It's often said that upgrading windows (whether building a new home plan or remodeling) is one of the best investments a property owner can make. One thing to remember about that statement is the word “upgrade.” Installing new windows in a remodel for the sake of getting new windows won't necessarily provide you with the return on investment (ROI) you might expect. If your home has single-pane, broken down windows, however, you're probably 10 years or more late on the project.
Old single-pane windows are a huge energy drain. Heat passes through their single pane (either in or out, depending on the season) as if the glass weren't even there. Windows that were installed 12-15 years or more ago may be experiencing rot as well, and the insulation surrounding them may have settled and is contributing to the air/heat loss/gain. Modern windows will provide a drop in utility bills in addition to being an aesthetic curb-appeal upgrade.
If you haven't shopped for windows in a while you've likely got some choices ahead of you that you may not have known existed. Windows are a pricey investment so you want to make sure you're aware of all your options in order to maximize your return. Here is a guide to modern window choices:
1. Three Factors of a Window
When you're shopping for windows there are three main factors to consider:
Colors and Material
In order to get the perfect window for your needs you'll have to evaluate your budget, climate, and tastes.
2. Common Types of Windows
Some window types typically match up well with only certain architectural styles, while others may go with just about any house style. Double-hung windows, for example, may complement traditional styles like Country, Colonial, or Farmhouse home plans but may not be so at home in Modern or Contemporary house plans, which would more likely use casement or awning windows. But picture windows and, say, transom windows would fit with any style. Regardless of whether a replacement window is modern or traditional, though, it still needs to fit into a standard construction opening. Here are the most common types of windows:
Double Hung – as conventional a window type as there is, double-hung windows open vertically from both the top and bottom. Single-hung windows slide up only from the bottom.
Casement – these windows generally fill a larger space and open via a crank. A hinge on either the left or right side determines which way the window opens out into the exterior.
Awning – hinged at the top and opening from the bottom out, these windows are one of the few windows that can be left open safely during the rain.
Picture – these windows are stationary – used solely for an influx of natural light.
Transom – installed over an existing window or door to assist in providing extra natural light or breeze, transom windows are typically wide and short and may be fixed or operable.
Slider – a very modern choice, sliders move horizontally instead of vertically and travel in a track.
Bay – these windows are installed in a very large opening – usually in a master bedroom or dining room – and are actually made up of (usually) a stationary window in the middle flanked by double-hungs installed at an angle on each side. They increase the amount of space in an area because they are arranged to jut out from the side of the house (forming a bay) by about 45 degrees on each side. They are also known as bow windows when they only protrude slightly from the side of the house.
Determining the type of window you need is the first step in finding a replacement. If you are building new, you need to evaluate whether you want natural light, breeze, or a combination and just how you are going to get it.
The transom windows above the patio doors in the background of the Great Room in this 4-bedroom, 4-bath, 2-half-barh luxury Craftsman style home plan make just the right statement (House Plan #161-1017).
3. Window Colors and Material
Each choice in modern window options is important, but the colors, style, and material will have the most noticeable impact. Wood (clad with aluminum or vinyl on the outside) is a conventional choice that fits almost any architectural design. Vinyl windows are popular because they are the most affordable window material. Fiberglass may be the optimal choice for energy efficiency to avoid heated or cooled air loss, especially if you don’t care about having a wood interior. Almost any material type can be customized from the manufacturer with regard to color and in some cases textures.
These wood casement windows couldn't be more at home in the beautiful wood-themed kichen above, which is housed in a 2-story, 4-bedroom Contemporary home plan (House Plan #107-1015).
4. Modern Window Glass Types
While the material has some significance in how energy efficient a window is going to be, what really seals the deal is the glass type. Modern manufacturing methods have made window glass more thermally resistant than ever. Unless you're thinking about installing windows on a beach-side hut, single-pane units should be out of the question. Double-pane glass is now the industry norm, with triple-pane being recommended for climates with extreme cold temps (or excess heat for that matter).
The amount of glass isn't the only thing that determines energy efficiency of a window. They can also be outfitted with an insulating gas that creates even more of a barrier between the interior and exterior of a home. Coatings that block ultraviolet (UV) light should also be considered for windows on a sun-facing side of the home that lacks shade.
Protection from UV radiation is important for windows in a sunny setting like this family room's window wall in a 3,124-sq.-ft., 4-bedroom Country-style home plan (House Plan #120-2176).
For the most part window, types haven't really changed for modern times, only how they are implemented. Contemporary styles include full-length windows and non-traditional shapes, often arranged in a seemingly random pattern. Regardless, windows will always be a source of light and air circulation – you just need quality units that keep the air and light out when it's not wanted.
Footnote: The lead image is from a 4-bedroom, 4-12-bath Contemporary home plan. For more information, click here (House Plan #107-1015).