The Ultimate Guide to Shopping for Residential Replacement Windows

Replacement window style guideThis guide to replacement window styles is the definitive resource online to help you determine the perfect new windows for your home.

Casement Windows

Casement windows offer the best combination of energy efficiency, ease of cleaning, ventilation, style options and security.  They are also extremely versatile since they are available with a single, uninterrupted pane of glass for a contemporary look or with various grille designs for more traditional styles.

Casement window

Casement window

The defining characteristic of casement windows is that they swing open (like a door) by pivoting on a hinge or hinges that attach the window to the window frame. To be clear, casement window hinges on are the side of the window (windows with hinges on the top are called awning windows).

Casement windows can be hinged on either the left or the right and are commonly used as a single window, in pairs or paired with non-opening windows.

Some open outward and some open inward. The inward opening version is useful when there are shutters, grates or some other window treatment on the outside of the house. The windows are typically opened with a crank but other opening methods are also used.

Maximum ventilation

Casement windows offer more ventilation than any other window type because entire window opens. A picture window with casement windows on either side is very popular configuration. The picture window provides great uninterrupted view but doesn’t open but the casement windows on the sides make up for it by letting in maximum air.

An added bonus of outward opening setup is that when opened, the window itself acts as a deflector to funnel fresh air into the window opening.

Energy efficiency of casement windows

Compared to a single hung, double hung or sliding window, a casement window from the same manufacturer and with similar construction and glass options will be more energy efficient. The crank and locking mechanisms allows for a tighter seal than most other types of windows.

Once cranked all the way closed, the locking lever then pulls the window even tighter against the seal creating a very effective water and air seal. Additionally, other windows often have mechanisms that allow them to be removed or tilted for easy cleaning and these mechanisms often reduce a window’s ability to close extra tightly.

Installing casement windows

Casement windows are suitable for new construction or for remodels. Locations suitable for casement windows is limited because you need room either on the inside or outside of the home for the window to open. You generally need a clear space a few inches wider than the window because the window pushes out a bit during the opening process.

This makes them a poor choice for windows that open out to a porch, patio or walkway. Inward opening models are less common for a couple reasons. Aside from being a little odd (having a windows open inward), it makes it harder operate the crank because as the window opens it will cross paths with the crank and you loose the advantage or the window sticking out acting as a funnel to direct more air flow into the home.

Screens for casement windows

If a casement window opens outward the screens will be on the inside. This can be a good or bad depending on your situation. Because they are on the inside the screens will not get as dirty and will need less cleaning. However, they can be more easily damaged by pets or children.

Security features of casement windows

Casement windows are one the most secure types of windows and many don’t even have a separate lock as the only way to open them is by operating the crank. Crankless, push out casement windows are becoming a popular form of casement window because of their clean look.

However, crankless casement windows are not as secure as crank casement windows. Push out windows open by pushing out and lock with a lever instead of a crank – a friction hinge keeps them from swinging in the wind.

Casement window options

A wide variety of construction materials (vinyl, wood, aluminum and composite) and glass options (dual pane, low-E, argon gas, etc.) are available and many are Energy Star qualified. Lots of grille options (dividers that create the look of separate smaller panes of glass) are available including removable grilles and grilles sealed between the panes of glass.

Casement windows cost

Another positive of casement windows is that they generally cost less than a comparably sized single or double hung window from the same manufacturer with similar specifications. The reduced cost is attributable to fewer moving parts.

Double Hung Windows

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) may be opened. In single hung windows only one sash opens.

Double hung window

Double Hung Window

Double hung windows have been around since the 18th century which explains their 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 inside 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 in modern double hung windows 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.

Functionality of double pane window

A prized feature of double hung windows is the ventilation they provide – a full half of the window may be opened. Another great feature is the ability to partially opening the top and bottom sashes simultaneously for maximum 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 single hung window.

Practicality of double hung windows

The sashes of double hung windows overlap and open by sliding up and down past 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. Single hung windows do no have this option.

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 having to remove entire window and 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 them 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.

Cost of double hung 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).

Energy efficiency of double hung windows

Many different combination and construction materials are available and depending on the combination, double hung windows can be very energy efficient and many have Energy Star qualification.

Maintenance for double hung windows

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.

double hung window photo credit

Sliding Windows

Sliding windows, also called sliders, gliding windows and horizontal sliding windows, are characterized by two sashes with a vertical divider (as opposed to a horizontal divider like single hung and double hung windows). When open, one sash slides past the other, like a sliding glass patio door.

sliding window

Sliding window

Sliding windows offer the most glass area of any operable window and are available in various configurations including two sashes of equal sizes or two sliders on the sides of a picture window.

