Understanding window designs and window styles is quite involved but includes the types of window muntins, window sashes, or window casing styles used.
Even when deciding between vinyl versus wood windows,choosing wood replacement windows still requires extensive knowledge of window designs.
Most of the expensive vinyl or wood window designs sold by window companies today as a historic window replacement are a bad match and don’t look right. See why.
This is the most important page on this website.
Read on and you will acquire a sharp educated eye for distinguishing good from bad window designs.
Old and historic window replacement is an epidemic that has a strong negative affect on the curb appeal of your home and neighborhood.
Curb appeal is important and your windows – the eyes and soul of the house – are the most prominent feature that can make or break your home’s appearance.
Understand that replacing windows will give your house an entirely different look and feel because most vinyl and even wood replacement windows defy the principles of aesthetics. Learn more about aesthetics here.
Because of differences in their material and construction characteristics, wood, vinyl, and aluminum windows do not look the same, although the window salesman will tell you that they do. Wood windows tend to have articulated moldings. Vinyl and aluminum windows, however, have flat, square, or exaggerated profiles.
Maybe these differences are subtle to you, but they add up and alter the architectural balance of the house. The shadows are eliminated and details created by contrasting shadows from sharp details are wiped away. Remember, the architect who designed your house specified the window design so they would work in harmony and speak the same language as the house.
Before we show you window designs to avoid, let us first understand the basic parts of a simple window and what details create interest and character.
Almost everything in architecture is base on the Classical Rules of Design, more simply explained as a Greek or Roman column. There is a capital on top a shaft in the center and a base at the bottom. Window designs also follow this layout.
Basic Window Casing Styles
What you need to know for proper function and design.
The window casing is a wood molding that surrounds a window.
Window casings cover the edge of the window jambs and the rough openings between the window unit and the wall. Window casings provide a visual frame around the window.
Window casings should always be installed before siding. This way the siding butts up against the window casing.
Never should the window casing be installed over the siding like many contractors do today with Hardiboard. The reason they do it this wrong way is because they were trained installing vinyl siding.
The top portion, also referred to as a window header or head casing, will always include a drip cap.
To dress of the window there may be a cornice or window crown molding located at the top of the head casing.
The vertical side casing is referred to the Jamb Casing. The inside of the Jamb Casing is the Jamb – not unlike a door jamb.
All windows – yes each and every window must also have a window sill at the base. The window sill provides a visual base and a Sub-Sill extends the window sill outward.
These features are designed to provide protection, and runoff for rain water. Aesthetically, these features provide the illusion of structure. Enabling your inner senses to feel the support it provides.
Windows, interior trim etc were all designed after Greek & Roman columns and classic rules for proportion that is pleasing to the senses.
What is a Window Sash?
This window is a Double Hung Window. The window sashes are the movable part of the window. A double-hung window means there two window sashes – an upper sash and lower window sash.
In this example each window sash has one piece of glass inserted. It is therefore called one-over-one. If the window was a Colonial style with six window panes in each sash, it would be called a six-over-six double hung window.
Window Casing Design
NEVER resize the window casing. Changing the width of the frame or the size of the opening will seriously destroy the fenestration ( the arrangement of windows) of the building!
The size of the window opening and the window casing/trim around the window are proportional to the structure of the building they were designed to be in. Don’t destroy the architecture!
A window needs a casing to provide a visual frame for the window. A typical window casing is 1 x 4.25 to 6 inches. If a casing is less than 4 inches wide (3.5 inches wide at the absolute least), it will appear too weak and narrow to carry the load of the window, upsetting the balance of the entire house.
(One exception exists and that is only for Federal Style buildings circa 1800 – which can be as narrow as 2 inches. More contemporary revivals of this style will not work with this narrow width due to the lack of complementary elements)
See the 1926 Bennett Building Catalog’s description and measurements on a window frame .
Unfortunately, new windows will always have a narrower casing and the majority of new construction windows and wood window replacements are even completely absent of window casings.
A homeowner may order a replacement window and be satisfied with all the details discussed with the sales person only to discover that the window is delivered with a Brick Mold instead of window casings.
A Brick Mold is a wooden trim used on masonry buildings to cover the gap where the brick masonry meets the window sash. A brick mold also provides a visual frame around the window as a casing would do. The width however is only 2 inches at most. This is fine for a brick house since the window is set deeper into the brick opening, but in no way should a brick mold be used on a house with wood siding.
The problem is that the best quality window companies will sell you a window for your wood sided home, with a brick mold that is only about 1-2 inches when you need a casing that is 4.5-6 inches wide. A vinyl replacement window is sold as one piece, so you cannot replace the brick mold with a normal casing. With wood replacement windows, you do have the option, but you need to specify what you want or forget it.
Yes there are some good replacement window companies out there, but chances are you will not get the product you need. You must specify the window is for a historic building even if it is for a contemporary building so you can speak to a salesperson in the right department that will understand what you are talking about. You must also understand everything on this webpage.
Window Designs – Recognizing Right from Wrong
On the top of the window you have the window header or head casing. The window header is a 1″ thick horizontal board resting on the top ends of the jamb casings. The window header may extend out (horizontally) to each side by no more than 1 inch per side (the window header in the photos below do not extend to the sides).
The window header board may also be taller to appear heavier than the side jamb casings and provide the appearance of structure to support the weight of the building above. Do not go overboard here – 1 inch is usually sufficient. A good rule to follow is the header height should not be less than 1/6 of the window opening. That means measuring from inside edge to edge.
Directly above the window header you must have a drip cap to divert away the rain water. The rain water will roll off the drip cap onto the window sill at the bottom of the window, then roll off the window sill away from the house to the ground. The drip cap, although small also acts as an architectural punctuation – a top and visual separation from the siding. The drip cap must have flashing.
Notice in the window designs above, the window header is just a bit wider (vertically) than the window jamb casing on the sides.
The drip cap can also be incorporated into a cornice or crown molding for a more visual impact and to divert rain water farther out from the building. Each detail of the cornice is based on the ancient orders for proper architectural appearance and practicality. It is not or should not be “just a design” or a few different moldings put together – you are not making a picture frame here. Learn more about aesthetics here .
The window crown molding above is currently available in vinyl but is WAY overly done to a point that it looks ridiculous and does not serve the original utilitarian purpose it was designed for. The problem with modern interpretations of original elements is that they are designed to be a focal point. Instead they should be a team of features working together and speaking the same language contributing to the overall design of the house.
Reproduction window features are overly enhanced and not proportionally correct.
Understand that you must have a casing surrounding the entire window – not just the top as the photos below illustrate.
- This window is overly done and fake looking.
- The arched part (header casing) ends abruptly where there should be a Jamb Casing.
- There is no jamb casing that should continue around the window.
