Windows: Types (part 2)


  • 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.


Most styles of windows are available in a number of different materials. Each material has advantages and disadvantages in terms of maintenance and appearance.

Wood: Windows were traditionally made of wood, and it's still popular because it's 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

Vinyl: 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.

Aluminum: 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.

Other materials: 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.


Although most windows are square or rectangular, many shapes and architectural variations exist. Round windows and arched windows are often used above doors, for example. Windows that project out together with, or proud of, the walls of a house are referred to as bay windows, or bow windows if their profile is rounded. These are generally composed of a number of casements that are joined by a larger and more substantial frame. Large windows with a single, non-opening pane of glass are often referred to as picture windows because of the way they frame the view.

When replacing a window with an uncommon shape, you will usually need to go to a specialty supplier, who will often measure up and install the window for you, as well as manufacture it. If you want a wooden window, then consider hiring a master carpenter.

Curved windows: Decorative, curved fixed windows are often used above square or rectangular windows, or sometimes doors. Their frames are fixed in place using the same method as for other types of window. (Curved wooden frame; Decorative glazing bars)

Bay windows: This period design is made up of a combination of fixed and opening sashes or casements. Large windows may help support the walls above, so seek professional advice before replacing them.

Bow windows: Despite their curved profile, a bow window is usually made up of flat casements. Always seek professional advice before replacing very wide windows -- they may have reinforced mullions with a structural role.

Custom combination: Window shapes can be combined in custom patterns. In spaces with tall ceilings and views that are desirable to highlight, custom combinations are ideal.

Custom designer window: Windows are available to match the style of the home you are renovating. This double-hung window is shown in a Prairie-style with a unique nine lite pattern.

Custom circle window: For a special feature like over a two-story entryway, a dynamic shaped window not only allows light into the home but it also adds a decorative touch to the space.


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.

Historic style: 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.


If you would like the look of a divided lite window, but aren't 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.


Window screens are a great way to keep the bugs out of your home, while the fresh air flows in. While some DIYers like to remove the screens when the temperature changes, manufacturers offer another option to get the screens out of view. Installing a retractable insect screen on your windows enables you to roll down the screen for use.


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.

Saturday, August 30, 2008 16:08 PST