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Windows: Getting Your Money's Worth

Here are our pointers for cutting through the confusion and spending your money wisely.

windows tout
Photo illustration Mark Hooper
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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.

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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Window Types

 

Window Types

Double-hung window
Illustration by Gregory Nemec
Double-hung windows are the most popular. Modern versions have a tilt-in sash for easy cleaning of the outside panes. These all-around favorites have some limitations; for example, they're not the best choice in locations where you have to stretch to open them, such as over a kitchen sink.

The style of its windows sets the tone for a house. Punctuate a wall with two symmetrical rows of small, double-hung windows, and it looks Colonial. Fill the same wall with casements, and suddenly it's Arts and Crafts. An all-glass wall says contemporary. When choosing a style, it's important to consider the house's architecture, and also the window's locations — certain types work better in some settings than in others.






 

 
 

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