Making the Most of Your Window Choices - Fine Homebuilding

  • 9 Concrete Countertops Ideas
    9 Concrete Countertops Ideas
  • All about Roofing
    All about Roofing
  • Energy-Smart Details
    Energy-Smart Details
  • Clever daily tip in your inbox
    Clever daily tip in your inbox
  • Tips & Techniques for Painting
    Tips & Techniques for Painting
  • Radiant Heat Comparison
    Radiant Heat Comparison
  • Magazine Departments
    Magazine Departments
  • Design Inspiration
    Design Inspiration
  • Read FHB on Your iPad
    Read FHB on Your iPad
  • 7 Small Bathroom Layouts
    7 Small Bathroom Layouts
  • Video: Install a Fence
    Video: Install a Fence
  • 7 Trim Carpentry Secrets
    7 Trim Carpentry Secrets
  • Video Series: Tile a Bathroom
    Video Series: Tile a Bathroom
  • Remodeling Articles
    Remodeling Articles
  • Basement Remodeling Tips
    Basement Remodeling Tips
  • 7 Smart Kitchen Solutions
    7 Smart Kitchen Solutions
  • Master Carpenter Videos
    Master Carpenter Videos

Fine Homebuilding: The Magazine

Fine Homebuilding: The Magazine

Making the Most of Your Window Choices

comments (4) April 28th, 2009 in Blogs
RDA Robyn Doyon-Aitken, producer

If standard squares arent your thing, choose a manufacturer that makes windows in custom shapes. 
Choose windows that reinforce the home’s architecture. Tall, narrow windows complement the Victorian symmetry of this house, whereas square windows would have watered down its overall style.
If standard squares arent your thing, choose a manufacturer that makes windows in custom shapes. Click To Enlarge

If standard squares aren't your thing, choose a manufacturer that makes windows in custom shapes. 

Photo: Courtsey of Eagle

by Sean Groom

Once you’ve identified your performance needs and the windows that are best suited for your home (click to download a window energy-savings calculator), you’re left with decisions about the size, style, and placement of each unit. Windows, perhaps more than any other building component, play a critical role in the appearance and style of a house.

Reinforce the style of the house

Windows and the massing of the structure are the two elements that do the most to define the style of a house. For instance, a tall, narrow house with steep roof pitches might look vaguely Victorian with square windows, but with tall, narrow frames and four-over-four lites, it becomes an archetype.

Windows should emphasize the shape of the house. If the house is long and low, use horizontal windows; choose tall, thin windows for tall, narrow houses. You aren’t limited to a single window size throughout the house. They should, however, relate to one another. Some designers establish elaborate hierarchies, with the size of windows decreasing slightly as the eye travels upward and with windows aligned along vertical centerlines. Other designers let the interior space dictate window placement. The key to both of these strategies is to maintain the same grille pattern, casing style, and proportions. You can reinforce the connections between windows by selecting divided lites with the same proportions as the window and by aligning all door and window heads.

Although a large picture window adjacent to six-over-six double hungs will look jarring, you can vary window size and type more dramatically on different sides of the house. San Francisco Bay area architect Kurt Lavenson likes to think of the front of a house as the public area and the back of a house as private space. Thus, the windows on the front of the house should be consistent with the dominant architectural style and respectful of the neighbors, while the back can be more playful or take in a special view through a large picture window or ganged windows.

Bring the outside in

Inside the house, windows should create a more comfortable space and forge an indoor/outdoor connection by their size and placement. To make spaces feel taller, stretch windows vertically. Too often, windows are too small. Dropping sill heights on the first floor to between 12 in. and 14 in. off the floor (instead of the standard 24 in. to 36 in.) lets you see the ground even when seated, creating a connection to the outside, which is why you wanted a window in the first place. On the second floor, 20 in. is a comfortable sill height—you can still see most of the grounds near the house but you don’t feel disconcertingly exposed.

Windows high on the wall, especially on north-facing facades, admit indirect light deep into the room. Splaying the jambs and sills 50° to 60° allows even more light into the room. If you’re looking to capture a view, large plate-glass windows might not be the best way. If the glass area is too large, rather than creating a better connection to the outdoors, the open view deprives you of the sense of security you expect when looking through a window. You’re better off using divided lites or ganging several windows together. This adds the expected sense of security, lends a scale of reference, and frames multiple scenes within the view.

Not every room should have lower sills or window heads that are inches from the ceiling. Some rooms demand specific types or styles of windows. Here are some thoughts to consider: Double/single-hung windows over the kitchen sink are hard to operate; crank-operated windows are easier. Bathroom windows demand privacy. Awning windows placed high on a wall permit both light and ventilation without exposing the occupant. Glare can be a problem during the day in home offices or TV rooms, so window location should consider where video screens will be.

The style of windows in dining rooms, living rooms, and family rooms depends on when the room is used most. For instance, if the dining room is used primarily at night, large windows will act as big, dark mirrors from the inside and put your activities on display to the outside. If everybody gathers in the family room during the day, the window arrangement should emphasize light and an outdoor connection.

Straight from the source

There are hundreds of window manufacturers, the majority of them local companies. A sample of large national and smaller specialty manufacturers is listed here. Visit for a more comprehensive list*.

Accurate Dorwin
Serious Windows
Weather Shield

*This source list is excerpted from the article "A Buyer's Guide to Windows." Click the links below for more on this topic.

Read the complete article...
A Buyer’s Guide to Windows
They’re one of the most important—and expensive—parts of a house. We help you sort through the materials, styles, and ratings that will influence your choice.
by Sean Groom
Get the PDF


posted in: Blogs, energy efficiency, architecture, windows

Comments (4)

superblogger341 superblogger341 writes: Another great company in which you can buy windows:
Posted: 12:09 pm on July 30th

rexter rexter writes: These frames are so sophisticated, just like the one I got, a company that recently fixed and remodeled my door.
Posted: 9:48 pm on April 27th

millermax10 millermax10 writes: Here's another place where you can find such windows:
Posted: 5:07 pm on September 9th

millermax10 millermax10 writes: There's really no question that you should be seeking out windows and doors that provide you with the most energy efficiency. I think that energy-savings calculator is really great for that purpose.
Posted: 5:05 pm on September 9th

Log in or create a free account to post a comment.