Styles and Types of Windows – How to Choose the Best Fit
There are many different kinds, sizes, and shapes of window available on the market, and each window type serves a different purpose.
It can sometimes be overwhelming to narrow down all the different choices that you have, as there isn’t really a “superior” window choice; it simply depends on
- What you might need the window for
- Your personal style
- Your budget.
Here, we’ll talk about the different types of window you might choose and how each is typically used. This way, you’ll have the knowledge you need to choose the best type of – or combination of types of – window to include in your new or next home.
This 3-bedroom, 2-bath Country style home uses three kinds of windows in its inviting facade: casement windows upstairs; fixed windows in the front door, transom, and garage doors; and double-hung windows downstairs (Plan#142-1177).
Styles and Types of Windows
While there are plenty of window types to choose from when replacing windows or choosing the style for a new build, there are a few styles that are more popular, cost effective, and stylish than others. Here are some of the more common varieties.
Double (and Single) Hung Windows
A dlouble-hung window is one that you can open either by sliding the bottom half up, or the top half down – or both! The bottom of the top pane and the top of the bottom pane for a single beam across the middle for support. These types of windows can also usually tilt out for easy cleaning and maintenance. These are one of the most common types of windows, and they almost always come with screens on the outside. A variation of the double-hung window is the single-hung type. This window has only one operating pane, usually the bottom one, with the other pane being fixed. Single-hung windows are much less common than double-hung.
Top: A double-hung window has two operating panes; one slides up and one slides down.The panes may also tilt inward, as shown here, to allow easy cleaning of the outside of the window from inside the home (image source: The Home Depot). Bottom: Grouping different-size double-hung windows can produce an interesting effect, as in the forward-facing gable of this 4-bedroom, 3-bath transitional Craftsman style home (Plan #142-1102).
Casement windows swing out to the side to open. They are attached to the frame by hinges on the side. Because of this, there are no support beams within the window, or anything “cutting the view in half,” if you will. This leaves viewers with a completely unobstructed view of the outside when the window is completely open.
Casement windows may be arranged as a single operating pane (or set of panes) or a pair of panes (or set of panes) that meet in the middle. They may be operated by a rotating or cranking mechanism that cranks the window open or by a locking lever that you release to push the window open. Both of these types of windows may be accompanied by a solid fixed window pane on the left and right of the main window, although installations do differ.
This casement window has a pair of mullioned panes that are operated by a locking lever in the center. When you rotate the lever to the open position, you push the window panes open (photo credit: Gordijnen aan Venster by Nieuw-commonswiki under license CC BY-SA 3.0).
A variation of the casement window style, awning windows are usually popular in areas where it rains a lot. Because of their “up and out” opening, homeowners don’t have to choose between restricting the airflow through their homes or letting the rain in. Awning windows are often found in basements as well.
These types of windows are most commonly installed in areas of the home where furniture or countertops might impede access to a window.
In general, casement and awning windows allow for lower air leakage when closed. This is because the sash closes by pressing against the frame like a door, creating a tighter seal. This in turn has the possibility of resulting in a lower energy bill for homeowners.
Top: This awning window is hinged at the top, as are all awning windows, and operated by a rotating crank on the sill of the window to open and close the pane. The outside of the window is clad in vinyl and the inside is wood (image source: The Home Depot). Bottom: The small windows in the shed dormer of this Contemporary Craftsman style home are the perfect application for awning-type windows (Plan #142-1176).
Fixed (Picture) Windows
Picture windows offer an unchangeable snapshot of the outside world. This is because picture windows are “fixed” and cannot be opened.
So whether you live in the Rocky Mountains and want to enjoy having a look at the slopes while you drink your morning coffee or you’re from the Florida Keys and want to see the beach while you read the paper, picture windows are the perfect choice for you.
These types of windows don’t have any breaks or visible frames. They offer a complete, unobstructed view of whatever is on the other side.They are usually simple in shape – a common rectangle or square and only one pane of glass.
You can choose to install picture windows on their own or in addition to other, more ornate types of windows, depending on your individual style preferences.
Fixed windows play a large part in the style of this Contemporary / Mid-Century Modern style home: three trapezoidal windows on the right reinforce the angle of the shed roof; below them, large picture windows take in the views and allow lots of natural light while awning windows at the bottom allow ventilation; stacked horizontal windows on the left call attention to the geometry of the house design, and corner windows and transoms farther to the left team up with a patio door to bridge the inside and the outside covered patio for high-style outdoor living (Plan #202-1024).
Palladian or Round-Top Windows
A Palladian window is very recognizable. It’s a large, three-section window. The center section has an arch shape and is larger than the two side sections. It’s a classical style of window born out of the Renaissance period. Usually, Adam or Federal style houses have them, although you can find them on many styles.
These windows are typically enormous and allow plenty of natural light into a room. This type of window would look rather out of place in a cottage or arts and crafts home, as they also add a more “formal” feeling to a home and tend to fit in better in larger homes.
Because of their size and form Palladian windows are also typically on the pricier side of window installations.
Even modest Country style homes like this 1640-sq.-ft., 3-bedroom, 2-bath one-story house can feature a Palladian window; check out the window in the forward-facing gable (Plan #141-1243).