Typical sliding windows with two sashes are available with either one sliding sash or two sliding sashes. Sliding windows are one of the most popular choice for replacement windows. Another advantage of sliding windows is that is very easy to replace a broken sash or pane of glass.

Ventilation offered by sliding windows

Many sliding windows allow you to easily swing the window inward for cleaning. With both sashes swung inward the entire window opening is open offering maximum ventilation usually found only in casement windows.

Not all sliding windows have this capability so if this is something you are interested in verify the window you are interested has this functionality.

Styles of sliding windows

Sliding windows generally have minimal hardware and it is often mostly concealed giving sliding widows a very streamlined look. With their clean lines and minimal hardware, sliding windows are perfect for contemporary architecture.

Sliding windows are also available with different grille configurations to fit just about any architectural style. Sliding windows are a popular choice for egress windows because many of them meet the egress code size and other code requirements.

Energy efficient sliding windows

Sliding windows are available in a variety of construction materials including vinyl, wood and aluminum. Double pane and triple pane glazing is also available as are energy efficient glass coatings such Low-E with Argon or Krypton gas between the panes. Many sliding windows are Energy Star qualified.

Adjustment and maintenance of sliding windows

Over time homes shift and settle and window frames can get out of square, preventing most windows from opening and closing properly. An advantage of sliding windows is that they are adjustable (some lower-end windows may not be adjustable) to compensate for the shifting of your home and change in the window frame.

Sliding windows use small wheels under the window that slide in the bottom track of the frame and glide or roll open. Simple adjustments to these wheels allow home owners to keep their windows operating like new even as their home shifts and settles. Applying silicon spray to the wheels occasionally is also recommended to keep the wheels rolling smoothly and without squeaks.

Easy cleaning features of sliding windows

Many sliding windows are designed to be easily removed from the frame making them one of the easiest windows to clean. Since the weight of sliding windows rides on the bottom of the frame, it is relatively simple to release the sash from the frame because you don’t have to support the window while you operate the release mechanism.

Some sliders swing inward on hinges for cleaning so you never have to support the weight of the window.

Sliding window construction material

Vinyl and aluminum sliding windows are the most common but other materials are also available.

Cost of sliding windows

Sliding windows are available in a variety of price points. The cost depends largely on the size of the window, the manufacturer, the construction material, glazing and other energy efficient treatments.

Sizes of sliding windows

Sliding windows are available in all the standard window sizes and many manufactures also offer custom sizes.

Sliding windows are best suited for:

  • Contemporary homes – but grille options make them compatible with almost any architecture
  • Easy cleaning and maintenance desired
  • Maximum glass area

sliding window photo credit

Bay Windows

Bay windows extend outward from the wall of a home or building. The “bay” is typically square or polygonal in shape. Bay windows are common in Victorian architecture and have been around for hundreds of years.

bay window

Bay window

Bay windows add a unique design element to a room and actually make it look larger because they add cubit feet to a room. An ordinary sized bay window will add about 100 cubic feet of space to a room.

Bay windows can either extend to the floor or start a couple feet above the floor with the base often being used a bench window seat. Bay windows can also extend from floor to ceiling and be multiple stories tall.

Bay windows add a dramatic design element to both the interior and exterior of a home or building. Many historic buildings feature very ornate exterior bays.

The most common interior angles of bay windows are 30, 45, 60 or 90 degrees but there is no rule that those are the only angles that can be used.

Bay window designs

Bay windows are available in a variety of configurations. The most common combination is a picture window in the middle with smaller, picture, double hung or casement windows either side.

Installations with several smaller windows instead of one large picture window in the middle are often referred to as “bow windows” because they form more of a gradual curve, or bow.

The advantage of using operable windows such as double hung or casement windows with a picture window is that they open and allow for ventilation.

Bay window installation

Bay windows can be installed in new construction or in a remodel. However, installing bay windows to replace other types of windows involves significantly more construction than typical replacement windows.

The foundation and wall of structure must be extended and roofing must be added and tied into the exterior of the building.

Bay windows are a common spot of air and water leaks. Installing a bay window is beyond the skill set of the average do-it-yourselfer and even many replacement window contractors.

If you want to add a bay window be sure window contractor is experienced with the construction necessary or hire a separate contractor to perform the carpentry and construction portion of the project.

Price of bay windows

Bay windows designs can range from the simple to the extreme and everywhere in between so estimating cost is difficult. More than half of the cost of adding a bay window is the construction required to prepare the space.

Construction costs vary greatly depending on the construction of the home (brick, siding, stucco, etc.), roofing material and condition/age or the home. The cost of the windows used will vary based on the size, style, material, glazing and other energy efficient elements.

