Windows come in a wide variety of styles and dimensions. You'll use them to provide light, view, egress (getting out in an emergency), and maybe ventilation.
Look at examples of homes you visit to find the kind of effect you want to recreate. The building codes will require a window in each bedroom and will specify the minimum size. Just make sure your plan meets the minimum.
One type of window - the clerestory window - can affect your roof type and framing requirements. The clerestory is an effective way to get more light to the interior of the home. The roof portion containing the clerestory windows usually is "stick built" (with individual pieces of wood, cut to form rafters, ridges, etc.), instead of being constructed with roof trusses.
Windows differ in how they open and the materials from which they're made. They also come with or without muttons (the horizontal and vertical bars that divide a window into multiple panes).
In some "thermopane" (double glazed) windows the muttons are snap-in affairs that come out easily when you want to clean the window. Others have the muttons inside, between the two panes.
The following will give you the basic knowledge you need. You'll want to spend some time in a show room looking at some actual models.
The single hung window is opened by raising the bottom sash. The top sash is fixed. This is a less expensive model of the traditional double hung window.
Both bottom and top sashes are operable. Today, most single and double hung windows have a spring mechanism which counterbalances the weight of the sash and allows it to be positioned at any height without sliding back down because of its own weight.
This used to be accomplished with a cord which went over a pulley near the top of the window frame and down to a cast iron ingot called the "balance."
Casement windows don't need balances.
They are hinged at the side and crank out with a little handle at the bottom.
Casements usually cost more than single or double hungs, and are thought to be more energy efficient since they can be tightly shut
The Pella brand of casement window is available with an operable venetian blind between the panes of the insulated glass.
The slider looks more like a casement, but one or both of its panels slide in a track to open. This is a miniature version of a sliding glass door.
Nothing opens here. Just a piece of framed glass. You'll have these specially made. Your window dealer or building supply salesman can handle the details.
Fixed panes are used for odd shaped windows (hexagonal!), for windows you don't think you'll ever need to open, and for inaccessible windows like clerestories. Remember, at least one of your bedroom windows must be operable to provide an emergency escape route.
This is a special type of fixed window. It is used next to an exterior door. Sometimes it comes as a pre-assembled part of the door unit.
A narrow, horizontal window above another window or a door. It may be operable or fixed. If operable, it functions like an awning window.
This is a window which usually is installed over the sink in the kitchen - although it does not have to be. It sticks out like a miniature bay window and has some shelves for potted plants. How nice!
The bay is not really a window type at all. It is a wall design. Bays may contain any type of window - or no window at all.
The storm window is attached to the outside of your regular window. Used in conjunction with a double glazed window, it provides maximum efficiency. It's a good system for extreme weather conditions (very cold or very hot). Most storm windows are single hung.
These aren't used very much anymore. You used to see them in "Florida" rooms and enclosed porches. They are the narrow horizontal panes that open with a crank handle to admit light and air. They were often made with the etched glass.
Skylights and Roof Windows
Skylights are mounted in the roof and are usually fixed. A "well" must be framed and finished from the roof to the ceiling to let the light down to the room.
Roof windows are operable devices usually found in the sloped ceilings of bedrooms which have been tucked under the roof. The way most of them open, does not fit in any of the above categories. They swing out on hinged arms. Get a demonstration!
The awning window is hinged at the top and swings out from the bottom. They are usually wider than they are tall. They may be used alone, or in combination with other types. They are frequently used below or above fixed units.
Windows come in a variety of styles. The most common subdivision of styles is into either divided light or non-divided light. The divided light has each sash divided into smaller panes.
They are described as 6/6 or 4/4 (read "six over six" and "four over four") to denote the number of panes in the top and bottom sashes. Non-divided light windows are sometimes referred to as 1/1 (one over one).
Other styles may include round, octagonal, radius head, and stained glass. The photos give you an idea of some of the variations possible. As with everything else, the more unusual and/or elaborate, the higher the cost will be.
Windows are available in aluminum, wood, vinyl, and vinyl-clad wood. Some aluminum windows have a thermal break built into the frame to help keep the frames from transmitting too much heat and to minimize condensation on the inside of the frame. Ask your supplier for details.
If you're planning on keeping your energy costs at a reasonable level, you'll be using "thermopane" windows.
"Thermopanes" are double panes with an air space between. They reduce heat loss over the single pane. This is also referred to as single or double glazing.
Coatings and Fills
Microthin metallic coatings which help control the "emissivity" of windows are available. In essence, these "e" coatings help regulate the balance between heat gain and heat loss through your windows. If you live in colder climes, you'll want low-e windows. In Florida, you'll want high-e.
The space between the panes (glazing) in double-glazed windows is often filled with an large molecule, inert gas - typically argon - which imparts further energy-efficient benefits.
Click here for in-depth information on this and other energy-efficient window topics.
All operable windows will have some kind of weather stripping around the opening to minimize infiltration. In single and double hungs and casements, the compression type is common.
This is a piece of bent metal that is squeezed when the window is shut. In sliders, some sort of fuzzy, fabric-like material is usually the answer.
For more on Windows,
see Lesson Seven of our online course
Successful Home Contracting.
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