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General Information About Windows

Window Materials

    Aluminum: Generally the least expensive material to make window frames out of. Lightweight, yet strong, aluminum was a very common window material from the late 50's until recently. However, it is the least energy efficient of the window materials because aluminum is a very good thermal conductor  so you loose energy through the aluminum frame even if you have insulated glass.

    Vinyl: With the higher costs of energy for heating and cooling in the seventies and eighties window manufacturers looked for an alternative to aluminum for window frame material. Vinyl costs 5-25% more than aluminum windows, but you get up to 30% better energy efficiency in the overall window if you compare dual glazed aluminum windows to dual glazed vinyl windows. And like aluminum windows, you have very little maintenance.

    Wood: The original window frame material. Wood windows are beautiful to look at and are generally very energy efficient when using dual glass. The disadvantages of wood though are the higher costs (generally about 2-3 times what vinyl windows cost)  and more maintenance. You can get wood windows with more maintenance free exteriors. They can be clad with aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass. This way you can have the nice look of wood, but with a more durable exterior.

Window Operation

    Horizontal Slider: This window has one or two panels that slide left or right on rollers. Click here to see the configurations available.

    Single Hung: This is a vertical slider, where the bottom panel slides up and down. This is done with some sort of balance mechanism to support the weight of the panel. Click here to see the configurations available.

    Double Hung: This is a vertical sliding window in which both the upper and lower panel can slide up and down. Because there is more mechanism this is more expensive than the single hung window. Click here to see the configurations available.

    Picture Window: This is commonly called a fixed window. There is no operating panel. Click here to see the configurations available.

    Casement Window: This type of window is hinged on one side and cranks out. This gives you a lot of ventilation, but you need to be careful of clearance on the outside. You wouldn't want a casement sticking out where people might bump into it. Usually more expensive than a sliding window. Click here to see the configurations available.

    Awning: This type of window is similar to the casement window, but it is hinged at the top and swings out a few inches from the bottom. Click here to see the configurations available.

    Bay & Bow Windows: Bay and bow windows are made up of combinations of windows, usually picture windows, and casements or single hung windows. Bays are made up of 3 panels, with a picture window center and either a casement or single hung window on either side at a 45 degree angle. Bow window are combinations of picture windows, and casement or single hung windows joined at about a 13 degree angle. There can be three, four, or even five panels in a bow window. Click here to see the configurations available.

    Sliding Doors: Sliding doors are made up of fixed and sliding panels. They come in 6' 8" or 8' 0" heights. Click here to see the configurations available.


    Single Glass: This means the windows has one pane of glass in each panel. It has very little insulating value. Most building departments don't allow single glass anymore because it is so energy inefficient.

    Double Glass: Also called insulated glass. This is made up of 2 pieces of glass with an airspace in between. This airspace cuts the heat transferred from one side of the glass to the other almost in half.

    Low E: This is a metallic coating put onto the inner surface of the outer pane of glass in a dual glazed window. It works by reflecting most of the ultraviolet rays (the component of light that does the most damage to your carpets and drapes) and  infrared rays (radiant heat). This actually increases the insulating value of the glass 15-30%. It also reduces solar heat gain. Most window manufacturers now are using Low E-2 or Low E squared which is an improved multicoated version. Click here for a guide to Low E glass.

    Tinted Glass: Window glass can be ordered in a variety of different tints. Tinted glass is mainly used reduce sun glare. It does reduce the solar heat gain, but does not add to the insulating properties of the glass like Low E does. The different tints that are readily available are solar bronze or gray, bronze reflective, azurlite (blue), evergreen, #31 graylite (dark), and #14 graylite (very dark).

    Tempered Glass: Tempered glass is also called safety glass. It is used in all doors, any window that is within 18" of the floor, or any window in a tub or shower area.

    Obscure Glass: As the name implies this type of glass is used were you don't want people to easily see in a window. P516 is the kind obscure of glass you see in most bathroom windows. However, you can also get rainglass, glue chip, reed glass, and many others.

    Argon: This is not actually a type of glass but is a gas that is put into the space between the panes of glass in a dual glazed window. This adds to the insulating value of the window (about 3-5%) and is not very expensive. 

Types of Frames (Installation)

    New Construction: Also called a nail-on frame this is what is used for new construction where the window frame is nailed to that studs. You will also need to use flashing paper to help keep this installation watertight.

   Click here for New Construction installation instructions 

    Retrofit: This type of window frame is used where you have existing wood or aluminum windows and don't want to tear out stucco or siding but want to upgrade your windows to better operating, energy efficient windows.

    Click here to see how to replace existing aluminum windows.

   Click here to see how to replace existing wood windows.