- This header also extends towards the viewer away from the siding and protrudes past the shutters.
- Shutters should not be used as a cover and are completely wrong (see shutters page ).
- Window header is over-done and not to proportion.
- Window header ends at sides of window. It should extend outward 4 inches to cover the ends of the jamb casing.
- There is no jamb casing on the sides of window.
The prize winning window is to the right. I have not yet seen such a misunderstanding of architecture to such a degree.
Notice the window header extends covering the shutters. The builder that installed them seriously has no idea about buildings.
A Realtor boasts sharing their office with this building – an 1850’s Stagecoach Inn.
Sure the Realtor may not own the building, but would you want to buy a house from a Realtor in this building? I hope not!
The window above is advertised here https://www.hooksandlattice.com/9-flat-panel-window-header.html
I tried leaving a review but it was not approved of course.
These window designs should really be an embarrassment to the entire architectural field. The window casing headers above are just ornaments attached to a window. The manufacturer had no understanding of window designs. They are distractions so the other components are not missed in order to reduce costs.
As with a Greek or Roman column there must be a visual base. At the base of the window is the window sill. The window sill is angled downward to shed away water. NEVER omit this feature. It is both practical and visual as all design features of old windows.
Proper window designs allow historic wood windows to last 200 plus years. Lack of maintenance by the homeowner may result in a window replacement which is then repeated every 15-20 years.
The window sill is extended with a sub-sill angled downward away from the window sash and the casing about 18 degrees.
As shown in this example, the sill extends out to each side no more than 1 inch.
Below the window sill can be an apron. This is optional.
Window Casing Styles Gone Bad
Another common practice with replacing old windows is the crime of “Picture Framing”. This is a window casing absent of a sill at the bottom and a drip cap at the top.
A picture framed window casing style looks like and is constructed like a picture frame with mitered joints at all four corners. Such cheap window designs allowing easy infiltration of water at the corners and from the top. Never ever picture frame a window!
Window are the eyes of the house and poor window casing styles are like shaving your eyebrows or not having eyelashes.
Above are two not only ugly but poor window designs. Here we have no window casing versus a picture framed window casing. No window casing is just a step up in class from a cave man in the woods. A picture framed window while slightly better is still a criminally bad window design.
The owner of this house with the picture framed window is also a licensed architect.
People AND builders see black window SASHES and they think they can make their house trendy looking. Instead it reflects poorly on the people that reside here. This photo comes from a Toll Brothers development. They did not know that the trim must be all one color and that there is a difference between a real window that has a casing/trim and a black window sash. This window looks pasted on the house!
Proud Window Styles? Window Designs at their Worst.
What is a proud window? The term “Proud Window” is a term I use to describe a certain type of window you really need to be aware of. There is no official term for this window. If you describe this window to a window salesperson, they will probably not understand what you are talking about. They will just say there are different types of windows. In all my “fake” shopping to write this, no-one gave me a solid answer.
The term “proud” refers to the window sash because it sits “proud” on the wall of the house. So read this, understand this, and be prepared if you must go into battle window shopping.
A Proud Window looks like a one piece picture framed window. As with picture framed windows, there is no window header or window sill. This is a one piece assembly with the window casing and sash all encompassed in one.
Instead of window sashes being recessed about 3 inches inside the window casing, the Proud Window sash is flush or protrudes (is proud) from the window casing and the siding on the house.
It looks like a toy window from a childs building kit. The window looks like, and basically it is, snapped into the house from the outside. It can’t possibly look more cheap and ugly.
Window designs like this create the flattest look possible since the window is absent of shadow lines. Shadow lines on a home create the character we all love in architecture.
Never use a Proud Window!
Flat boring snap-in window needs correcting.
- Window sash is proud – even with casing.
- Window casing rests on top of siding.
- Picture framed miter cuts to allow water infiltration.
- Casing way too narrow making it look cheap and flimsy.
- No header casing or drip cap.
- No window sill.
OHG virtual corrections – Step 1:
- Window sash is now recessed into window casing.
In this image the window sash has been corrected only.
The window sash makes this window look a lot better but the design of this window casing is still unacceptable even for a barn or shed.
OHG virtual corrections – Step 2:
- Siding butts up against window casing.
- Window design prevents water infiltration.
- Window casing widened to 5 inches
- Header casing and drip cap added.
- Window sill added for water run off and stronger appearance.
Basic Measurements for Window Designs
A Basic Guide to Understand and Follow
You have seen the photos of bad window casing styles. There are many areas of entire window designs to look at and understand.
Let us now take a look at an example of an old window to better understand the measurement details and what you need to be aware of to get the right look.
Here is an example of a profile for a double hung window. This window was constructed in 1910. Windows of different periods may vary in size but this window design can still be used as a guide.
The main purpose is to understand that these window details have a purpose but also create the shadows that make historic windows look great.
(Click on the image to enlarge it or if you have a scrolling mouse, hit the Control key and scroll to enlarge these images if needed.)
The photo on the left is the window in its natural state and that on the right has window parts colored (in case you didn’t notice) to make it easier to see. Please kids – do not do this at home. Old House Guy is not responsible for homes with rainbow windows!
Lower Window Sashes
Let’s begin with the lower window sash (movable part of the window) since lower window sashes are set the farthest distance from the face of the house and provides the most depth and shadows.
(A) Lower Window Sashes are held in place (on the exterior) by a Parting Stop (B-yellow).
Window Parting Stop
(B-Yellow) The Parting Stop is a 1/2 inch piece of trim that extends the full length of the window.
It holds the Lower Sash in place on the exterior and holds the Upper Sash in place on the interior side (interior portion is not visible).
The Parting Stop also creates the inside edge of the Sash Channel (green).
Window Sash Channel
(C -Green) The Sash Channel is next to the Parting Stop (yellow).
The Sash Channel holds the upper window sash. The upper window sash slides down in this channel when opening the window.
To provide better summer cooling, the upper sash can open by sliding downward in this channel. Earlier windows have a stationary upper sash.
The Sash Channel is usually about 1-3/8 inch depending on the thickness of the window sash.
There is a sash channel for the lower window sash also but this is only visible from inside the house.
Here we are focusing on the depth of the windows and their appearance from the exterior.
Window Blind Stop
(D – Light Blue) The Blind Stop is next to the window Sash Channel.
The Blind Stop holds the upper sash in place by creating the exterior edge of the Sash Channel.
The Blind Stops function is similar to that of the Parting Stop.
Without the Blind Stop, the upper sash can fall out and hit you in the head.
The Blind Stop is approximately 7/8 inches thick (deep) and 1/2 inch wide.
The Blind Stop frames the top and both sides of the window. It rests at the bottom on the edge of the Window Sill (E – dark blue).
