Double hung windows are the most popular replacement window because of their classic looks, functionality and practicality. Double hung windows get their name because both the top and bottom sashes (the portion of a window that moves) that may be opened. In single hung windows only one sash opens.
Double hung windows have been around since the 18th century so obviously they have a timeless look but much has changed since they were first introduced. To make them easier to open and to keep in them in an open position, the original double hung windows used counterweights which moved in inside of the window frame where it attached to the house. The counterweights were attached to cord (and sometimes chain) that ran through a pulley and then attached to the window. This system worked but it wasn’t perfect and if the cord broke the entire window frame had to be taken apart to fix it.
Modern double hung windows use springs as a counter balance which makes them much easier to operate and much more likely to stay in the position you want them. Besides keeping the elements out, compression weather stripping also helps keep the sashes in the position you want.
Double hung window options
Double hung windows are available in a variety of materials including: wood, vinyl, fiberglass, aluminum and composite. Because of their classic styling, wood double hung windows are the most authentic. However, vinyl windows offer some benefits that are tough to beat so they are very popular too. One option that is gaining in popularity is composite windows that have wood on the inside (interior of the house) of the sash and vinyl on the exterior so you get the best of both worlds.
Radial arches can be added on top of double hung windows to give them a different look and let in even more light. Another great feature is that you can create a very different look based on the number or lights (separate panes of glass) in each sash. For instance, Cape Cod style homes generally have 6 or 8 lights whereas ranch style homes typically have 2 lights side by side. The number of lights on the top and bottom sash do not have to be the same and they can be in various, non symmetrical shapes and sizes.
Many manufactures offer sashes with many separate panes of glass, or muntins, or with snap in grids (also called a grille) that give the appearance of separate panes, or lights. Snap in grids make cleaning the windows much easier.
A prized feature of double hung windows is the ventilation they provide. A full half of the window may be open and partially opening the top and bottom sashes provides even better ventilation. Some windows only have a screen on one sash so if you want to open either sash you may want to look for windows with a screen on both sashes. A down side to being able to open both sashes is that the there are more seals which means they are more prone to air and water leaks than a sash that doesn’t open of window with less moving sashes.
The sashes of double hung windows overlap and open by sliding up and down over one another. This makes them great options for small rooms like bathrooms where there isn’t room for a window that swings into the room or for rooms that open to a porch, patio or sidewalk where a window that swings out would get in the way. Many double hung windows tilt inward so the outside glass can be cleaned from inside the house. This is especially helpful for second story windows.
Many dealers sell replacement sashes separate from the frame. This is a nice feature to consider when buying new windows because if a window were to break it can be replaced cheaper and without altering the house by removing the frame.
Double hung vinyl windows are among the most popular replacement windows. The combination of functionality and style of a double hung window with the durability, low maintenance, reasonable price and energy efficient nature of vinyl windows make it a big seller.
Double hung windows are often used in combination with other windows or side-by-side with other double hung windows. Common uses include on either side of a picture window and in bay windows.
Double hung windows are available in a full range of price points. Cost depends on size, glass options (double and triple pane, low-e coating) and construction material (vinyl, wood, aluminum, fiberglass)
Many different combination and construction materials are available in energy efficient double hung windows and many have Energy Star qualification.
Because both the top and bottom sash move, double hung windows will need a little more maintenance than a single hung window. Not big, just more grooves to lubricate and weather stripping that may need cleaning or replacing to keep it sealing tightly.