The right windows have the ability to transform a room into a beautifully lit and well-ventilated space. With a myriad of styles, colours, materials, shapes and sizes as well as technological advancements, there are a lot of things to consider before buying new windows. You need to figure out which style, frame and glass options work best for your home, the surrounding area as well as weather conditions. Read on for our guide to choosing the best window options.
What Should Be On Your Checklist
Before buying or while planning the best windows for a room, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
· If you are expanding small windows, the first thing to consider are the building codes. It is best to run your plans by an architect or contractor to make sure the renovations won’t affect the strength of the construction which could cause problems for you like water damage at a later date. Keep in mind that working with standard sizes wherever possible helps reduce costs.
· Climate, altitude and weather conditions are important factors to keep in mind. For example, places that see tropical monsoons require windows that can withstand not only heavy rains but also high wind speeds. Rain tracks and hurricane bars are other significant components to look out for.
· Extremely hot or cold climates will also require windows that can help in temperature control to some extent. Consider UV resistant materials that don’t fade over time or warp with temperature variations.
· Sound insulation is important if you live in a noisy area.
· You can also cut long-term energy costs by buying windows with double-pane insulated glass, heat-resistant coatings, airtight frames, etc.
Understanding The Pros And Cons Of Various Window Styles
Casement windows open like a door. They feature a sash (frame units surrounding glass panels) with hinges on the side and can open inwards or, more often, outwards.
Pros: They are highly durable and allow for maximum air-flow and unobstructed views.
Cons: Each window system cannot be too large and they need enough free space for the swing radius. Additionally, window air conditioners cannot be used with them unless you incorporate a fixed window into the design.
Sliding windows glide horizontally in either direction along a set of tracks.
Pros: This design is highly customisable in terms of dimensions and are perfect for apartments as they take up the least interior space.
Cons: There will always be at least one section that won’t open out and the horizontal tracks tend to trap debris which can jam the rollers. Large glass panes might also be a hazard in areas that receive high wind speeds.
French windows (or doors) can be used on exterior walls to open out on to balconies, terraces and patios or within a home to divide areas. Usually made from glass panels set within wood frames, this style lends a classic and elegant look to the décor.
Pros: They allow the flow of light and a visual connection between two spaces. French doors that open out to a patio, balcony or garden give the illusion of a bigger room.
Cons: Since this classic style takes up more space, you’ll need to keep in mind the swing radius. They also tend to be more expensive.
Bay Windows are a set of three windows connected at 30-45-degree angles protruding outwards. Each pane can open outwards like casement windows or be fixed.
Pros: This design creates a wonderful nook for window seats, dining space, etc. It gives you extra space and panoramic views while adding an interesting architectural detail.
Cons: Bay windows require a major overhaul and increase cost with a construction of a ‘roof’. You will also have to get customised window treatments for privacy.
Skylights are installed into a ceiling with direct access to the roof. When choosing skylights keep in mind leak-proof designs and a heat-resistant coating.
Pros: They bring in extra light and ventilation, especially in areas where windows cannot be installed on the walls.
Cons: An expensive option, this design is more exposed to the elements making it prone to damage.
Top Hung Windows
In this style, the windows are hinged on the top of the frame while the bottom open outwards. Usually top hung or awning windows are placed in conjunction with another style or on top of doors (for bathrooms).
Pros: The biggest benefit of this style is that the window can remain open for ventilation even during light rains without allowing water in.
Cons: This style should not be used where the immediate exterior area sees high traffic like a patio or a terrace. Due to their design, this style tends to trap more dirt.
Great for compact areas, hopper windows have the hinges placed on the bottom of the sashes. They can push outward or pull inward to open.
Pros: They provide excellent ventilation for spaces like bathrooms and stop debris from entering when open inward. They are extremely useful when placed in basements.
Cons: They trap a lot of dirt and require regular cleaning.
Tilt and turn windows are versatile being a combination hopper windows (tilting open from the top with hinges at the bottom) and casement windows (turn inwards with hinges at the side). The dual hinge mechanism allows for opening from both the side and top.
Pros: The tilt opening allows for ventilation even while it is raining.
Cons: The frames tend to be wider to accommodate the mechanism which can also be costly to repair if damaged. Since they open inwards, they have to be place in areas with enough space for the swing radius.
Also known as fixed windows, this design is perfect to let natural light into a space.
Pros: They can be quite large, allowing for unobstructed views.