The purpose of the Blind Stop is for shutters (louvered shutters were originally called Blinds) to stop (rest against) so they do not hit the window sash. Storm windows attach to the blind stop.
The exception is in New England with Eastern Style Window Casings.
(E – dark blue) The Window Sill extends backwards from the front edge of the Blind Stop (D-light blue) back to the interior sill/stool.
Both upper and lower Sash Channels rest on the Window Sill.
The Window Sill is angled about 18 degrees to allow water runoff.
Between the front face of the Blind Stop (D) and the face of the window casing is a space approximately 1 to 1-1/4 inches.
Notice that the front face of the Window Sill connects with the front face of the Blind Stop (D-Light blue) to complete an edge around the entire window. This edge is where a storm window or shutter would lay against forming a seal.
This window sill is divided into two parts. The second part is a Sub Sill.
(F – Purple) This area of the Window Jamb is the space that will hold a wooden storm window or shutters.
The shutter or storm window must be sized correctly so the edge will fit inside this purple area.
This is the area you would measure for shutters and storm windows.
On this window the space measures 1-1/4 inches.
They must lay firmly against the face of the Blind Stop (D-light blue) and Window Sill (E-dark blue) on the inside and be flush with the face of the window casing on the outside.
The storm window or shutter would rest on the Sub Sill (G – Orange).
Window Sub Sill
(G – Orange) The Sub-sill is an extension of the Window Sill.
Some older windows only have a single Window Sill that extends out as the Sub Sill does.
The Sub Sill is angled as the Window Sill for water runoff and extends away from the house so water can flow onto the ground below and not onto the house.
The edge/nose of the sub-sill extends outward about 1 inch from the face of the window casing.
The storm window or shutters would rest on the Sub Sill.
Additionally underneath the Sub-sill near the edge is what is called a kerf. A kerf is a sort of drip edge not to get confused with the drip edge at the top. Here there is a groove in the bottom of the wood that prevents water from running under the sill to the siding. The sharp edge creates a barrier that the surface tension of water cannot cross creating a drip line. Although probably filled with paint on most old homes, this slot should be maintained for water running off the sill and down the front, can due to surface tension, travel along the bottom of the sill and into the siding.
There is a lot going on here, but the point I am trying to make is the distance between the face of the building and the window sash.
The distance from the face of the window casing to the upper sash on an average window is about 2 inches.
The distance from the face of the window casing to the lower sash is about 4 inches.
Add an additional 1/4 inch for window glazing. Remember you do not get that nice 1/4 inch beveled edge around the glass with replacement windows.
This recessed space creates a nice sharp shadow. This is what makes old historic windows pop and creates the character we all love!
New window sash replacements change all of this. To accommodate double panes of glass the window sash must be a lot wider. This brings the sash soooo much closer to the face of the casing which prohibits the look we are accustomed to. While a double pane window sash takes up more room, the designers are still moving the sashes closer to the exterior than necessary to allow more interior window sill space.
On top of all this, new windows now have an extra piece of trim around the inside of the window casing which creates an entirely new window design and prohibits the homeowner from a contrasting window sash color. Details for this window design issue is explained on a separate page here.
Window Designs for Brick Buildings
Old brick buildings are more simple and have less that can go wrong merely because most features – window sills and lintels are fixed and composed of brick or limestone. Thankfully there’s less for the homeowner or contractor to tamper with. What can be harmed however is the wood portion of the window.
Window designs on brick buildings are a bit different than those on a wood sided building. The windows are set deeper into the exterior wall of the building because the brick gives the wall extra thickness. This provides extra sharp shadow lines giving the windows more character.
On a brick house, instead of a 4.5″ window casing surrounding the window on the face of wood siding as those described above, there instead is a brick mold trim surrounding the window set back in the brick opening.
What is a Brick Mold or Brick Molding?
A brick mold or brick molding is a piece of wood trim that transitions the brick and covers the gap between the brick and the window. A brick mold It can be different widths and designs. Different sizes and styles of brick molding can be used to to create a meatier and fancier appearance.
Modern brick mold widths are about 1 inch which results in a cheap appearance. A typical historic brick mold is 2 inches but can be thicker to create a nice boarder around a window sash. A narrow brick mold can make a window look like just a hole in a brick facade.
Window salespeople will usually say that with new windows you will have an improved view. This is because the current brick mold will be removed making the window larger. By doing this it is an easier installation for them and basically ruining the look of your house.
Window with thicker brick mold makes a statement.
Window with thin brick mold looks undressed, bare and cheap.
A brick mold trim is not to be confused with window casing. Window casing should be 4.5″ wide. Brick molding will look better wider than narrower, but not nearly as wide as window casings.
Brick mold trim and brick mold size is often overlooked when ordering windows for Brick Homes. This is usually because the homeowner was not aware of it, nor were they told about it by the salesperson. Most people think that windows are windows – it’s as simple as that.
Many replacement windows come with brick molding for both brick AND wood homes. This is one of the reasons replacement windows look so bad in wood buildings. People think and are told the brick molding is good enough to replace the window casing.
On a wood building the brick mold should not be confused with the window casing nor be used to substitute window casing.
Window Sashes are the part of the window that moves up and down. We will mostly be discussing Double-Hung windows. Double-hung refers to the window sashes – an upper and lower movable window.
Double-hung windows were technologically designed to cool a house during the summer months. Your original windows have top and bottom window sashes that move up and down. If you lower the top sash a few inches and raise the bottom sash a few inches, you have free air-conditioning.
Opening the window sashes like this creates a draft where heat and humidity leave the house through the upper opening while the cooler breezes enter the house through the lower opening. This natural circulation of cool air replacing warmer air of a room can really lower your electric bill.
However, the upper window sashes of many old windows on houses have been painted closed over time. A putty knife can easily unfreeze that sash and get them working again.
True Divided Light Windows (TDL)
True Divided Light (TDL) is a term for individual panes of glass in the window sash. An individual piece of glass or individual window pane is called a “light”.
The “lights” or individual panes of glass are held in place with Window Muntins – thinner pieces of wood dividing the lights. This window grid configuration is sometimes similar to the familiar tick-tack-toe pattern.
- The example to the right is a Double Hung window. (There are top and bottom window sashes)
- It has TDL – True Divided Lights – each piece of glass (each light) is divided by window Muntins holding in each light in place.
- The window grids configuration is Six-Over One.
- This means the top sash has Six window lights and bottom sash has One window light.
- The entire window has seven(7) individual pieces of glass.
TDL is a very important term to know. In a True Divided Light window, each window pane is a separate piece of glass. Let’s compare this to a window that is NOT TDL.
Instead of individual pieces of glass, NON TDL window sashes have only one piece of glass in the top sash and one piece for the bottom sash. (don’t get confused by thinking in terms of double pane thermal windows)
Instead of separating the individual pieces of glass and holding them in place with a Window Muntin, the window instead has a plastic grill to fool the more simple minded with a fake look of separate lights in traditional window designs.