Two types of windows come to mind when "multi-pane window" is mentioned. One is a window that is or looks as though it is made of multiple panes separated by mullions, or strips of plastic or wood to hold the panes together. The other is any insulated window that is made up of more than a single layer or pane of glass.
Multi-pane windows that look like a set of small windows panes assemble together are what is usually meant by the term multi-pane window. They are also called "divided-lite" windows, and they come in two varieties: true divided lite, in which individual small panes of glass are actually held together in one plane separated mullions, and divided lite, in which the window is actually one large pane of glass with a grid insert to make it look like a set of multiple of panes.
Multi-pane windows that are actually multi-layered windows are usually referred to as insulated windows, and theyre a great choice for anyone looking to put an extra layer between them and the rest of the world. This is because these types of windows tend to keep things out (think: noise pollution) and other things in (like air conditioning).
They typically save you money on your energy bills and can give you a better nights sleep – especially if you live on a busy street or near something with lots of noise pollution, like a train station or an airport.
Something to keep in mind is that there are generally two types of insulated windows: double-pane and triple-pane.
- Double-pane windows consist of two panes of glass with an insulating layer of air or clear and odorless gas, usually argon, in between them.
- In Triple-pane windows, the middle pane of glass – or in some cases a layer of plastic film – has air (or the insulating layer!) on both sides of it. They can be good for warmer climates, but the windows are very heavy and tend to fail more than double-pane windows. The triple glass also tends to make them appear darker than conventional windows. Using a layer of plastic film between two panes of glass makes the windows lighter in weight.
It’s important to remember that neither of these options are worth the financial investment unless the rest of your home is properly insulated.
This 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath Luxury European style home wouldn’t be the same without all of the multi-pane, or divided -lite, windows in its facade (Plan #198-1003).
Bay windows are famous for creating a soft “nook” within the home, perfect for reading in a cozy chair, having a cup of tea, or simply admiring the view.
Bay windows protrude from an exterior wall on a building’s ground floor. They are actually a group of windows, angeled in such a way that they are built “out” of the home. Usually, there is a center window and two side windows which complete the “semi-circle” at about 30 to 40 degrees.
Because of the craftsmanship required to correctly install a bay window (and the size of the glass panes), these types of windows are more expensive to install than simpler types of windows.
Top: Interior view of a custom two-story-tall bay window in Chicago, IL (photo credit: Multi-Story Bay Window by Jennifer D. Ames under license CC BY-SA 3.0). Middle: Preassembled residential bay window with two double-hung windows at an angle and a fixed picture window in front (photo source: The Home Depot). Bottom: Exterior view of a bay window configuration on a large Cottage style home with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths (Plan #117-1109).
Oriel windows are very similar to bay windows and are one of the most popular window types in older American neighborhoods in more urban spaces. They became popular in Victorian-era architecture; however, you can still see them occasionally on buildings from before this period.
In fact, this variation of the bay window was likely conceived during the Middle Ages, as the name “Oriel” comes from the Latin word “oriolum” which means porch or gallery.
The window is defined by a small group of windows together in a bay that juts out from a building’s facade with a bracket or a corbel underneath. The most important distinction between a bay window and an oriel window is that bay windows are on the ground floor only. Anything above that? It’s an oriel.
You might choose to include oriel windows in your home design because their inclusion automatically increases the amount of light available in a room, as well as the potential for airflow if the panes of the window can open (which they don’t have to). They do all this and can really be seen as an “addition” that doesn’t alter the building’s actual dimensions.
Top: An oriel window like this is essentially a bay window that protrudes from the side or front of a building on an upper story. (photo credit: Exeter College Bay Window in Turl Street by Ozeye under license CC BY-SA 3.0). Bottom: Brackets or corbels often provide decorative support underneath, as with the rectangular oriel windows in the upper level of this Luxury European style home (Plan #106-1167).
To the untrained eye, bow windows and bay windows look exactly the same. However, there are marked differences that separate the window types in both function and cost.
For example, a bay window has three angled panes, while a bow window usually has four or five. Bay windows have more angular lines and flat panes, while a bow window features a more rounded shape.
Bow windows also have the unique advantage of being able to be wrapped around the corner of a building. This forms a small “tower” shape on the outside of the home, while providing a cozy nook inside. You can also enjoy a more continuous view of the outdoors.
As far as cost is concerned, bow windows are typically more expensive than bay windows because of the number of panels involved.
Top: This European style home features a bow window configuration in the “tower” at right. Bottom: The floor plan gives a good idea of the soft circular shape of the bow windows, circled in red (Plan #153-1750).
How to Choose the Best Fit
The first thing to consider when choosing between different types of windows is your individual budget. The reality of being a homeowner is that budget must always supersede style.
Once you have set a realistic budget, it’s time to consider what type of window appeals to you most visually. Would you prefer the simplicity of the picture windows, or the functionality of awning windows?
Can you see yourself cozying up in the nook of a bow window, or would you prefer the ornateness of gazing through a Palladian? It might also be worth thinking about the style of other homes in your neighborhood and how yours might fit in.
Finally, it is also important to consider that different types of windows can be mixed and matched depending on preference and that it’s possible to install nearly every design mentioned as at least double-paned.
Windows are one of the most important visual elements of a home. They provide light and air to a home’s interior but give life and character to its exterior a well. Choosing window types is both a matter of budget and style, but there are options to suit most everyone’s needs depending on these factors.