The 5 Types of Windows and the Benefits of Each [Plus 6 Window Style Definitions]

Windows are a key feature of any home and have been utilized for thousands of years to allow for natural light and airflow. Throughout history, windows have been used to frame stunning views and to serve as striking artistic focal points. At Amity Kett, our Texas-based interior designers and architects take into account not only practical features but also home aesthetics when selecting window placements, materials, and styles. We are reviewing five types of windows available and the benefits of each as well as defining six different window styles. What seems like a simple choice initially actually opens a view to a world of possibilities. 

A Brief History of Windows 

The first use of windows dates back to the 13th century B.C. when openings were created in thatch roofs to allow for light during the day. From there, windows continued to develop as openings for not only light but also planned airflow with shutters or cloth used as coverings during the night. During the Medieval era, windows were also employed as a way to watch for marauders and create a planned system of protection. 

Window advancements eventually led to panes that would allow for light even when closed. The first use of glass in windows dates back to the ancient Romans, who most likely sourced the technology from Alexandria, Egypt as early as 100 A.D. Paper was widely used for windows in the East, including countries like China and Japan. Animal horn was also used as early as the 14th century before glass became more prominent in 17th century Europe.  

Large panes of clear glass that we see in modern construction weren’t possible until after industrialization when the process was truly perfected. Now, it is common to see modern homes with floor to ceiling expanses that disappear to allow for unobstructed views. As windows continued to modernize, five distinct materials have come to be used in today’s new homes and renovations. 

5 Types of Window Materials and Their Pros and Cons  

Metal 

Metal windows are currently an on-trend option with a luxury feel. The thin profile of this material offers unparalleled strength that can support greater expanses of glass for minimally interrupted views. Offered in a variety of colors, black is making appearances on magazine covers for its sleek look that fits in well with both modern and traditional spaces. Metal windows are also available in dual colors, so you can match interior and exterior finishes without compromise. They are durable and made to last a lifetime. However, these types of windows are often very expensive and can pose budgetary limitations. It is also important to note that they require a thermal break to prevent energy loss and retain efficiency. 

Vinyl 

Vinyl windows offer high-grade efficiency and easy maintenance. They typically have high thermal performance ratings, so they will be able to efficiently help keep your space cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Unlike other materials, vinyl windows are resistant to warping and fading, and they are easy to clean. They are budget-friendly, but with that there are limitations. Most vinyl colors are limited, and there are not options for dual coloring. So, most likely there will be a compromise on the exterior or interior color choices. 

Composite

Composite windows are made of a blend of materials often including wood, plastic, and binding agents. These windows typically offer a wood-look without the maintenance. They are very durable, competitively priced, and different manufacturers provide a variety of options. 

Clad 

Clad windows are often made of wood or composite wood with an exterior cladding of metal or vinyl. This offers benefits of more than one material, as these windows are very efficient, durable, weather-resistant, and soundproof. The use of metal also allows for a thinner exterior profile, and there is the ability to choose a more custom range of colors. These windows typically cost more than a vinyl or composite option alone. 

Wood 

Wood windows are not typically used in new construction but rather historic renovations. Wood offers a beautiful and classic appearance as well as great energy efficiency. However, these types of windows are the most expensive to make and install, and they require the highest amount of maintenance. The potential for custom finishes is endless, as you can choose any color or stain imaginable.

6 Common Window Styles 

Single-Hung 

Hung is a term that refers to the operable sash of a window, so a single-hung window has one sash that is able to move and one that is stationary. Typically, the upper sash is stationary and the bottom one is able to move up to allow for airflow. This style of window is commonly seen, and it allows for a screen to be used as well. These can be difficult to clean though because only one outside sash is accessible from the inside. 

Double-Hung 

In a double-hung window, both window sashes are able to be opened for airflow. This can create more efficiency, as warm air can escape through the top and cool air can be channeled through the bottom. It is also possible to open only the upper sash, which is perfect for spaces where small children play. These windows are able to be cleaned completely from the inside. They perfectly complement the style of Colonial and Craftsman builds. 

Casement 

Casement windows feature sashes that are attached to the side of the frame by a hinge that are able to open towards the outside. This style looks beautiful when combined in a bay of windows. They offer energy efficiency by design, as the sash creates an airtight seal when closed and locked. However, casement windows don’t typically allow for screens and have size limitations.  

Horizontal Sliding Sash

Sliding sash windows open horizontally on a track, similar to a sliding door. This style allows for easy operation, compact design, and exterior screens. They are perfect for limited spaces and restrictions inside and outside the home, as they do not open out or in. 

Awning 

Awning windows are hinged at the top and open from the bottom outward, forming a similar slope to an exterior awning. They are able to be left open during light rain to allow for ventilation with protection from the elements. Sometimes, they are placed higher on walls to bring in light while creating privacy, or they are used in combination with large stationary windows for less interrupted views. These windows should not be used if they open onto high traffic outdoor areas, as they protrude from the house. 

Hopper 

Hopper windows are similar to awning windows, but they are hinged from the bottom and open inward from the top. These are typically reserved for spaces that need ventilation, like basements or bathrooms. They’re good to use near high traffic outdoor areas as they limit obstruction, but they are difficult to dress with window treatments on the interior. 

With so many different window materials and styles to choose from, it is important to assess the needs of the space, the environment of the location, and the style of the home to find a combination of choices that work seamlessly with the design. Need help choosing windows for a renovation or new build? Let us help guide you. 

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