Why TDL Window Sashes are Important
With jewelry, when a gem is cut light is reflected off the various angles resulting in sparkle. Window sashes are similar with separate lights. Windows with true divided lights sparkle when viewed from the street. If the glass is older and wavy, they sparkle even more.
Since window muntins are made of wood , they provide a small shadow line on the glass. Different architectural styles from different periods have different styled muntin profiles. They each create different shadow patterns that dance with the sparkle of the window.
This makes the window pop with life and character, and changes with interest as the sun travels and the lighting changes. This gives old windows the character we love and enjoy. But only if we take the time to stop and enjoy it.
Window Sash Replacements
Today’s Replacement Windows, offer one piece of glass with flat plastic window grids attached on the interior to imitate the look of traditional windows separated by window muntins. The result is a very shallow, flat, and bland, not to mention a cheap appearance. It appears as if window muntins were painted on the glass.
Window companies, as a way to increase profits now offer a variety of window sash designs. As the details and costs increase, these deluxe windows no way compare with the original details of an older window.
The window styles they offer are still dreadfully poor window sash replacements. Window sashes with a cheap snap in grill looks cheap but still commands a high price.
No matter which of the window styles, low or high quality, plastic or wood, you choose, these windows are not permanent like your original windows. So if you choose a new replacement window you are not happy with, all you have to do is wait about 15 years to replace the replacements.
Today 80% of window replacement done by contractors is replacing replacement windows and 20% original historic windows.
Although Marvin Windows is one of the better manufacturers, see the poorly styled window sash replacements available. The following are all wood replacement window sashes.
One more note – notice they are proud windows.
Window Sashes with Window Grids Between Glass
With double pane glass, plastic window grids are inserted between the glass layers. This creates a flat look as if the window muntins were painted on the glass.
While this may appeal to the simple minded it is a far cry from the original design.
Better to have no window grids and keep the window plain as a one-over-one window sash.
Window Sashes with Window Grids on top of Interior Glass
This window has a removable window grid that is great for cleaning windows.
For this added convenience I hope the windows are cleaned daily to make it worth the sacrifice.
From the exterior the window looks cheap and ugly as expected.
Simulated Divided Light Window Sashes (SDL)
A Simulated Divided Light window (SDL) has fake window muntins on the interior and exterior sides.
Window muntin profiles for OLD windows are sharp and nicely designed to make their shadows. There are different muntin designs for different period homes.
Placing a “bump” of wood on a window is a poor excuse for a window muntin.
SDL Window Sashes with Spacers
When looking at a Simulated Divided Light window (SDL) you can see a space inside the double pane glass between the inside and outside window grids.
To make this window “simulate” a True Divided Light window, a spacer is installed between the layers of glass.
Seriously – who do they think they are fooling! This is an insult to any homeowner’s integrity.
This style is considered the “better” window design.
True Divided Light Window Sashes?
Surprise – you can even get a True Divided Light Window sash!
As expensive as it is, you must understand your old original window is still better.
The wood window muntin profiles are flatter and window sash is still proud to the casing giving it a flat look.
Yes this window is better than the window sash styles above but there are sooo many different things to know about new and historic window designs.
Marvin Windows does offer an accurate historic reproduction window but you must contact their historical division to get someone that really understands your needs. Make sure YOU totally understand windows first though.
Remember – Nothing will replace your current old windows.
Historic Windows vs Window Sash Replacements
Become accustomed to seeing the difference between an old or historic TDL window and a replacement window.
Full view of original historic window. Thankfully a few windows in the back were saved.
Notice how the brick molding nicely frames the window as one unit.
The base of the window sash is wider showing support and strength. It also creates a visual base.
1903 Carnegie Library, Freehold NJ – this is the type of window they used as a replacement. What kind of people would approve this replacement?
As you can see, this is a patch up job. Two windows are pieced together to fool the viewer. The window now has a totally different feel.
There ARE still people that will say this window looks the same or close enough to the original.
Window Sash Replacement
When replacing old windows with a new window sash replacement, a big selling point and advantage that really convinces some people is window cleaning. Window cleaning is much easier with snap-in, snap-out grills.
But do you clean your windows so frequently that you’re willing to sacrifice curb appeal? Wood replacement windows with true divided light window sashes are available. Few people will spend the extra money for this better window appearance. Few people are able to recognize the difference!
One very important thing to keep in mind are the window muntins. The profile and style fo the muntins are dependent on the period and style of your house. Even with a good wood replacement window, muntins should not be a one size fits all.
Window Muntins Shape and Proportion
Another problem with ALL replacement windows styles is the size and shape of the window grids or window lights. All window lights should be vertically proportioned and, on special occasion, square. They, as in all architectural features, resemble the human form. This is pleasing to your subconscious mind. Learn more about aesthetics here.
Aesthetically, you should never have horizontal panes, although during the Arts & Crafts period, this style of architecture tended to veer away at times from the traditional vertical window style and then again with Ranch houses.
So basically window designs should be vertical rectangles – no squares or horizontal shapes.
There is a hierarchy of windows most notable on Colonial Revival architecture where the 2nd floor windows will be a bit smaller than that of the main floor. In this case, the smaller windows upstairs should have the same size window lights but fewer of them. An alternative is the window lights can be proportionally smaller than the window lights in the larger windows on the first floor. One option usually works better than the other depending on your windows.
Keep window designs on your house to just a few similar proportions not styles. Here are some mistakes you should learn to recognize.
Window Muntins Case Study:
The set of windows on the left do not match with those on the right. They must match or the house looks weird.
Why don’t these window designs match?
First – This house was tampered with by enclosing the porch and installing windows to fit a certain sized opening that was not originally designed to have windows.
2nd – Although the windows appear similar in size – they are not. It’s difficult to match different sized windows with “off the rack” replacement windows.
The windows on the left are six-over-one and the windows on the right are four-over one window designs. Notice in the left group of windows, the upper window sashes have vertical lights. This is a good window design.
In the right bank of windows, the upper window sashes have square lights. Square for this house is very very very wrong. Wrong because they are square AND wrong because they don’t match the other windows.
Never have a four-over-anything window designs!
One way to fix this problem is to make all windows a one-over-one window configuration. Another option is to make them all two-over-one however there is still a chance the window mistake will be noticed when the size is reduced. In other words, larger window lights like one-over-one are more forgiving with different size windows than four or six-over one.
Of course the windows can also be six-over-one to match. The proportions would just be reduced in size. This may have to be a custom made window but it’s what you need to do to make the house work. That’s the cost of messing around with something that should be left alone.
As you see above matching windows work much better. These windows were corrected graphically – we can do this for your house too .
