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WINDOWS & DOORS
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This article describes the types of windows used in residential buildings, their features, how they work, and the advantages or disadvantages of each window type, including single hung windows, double hung windows, sliders, casement windows, awning type windows, hopper windows, and tilt-turn windows.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
In this article series we discuss the selection and installation of windows and doors, following best construction and design practices for building lighting and ventilation, with attention to the impact on building heating and cooling costs, indoor air quality, and comfort of occupants. We review the proper installation details for windows and doors, and we compare the durability of different window and door materials and types. This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons.
Common window types and their characteristics are summarized in Table 3-1 below. [Click any table or illustration for an enlarged, detailed version.]
The most common windows in the United States, doublehungs have upper and lower sash offset so both can slide up and down. Only the lower sash moves in the less common single-hung window. In older homes, the operable sash were connected by rope to heavy iron counterweights to hold the upper sash in place and to assist with raising the lower sash.
Because the top sash overhangs the bottom, and both are recessed in the frame, double-hung windows shed rain well and can be left open at the bottom in a light rain. They use exterior screens that are out of the way and inconspicuous. However, ventilation is limited to half the area of the frame, and visibility is somewhat hampered by the meeting rails, which often sit near eye level.
Also, because they rely on slide-by rather than compression-type weather-seals, many double-hungs have air leakage rates nearly twice that of casements. With improvements in materials and designs in high quality units, however, the performance gap has narrowed, at least when the windows are tested (with brand-new weather seals).
Although probably not the tightest windows in a high wind location, in general, double-hungs offer a versatile, moderately priced, and trouble-free option.
Sliders can offer large horizontal expanses of glass and operable sash that do not interfere with interior or exterior space. They are more common in western states, while double-hungs and casements prevail on the East Coast.
Our photo (left) shows Andeson gliding windows (photo-right) and casement windows (photo-left) that we [DJF] recently installed during a log cabin renovation in Two Harbors, MN.
Designing a window that slides sideways presents a few challenges.
First, the lower track must rely on weep holes to drain away water, and second, any grit that collects in the lower track tends to impair the sliding action.
If the weeps clog up, water may find its way into the sill or framing over time. Also, pushing a stuck window sideways is an awkward motion that tends to strain the back. (Also see STORM WINDOW WEEP HOLES).
As with double-hung windows, ventilation is limited to rougly 50% of the framed opening, and slide-by weather-seals are less effective than compression seals. And if the slider is large enough it can also qualify as an egress window.
List of Glider / Slider Window Defects
To avoid problems with slider windows, look for high-quality windows that slide freely. Also, consider alternatives such as a picture window with a casement along one side for ventilation.
For a list of common installation or maintenance defects that cause problems at gliding or sliding windows, see SLIDING GLIDING WINDOW DEFECTS This article describes windows with lost seal, clogged slider track drainage openings, out of square installation and other window defects that should be easy to spot during a visual inspection.
Casement windows provide a more contemporary look than traditional double-hungs and can provide large uninterrupted views. If oriented to open into the prevailing winds, the sash acts like a big wind scoop, directing breezes into the house. And when closed, the compression seals create a tight fit that only gets tighter with oncoming winds.
Casement windows are not without problems, however. The outward swinging sash is vulnerable to water damage if the top is not fully clad, and the sash can clash with screen doors or encroach on deck spaces.
Or worse. Our casement window photo at left (DF) shows spectacularly poor planning: these windows cannot open more than a few inches without jamming against the soffit overhang!
Also, hardware problems such as stripped crank handles or broken linkages are not uncommon, particularly on lower-end units or large units with heavy sash. An occasional squirt of lubricant on the crank mechanism and hinges can go a long way toward preventing problems.
Large, heavy sash can also rack slightly out of square over time, requiring a push from the outside to fully close. Sometimes this can be fixed by tweaking the hardware, but a new sash may be required.
