Of all the windows manufacturers shipped in 2019, there is a good chance that one particular style dominated the rest. Window experts are happy the category is growing, but they say there are many other window styles that builders could be using.
When it comes to windows, American home buyers and builders have traditionally been, well, traditional, selecting the window style that ranks head and shoulders above the rest—the double- or single-hung.
“Hands down, double hung windows are the most popular,” Auburn, Mass.-based Rescom Exteriors, says on its website. The window and door replacement company says double-hung windows are easy to spot and are well-liked by home owners and buyers because the units are great for ventilation and easy to clean from inside the house.
Anecdotal evidence from other replacement contractors and manufacturers backs up Rescom’s assertion about double-hungs. But hard evidence confirms that the double- or single-hung window that homeowners are selecting is a vinyl product.
According to the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) in Schaumburg, Ill., manufacturers shipped 52.2 million window units in 2018, a 2.6 percent increase from 2017. “The increase was driven by continued growth in new construction demand, with new construction window demand increasing by 3.4 percent, while remodeling and replacement demand increased by 2.0 percent,” the association says. Of that 52.2 million total, vinyl windows accounted for a whopping 37.6 million units.
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Essentially a casement turn on its side, the awning window opens out from the bottom to let in air but offers a protective shield to keep rain out. They can be used on a house in any architectural style. This 400 Series unit from Andersen Windows and Doors offers a Perma-Shield exterior cladding and stain-grade wood interiors.
“Vinyl continues to maintain its position as the leading frame material, increasing to just over 72 percent share overall, offset primarily by continued decline in the share of wood products, whose overall share has slipped to 13.8 percent,” AAMA says.
A vinyl double-hung is a perfectly fine window, which accounts for its dominant position. It comes in seemingly unlimited sizes and configuration, and now manufacturers have developed a process to add long-lasting dark colors to the frames. With the ability to accept insulated frames and various types of double- and even triple-glazed glass packages, the window also offers energy efficiency. Plus, the products are quite affordable.
But manufacturers (even ones who produce vinyl double-hungs) say there is more to fenestration than this basic unit.
Nick Pesl, product and market specialist at Kolbe, says manufacturers should think more about need and situation when assessing their window needs. For example, he says, indoor/outdoor living or views are big trends in architecture and home building, and different types of windows meet these needs.
“I think there are several windows that are often overlooked, as different windows are needed for different situations,” says Pesl. “Folding or sliding windows can open up the home to the outdoors to allow pass-through service between interior and exterior spaces. Awnings are a versatile option for ventilation, and custom shaped windows can make a unique statement.”
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The ability to have a window that’s closer to the energy efficiency of a wall is a huge technological accomplishment for the fenestration industry. In a highly insulated house, that’s still a long ways off, but it’s an improvement. Instead of double panes of glass, the windows feature three panes, coatings, and insulation. Ideal for colder climates, the windows reduce heat loss and increase the temperature of the inside panes, improving the comfort and minimizing outside noise for homeowners. The windows are available from most major window companies. This unit from Cascadia Windows and Doors' Universal Series is a new all-fiberglass system.
Pesl says the company has some architects and builder customers “who are including pass-through windows in their designs. Indoor-outdoor living with outdoor kitchen and dining areas is widely popular, and we are seeing requests for folding windows and four-wide sliding windows to accommodate this lifestyle. These expansive windows also maintain solid performance ratings.”
So what are some other windows on the market.
One unusual product architect Mike Shivley specifies is the corner unit window from Marvin. “What we love about it is that typically a window is framing a head-on view out into the landscape, but with a mitered-corner unit, you are upending that idea and framing a diagonal view,” says the principal of Mike Shively Architecture in Chicago. “So it’s pretty cool for looking down the street or getting a different perspective, especially in a city project when whatever is across from you is likely to be close to you.”
Admittedly, the Marvin corner unit is a pricey product, Shivley says, and clients are not always able to approve it. But the architect tries to accomplish the same effect with traditional windows.