Another problem is the size of the window casing – too narrow and picture framed. No drip cap or window sill either. There needs to be a cap and a base! Remember we discussed this above? Surprise – this house was designed by an architect! Read the full story here. House Restoration or Remuddle?
The McMansion – famous for poor architecture, boasts a mish-mosh of types, sizes, and styles of windows unrelated to each other or the architecture of the building.
McMansion Wikipedia definition:
…mix multiple architectural styles and elements…multiple roof lines, unnecessarily complicated massing…producing a displeasingly jumbled appearance. The builder may have attempted to achieve expensive effects with cheap materials, skimped on details, or hidden defects with cladding…
Sold to “parvenu” – those having new money but lack the necessary refinement. The definition of parvenu on Wikipedia references Molly Brown survivor of the Titanic – who went from rags to riches overnight. (See the movie “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” starring Debbie Reynolds).
This upsetting rhythm in the house above causes you to leave with confusion and think that a lot of money was spent (but really foolishly wasted) so it has to be good!
Yes there are a lot of cool window styles out there but that doesn’t mean that the architect needs to choose one of each window style in the catalog!
A decision needs to be made and followed through on to maintain a cohesive relationship.
Window lights consist of a few different vertical lights not proportional to each other, horizontal, and square. This confusion impresses viewers at first for they don’t know where to look first.
Here are some examples to help you recognize the good from the bad window designs.
It is obvious this window was NOT designed to be four-over-four windows (because each light is square) and sadly makes the statement “bad replacement window”.
- Two-over-two was probably the original window configuration but ignorance presided.
- If not a two-over-two, a one-over-one would look better than square window sash lights.
- The window muntins are so thin and flat they may be painted on.
- Notice the vinyl siding has an edge around the window that looks bad.
- Beautiful historic wavy glass windows on the first floor.
- Window sash replacements on the 2nd floor have cheap flat plastic window grids changing the original window design from vertical two-over-two to square four-over-four.
- If the replacement windows were two-over-two, the window lights would match the first floor in shape.
- If painted black it would not look as distracting. The difference would be the lack of shadow line and glass sparkle.
- There is a hierarchy with windows. The main floor windows are usually a few inches taller than those on the 2nd floor as in the windows above.
- As you can see, there is no easy way to divide these windows into separate equal sized window lights as you saw in the example earlier. This only means that the window/house was not designed for this type of window.
- By the age of the house a two-over-two window design would have been used. Using this pattern or one-over-one would be acceptable and visually appealing.
- The biggest mistake was to replace double hung windows with casement windows. Look how flat they look. You can tell they are casement windows because the center horizontal meeting rail is missing.
- Notice the square window lights on the second floor and the vertical window lights on the first floor. What a cheap looking job. I would like to say this would have to be a rental with a landlord that does not care but it seems to be owner occupied. I seriously question the integrity of the owners.
- The windows destroy the entire appearance of the house! Sympathy goes to the neighbors whose home value and neighborhood will eventually decrease.
As you now see, few elements of a building contribute more to its architectural character than the windows sashes and window muntins. Although all this information you are reading may seem lengthy, it is important to understand.
Now you should have an understanding of what to look for. Here is an example that is absolutely frightening however.
The only thing good in this photo are the wood shingles and healthy tree branches. This house, located in Plainfield NJ is in a very historically minded community with knowledgeable homeowners and outstanding houses.
The point here is that with expert help right at your finger-tips, homeowners can still re-interpret a good design and turn it into something grotesque. My heart goes out to the neighbors with well done homes.
You can avoid falling into the same trap by considering the background and qualifications of the person offering window advice. Is their advice based on financial gain? Can they profit from your decision? Do they understand what is taught on this website?
Remember many homeowners, builders and design professionals love old buildings. What is the basis of their knowledge and where does their point of reference come from?
Historic Wood Windows – Window Styles by Period
I encourage you to read this publication for a more complete understanding . These topics are discussed here by James L. Garvin of the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources
- The evolution of window sashes and window muntin profiles
- Three types of Window glass prior to WWII
- Window hardware
- Casings, shutters and blinds interior and exterior
- Wood sash problems and solutions
Does the Window Style Match the Period of my House?
One of the biggest mistakes people make with historic window sash replacement is replacing their windows with a style that’s wrong for the age of the house.
Years ago window glass was expensive and smaller sized panes of glass were all that was technologically available. During the 1700’s and into the mid 1800’s, a double-hung window sash would be composed of smaller, true divided lights. The upper and lower sash could have 6, 9, or 12 window lights in each sash.
As technology improved, larger panes of glass became available. Houses constructed after the Civil War (Victorian architecture) would most likely have a two-over-two window design.
Not long after that larger panes of glass became available. Window sashes were then able to accommodate single sheets of glass resulting in a one-over-one window.
The Colonial Revival style combined the old with the new with a design of six-over-one windows. Although the late 19th century offered one-over-one, the type of window was dependent on the style of architecture at the time.
I know of architects (not preservation architects of course) that, unfortunately, were involved in restorations, and recommended six-over-six windows for a Victorian house. How awful! This window style predates the house.
Now you may ask, why would a 1790 house have two-over-two windows? This is because the original nine-over-nine (or higher number) window sashes were replaced during the later 1800’s with what was available at the time. Although not period correct, it is part of the evolution of the house which is an entirely new topic of discussion! Keeping the newer windows may even be required for Historic Register nomination.
The bottom line is Let the Buyer Beware! Do not depend on a salesman, contractor, or architect (preservation architects are the exception) to tell you what is right for your house. They will say you have an old style house and give you a watered down version of a window that is wrong for your house. Sales people are not trained in architecture, but are highly skilled in making a sale.
Federal Window Design for a Victorian
An example is in the photo below. This is a CRIME to Architecture!
This Italianate house once had beautiful two-over-two, arched window styles. Notice the arched window casings. The casings are still arched on top, but have been filled in below the arch so that cheap rectangular replacement window sashes can be installed
Additionally, nine-over-nine windows were installed which provide a Colonial/Federal look popular long before this house was built. I don’t blame the owner as much as I blame the salesperson although one would think a realtor should have some clue.
While we’re on a roll, the black paint accentuates the remodeling errors and the vinyl siding results in loss of detail and shadow lines making the façade look flat and bland.
As you can see this is the office of Century 21 Realtors. One would expect that specialists in the business of selling houses would understand something about elementary architecture. If not, they should ask someone that does. One would also think that the window salesperson would have some training. Again – Let the buyer beware!
Not understanding paint color placement, just draws your attention to the many problems with this house.
So, this really annoyed me and I called the realtor’s office and told them the building looked absolutely awful! They turned a nice building into Frankenstein.
I also listed their phone number by the photo on my website encouraging people to call them.
