What You Need To Know About Style, Function, and Energy Efficiency
Windows allow natural light into your home, provide ventilation, offer sound deadening properties, and make up part of your home's thermal envelope. They also add to the character of your home and help to define its overall style.
Today's windows are highly energy efficient and can save you money on heating and cooling costs. There are many types of windows to choose from, and it's best to research all your options before starting a home remodeling project or making plans to build a new custom home. At Meridian Homes we've been helping our clients in the Washington, DC area select the right windows for their homes for many years. Here is our guide to choosing the perfect windows for your home.
Materials Used To Make Windows
Most styles of windows are available in different kinds of materials. There are pros and cons to each material in terms of appearance and maintenance requirements as outlined below.
1. Wood-Clad Windows
Wood-clad windows are designed to offer the best of a combination of materials, making them energy efficient, durable, visually appealing, and low maintenance. The frames are made of wood but the exterior surfaces are clad, or layered, with another material such as vinyl, aluminum, or fiberglass for added strength and to provide an extra barrier of protection against the elements. The exteriors of wood-clad windows are usually finished in a factory, and manufacturers offer a variety of colors from which to choose. For an upscale aesthetic, the interiors of clad windows are made from genuine wood which has a warm, rich look. The wood can be custom painted or stained to work with the decor of each room in a home.
2. Wood Windows
Windows made of wood are visually attractive and have natural insulating properties. Wood is a versatile material because it can be painted or stained to work with any color scheme on the outside or inside of a home. In addition, you can choose from mahogany, douglas fir, pine, white oak, red oak, cherry, or maple to fit the architectural style of your home. However, all-wood window frames need regular care because they can warp, rot, or accumulate mold if they are not properly painted, sealed, and maintained.
3. Vinyl Windows
Vinyl windows are made from a synthetic plastic material that is resistant to rotting and decay, and as a result, they require very little maintenance. They are energy efficient and are known to be the least expensive type of window on the market. Most vinyl windows are available in a limited amount of colors from the factory, and they cannot be painted or stained on-site, so keep that in mind if you want to coordinate your new windows with the exterior or interior colors of your home.
There are three different types of vinyl windows and they vary in terms of quality, durability, price, and appearance. Standard vinyl windows cost the least, but they can warp and bend over time, and they have a reflective, plastic look. Composite vinyl is made from a blend of fiberglass and resin which increases the strength, durability, and price of the windows. The composite material offers a higher-end look that is more like wood or wood-cladding. Engineered vinyl windows have additional features such as extra insulation for enhanced energy efficiency and fade-free properties so the windows will look good for longer.
4. Fiberglass Windows
Fiberglass windows are strong, durable, low maintenance, and provide good insulation. When it comes to the overall aesthetic and cost of windows, fiberglass falls in between wood and vinyl. Fiberglass windows have a factory-finished, powder coating and you can choose from many colors to customize the look of your home. You can also paint fiberglass windows with the proper preparation and use of a specialized industrial coating.
5. Aluminum Windows
Aluminum windows have a more modern look than other types of windows. The all-aluminum frame is typically finished in a smooth or powdered enamel to protect against denting or scratching. A thin aluminum frame can support a large piece of glass, allowing for an expansive view to the outdoors. This type of window is lightweight, durable, and strong, but aluminum is a poor insulating material and will often require double-glazing to comply with energy efficiency regulations.
Types Of Windows
The right windows can dramatically enhance the look of a home. When choosing windows for your new custom home or when you're remodeling your current residence, consider the architecture and style of your home, and how each window will function in each room. Here are the most popular types of windows found in homes today.
1. Double-Hung Windows
Double-hung windows have two sashes, one upper and one lower, that slide vertically. For clarification, a sash is the square or rectangular frame that contains the window glass. With a double-hung window, both sashes can open to increase air flow: warm air can escape through the upper sash and cooler air can enter through the lower sash. If you have small children or pets, you can keep the lower sash closed for safety and only open the top sash to allow for ventilation. Some double-hung window models tilt inward for easy cleaning of the exterior glass.
2. Single-Hung Windows
With a single-hung window, the lower sash slides vertically, and the upper sash remains stationary. Single-hung windows tend to be more affordable than double-hung windows because they cost less to manufacture, and with fewer moving parts, they are cheaper to install. However, they are more difficult to clean and offer less ventilation since the upper panel is fixed in place.
3. Casement Windows
A casement window is hinged on one side and opens by swinging outward or inward by a crank handle. Casement windows allow for great ventilation and have weather-tight seals when they are closed. Some casement windows feature muntins that divide individual panes of glass, and others have none so they offer a clear view to the outside.
4. Picture (Fixed) Windows
Picture windows, also known as fixed windows, come in many shapes and sizes. They are designed to have low-profile frames, no grilles, and a single pane of glass to offer an unimpeded field of vision to the outdoors. They allow in natural light to brighten an area, but they do not open.
5. Awning And Hopper Windows
An awning window is hinged at the top and opens out from the bottom with a crank handle. A hopper window has hinges at the bottom and opens out from the top. These types of windows are often installed above, below, or alongside a fixed window for added ventilation.
6. Sliding Windows
Sliding windows have moving panels that open to the left or right. These types of windows do not project outward and have a contemporary look. They offer an unobstructed view to the outdoors and provide easy access to fresh air in a room that may need extra ventilation.
Customizing The Look Of Your Windows
Windows can be customized to suit your taste, the style of your home, and the functionality of a specific space. For example, tinted, frosted, or textured glass is often used to allow light in while providing privacy in entryways or bathrooms. Enhance the look of any room in your home with a window in a unique shape or size, such as an arched, picture, or bay window. You can easily customize your windows by selecting hardware in a special finish or style that will fit your decor, whether is it modern, transitional, or traditional.
Historically, windows had individual, small panes of glass held together by muntins or grilles. Known as true divided light, these types of windows are no longer in fashion because they were not energy efficient at all. Today's window grilles can simulate the look of true divided light while allowing for greater energy efficiency. The grilles snap into the window frames over one large piece of glass and are removable for cleaning. Some windows have grilles that are installed between the panes, making it very easy to clean the glass from the inside or outside. You can change the way windows look by applying different types of grilles, or you may choose to have no grilles at all. Architecturally traditional homes often have windows with grilles, while many contemporary homes have windows with no grilles for a sleek look. Arts & Crafts-style homes tend to have a combination of windows with grilles and without.
Selecting Energy Efficient Windows
Most windows sold today are double-pane, since single-pane windows are not nearly as energy efficient. For the most energy efficient type of window that also has the greatest sound deadening properties, select triple-pane insulated windows for your home.
Upgrading to a vacuum-sealed argon fill between the panes can dramatically increase the energy efficiency of either a double- or triple-pane window. Adding a low-emissivity (low-e) coating provides an invisible layer of metallic oxide that reduces the amount of heat that passes through the glass. Most new windows offer a low-e coating because this feature can help homeowners save on heating and cooling costs over time.
To choose windows that will fit within your budget and enhance the look of your newly remodeled or custom-built home, consult with a professional homebuilder from the start of your project. At Meridian Homes, we specialize in luxury remodeling and custom home building in the Washington, DC area. Our mission is to create exceptional residences that exceed expectations. Our highly personalized design process and careful management of every project have earned us a reputation over many years for outstanding client service and solid, beautiful craftsmanship. Contact us today to begin your custom home or remodeling project.