Sizes of bay windows

Some manufactures sell bay window “kits” but the majority are custom and are only limited by your imagination and the room and home you have to work with.

If you don’t have room for a bay window, garden windows add a similar feel to a room, are smaller, less expensive and easier to install.

Bay window applications

Replacing your windows is often more of a functional decision (better energy efficiency, more ventilation or how a window opens) but they do make a small visual difference in your home.

Bay windows on the other hand make a dramatic visual difference – both inside  your home and externally. Because of the large picture window in the center and the bench seat, bay windows are often used in rooms that feature beautiful outdoor views.

Bay windows are also commonly used to make a room seem larger – by allowing more natural light into the room and by adding additional cubic feet to the room.

Read more about the history and styles of bay windows.

bay window photo credit

Awning Windows

Awning window

Awning window

Awning windows have hinges at the top of the sash and open by swinging outward and derive their name because when they are open, they resemble an awning above a window.

They have a unique look that is most associated with Craftsman style homes. A crank is the typical hardware used to open the window (others need a push to open).

Just as there has been resurgence in Craftsman, mid century and earlier architecture and styles, awning windows have experienced a similar resurgence in popularity for their retro look and practicality.

Many home owners are remodeling their homes in the Craftsman style and install awning windows to replace windows that are not consistent with other design elements.

Because of how awning windows open, they shield the window opening and interior of a home from rain and are great option if home owners want to keep their windows open while it is raining.

This makes them a perfect window for people living in rainy climates. In fact, awning windows are very popular in Caribbean islands where it rains often but ocean breezes are needed to cool buildings and homes.

Awning windows are also common in sun rooms (also called Florida rooms or Arizona rooms) and greenhouses.

Various configurations and design looks of awning windows

Two awning windows on top of each other look like a traditional single or double hung window but instead of sliding open, the sashes swing outward from the bottom.

Stacking several awning windows on top of each other is also a popular design technique. Awning windows are commonly used by themselves and in combination with other windows such as above or below a picture window or casement window.

Awning window applications

Awning windows can be used in new construction and in remodeling applications. A variety of grille treatments and designs offer numerous looks to fit many different styles of homes.

A modified version of awning windows that only opens a little bit is commonly used in commercial buildings.

Awning window materials

Because awning windows are often used Craftsman architecture the most common construction material has typically been wood. However, recently, aluminum and vinyl awning windows are becoming increasingly popular.

Another popular choice is vinyl and wood composite which offers the durability and low maintenance of vinyl on the exterior and the traditional look of wood on the interior.

Energy efficiency of awning windows

Modern awning windows are highly energy efficient and are available in a variety of materials included vinyl, wood and aluminum. They are also available in double pane and triple pane glass with glass treatments such as Low-E and can be found with Argon or Krypton gas. Many are Energy Star rated and may qualify you for a Federal tax credit.

Sizes of awning windows

Awning windows come in all the standard window sizes but like most windows are available in custom sizes as well. Custom sizes are especially useful when used in conjunction with picture windows – depending on the size of the picture window and size of the room and wall an awning window can be ordered in a custom size to perfectly compliment the showcase picture window.

Motorized awning windows

Motorized awning windows that use a small, quiet, electric motor to tilt the window are a perfect solution for hard to reach locations or for opening all the windows in a room at the same time. The windows can opened using a switch or even a remote control.

The switch or remote can also be used to lock the windows. Some non-motorized windows can be retro fitted with the necessary equipment and hardware to become motorized.

Most modern motorized awning windows utilize safety features to stop the motor if something restricts the window from closing. Another solution for hard to reach locations is a pulley and chain or cord.

Cost of awning windows

Awning windows are available at a variety of price points. Cost is largely based on size, construction material, number of glass panes, glass treatments and other energy efficient elements.

Awning windows are best suited for:

  • Contemporary or craftsman architecture
  • Providing ventilation during rainy weather
  • Use above or below a picture window
  • Sun room or similar rooms

Picture Windows

Whether your home has a beautiful view you want to maximize or you enjoy lots of uninterrupted natural light, picture windows can’t be beat. No other window matches the elegance and beauty of a picture window (especially when the glass is perfectly clean).

Few design elements can change the look of a room like a picture window.

Turning the outdoors into artwork and filling a room with natural light are hallmarks of a picture window. Because picture windows are fixed (they do not open) they offer superior energy efficiency and security.

When combined with Low-E coating and double pane glass with Argon or Krypton gas, they are the best energy efficient windows available.

Picture window design choices

Theoretically, a picture window is a fixed, non operable, window. A traditional picture window is one continuous pane of glass with no grilles.

