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Photo-illustration: Mark Hooper

What You'll Learn

  1. Window Types
A window is simple — glass held in a sash that fits into a frame. Buying windows is anything but. Whether it's for a new home or an addition, the range of options can be mind-boggling.

The good news is that windows are better than ever, with a wide variety of styles, frames that hardly ever need maintenance, and glazing systems that can slash energy costs.

Double-pane insulated glass, heat-resistant coatings, and airtight frames can cut household energy expenditures by as much as 15 percent compared with the leaky single-pane models of yesteryear. As a result, homeowners are letting the sun shine in like never before.

"Windows are getting bigger and bigger," says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, "and people are adding more of them."

That improved technology comes at a price. While windows once accounted for 3 to 5 percent of a new home's cost, today 8 to 10 percent is more common.

In this four-part series, we offer some pointers to help you cut through the confusion and spend your money wisely. This section: A basic primer on different types of windows. See the Related Links at left for articles on glazing, frames, and replacements.
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