Choosing The Right Window

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Window Styles

Choosing a window style is typically a matter of personal preference. Do you prefer windows that “crank” out or windows that slide up and down or left or right? Here’s an overview:

Crank out windows come in two styles: casement and awning. Casement windows open from one side, like a door; awning windows open at the bottom.
Single and double hung windows are very popular for their traditional look. They have two separate units (sash) inside a single frame. The bottom sash moves up and down in a single hung; both sash move in a double hung. The sash can often be easily released and removed from the frame to be cleaned from inside.
Gliding or rolling windows have one or two sash that slide side to side in the jamb track.

Windows without any moving parts are called fixed, picture or direct-set windows.

Bay windows are multiple windows configured together to protrude from the home at an angle. Similarly, bow windows are created by multiple windows joined together in a curved shape. Pittsburgh Homeowners often use bay or bow windows to create a cozy cove or breakfast nook.

Window Materials

Wood windows still dominate the housing market, however, vinyl and composite materials are increasingly popular.

Wood is durable, attractive, energy efficient and can be painted or stained to create a personalized look. Wood, however, requires regular maintenance.

“Wood windows are very popular,” says Jeff Kibler of Peachtree Doors & Windows. “Manufacturers also provide alternatives that use wood’s desirable properties, require less maintenance and are less susceptible to deterioration.”

These alternatives include wood windows covered, or clad, in aluminum or vinyl on the exterior. Both vinyl and aluminum clad windows are virtually maintenance free, look great and perform well, according to Kibler.

Because they require no maintenance and cost less, all vinyl and vinyl composite windows are gaining on wood. Once considered flimsy, today’s vinyl windows are durable. Peachtree vinyl window frames are reinforced with steel stiffeners, and are fusion welded to prevent separation. Vinyl windows cannot be painted, inside or out, limiting the ability to change a home’s exterior look or match interior millwork.

All aluminum construction, because it readily conducts heat and cold, is being used less in residential windows as energy codes become more demanding. Aluminum windows have a rigid frame, which can support large panes of glass with little sagging or warping but can eventually pit or dent.

Fiberglass windows are relatively new and therefore are more expensive. Fiberglass windows are typically a solid composite, making them a reliable barrier to outside elements. They have good structural integrity and do not need regular maintenance. Like vinyl, they cannot be stained or painted.

Energy Efficiency

Window glass, its enhancements and the process by which it is placed into the frame is called “glazing.” Energy-efficient windows use insulated or insulating glass — meaning it has two or three panes of glass. The airspace in between the panes acts as a buffer, reducing the transference of heat or cold. Manufacturers further increase this insulating ability by filling the airspace with a dense, harmless gas such argon or krypton.

When you’re trying to determine windows’ energy efficiency, look for R- and U-values. The higher the R-value, the better the window reduces heating and cooling bills. The lower the U-value, the better the window insulates against heat transference. EnergyStar certifications and ratings from the National Fenestration Ratings Council also indicate energy efficiency.

Many manufacturers offer products of varied prices and options to meet broad preferences. Peachtree Doors & Windows offers Symmetry by Peachtree, an all vinyl product line; 300 Series of vinyl clad windows; and the 500 Series and 700 Series lines of aluminum clad windows.

Price will vary by style, by manufacturer and by material. Single hung and gliding windows tend to be less expensive than double hung or casements. Aluminum and vinyl, which vary widely in price and quality, are often the least expensive.

Windows, like shoes, are available in a wide variety of styles and materials. Finding one that fits takes some research. Because windows can be a major investment, it pays to see through sales language and product attributes for a clear understanding.