Cons: Because they do not open, they offer no ventilation.
This style has multiple slats to glass, wood or vinyl fixed parallel and horizontally to a frame. They open out using a crank or handle. Also known as Jalousie windows they are popular in humid areas like bathrooms or for places that see harsh summers.
Pros: The mechanism allows one to regulate the air flow into the room while blocking out harsh sunlight or rain. Wood or glazed glass slats can provide privacy without the need for curtains.
Cons: The downside is that this style obstructs your views and does not provide good insulation. Even when completely closed, some styles can still allow in drafts which is a problem for colder climates.
A popular option is a combination system usually integrating casement, fixed or sliding designs into one window system with two frames. This ensures you get the benefits of each design. There is a wide range of combinations to choose from.
Popular Frame Materials Used In India
Wooden frames are very versatile and lend a refined, sophisticated appeal. Being a poor conductor of heat, wood frames conserve more energy than aluminium. While you don’t have to worry about rust, these frames are prone to termites and rot without the right treatment. An expensive option, good quality wood frames last really long and are a good option for climates with high humidity but need regular maintenance like painting or polishing.
Aluminium frames are lightweight, strong and durable but provide poor thermal insulation. They can be customised to many sizes, shapes and powder coated colours however they require a lot of maintenance if anodization wears out. Aluminium is prone to oxidation and susceptible to corrosion especially if you live near coastal environments. Discarded aluminium frames are easy to recycle so have a lower negative impact on the environment.
Unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride or uPVC frames have low maintenance requirements. These frames are thermally efficient and the UV resistant blend does not fade from exposure to the sun. They don’t rot, corrode or rust and are not prone to termites however they do not last as long as wood or aluminium frames. Steel or aluminium inserts are used to provide extra strength but this makes the frames thicker. Discarded uPVC requires special processing; hence it is usually dumped in landfills and is toxic to humans and animals when burned.
The eco-friendliest option is fibreglass which is very strong and highly resistant to weather conditions. Fibreglass is primarily made of sand and the quantity of waste and toxic fumes generated during the manufacturing is comparatively lower. With none of the drawbacks of metal or wood, the frame expands and contracts the same as glass resulting in a reduced air leakage and increasing energy efficiency. Durable and low maintenance, these are considerably costlier than other materials and require proper sealants to curb water leakage.
Different Window Glass Options
Clear float glass is not heat treated and is made by controlled cooling to prevent residual stress in the glass. High quality float glass comes in different widths and can be cut, drilled, edged, sandblasted, bent and polished.
Where safety is a concern laminated glass is a great option. It consists of two or more glass sheets bonded with one/multiple layers of polyvinylbutyral (PVB) plastic. This makes the glass much stronger and prevents breakage. If broken, the glass pieces tend to stick to plastic or resin layer. Laminated glass also helps in sound cancelation.
Heat-treated glass is also much stronger than float glass. It involves heating the glass to high temperatures and then force-cooling. After the glass is treated, it cannot be cut, edged, drilled or sandblasted. There are two types of heat-treated glasses, toughened glass which is impact resistant and if broken shatters into small pieces or cubes, and heat strengthened glass which has higher resistance to thermal loads and when broken fragments into large pieces.
Tinted And Reflective Glass
For solar control consider tinted or reflective glass. Tinted glass absorbs solar radiation and reduces the direct glare of sunlight. Available in a variety of colours, the intensity of the pigment determines light transmission. Reflective glass is treated with a metallic coating that reflects heat and radiation while still allowing natural light to flood the space.
Insulated glass or double glass is a great option for sound insulation. It consists of two glass sheets sealed around the edges with an air pocket between them. The insulating air/gas between the two layers also improves thermal performance, lowers heat loss, reduces air leakage and minimises condensation. If you live in an area with extreme weather conditions consider triple glass glazing instead of double. The extra pane helps in increasing efficiency while reducing noise transmission.
Frosted And Stained Glass
Frosted glass is a great option where privacy is a concern and window furnishings can’t be fixed. An expensive option, stained glass also allows for privacy while adding oodles of charm and colour to a space.
Window trims are essentially moulding fixed around the window opening and usually have an ornamental purpose by adding an interesting décor feature. They also serve the purpose of covering any gaps between window frame and the wall. From simple picture-frame designs to architecturally unique ones like Victorian, they are available in a variety of colours, materials and wood finishes.
Be armed with information, find the balance between aesthetics and functionality and choose and make the best choice for your home.