For many, the main purpose of awning windows is to provide ventilation.

Hopper – The awning window’s cousin, the hopper looks similar but has hinges on the bottom edge and swings inside. It is used for many of the same reasons, but tends to be favored in bathrooms. If you like to have windows open when it’s raining, the hopper is not a good choice because it can channel water inside.

Tilt-turn – If you love the idea of a hopper window but want it in a larger format, look for tilt-turn windows. This nifty category has dual functionality; it can swing in from the side like a casement and tilt in from the bottom like a hopper thanks to having hinges on two sides. How far you turn the handle determines how the window will open. Tilt-turn windows are especially popular in Europe and can mimic the look of more historical styles.

Homeowners looking for a good all-around window will likely find it in this category. Hinged windows are also great in terms of performance, especially if you want to build an energy-efficient home, because they don’t need flexible seals to operate. They tend to come out ahead of sliding models in terms of airtightness, so consider these if you’re looking for a tighter building envelope for those more inclement seasons and still want to enjoy a natural breeze on nicer days.

Marvin Next Generation Ultimate Double Hung Round Top Window

Marvin Next Generation Ultimate Double Hung Round Top Windows are a beautiful and architecturally accurate choice for a sunny beach house. Divided lites on top and a solid pane on bottom deliver charm and clear sightlines, and both sashes can be moved to the middle of the frame to create a low-tech cooling solution.

Windows That Slide Open

On the other side, we have windows that stay within their frames when opened. The sliding variety is the best choice if you don’t want to worry about clearance. Bushes, furniture, walkways, and people are all potentially hazardous to a swinging window—and could find such windows hazardous themselves—and could limit how much you can actually open them. If you’re interested in sliding windows, the major types are:

Single Hung – This popular style describes windows with two distinct components: a fixed sash and a moving sash. The top portion of the window is the one usually fixed in place and the bottom pane can slide up over it, thus creating an opening and letting in the breeze.

Double Hung – With two moving sashes, double hung windows are ideal for creating air flow and offer lots of flexibility. The sashes can be moved up and down to your liking. In the past, these windows were favored because, when both panes were moved to the middle of the frame, heat could escape through the top while cooler air was drawn inside through the bottom opening. Consider double hung windows the climate control of the colonial period!

Slider/Glider – Think of this side-to-side sliding variety sort of like a patio door. These windows are suited to places where you want an opening window that is wider than it is tall. They fill a niche that makes them most popular for modern homes, but there are lots of finishing options that can dress them up for classic styles, too.

The best type of sliding window for your home depends heavily on its style and vibe. Windows with sashes that slide and up down have a lot of history and tend to be favored for old-fashioned architecture. Colonial homes, farm houses, Craftsman designs, and many European styles have distinctive hung windows, so you can understand why they remain prevalent even in new construction. Side-to-side glider windows, on the other hand, have a wider, more streamlined look and are preferred in places where a contemporary casement style won't work due to a clearance issue. That is not to say gliders don't have their own charm, though—plenty of people seek them out from the start!

Integrity Windows Wood-Ultrex Awning Windows

Integrity® Wood-Ultrex Awning Windows are a perfect way to naturally brighten a private space like the bathroom. Divided lites add a rustic touch to match the country style of the home they adorn.

Other Window Terminology

You’ll find there are plenty of features and variables to consider on your window search. If you’re looking for something more specific to describe what you want, here are some of the most common lexicon entries you might encounter:

Bay – This describes a window arrangement that pushes out from a wall, like you might expect in a sunny eating nook or sitting area, with three angled window openings. Traditionally, the center window is fixed while the two on the sides open for air flow. Almost any type of opening window can be used depending on your needs.

Bow – Like a bay window but with more than three window openings, which lessen the angle between each frame for a smoother, curved look. Bow windows are especially popular for Victorian homes, are typically wider than bay windows, and let in plenty of natural light. Again, almost any kind of window can to used to build this arrangement.

Divided lites – Smaller panes of glass held together by wooden muntins create divided lites. This was a method to build larger windows when glass was very difficult to make, and the style remains popular for homes with historical exterior designs.

Simulated divided lites (SDLs) – Windows that have wood bars adhered over large glass panes to mimic the historical aesthetic. They are usually less expensive and more energy efficient than true divided lites, and are available in a number of patterns to produce the right feel for the home. There are also removable grilles if you want lites and want to be able to clean your windows easily.

Polygon – Fixed windows available in a variety of shapes, most often used in contemporary architecture. Imagine a triangular window under a sloped ceiling or an octagonal window used to capture a natural view.

Roundtop – Can describe a fixed semicircular window placed above a regular rectangular window of some kind, or a single window that has a square base and a rounded top. For the latter, there are casement and hung varieties. Roundtop windows are especially popular for Mediterranean styles.

Marvin Bay Windows

Bathing the interior in light, a Marvin Bay window arrangement like this is perfect for highlighting key features of a home and taking in beautiful views. In this case, double hung windows were chosen to maintain a historical appearance.

Additional Features to Consider

We've covered the obvious looks and kinds of operation that define different windows, but there is even more to know! This list is by no means exhaustive, but it covers some of the most basic and desirable features people ask about, and it is a good way to become acquainted with the options.

Casing – Decorative moulding used around the interior perimeter of a window that bridges the space between the window unit and the rough opening where it is inserted in the wall. There are a variety of styles available.

Direct glaze – A manufacturing technique often used for large window displays. Glass is glazed into the frame to form a stationary unit with higher energy efficiency.

Finishes – Consider how you'd like your window frames to look from the inside and outside. Interior finishes include beautiful natural wood and can be stained or painted to your liking. Exterior finishes are best done in-factory to ensure they stand up to the elements, but don't worry, there are plenty of cladding options and you can even request a custom color.

Tilting – A number of swinging and sliding window models have a tilting feature that tips the sash inside like a hopper for cleaning. Be sure to ask about each window you look at if you’re serious about cleanliness and want the tilting feature for easy access.

Window Opening Control Devices (WOCDs) – A safety feature that all families should consider. WOCDs limit the amount that a window can open to prevent children from falling out of it. Each type of window requires a different kind of device, but most are small enough to go unnoticed, and they can be disengaged by an adult to allow windows to open fully.

If you’re looking for some amazing windows to complete your home, check out the huge selection available from Integrity® and Marvin® Windows and Doors! They offer every kind of style you could want, and many more features than we could cover here. Whether you prioritize beauty, energy efficiency, or durability, you’ll find the perfect solution—and it probably encompasses all three of these traits anyway! Find your local dealer to get started!

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