Surprisingly about a year later I noticed they corrected most of their errors! So happy! Maybe because readers like you called called them too! What a nice improvement! Two-over-two window designs are correct for the architectural style and the colors work nicely.
Now this house does look good except for a few issues we won’t bother going into here.
The window designs on the side however, look really bad.
Nine-over-nine windows and a fake cutesy window surround that is supposed to fool us to look like it resembles the arched window.
This window design is only the manufacturers interpretation of a Victorian window. You will not find a real wood window like this historically. This is merely a poor Disney Land interpretation.
Too bad they couldn’t continue with the improvements they make in front here. Huge trees or ivy planted on the side would be a quick fix.
Never Replace a double-hung window with a Casement Window
Casement windows have their place in certain styles of architecture, but if your house was designed for a double-hung window, that’s what it should have.
Even though the house is a bit shabby and the one-over-one double-hung window on the left is a cheap replacement, it still provides a better appearance than the casement window on the right.
Also note the stiles and rails (the frame) of the casement window is a much wider design.
They must have run out of money and didn’t replace all the windows to match.
One window looks bad, but here you can see how it really affects the appearance of the entire house.
Casement windows provide a “blank stare” look. This house reminds me of a jack-o’-lantern with its windows appearing like holes cut out.
The image above was graphically modified replacing half the windows with double-hung window sashes for comparison.
I love casement windows. However casement windows are great on certain types of architecture such as English Tudor and some Cottage styled homes.
When installed in architecture not specific to the design, they appear strange.
Double-hung window sashes were replaced with a casement window.
This casement window is made of plastic and has fake window muntins.
Painting Window Sashes
Warning – warning – warning! Be careful using white. If the base color of your house is not white or the trim on your house is not white, then your window sashes must not be white. There is nothing worse than seeing some great house colors but the window sashes are painted white.
There are two things you need to understand about painting windows:
- The first is color placement. Homeowners, painters, and window manufacturers seem to get the wrong way too often and I don’t understand why. Read this article about painting your window sash .
- Vinyl windows CAN be easily painted with latex paint. However it depends on how dark the color is based on the LRV (Light Reflectance Value). With a darker color you will need a special Sherwin Williams paint. Here is an article I wrote explaining this in more detail and what you need to be aware of. Read this article about painting your replacement windows .
White replacement window sash visually jumps out and attracts your eyes to a bad window.
It shouts – I’m Plastic, cheap, and don’t belong with these house colors.
See the big improvement from that harsh white. Vinyl is painted tan and provides a softer feel.
We can tell it’s plastic but it’s not being boasted.
Dark window sashes are more historically correct and add depth to a window.
Dark green is the most common historically appropriate color and works best on this window.
According to most manufacturers of replacement windows, painting your windows will void the warranty. As a disclaimer I recommend checking your warranty first. Even so, white windows today look like white plastic and will noticeably cheapen the appearance of your house.
My experience: I actually have a white plastic window in my attic facing the front of the house. I had it painted Benjamin Moore Essex Green which is a very dark green. No primer was used for the plastic was not very shinny. The window is in full sun with south-west exposure. The window is not able to open but I don’t need it to open. The paint held up perfectly better than the wood.
Old Windows are Part of History
The replacement windows you are being peddled will degrade the historic integrity of your home.
The size, configuration, materials, and milling of the windows tell a story about your house. They are a visual record of the period in which your house was built.
There is also a direct correlation between historic integrity and market value of houses. A preserved old house will bring a higher price (about 20%) more than an old house remodeled to look like something it never was. Please be very careful in deciding on a window strategy.
And if you’re a person that has no concern for history – it doesn’t matter – it’s all about curb-appeal, and curb-appeal is based on aesthetics. Learn more about aesthetics here.
The following link is to a study about Historic Preservation and its impact on house values:
If You Must Replace your Historic Wood Windows
Remember you may think your windows are in such bad shape they need replacing but that doesn’t mean they are. I have seen many windows that were actually in good shape or a recent paint job made the windows stick. They were foolishly replaced.
Hopefully you or the previous homeowner did not neglect your windows to an extent that they are unsalvageable. But if the degree of deterioration truly necessitates the replacement of windows – not laziness, a suave salesperson, or the guy down the street, wood replacement windows are recommended.
(Remember your old historic windows can be repaired and new replacement windows are NOT green nor will they save you any money. This website will save you money.)
It is extremely important that every effort be made to match the style, the muntin profile, and shape. Altering any of these features will make a dramatic change in a building’s overall appearance and its setting within your neighborhood. Each element on a house must speak the same language!
The first thing you should know, if you must replace your wood windows or anything on your house, with a product different than that you are replacing – use the “Arms Length Rule”. That is, the product must be indistinguishable from the original product and material at Arm’s Length. Keep this in mind and you won’t be sorry.
A wood window has to be pretty far gone before it needs to be replaced. Modern weather-stripping can be installed, sashes can be rebuilt, and reproduction period glass can be reinstalled . Even severely rotted wood can be strengthened and rebuilt with durable epoxy fillers.
However, as important as old windows are, there are cases when a window must be replaced due to extreme deterioration. In such cases, you should duplicate the original window sashes and casings exactly otherwise you risk altering the architectural appearance.
Never under any circumstance modify a window opening to take a smaller or larger window.
Deciding to buy the most expensive replacement window does NOT guarantee curb appeal or the best window for your house. Please do not depend on the salesperson’s knowledge of matching or compatible window designs. I have seen them wrong 10 out of 10 times.
YOU must thoroughly understand the design features and become your own expert. I know this sounds wrong and unfair but replacement windows are big business and a lot of money is made from them. Thankfully the politicians are busy with the oil battle and not yet involved in the window scam.
When window shopping here are some additional points to keep in mind.
- Reproduction and Replacement Window Options – This article was published in the Period Homes Magazine by Gordon Bock. It discusses the many options and points that need to be considered by the homeowner when selecting new replacement windows.
NOTE: If you replace your original windows, don’t let them end up in the landfill. Store those windows in your attic in an out of the way place – good or bad condition. Think of future owners who will be so happy to find those windows and restore them back into use. Just because you don’t want them doesn’t mean a future owner will not. Think of it as a good deed – good karma.
Be sure to visit our listing of wood window restorers and makers.
Congratulations, you made it to the end. Lots to read but all so very important to your home, its future, and the value and character of your neighborhood.
Homework: Now pay attention to all windows you see – good and bad – old and new, and you will soon be able to recognize a good from bad window blocks away.
Be sure to make sure you read the first four articles about windows for a basic understanding.
Bridgette Baker says
Good information. I love the look of old windows. I’d like to send you a picture of my home to see what you would recommend for replacement windows.
Ken Roginski says
If you love the look of old windows then why do you want to replace them? This doesn’t make sense.
