What are the different window types?
If you’re on the hunt for new windows, you probably already know that there are a lot of options to choose from. With so many different window types available, it can be a challenge to find the right balance between durability, affordability, and quality.
As a full-service design and remodeling company, Lamont Bros. knows how difficult it can be to find the ideal windows for your home. That’s why we partner with the experts at Pacific Rim Sash and Door to provide our clients with access to a wide selection of windows.
This article will discuss some basic window design features, as well as the differences between several types of window sash material. Specifically, you can learn about:
Before discussing the different types of window sashes, it is important to first understand the different parts that make up a window.
The defining element of a window, panes are typically made of glass and make up the part of the window you can actually look through.
Most modern windows are double glazed, meaning that they contain 2 parallel panes of glass. Double glazed windows are more energy efficient because the panes are sealed into the sash so that the space between the panes acts as an insulation layer. Triple glazed windows are also common and boast an even higher energy efficiency rating.
The glass panes can also be modified for style, privacy, and strength. Protective laminate panes are incredibly strong and resistant to break-ins, while etched glass and one-way reflective films can add character and privacy.
The part of the window that encases the glass is called the sash. While its primary function is to hold the glass in place, the sash is also the part of the window that moves in a hung window, or a window that can be opened.
Hung windows can be configured with slides or hinges, and can feature single or double-hung panes.
Sashes also play a large role in divided light windows, a style of windows in which the full window is separated into smaller panes by a grid of sashes. Divided light windows can use real dividing sashes to accomplish this style, or veneer sashes that sit on top of the windowpane.
A window’s frame is the outermost structure that holds all the other parts of the window together into one unit. The frame and sash are usually both made from the same material. In hung windows, the slide rails or hinges connect the sash to the frame.
What are the different types of window sashes?
Windows made with vinyl sashes and frames make up about 50% of the residential window market in the United States.
Vinyl windows are made using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a petroleum byproduct. Vinyl manufacturing uses a process called extrusion, in which the material is first heated and then shaped by pushing it through a shaping die. Because it is plastic, vinyl windows tend to be more prone to warping over time.
First gaining traction in the 1970s as technology made vinyl more energy-efficient and easier to produce, vinyl is an excellent entry-level option for window material. Though a relatively new contender in the field of fenestration (the art of designing and arranging windows), vinyl windows have largely taken over the window market within the past 20 years.
Though not visually appealing in their natural state, vinyl window manufacturers can paint or wrap the frame in metal foil. The development of customization options has made these types of windows more applicable in situations where aesthetics matter.
- Energy efficient
- Customizable finishes
- Easy to find
- Prone to warping
- Panes difficult to replace
- High thermal expansion
The next tier up from vinyl is fiberglass windows. Made of glass fiber-reinforced plastic, these window types are some of the strongest available.
Manufacturing fiberglass windows involves a process called “pultrusion,” in which a machine pulls the material through a casting die rather than pushed. As a result, the material takes longer to produce and costs 10% – 30% more than vinyl.
In terms of strength, the materials used in fiberglass windows make them about 8 times stronger than vinyl. It also can be up to 15% more energy efficient.
One of the primary advantages of fiberglass is that the material has very similar properties to the glass panes themselves. For areas that see dramatic temperature fluctuations, this is a great advantage. The frame, sash, and panes all expand and contract at about the same rates, so there is less of a risk for the seal between the sash and glass panes to break.
- Extremely strong material
- Highly energy-efficient
- Minimal thermal expansion
- Very low maintenance
- Long manufacturing time
- Higher cost
- Limited finish options
A tried and tested method of constructing windows, window makers have used wood in windowmaking for hundreds of years. Versatile, natural, and efficient, wood often offers a great balance between several factors when considering window materials.
In terms of cost, wood windows can be difficult to estimate. Depending on the quality, species, and customization of a wood window, they can cost anywhere from 30-100% more than vinyl windows.
Many homeowners seek out wood windows because it tends to be more visually appealing than any other option. In addition to several different species of wood and available stains, wood windows are easy to paint or wrap in metal foil. However, its natural properties do make wood more susceptible to weather, thermal expansion, warping, and decay.
Wood is also an excellent insulator and is comparable in energy efficiency to fiberglass. Modern wood windows often have removable glass panes, so you can replace the frames and sashes if they fall victim to the elements.
- Most visually versatile
- Highly energy efficient
- Replaceable glass
- Very expensive
- Prone to warping & weathering
- Difficult to maintain
Once you get into metal windows, you’re looking at some of the highest-quality materials, and therefore more expensive, too.
Aesthetically, metal windows offer a clean visual medium with a wide range of stylistic applications. A window can be made from several types of metal, including aluminum, steel, and even bronze.
Aluminum windows usually cost 30%-50% more than vinyl. With steel and bronze, that number can increase tenfold. The cost is reflective of the window’s longevity, which outlasts any of the other options.
Energy efficiency can be a challenge with metal window construction since metal is a conductor. It has very little insulation ability. Sometimes, window manufacturers fill the metal with insulation to compensate for this, but as a general rule, metal windows are not especially efficient.
- High-quality materials
- Clean, versatile aesthetic
- Long lifespan
- Extremely expensive
- Low energy efficiency
Want new windows as part of your next remodel?
Remodeling is a great opportunity to update your home’s windows. If you’re considering a home renovation and would like to learn more about design features and current interior style trends, take the next step by reading our Interior Styles Guide.
Want to talk to a professional designer about how to incorporate stylish new windows into your next remodel? Click the button below to schedule a free call with one of our design consultants.