“We have run into that before where we draw up the corner unit, and it gets value engineered out, but you can still achieve a pretty close representation by just pushing two windows together,” the architect explains. “You have to move some things around structurally, but you can really minimize that post in the corner. That’s kind of the poor man’s way to get that same look.”
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If you’ve been to Paris or Germany or the United Kingdom or pretty much any country in Europe, you’ve no doubt seen these windows. The windows open toward the inside like an inswing casement, but the bottom can be closed and top open to provide secure ventilation. They cost more than the average double-hung, which is why they aren’t as popular stateside. Zola Windows and Doors says tilt and turn windows are among its most popular. The company uses German multi-point hardware and can be made as single units, either left or right hand hung, or double french units.
One product that is hugely popular in Europe is the Tilt-turn window. A staple in Europe, tilt-turns are in-swing windows with a double function: with the turn of the handle, they swing inward to bring in fresh air, or tilt in for secure ventilation.
Another product that has many benefits for homeowners is the folding window. It “offers a convenient pass-through service for indoor/outdoor living areas and restaurants,” Kolbe Windows says. The company offers them in one-sided, bi-parting and other configurations.
For custom builder, John Hourihan, all window styles are on the table. “We pretty much use all of them now,” says the president of Vintage Builders in the Boston area. There really is no reason to not use a variety of window types, the builder says, because things have changed and prices are good.
“Windows, in my eyes, have changed a lot, from colors to sizes,” he says. “Once upon a time being able to get black was expensive, but now it pretty much cost the same as a white window. In fact, now you can get [Marvin Essential] windows in any size you want within two weeks. The issue before was that you started with the stock sizes and then you would have to go custom and the price went up. Now there is no reason you can’t do anything you want.”
Hourihan says a lot of his clients are interested in light and views so the windows have to facilitate that. “What I find with a lot of our clients is that when they make it home from whatever it is that they do, they want to sit down and enjoy Mother Nature in their own house, so we find ourselves putting in massive windows in every different size possible. And in every different style, whether it’s awning, casements, double-hungs, lift-and-slide, according style. It’s what we are trying to fulfill.
Heritage Home Design Windows & Doors, a Canadian window and door installation company, says builders and consumers need to know (or remember) that many windows have strengths and weaknesses, “when it comes to shaping the architecture of a house.”
Folding windows are great for creating an indoor/outdoor space from the kitchen to an outdoor room. It’s convenient for passing drinks, platters, utensils, and allows people inside to connect with those outside. This unit from Kolbe Windows can be ordered with up to eight panels per side in various configurations.
Single and double hung windows, for example, require very little clearance to open fully, which is ultimately space-saving from the outside, Heritage says. But they “must be opened manually, and not by crank or other mechanism. This means they’re more difficult to operate for small children and require a steady grip to get open.”
Sliding windows, the company says, are even better space saver than single and double hung windows, since they require very little space to operate and the tracks make it very easy to use. But Heritage says tracks can become difficult to slide on if they become too dirty or crooked from use or warping.
Finally, there is the casement window, which is similar to an awning and hopper window. “These are all the same type of window, which is permanently affixed to one side and will only swing open from that one side,” Heritage says. “The only difference is that casement windows open from the side, awnings from the top and hoppers from the bottom.”
Casements, a favorite among architects, are the most energy efficient style of operable window. They have gaskets on all four sides so they create a nice tight seal. In addition, they are great for summer ventilation, since the slanted window guides breezes inwards, and they offer uninterrupted views.
“In rare cases where the manufacturing did not correct the balance, the window can be hard to open or close,” Heritage says. In other cases, the cranks can fail over time and become hard to open or close.
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A corner window allows homeowners to see angles that are impossible with a traditional window. It can be created onsite with structural modifications, but some companies offer butt-glass varieties. This unit from Marvin is available in heights up to 12 feet or widths up to 7 feet. It is also in symmetrical or asymmetrical configurations.
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