A Guide to Understanding Window and Door Types

Beautiful living room with hurricane impact windows and doors

Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling one or more rooms, upgrading your windows and doors can have a transformative impact. From picture windows and awning windows to sliding doors and French doors, there are many different types and styles — each with its own unique characteristics and benefits.

The key to knowing which windows and doors are best for your unique goals and needs? Understanding all of your options.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide an overview of the most common types of windows and doors. We’ll also highlight two of the most popular window and door materials, as well as examine the difference between impact and non-impact windows and doors.

An Overview of Window Types

Your windows have a dramatic impact on both the look and feel of your living space. While their primary purpose is functional, they also contribute to your home’s aesthetic. The right windows can make your home feel brighter, larger, and more welcoming. They can also make it more comfortable, efficient, and secure.

Different window types offer different benefits. Here’s a closer look at five common types of window:

Single Hung Windows

Single hung windows have one fixed upper sash and one operable lower sash. While the top sash remains stationary, the bottom sash slides up and down for ventilation.

Because single hung windows are less expensive, they’re often the “standard” window seen in homes. They also offer efficiency for both space and energy.

Single hung windows may be simple in concept, but they offer design versatility thanks to the availability of different sizes and finishes. 

And while single hung windows do allow for some air movement, an alternate style may be more appropriate for your goals if you’re looking to maximize airflow. 

Horizontal Rolling Windows

Horizontal rolling windows also have multiple sashes; however, they move left to right instead of up and down like single hung windows.  

Easy to clean and maintain, horizontal rolling windows are safe to operate in higher-traffic areas because they slide (instead of cranking/projecting out). 

Finally, horizontal rolling windows are fully lockable for excellent security. Furthermore, if you opt for impact windows and/or energy-efficient glass, you can also look forward to energy savings.

Picture Windows

Picture windows are exactly what they sound like: windows that turn your outside surroundings into a “picture” by creating a “frame.” Consisting of one expansive pane of glass, picture windows offer extraordinary views. They also allow abundant natural light.

Another defining characteristic of picture windows is that they don’t open. While this means they can’t be beat for energy efficiency, security, and maintenance, a picture window may not be the best choice if ventilation is your primary objective. However, picture windows can be flanked by other non-fixed window types to offer a “best of both worlds” combination of aesthetics and airflow. 

Finally, while the rectangle shape may be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of picture windows, they’re also available in a variety of designer shapes, such as arches and more.

Casement Windows

Casement windows feature hinges at the side which open outward either to the left or the right—usually by a handle and crank. This type of window opens and closes with ease while also allowing for excellent (and adjustable) ventilation.

Other benefits of casement windows include easy care and maintenance, a tight-seal for top-notch energy efficiency, and versatile design styles.

One potential downside of casement windows is that they project outward. As such, they may cause obstructions in areas where space is limited.

Project-Out/Awning Windows

Awning windows are similar in design to casement windows in that they also project outward. However, they feature hinges on top and project outward from the bottom. Not only does this design support controlled ventilation, but it also offers protection from the rain.

Awning windows share overlapping pros and cons with casement windows with the added benefit of preventing rain from entering interiors.

An Overview of Door Types

Like windows, doors are available in many types, designs, and styles. One commonly asked question is, “Are sliding doors or French doors better?” While the question may be straightforward, the answer is less so: the “best” door depends on factors ranging from your aesthetic preferences to the specifics of your space.

Different door types offer different benefits. Here’s a closer look at three common types of door:

Sliding Glass Doors

Sliding glass doors comprise two or more panels operating as a single unit. They open and close along fixed tracks that glide at the top and/or bottom. In many sliding door configurations, one panel remains fixed while the others move.

Sliding doors have many benefits, starting with creating large openings for egress — as well as for air and light. They also have a compact footprint and don’t invade your exterior space by swinging outward to open. This makes them especially suitable for smaller spaces.

With a sleek, stylish, and modern aesthetic, sliding doors coordinate well with many interior and exterior design styles.

French Doors

French doors function like normal doors but with one major differentiating factor: they’re made almost entirely of glass. This means these side-hinged doors aren’t just beautiful, but also allow wonderful natural light to fill your home. While it’s possible to have just one, French doors are often found in pairs or integrated into a larger design.

Thanks to manufacturing innovation, modern French doors don’t require partitions and often consist of a single gleaming pane of glass. In addition to being aesthetically striking, French doors are also energy-efficient.

Like sliding doors, French doors can help blur the line between outdoor and indoor living in order to facilitate seamless transitions between the two.

Cabana Doors

Often used for porches, pool houses, and garages, cabana doors are hinged doors featuring glass panes in either the single hung or fixed window style. Available in both single and paired door options, cabana doors are stylish, versatile, economical, and easy to operate.

The Best Window and Door Materials

While there are several choices for window and door material, vinyl and aluminum are standout choices due to their durability, low maintenance, sustainability, and affordability.

As with window and door types, there’s no obvious winner between aluminum and vinyl. While they share many things in common, they each shine in different ways.

For example, while both materials are celebrated for their structural integrity, aluminum has the edge for strength. On the other hand, vinyl outperforms aluminum in terms of energy performance. 

Meanwhile, both materials have minimal maintenance requirements.

Of course, style is also a factor when choosing window and door materials. Both vinyl and aluminum are readily available in many colors, finishes, and styles. Whether you prefer classic and traditional or modern and contemporary architectural style, you’ll find vinyl and aluminum windows and doors to suit your individual taste.  

Impact and Non-Impact Windows and Doors

One final consideration when selecting new windows and doors? Standard non-impact or impact designs.

Depending on where you live, non-impact windows and doors may be sufficient for your needs—especially if you have a limited budget.

However, if you live in a region prone to extreme weather and/or you’re looking for additional benefits pertaining to everything from noise reduction to energy efficiency, impact windows and doors are a superior choice. And while they may cost more upfront, you can expect long-term savings on both energy bills and insurance.

And then there’s the peace of mind factor. When you’re in the path of driving rain, high winds, and other extreme weather, you can’t put a price on knowing you’ve done everything within your power to protect your home, its contents, and its inhabitants.

Ultimately, there’s no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to choosing new doors and windows for your home. However, considering your space, identifying your goals, and understanding all the options can help you make the most educated and advantageous decision.

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