For best results with casement windows, choose units with sturdy sash construction, heavy-duty hardware, and sash that are protected on top from the elements.
When closed, the lever locks the window tightly in four to six locations, providing the tightest fitting windows available as well as excellent security against would-be thieves. And with their easy-to-operate in-swinging mode, large-sized tilt-turn windows often do double duty as emergency exits.
While tilt-turn windows offer several useful features, they are not commonly seen in the United States, perhaps because of the in-swinging sash and relatively high cost. Also, they do not typically come with screens, making them problematic in areas with summer pests. While not heavily marketed in the United States, they can be found here in wood, aluminum, aluminum-clad, and solid vinyl frames, the least expensive option.
Also see WINDOW TYPES - Photo Guide.
Benchmark Entry Systems (division of Therma-Tru Doors) www.benchmarkdoors.com Steel and fiberglass entry doors
Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors www.jeld-wen.com Wood, wood composite wood, fiberglass, and steel entry doors
Kolbe Windows and Doors www.kolbe-kolbe.com Wood, steel, and fiberglass entry doors with LVL core and optional extruded-aluminum cladding on frame
Lamson-Taylor Custom Doors and Millwork www.lamsontaylor.com Custom pine and hardwood entry doors with foam insulation core
Masonite Corp. www.masonite.com Steel, wood-edged steel, and fiberglass entry doors
Peachtree Doors and Windows www.peach99.com Steel and smooth and textured fiberglass entry doors
Pella Windows and Doors www.pella.com Fiberglass and steel entry doors
Phoenix Door Manufacturing Company www.phoenixdoor.com Softwood and hardwood entry doors up to 8 ft. high and custom designs
Simpson Door Company www.simpsondoor.com Douglas-fir, hemlock, oak, and mahogany entrance doors, including custom doors; also primed MDF, particleboard, and composite wood doors
Stanley Door Systems (division of Masonite) www.stanleyworks.com Steel and fiberglass entry doors
Weathershield Windows and Doors www.weathershield.com Wood and steel entry doors, with wood, vinyl, aluminumclad, and vinyl-clad frames
Taylor Building Products www.taylordoor.com Steel (stainable finish) and fiberglass entry doors
Therma-Tru Doors www.thermatru.com Steel and fiberglass entry doors with optional vinyl-clad jambs
Andersen Windows and Doors www.andersenwindows.com Skylights and roof windows with exterior sash clad with glass-fiber-reinforced material
Milgard Windows and Doors www.milgard.com Skylights with aluminum frames (thermal break optional) with vinyl subframes on operable models; optional motorized controls with rain sensor
Pella Windows and Doors www.pella.com Wood interior, aluminum exterior, optional motorized controls, and manual or motorized fabric-pleated shades
Roto Frank of America www.roofwindows.com Wood interior, aluminum exterior, optional motorized controls, and manual or motorized fabric-pleated shades; Sweet16 model fits 16 in. o.c. framing
Velux America Inc. www.velux.com Skylights and roof windows with wood interior and aluminum-clad exterior. Options include insect screens, blinds, motorized controls and shades with rain sensor, electrochromatic glass, and flashing kits for metal and tile roofs and mulled units
Skylight Light Tube Manufacturers & Sources
SolaTube www.solatube.com Light tubes from 10 to 21 in. in diameter; options include electrical lighting, daylight dimmer, and integral bath fan
Sun-Tek Skylights www.sun-tek.com Light tubes from 10 to 21 in. in diameter; options include electrical lighting and multitube Spyder skylight
Velux America Inc. www.velux.com Sun Tunnel light tubes from 14 to 22 in. in diameter with flexible or rigid tubes
American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) www.aamanet.org
Efficient Windows Collaborative www.efficientwindows.org
National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) www.nfrc.org Sustainable by Design www.susdesign.com
Shareware calculators for sun angles, solar heat gain, and shading
Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) www.wdma.com
-- Adapted and paraphrased, edited, and supplemented, with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.
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