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What Window Should I Choose

An exterior view of a single hung window on a red brick home.
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At, the consumers who reach out to us for advice often ask, “What type of window is best for me?” In handling these consumer interactions, we quickly came to understand that not everybody was asking the same question when they referred to the topic of windows.

Some wanted to know what type of glass was best for their particular window. Others wanted to know if their window required a safety glazing material or if the insulating glass unit they were considering would be a better energy-performing product if it had Argon gas in it or had a low-E coating on it. Questions about types of safety glass (tempered or laminated) are also asked frequently, as are questions about sound-reducing or UV blocking glass products.

We also have received many questions about what we in the glass industry refer to as security glass or impact glazing. Security glass is glass that protects property, meaning glass that is difficult to break through. Consumer questions are as varied as the consumers who ask them, and we have always tried out best to answer those glass questions in a way that is beneficial to the consumer.

A visit to the information center provides a significant number of these glass-related questions and answers.

As a consumer-directed organization, we understand that there is a great variety of glass products. Sometimes it is not easy to decide which glass works best in a given application. We also regularly receive questions from people who want to know about the performance characteristics of glass framing systems. Glass can be installed in a variety of frame types, including steel, aluminum, wood, vinyl, fiberglass, and plastic. Within those categories are numerous options, so it is easy to get overwhelmed and confused.

Of late, we have been receiving questions, primarily from homeowners, asking us for recommendations on not just glass or glass framing options, but frame assembly configurations themselves. Because more information is available today than ever before, the questions asked of can often be quite specific. On occasion, though, we are asked the wrong question; usually, because some misinterpreted information is confusing the consumer.

So with this in mind, recognizing that some uncertainty exists when it comes to window descriptions, we are herein going to discuss typical window framing configurations. These configuration descriptions will be somewhat generic, and it is essential to point out that all common window types can be produced in wood, vinyl, aluminum, steel, and fiberglass. The good news is that these windows can all be made to accommodate the wide variety of glass products available in the market today. With this in mind, let’s now take a quick look at the most common window configuration/types in use today.

Single-Hung Windows

Single-hung windows are among the most popular residential windows in the world today. Simply defined, a single-hung window is one that is divided in half horizontally. The bottom portion of the window assembly can be opened by raising the operating sash (the frame that holds the glass) at the lower half of the window assembly. In today’s world, these assemblies typically are made using vinyl or wood but are also available in fiberglass and aluminum.

Double-Hung Windows

Double-hung windows are equally as, if not even more, popular than the single-hung window. This frame is constructed in a way that allows both the top and bottom half of the window sash to open (by by-passing each other). Many of these types of windows allow for the top sash to tilt in for easier cleaning. Like its single-hung window cousin, it can have any number of finish and hardware options and comes in a variety of sizes as well as material types.

Casement Windows

Many consumers find the casement window style more attractive and appealing than the single- or double-hung window. This configuration eliminates a mid-window framing component. The casement window opens from the side (left or right sides) depending on the consumer’s preference or the building configuration where it is to be installed. While the hung window systems typically have an exterior insect screen set within the exterior side of the framing system, the casement type widow almost always has its screen set to the inside. The casement is going to swing out.  If the screen were installed on the outside, it would prohibit the window from opening. Casement windows are often found in assemblies that may have a fixed transom over them or a non-operating fixed window set between flanking casements. Here again, these types of windows are made using (primarily) wood, aluminum, and vinyl. Fiberglass casement windows are now also on the market, and there are also some wood/aluminum combination assemblies available as well. These wood/aluminum combinations often are used to allow for a wood product to be available for finishing on the interior side of a home/building, while an aluminum exterior is going to provide extended maintenance-free usage.

Stationary/Fixed Windows

Fixed windows are windows that do not open. They are also known as “inoperable” and are usually found in offices and other commercial buildings, such as (restaurants and stores) where the air in the building is controlled, and for any number of reasons (security, energy efficiency, and cleaning) it is felt that it is better not to have the building’s windows open and close. In some of these fixed window applications, a vent (sometimes called a hopper) window will be included in some or maybe even all of the fixed windows in a building. These vent windows can either swing outward (awning type) or inward (inswing/hopper type). On occasion, it is also possible to see a small bi-passing slider window under a larger fixed window. Transom windows (those over or door) are typically fixed windows also.

Sliding Windows (and Doors)

Sliding doors (think patio-type doors) often replace or supplement window systems in a residence or commercial building. There are also sliding window assemblies that are used in hotels, dormitories, and other building types as well. The available configurations are numerous. All of these types of products come in the same material components as windows. They will also often be assembled in such a way as to have one or more panels fixed (stationary) while another part of the assembly slides. The patio door assembly is a prime example of a sliding/fixed combination window/door.

Vent/Hopper Windows

These types of windows come in any number of varieties. They can be found in factories, offices, and even some homes. For the most part, these are not large windows and are often found in areas where some fresh air ventilation is desired, but a security concern might exist.

Bow Windows, Picture Windows

These fixed types of windows are often the featured window in a home or business and are larger and/or more pronounced than the windows adjacent to them. Arch topped windows as well as round and angled windows are almost always fixed. They sometimes will incorporate a casement or vent window into the overall frame.  Again, the materials used to make these types of windows are the same as the windows discussed above. And of course, they can incorporate any of the glass products available in the market today.

storm-shutter-windowsStorm Windows (and Doors)

While these are not as popular as they once were due to the prevalent use of insulating glass products in today’s homes, these types of windows can be found virtually everywhere. Typically, they are fixed windows in a frame of their own or part of a window system. The term “triple track” refers to a double-hung type window with an extruded frame/slot component that allows the storm window to be raised, and a screen slid into its place when warm weather comes along. While very few new homes would have a storm window or storm window system built into them, they do still exist and are readily available.

Specialty Windows

Not unexpectedly, there are all kinds of specialty windows available for various purposes. When this writer thinks about specialty windows, the now-standard retail “drive-up” window comes to mind. Retailers from hamburger chains to drug stores now use these types of custom windows. There is virtually no limit to what can be made with today’s framing materials and glass products. Other custom windows include ticket windows, skylights, and bank teller windows.

As you can see, there are a variety of window types to deal with and from which to choose. Given the fact that all of these products have to comply with specific energy and safety codes, the selection of a window type for your project is mostly going to be one of appearance and use. Windows are an expensive investment, and every consumer wants to get value for the money they spend. Not everyone’s situation is the same, and concerns over security may be more important to some (depending on where they live, such as in a hurricane zone) than to others. When in doubt, seek professional help from an architect or a contractor with a good reputation.

We at hope this somewhat basic window primer is of value to you. At a minimum, it should provide you with some terminology that will prove helpful to you if and when you need to consider purchasing windows in the future. always recommends consumers seek out trusted local window and glass contractors when you are investing in windows, doors, or glass products of any kind. If you’re searching for a glass specialist in your area for an upcoming project that involves glass of any type, whether it be home, auto, or commercial in nature, use to help locate a reputable installer.

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, earns from qualifying purchases.



Lyle Hill

Lyle Hill has been in the glass and metal industry for more than 40 years. In this time he has managed glass retail, contract glazing, mirror, architectural window, window film, and automotive glass businesses throughout America. He obtained an MBA from IIT with a focus on Technology and Engineering Management. Hill is also a columnist for glass industry trade magazines and often called the “face” of the glass industry. He has also authored books including “The Broken Tomato and Other Business Parables,” which is available through Amazon. Find out more about Lyle on Linkedin.

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