As an important feature in the home, windows help with ventilation, enhance curb appeal, and can be used as an exit and entry point in case of emergency. Thanks to modern window technology, there are more window styles available than ever and better options for increased energy efficiency and safety.
When selecting windows that complement your home’s overall architectural style and suit your family’s needs, there are so many types of window frames and styles to choose from.
Because this home improvement project can be a significant and long-term investment, considering some types of windows can last over 20 years, it’s wise to do your research before making a decision on your purchase.
Take your time and learn about all of your options. A bit of foresight and preparation will help you pick windows that you’ll enjoy for years to come.
The Anatomy of a Window
Before comparing the various types of windows for homes, it can help to understand how the typical window is constructed. The parts of a window can vary greatly depending on the window style, but having some awareness of the common terms can help you make informed purchasing decisions.
HGTV provides a helpful glossary of a window’s anatomy. The more familiar you are with these terms, the better prepared you’ll be to pick the correct window style for your home.
- Stiles: Stiles are the vertical supports positioned within the frame on each side of a window.
- Muntins: Sometimes called “lights”, these are the grids of a window that may serve a functional and/or aesthetic purpose. Muntins may be snapped into place for a decorative look, or they can be used to help hold glass in place.
- Jambs: Whereas stiles are found within a window frame, jambs are the vertical supports that form the actual sides of the window.
- Rails: Rails are the horizontal components within the frame and fit between the stiles. Every window style has a top and bottom rail.
- Apron: In the window frame interior lies the apron (or skirt), a trim board situated flat against the wall beneath the stool.
- Casing: A side casing can be found on the window’s interior, exterior, or on both. It’s the decorative trim, molding, or exposed framing which covers the space between the side of the window and the wall. A head casing is similar in construction, except that it covers the space between the top of a window and the wall.
- Glazing: Glazing refers to the glass contained within a window frame. Glazing may come in single, double, or triple thickness.
- Sash: A sash is composed of two stiles along the side, plus rails at the top and bottom. It’s the actual window frame tasked with keeping the glass in place.
- Stool: Otherwise known as a sill, the stool is the interior shelf-like piece of a window.
- Operator: There are many different types of window operators, which are responsible for the movement of casement and awning windows. The material from which the window is made will likely determine which casement operator is used.
Once you understand the composition of your window and window frame, you can look at how these various parts come together to create a variety of window styles. Keep this glossary in mind as you peruse different types of window frames and styles to help guide your selection.
Good news—there’s no shortage of window styles to choose from. Take a look at some of the most popular window style options for your home, and decide which best suits your ideal design and energy efficiency needs.
Double-Hung Windows: Double-hung windows feature two sashes—a sash is the movable panel inside your window frame that holds the glass panes and framework together. These two sashes are designed to slide up and down within the frame. Double-hung windows offer a classic look that matches common home styles well. You can open them from the bottom or the top, but the windows remain inside the frame and won’t jut out from your home.
Pros: Because you can open the bottom and top at the same time, it’s easier to ventilate your home. The bottom and top sashes of double-hung windows are also designed to fit snugly in the frame, which helps to limit air filtration when closed. Double-hung windows are generally low maintenance, so if you’re looking for a hands-off investment, these might be the right option.
Cons: These windows tend to be more expensive than single-hung styles.
Slider Windows: Slider windows feature panes that glide along a track. Generally this window style features at least one window that moves horizontally over another window. You’ll often find slider windows in contemporary homes, as these are a popular option.
Pros: Slider windows can help make a room seem taller and are a good option for homes with shorter walls. They’re simple to maintain and easy to clean. Depending on design, they may help improve ventilation.
Cons: It’s harder to create as tight of a seal with slider windows, so there may be more air leakage compared to other window styles.
- Casement Windows: Casement windows are operated with a crank, and can open outward to the right or left depending on how you get them installed. They usually have a vertical single sash.
Pros: These windows offer great ventilation. They’re also easy to maintain and clean.
Cons: Because casement windows open to the outside, you may not want to have them installed in areas where your family or friends will gather. If your window opens onto the deck or patio, it will take up valuable space.