Is that a wire fox terrier in the window?
Ken Roginski says
Yes she is!
Maybe she has a newer house with “bad” windows. My house is a 1970’s ranch. I probably committed some of the blunders you pointed out in the added on back porch. I really want to replace the aluminum slider windows and add architectural appeal. Right now, the windows have no casing and no drip cap. Perhaps I can try virtually replacing the windows and adding these elements. It is not a historic home, it’s just a home where people live.
Pam Groezinger says
I have a 1926 multicolor brick, craftsman house with wood windows. I am painting the sash black and the case an off white with beige undertones. I want to build shutters. Can I paint those black too or would it look weird to see back, then white then black again. I plan to keep my 2 front house doors a stained wood. I have storm doors. Should I paint the black or the offwhite? I would so appreciate it if you could email me the answers to my questions. Thank you.
Ken Roginski says
It is rare to see shutters on Craftsman homes. Unless you see ghost marks from early hinges I wouldn’t install them. Black shutters with black sash would be fine.
You mention several times to not change the size of the window which I understand the reasoning, however I have a house that I have been slowly remodeling for 2 years and am about to replace 2 windows in the master bedroom because of extreme deterioration (previous owners allowed a giant hole in the roof to pour rain down the wall for years). I wanted to change the window size because it goes all the way 6 inches from the floor. This is the wall where the nightstands / bed would go, so the window goes below/behind the nightstands. Also, they are 9 foot ceilings and the top of the window is at 7 feet, but 8 feet in other places throughout the house. So in summary it seems like the two windows should be moved up. Would that not make sense to raise the window off of the floor and move it up? I have to replace framing etc in the wall because of the extensive water damage. After reading your website thoroughly I have decided to salvage all the remaining windows in the house (about 15), but I have no choice with these two. Home was built in 1978. The home is a Charleston style home. Would love advice for who you would recommend for a new construction window. I am leaning towards Marvin Ultimate with TDL based off of your reviews. Thanks so much for your amazing website!
Ken Roginski says
For a new construction window contact http://heirloomwindows.com/
As for the window size they must match what is on the exterior. Never plan anything based on the interior even if it makes more sense.
Great post, and very helpful. I bought a 1940s masonry house with original single pane steel double hung 6 over 6 windows. The sash and muntins are painted white. They’ve all been painted shut, and some of the panels are cracked. Winter in Pennsylvania was murderously cold and these windows are not drafty but excellence conductors of heat. Is this possibly a situation where like-style vinyl windows might make sense?
Ken Roginski says
Absolutely not. All you need is a storm window.
I was so excited to find a fellow snob about windows in YOU. Growing up around DC and Boston, I recognize “bad” from “good,” and understand the value in restoration vs replacement. However, as an amateur admirer of architecture and design, I was thrilled to find someone like you to educate me in the anatomy, history, language and logic of beautiful windows. Thank you!
Now then … I need your help. We bought a house in CA that is a gabled stone-faced ranch from the 1970s. I’m wanting to redesign the facade with a nod to the more mid-century style ranch, simply by replacing the mismatched cheap windows the the former DIY eccentric millionaire installed.
The entire house is a window nightmare. Almost no two windows in the house match. Side to side sliding plastic window grids on the same wall as double hung and casement windows of different heights and widths. I don’t know where to start.
Would love some suggestions to for an updated, unifying window concept for a gabled stone faced ranch.
Help. Would love to send you pictures of my living nightmare and hear your recommendations. Thank you!
Ken Roginski says
Please email me through my website and I will take a look.
Chris Simmons says
Thank you so much for this site. I have a MCM brick ranch with a somewhat traditional/Craftman type screen porch. Windows are 64 years old, do not open, cannot be repaired. I’m planning to replace with sliding/gliding windows with no grids. I also have a 60 x 90 picture window that I’m trying to figure out a good replacement for. If I do the picture window with two sidelights, what would best proportions be? I want the center window to be significantly bigger than sidelights. I’m considering 22.5/45/22.5 width or 18/54/18. These would go all the way to the top or 60 inches high. Do you like a transom light across the top that would be 18 or 22.5 inches high or not? I can send you pictures of the house if you have a way to do that.
Again, thanks for the site. We snobs have to stick together.
Ken Roginski says
Hi Chris – wow this is a lot of information and difficult to visualize. I really don’t know the answer. Best to copy what you have as close as you can.
Throughly enjoyed your website.
We have a colonial home built in the early 90’s certainly not historic. The original windows are wood and have the lovely wood grills inside that can be removed. Many of the windows are sagging and the spring on the sides are broken as well as some locks. It is not worth replacing approximately 40 windows with true devided lites. We have 6 over 6 .
What’s the best solution for this situation.
I can send you pictures of course.
PS my husband is contemplating Marvin Invinity with grills inside the glass!!
Ken Roginski says
Never get windows with the muntins inside the glass. Try Heirloom Windows.
Hi! Awesome article!! I have been devouring the info on your site!! I am a historically-minded house renovator ( flips and rentals) and most of the houses I have done are 1920’s craftsman style. I taught myself through sites like yours and YouTube how to reglaze windows and have done three houses-full so far!! I am so in love with historic windows! (Other real estate people think i’m nuts but nothing is new there, Lol!) It is really sad though, looking up and down the streets at all of the plastic replacement going on in the rest of the neighborhood. I am trying my best to save the old windows, one house at a time!! 😊
Ken Roginski says
Keep up the fight!
Stevie halverstadt says
We purchased a building built between 1830 and 1840 and the windows on the second story in the front were replaced and we don’t know when, but they are double hung windows. The windows in the rear are 3/3 on the second floor.. what would be appropriate for the double hung windows in the front?
Ken Roginski says
Probably at least 6/6 or higher. The window lights must be close in proportion to the golden rectangle. See my curb appeal page for more info.
Kathie Boelkes says
I just learned what I saw as a child and this has helped me soooo much realize that my instincts were not my imagination. I live in an 1899 Queen Anne. Not a really fancy one. But the windows make me sick! Ugh but now I see why and I will be correcting it. It has all original windows but also has the storm windows that are so yuck. Some of the window sills still have the round ring to hook the screen windows in. Should I take off those storm windows and just get the old kind of screen window? I have never seen shutters in that spot. With just double hung original windows, how do you keep them warm in winter? Thank you!
Ken Roginski says
You probably have the aluminum storm windows from the 1960’s. Thank those ugly windows though because they protected your original window all this time. One way to make your storms look better is to paint them the color of the window sash. This is how they should be. I am still a firm believer in storm windows. There are interior and exterior storms and other options to choose from. If they have low-e glass they can get an energy star rebate.