Picture windows are often used with other windows on either sides, top, bottom or a combination. Combining operable windows (windows that open) with a picture window gives the home owner the beauty of the picture window with the functionality and ventilation of an operable window.

picture window

Picture Window

Popular combinations are picture windows flanked by casement windows, single or double hung windows or sliding windows on either side of it.

Other variations include awning windows, transom or sliding windows above or below the picture window.

Vented picture windows

Some window manufactures, Marvin for one, make picture windows that offer “venting”. These windows extend outward about an inch to offer an ever so slight bit of fresh air. They even offer a hidden screen in the extension opening.

Picture window applications

Picture windows can be used in new construction or home remodeling.

In remodels, one picture window is often used to replace one or more other style windows that are close together. This installation often requires enhancing the header above the window and a licensed contractor should be consulted for this type of installation.

Sizes and shapes of picture windows

Although people generally think of picture windows as being large, they are available in many sizes from standard sizes to custom sizes.

One of the unique attributes of picture windows is that since they are available in a variety of shapes from geometric shapes, rounded shapes to abstract shapes.

Price of picture windows

The price of picture windows depends on a number of things. The size, shape, frame material, number of panes and glass treatment are the main factors that affect the picture window cost.

Picture windows are best suited for

  • Showcasing a spectacular view or scenery
  • When maximum natural light is desired
  • When a window is exposed to severe weather and moisture
  • When a unique shape is desired

picture window photo credit

Garden Windows

Garden windows get their name because they have characteristics of a greenhouse and provide a great place to grow sun loving house plants, herbs and small vegetables in your home. They are like having a small garden in your home year round.

garden window

Garden Window

Garden windows are similar to bay windows in that they extend outward beyond a building’s wall but they have some differences. They are generally smaller and typically have a window on top instead of roofing material.

The typical garden window has a fixed picture window in the middle and on top with operable windows on the sides. The side windows are typically double hung or casement windows.

Many garden windows also offer accessories to install shelves within the window itself for plants.

Installation of garden windows

In many instances garden windows can replace a standard window without significant modification of the home or window opening making them a great option for remodels.

Installing a garden window requires more construction skills than a standard window but can done by a home owner with above average handyman skills.

Popular locations for garden windows are kitchens  and in bathrooms (often next to a bathtub). Many people enjoy using them to grow fresh herbs so having one in the kitchen (usually in front of the sink) is very handy.

Garden windows let in a tremendous amount of natural light and give a tropical look to any room. They also make it appear larger because of the additional natural light and the additional it adds cubic feet they add to a room.

Energy efficiency of garden windows

Most garden windows are either vinyl or aluminum and are available with various glass options including dual panes with Low-E and Argon or Krypton gas. Many are also Energy Star program qualified.

Sizes of garden windows

Garden windows are available in most standard window sizes making them perfect for replacement windows to replace a double hung or casement window. They are also available in custom sizes.

Sizes generally range from about 2’ x 2’ to 6’ x 5’. The depth of the windows ranges from about 12” to 18”.

Garden windows design options

Many garden windows offer various grille designs which gives the appearance of divided lites which dramatically changes the look for the window to match almost any architectural style. Vinyl and aluminum models are available in a variety of colors and wood windows can be ordered to match the existing woodwork of your home.

Most often the window is a rectangle with the same width as the door but other shapes, most notably a semi-circle are also popular, especially in older architectural styles.

Transom Windows

Transom windows are traditionally found above exterior doors. The structural component above the door and under the window is known as a transom which is where transom windows get their name.

While most commonly located above exterior doors, transom windows are also used above interior doors. Smaller windows installed above larger windows  are often referred to as transom windows as well.

To some the term means rectangular window, installed length-wise above another window or door. Beveled or stained glass is often used as well.

When used above another window they provide added architectural detail and are often associated with a custom or higher end home.

Transom window

Transom window

Advantages of transom windows

Transom windows above a door allow for the privacy of a door while providing light. Hinged transom windows allow for ventilation while a door remains closed for safety. They are commonly used above both interior and exterior doors.

Types of transom windows

Both fixed (non-opening) and opening versions are widely available. Opening versions are operated by hinges on the top (similar to awning windows) or at the bottom (similar to hopper windows).

Because of their location, above another window or door, an “operator” is often needed to open and close a transom window. An operator is typically some sort of rod or mechanism, either attached to the wall or movable, that used to open and close the window.

Transom windows cost

Interior windows typically start around $150 and exterior windows around $400. The price can be significantly more depending on the window material (wood, vinyl, etc.), the number of panes and if it opens.

If you are designing a home or remodeling a home, transom windows are a perfect way to add uniqueness and a sense of style to your home.

transom window photo credit