Choosing the Right Windows(page 4 of 4)

Check out our guide to frames, glass, design and installation before you buy.

The Design

Transoms are the "eyebrow art" of a window. Rather than providing fixed transoms that exist for aesthetics only, some manufacturers are rolling out "active" transoms that open, providing an inlet for fresh air.

What's more, the look of these working windows is more appealing because they require deeper casing, Franklin says. "Active transoms have more depth, so they don't look like a flat piece of glass stuck on the wall with a bit of casing," he explains.

Homeowners seeking environmental benefits from a window design should move away from configurations like radius-style windows shaped like half-moons, "sunbursts" or circles, which do not open.

The Installation

Even the most expensive window unit won't perform effectively if it's not installed correctly. Be wary of any contractor who relies too heavily on expanding foams or sealants to get a window to fit well — these materials aren't waterproof and can lead to problems down the road. Pre-installation waterproofing, often completed long before windows are installed, is the best option, says Jim DeLaPlaine, director of operations for Building Engineering-Consultants of The Woodlands, Texas.

Flashing and proper caulking may be the cheapest parts of window installation, but if they're not done with an eye to detail, the ensuing water leaks will cause a barrage of problems for both builder and buyer that could have been easily prevented.

Some window designs are inherently more efficient than others. The most common types are:

  • Double-hung windows. These are traditional units in many homes across the country, and they're especially common in prewar buildings. With double-hung windows, the bottom slides up to open the unit. They can be efficient choices, but in extreme climates, they may not be the best option, because of the potential for air intrusion between the sliders.
  • Casement windows. Popular in climates where wind is an issue, these units, which have a crank that swings the window outward to open, actually seal themselves off tighter when wind blows toward the house. They require maintenance on hinges and seals, however, to ensure their continued stability and efficiency.
  • Picture windows. These usually don't open, and they come in many shapes and sizes, but that doesn't mean they can't be efficient — glass choice and gas-filled interiors are especially important with these larger units.


Browse Pictures of 8 Types of Windows

Other designs include windows with transoms that open, providing an inlet for fresh air. And they look appealing because of the deeper casings they require. Avoid configurations like radius-style windows shaped like half-moons, sunbursts or circles that don't open.

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