- Awning Windows: Like casement windows, awning windows open outward and some types open with a crank. Unlike casement windows, they open from the bottom. Awning windows can typically be installed next to, above, or below traditional stationary windows.
Pros: Awning windows provide great views, and because they can be fitted high on the wall, they offer light and ventilation without compromising privacy. Another advantage of these windows is that they can be left open during the rain because they open outward from the bottom.
Cons: Similar to casement windows, you may not want to have awning windows installed over a deck or patio because they open outward. And because they open out and up, they can be more easily hit by rain, which could require more frequent cleaning.
- Hopper Windows: Hopper windows, sometimes called transform hopper windows, are an older style of window that have been used in homes since the 19th century. This window style was frequently featured in Victorian architecture, and has made a resurgence in contemporary design. These windows open to the inside and are commonly used in basements.
Pros: Homeowners may appreciate this window style because it works well in compact spaces and provides plenty of ventilation.
Cons: It can be more difficult to add window treatments or blinds to this window style because it opens inward, meaning it may provide limited privacy.
Choosing Frames for Your Windows
Once you have an idea of which style of energy-efficient windows to choose, look at frame styles next. A window frame provides support, holding the main parts of your window in place. Quality frames help keep your home insulated and secure the window’s glass pane so that it’s held sturdy—plus, they can add some serious style to your home’s exterior.
Window frames come in a wide variety of materials. The most common options are wood, vinyl, fiberglass, and aluminum. Each comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Not sure which one you need? Compare the pros and cons:
Fiberglass Frames: Fiberglass is a sustainable material primarily made up of fine sand that can be painted or made to look like wood.
Pros: Fiberglass is durable and resistant to strong weather conditions. This material provides excellent insulation, making it an energy-efficient window frame option.
Cons: Fiberglass windows can be more costly in comparison to other frame materials.
Wood Frames: Homeowners with older homes often prefer wooden window frames, and this traditional window style provides several benefits.
Pros: The beautiful, natural grain in wooden frames makes for a great complement to vintage design, and they insulate relatively well.
Cons: Keep in mind that wooden window frames could require additional care and maintenance. You’ll have to periodically paint or stain your frames, and treat them regularly to protect against moisture and rot.
Vinyl Frames: Vinyl window frames are made of PVC and are one of the most popular framing options for modern homeowners.
Pros: These frames may provide excellent insulation and offer good moisture resistance.
Cons: Some homeowners feel that vinyl window frames don’t offer much charm, so make sure this style of frame coincides with your home’s design aesthetic.
- Aluminium Frames: If you’re looking for durable, long-lasting glass window frames, aluminum could be the winner. With a sleek, clean look, these frames complement modern home design well.
Pros: Aluminum window frames don’t have as many maintenance issues, meaning you can enjoy the benefits of new windows without the hassle of dealing with rot or other common problems.
Cons: Unfortunately, aluminum window frames conduct heat; however, they can be combined with other materials to make them better insulators.
- Composite Frames: Composite is one of the newest frame materials to hit the window market. Composite imitates the appearance of wood, and is made up of a combination of composite wood products, including particleboard, wood fiber, and strand lumber. These products are then covered with an exterior material, typically made of vinyl or aluminum, which stabilizes the frame and protects the wood.
Pros: Composite is stable, and may provide better moisture and decay resistance than traditional wood frames.
Cons: Composite frames may be more expensive than other frame styles.
Use this information to help guide your window frame selection and pick a window frame material that offers the benefits you need.
How to Pick Window Casings
Casings are the decorative molding around the sides and tops of a window frame or jamb and wall. Casings can be used on both the interior and exterior of your window, meaning it affects your home’s aesthetic both inside and out. There are many casing window types to choose from, and we’ve detailed some of the most popular options:
- Complete Casing: If the molding goes around all four sides of a window frame, it’s called a complete window casing. Interior window casings feature moldings that match or complement the rest of your home.
- Low-Profile Casing: Low-profile casings lie flat against a wall or siding to prevent the warm air inside from escaping and the cold air outside from entering. They lend a finished look and connect the window to the home, but are more functional than decorative.
