It's early in the morning and you've just
opened the curtains to bring in the bright new day. Or perhaps
the snow is falling softly
outside as you snuggle up with a cup of hot cocoa at your window
seat and take in the view. Windows have been around for hundreds
of years, and while their basic purpose has not changed, they
gone from being a necessary "hole in the wall" to a significant
element of design.
What is the definition of a Window? According to Webster's dictionary,
a window is an opening, usually framed and spanned with glass, built
into a wall for light and air. We still use windows for this fundamental
purpose. Properly placed windows can provide cross ventilation and
eliminate the need for artificial lighting during the day. Most
people have at one time or another been in a dark, dreary room that
simply needed the light of a window. Current national code requires
that the glazed area of the windows (that is the glass itself) equal
8% or more of the square footage of a room.
Windows can range widely in style and cost. If you prefer contemporary
styling, you may choose to go with a casement style window (a unit
that either cranks out to the left or to the right). A more traditional
style is the double hung unit (a unit that slides up and down).
Other styles include horizontal sliders, awnings, and transom windows.
A window manufacturer can provide detailed descriptions of the various
styles available. The styles are as plentiful as the prices are
varied. Of course, you can mix and match units. For example: in
your kitchen you may desire a casement unit above the sink because
they are easier to open reaching over the counter; however, adjacent
to the kitchen, in a gazebo shaped breakfast area, there is no reason
you should not consider using double-hung units.
Let's take a closer look at the two most popular units , the casement
and double hung window. There are pro's and con's to both. The casement
offers full ventilation when opened where the double-hung only gives
about half. However, if you have a group of casements units overlooking
your deck or patio, be aware that casements take up exterior living
space. So be careful at parties; open casements can be very painful
when walked into. Probably the best part of double-hung units is
many new models tilt in for easier cleaning, where as the casement
does not offer a similar feature.
Whether you are building new, adding on additional space, or renovating
a room in your home, the windows you choose should play a major
role. When looking at windows for your new project, look carefully
at the hardware, is it well manufactured? Plastic hardware may provide
a more contemporary look, but also tend to break sooner. Open the
windows at the showroom, do they operate easily? Do they offer a
good warranty on the unit as a whole? Most manufactures should cover
the windows for at least ten years. Check the energy efficiency
(insulation value) of the particular units you are interested in.
I recommend a minimum insulation value of R-3. Most units nowadays
carry an insulation value of at least this, and very often it is
higher. Overall, examine the quality of the unit on the interior
as well as exterior.
You will find that the cost of windows is quite significant, but
you get what you pay for. You want your windows to last 30 to 50
years, therefore they need to be constructed from good quality materials
and made to last for long time. If you skimp on quality, you may
have problems in as little as 5 years. Depending on the number of
windows your project calls for, you should plan to spend approximately
5%-10% of your entire building budget if you are adding on or building
a new home. This percentage is higher for smaller renovations.
Windows provide much more than light and air today. A properly designed
window can make or break the mood of a room. Today's windows should
be treated as an integral part of the design and NOT JUST A PIECE