Are you in the market for windows? This is the blog for you! I've replaced windows in dozens of houses, but ordering windows for our new build was a whole other story. I learned so much and figured it may be helpful to you! Of course, lean on your distributer for specific information, but at least this will give you the general knowledge to help you make decisions and talk like you know a little something.
The first decision you'll probably come across is what material your windows will be made of. I wanted black windows for our new house, but was having such a hard time finding (even somewhat) affordable options! All those BEAUTIFUL ones that you see in magazines and on Instagram are aluminum and are money, money, money. Sadly, those didn't fit into our budget. Then I saw tons of designers and homeowners share about painting their wood-framed windows. But again, that wouldn't work for us. We live in a really humid climate, so I was strongly advised against those (read: husband wouldn't even consider it) because of the expansion and contraction that would go along with wood + humidity. So, my only option, really, was vinyl windows which I wasn't thrilled with at first.
Black vinyl windows are hard to find. Some companies claim they have them, but they're actually bronze which did not fit my vision at all. The company our builder uses - Builders First Source - just started carrying black windows...with a caveat - the inside is white. I wasn't sure how I felt about that, but the more I think about it, the more I think maybe it is a blessing in disguise. I mean, I LOVE the way a black window looks inside, but maybe I won't in 5 years? But I think I'll always love the black on the outside. Time will tell, but to me, it was worth it to be able to get black windows on the exterior within some sort of reasonable budget.
So once we figured out material (and color, I guess), we moved on to style. There are a couple things to consider here:
Functioning vs not
Number of gridlines, if any
Special considerations: Egress needed? Tempered?
Let's start with function. Some windows you'll want to open (functioning) and others you won't (fixed). Functioning windows include "single-hung", "double-hung", "casement" and others.
Single-hung windows are probably your most basic and what most people think of. These are the window that, when you want to open them, you simply unlock them and lift the bottom portion up (by the way, each "portion" is called a sash). For any functioning windows on our house, this is what we ordered.
These are single-hung
Double-hung windows are when both sashes move up and down. This helps with cleaning, but otherwise, I'm not sure it is super necessary.
Casement windows crank out. And then, of course, there are others, but these are probably the most used.
Non-functioning windows are referred to as fixed windows and are really beautiful because you don't have the "interruption" of the horizontal divider that allows you to open the window. (Casement windows also offer this look but not all distributors offer this and they are more expensive.)
I would just encourage you to think about how you use each space - do you see yourself opening windows in that room? Will you need to (ahem...egress...we'll touch on that in a bit)? Also, what is the final style you want on the exterior for that window? We have these freaking huge windows on the front of our house, and I knew I wanted them to make a statement with their size and clean lines, so I made those fixed and they are amazingly gorgeous. (Also, to note, these windows (pictured below) are "mulled" which means the windows themselves would have been too large or too expensive to make so large, that we attached or mulled three 2 x 3 windows together. I'll explain that "2 x 3" part next!)
Ok, speeding this up! Whew. Next, let's talk about panes or grids. We all kind of know what panes are, but I got confused by the industry jargon here, so let's break it down. First, they call each pane or section a "lite". And then they refer to the whole window as a grid - so the window below would be a 2 x 3, meaning a fixed window with two lites over three lites. But let's make it more confusing...if the window is single-hung, it would be a 2/3 window. See what I mean about the jargon?! This was super important in speaking the same language to get the product I ultimately wanted. Also to note, in my vinyl windows, there aren't actually separate panes - the grid divider is between the pieces of glass (easier to clean, but arguably, not as pretty as the metal windows). If you don't have any grids/panes, that's called a picture window.
From the inside; this is a 2 x 3 window
So for special considerations, you must consider egress in bedrooms. This means the inhabitant's ability to escape out a window, if needed. Obviously, the window has to function, but it also has to be a certain size per code. You only need one egress window per room, but I would, again, consider style. If you have two matching windows and only one opens, that is going to look off. But, for instance, in one of our front rooms, we have one of those huge windows at the front of the room and then one lone egress window on the side, so to me, that works!
The fixed, mulled window is on the right and the egress window is on the left.
The second special consideration I want to mention is tempered glass. Tempered glass means it's fabricated in such a way that if it breaks, it breaks into a million little squares vs. huge, sharp shards of glass that could easily hurt someone. There is a whole list of rules for tempered windows (that your distributor will be well aware of), but the big one is if windows are a certain distance from a door, they need to be tempered.
Example A: Not tempered. Wahhhh! This one broke during installation.
Hopefully, this helps you feel more equipped to "talk the talk" with your window distributor or builder. And if you're still feeling lost, I recommend finding pictures of what you want and just working back and forth with the window company until they can assure you that what you're looking for matches what they're ordering for you. I literally made an excel spreadsheet with each window size, location, considerations, and a picture and said, "please order this". There was still some back and forth, but it at least gave us a starting point.
Are you building a new house? Are the windows a stress to you? Have you learned anything from this blog? Still have questions? Let me know!