- High-Profile Casing: Selecting this window style affords you the most options; they can either surround the entire window or rest as a pediment above. High-profile casings usually come in one piece, and they offer the look of layered molding without requiring carpentry skills. This window type looks especially fitting on traditional and Victorian style homes.
- Modern Casing: In many new homes where glass takes the center stage, you’ll find modern casings—minimal and clean-lined moldings that blend in with the rest of the window instead of jutting out.
- Traditional Casing: These casings are simple and lay flat against the wall, similar to low-profile casings. They are well-suited to older homes, but may be made from a single layer of wood or composite material.
Tips for Choosing the Right Exterior Window Style for Your Home
There are plenty of window styles to choose from, but how do you decide which is best-suited to your home? It ultimately boils down to budget and preference, but keep the following in mind as you narrow down your options:
- Select Windows that Reflect Your Home’s Architectural Style: You want the overall look of your architecture to remain consistent, so make an effort to select window styles that match your home’s design. Window types can vary according to architecture, so keep the following in mind:
- Tudor architecture typically includes casement windows.
- Craftsman styles often include double-hung or casement windows.
- Coastal homes typically feature windows with many muntins or lights.
- Contemporary designs boast oversized window styles usually framed in aluminum.
- Modern architecture favors seamless windows with window frames obscured from view.
- Determine Sun Orientation Before Selecting Your Windows: A professional contractor can help you consider how your home sits in relation to the sun rising and setting patterns, which can help you narrow down your window options.
For example, if you’re in an eastward facing master bedroom, you might regret installing those huge, dual-paned windows as the sun greets you every morning.
- Select Windows Based on Ventilation Needs: Your windows play a crucial role in home ventilation, and are a key component of moving fresh air around your living space. Be sure to place windows with ample air passage and wide openings near areas in need of ventilation, and avoiding using fixed windows in rooms where you’ll want to promote air flow.
- Consider Your Environment: Environment should also come into consideration when you’re choosing between various window styles. Those in states such as Florida or regions prone to storms should install storm windows, whereas homeowners in cold regions might want windows with ample insulation to keep out those cold winter fronts.
With these aspects in mind, you can select windows that complement your family’s needs, your lifestyle, and your home’s design aesthetic in one fell swoop.
Choosing the Right Accessories for Your Windows
You’ve selected your favorite window style, picked out a sturdy window frame, and you’re ready for installation, but the window shopping fun isn’t over yet. Don’t forget to consider accessories that can dress up your new windows and provide added function.
Consider the following accessories and outfit your new windows with features that add beauty and utility to your home:
- Shutters: Shutters are hinged panels that can be closed for enhanced security and privacy. Decorative accent shutters may be fixed to the exterior of your home, meaning they’re purely intended for aesthetic purposes. This window accessory is available in a variety of materials, including wood and plastic, and can be painted in an array of colors.
- Storm Shutters: Storm shutters are heavy-duty hinged panels that can be closed to protect your home’s windows from high-speed winds and flying objects that can be kicked up during storms. These shutters are commonly used in hurricane mitigation to protect homes from damage. Learn more about hurricane preparation here.
- Shutter Dogs: Shutter dogs attach to your home and keep shutters in the open position. Many shutter dogs feature intricate designs and may be used to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your shutters.
- Grilles: Detailed grilles can be used to protect windows, enhancing your home’s security. Most grilles are custom-made, and typically formed from wrought iron; they’re then attached to the window frame or exterior wall of your home.
- Screens: Screens are typically used to prevent insects and other pests from entering the home when windows are open. Most screens are crafted with lightweight fiberglass mesh.
Windows can be a crucial renovation project for homeowners looking to help improve energy efficiency and enhance their home’s curb appeal. Selecting window styles and window frames for your home is no small task, but knowing what’s available can help prepare you for this decision.
Make an investment in replacement windows and transform the look and function of your living space. Read more about financing your window upgrades with Finance of America Home Improvement here and decide whether it’s time for a window repair or replacement project.