Here’s more info. https://www.oldhouseguy.com/wood-storm-windows/
Pat Zorn says
I think this is a helpful article. I wish my house had a more common style like colonial. It is an early mid century house I guess. It was built in 1940 in California. Stucco with steel (not aluminum) casement windows, each with 9 – 15 panes / lites (12″ h x12″-14″ w each). We want to keep most windows but are doing an addition and want to try to replicate the existing look. It seems all the products (marvin anderson etc) have mullions that are much thicker and jams that are also thicker /deeper of course. So mimicking the recessed look is going to be difficult. Some commercial windows look more like ours but don’t meet code for residential. Does anybody know of any products that are a good option? Or which window mfg. would be best to go to for the new windows?
Ken Roginski says
Hi – sounds like you have some cool windows. I was involved in many historic buildings coming in for additions while at the NJ Historic Trust. One thing that was not allowed is a false representation of history. 100 years from now we want people to be able to recognize a newer addition from the old. The addition should be compatible with the old but not an EXACT. So do your best to make it look the similar but some differences are ok. One thing to keep in mind is do not extend an existing wall out from the house. Indent about 2 ft to visually show where the addition begins.
Peter H Clancy says
I have a 1910 wooden house, with a large picture window in the center of the front of the house (facing the street). The frame width is 76″ and height is 64″. It is a 6 x9 lite (7/8″) window, with wooden mullions and muntins and exterior frame. Single pane glass. I think the window is original to the house. The sash is now about half rotten and many of the grilles are rotten. The glazing is old and cracked. The paint is in very poor condition. I have had 3 contractors look at it and all advise replacement of the window, sash and frame. The fear is that even if I repair everything rotten now, the age of the window is such that in 5-10 years down the road, I will be repairing it again. Please comment.
The contractor that I am thinking of using is proposing a Kolbe Ultra Series Picture Window with sash and master frame. The exterior would be prefinished white aluminum clad; the grilles would be extruded aluminum and the window would have simulated divided lites. The interior sash would be wood. Please comment.
I want to replicate the look of my current window, but lack knowledge and access to specialist historic window contractors. Plus cost is an issue–even the example about is priced (primed and painted) at over $8K installed. I live in Washington DC.
Help? Am I making a big mistake? What questions do you have for me?
Ken Roginski says
Simulated Divided Light windows (SDL), although not True Divided Light are still good and acceptable. It is a lot of money for a new window and the window like most replacements will not last like your originals. Of course a contractor would advise a replacement – they know of no other alternative. You need to contact someone that restores windows https://www.oldhouseguy.com/window-restorers/ and see what they have to say. This is a good example of why it is important to maintain your house. It should never have gotten to this point. If you do restore the window it will deteriorate again if it is neglected but can last forever if maintained.
Your site is so informational and I’ve been reading books on architecture (Get Your House Right is fascinating) to learn how to treasure our house. Our 1896 Folk Victorian had all of the windows but two replaced by a previous owner. The windows look wrong now, but I don’t even know where to start to help our house. We’d like to paint the exterior eventually and I want to see what we can do about the windows first. Is it even possible to rebuild appropriate casings around these windows? Can I find salvage windows and go back? I’d be happy to email photos if you have time to look. Thanks!
Ken Roginski says
I love that book!
I do hear of people that have carpenters lined up to rebuild the window casing and sill for after they remove the vinyl siding.
Email me a photo.
So glad I came across your site! I’ve got 6 curved windows in my 1890 Queen Anne Victorian that need to be repaired. Currently, they are covered up by flat storm windows installed on sill extensions. In a word, yuck. I’ve gotten quotes to rebuild them and install custom curved storm windows in the $25k range. The quote I got from Allied was $9k for the curved storm windows alone (installing myself). Are there any other less expensive options? We love the look of the curved windows but they cost a fortune in energy loss (both heating and cooling). Any advice you can provide would be much appreciated. Thx,
Ken Roginski says
Awesome you have curved windows. I would probably go with interior storms. https://www.oldhouseguy.com/interior-storm-windows/
What a terrific suggestion!! I didn’t even realize this was an option. It looks like one of the vendors is fairly close in CT so I’ll reach out to them first. Thanks Ken!!
Karen A Hanzel says
Thank you for teaching me how to see! I am going outside now to examine what I have!
Gary Clyatt says
I am looking for advice about replacing my front room window. It is a 8’ x 5’ rectangle lower with a 8’ x 4’ half moon on top. The roof line as a angle. I am thinking about changing to 3 tall windows?
Ken Roginski says
I don’t know. Don’t you think it would be good to email me with a photo and more info?
Amazing post, incredibly helpful and entertaining at the same time! I have a Dutch Colonial house from the 1920s. The original wood casements are covered up on the outside with storms, which hides all the exterior curb appeal. Inside, the windows are gorgeous, but incredibly leaky. We are thinking of doing a mixture of vinyl windows in the non curbside windows and wood clad windows at the front, and changing the wood divided lites for pewter grilles between the glass. Inside storms won’t work as there is not enough space for them to sit. Any advice?
Ken Roginski says
First do NOT change the wood muntins for grills especially pewter between the glass. This will look extremely tacky even in the rear of the house. Remove your storm windows and have the casements restored if they need it. Look into custom storms for the casements. I’m not sure but I think https://alliedwindow.com/index.html can make them. Give them a call. Worst case just replace the storms with anything just as long as you don’t destroy your windows. Plywood covering the window would be better. Once original windows are replaced the house is considered damaged and there is no turning back.
I know I’m really late to the party, but I’m dealing with a house that was ‘restored’ (heavy sarcasm) by some people who must’ve overdosed on HGTV — now we have no original windows, and what is there must’ve been on sale, because none of them fit. (Like literally, there’s a thick layer of caulking to make up for the fact they installed 28″w windows in a frame meant for 29.5″w.) Your blog has been immensely helpful as I try to recreate how this house might’ve originally looked, but I’m not sure how to read this particular line:
> ” A good rule to follow is the header height should not be less than 1/6 of the window opening.”
Is that the window opening top to bottom, or left to right? The original window openings call for windows roughly 30″ wide by 62″ high. If it’s width, that means the header could be as small as 5″ high, which seems just barely taller than the required 4.5″ casing on either side — enough that they’d probably look equal, from the street. But if it’s height, then the header would be about 10″ high, and that seems excessive. How do you handle a window that’s nearly 1:2 proportions?
Ken Roginski says
Hi Sol – yes I see your point. I got the 1/6 of the window opening from one of my books https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0071416323/kenroginskihisto and will need to look at that again. Yes 10″ would be way too high. My windows are about the same size as yours. The casing does look equal all around except when measuring it you know it id different. I would follow the measurements I have listed.
I thought TDL was no longer possible for new windows, as so many areas require double-paned for energy efficiency and this could not be done with smaller, individual panes – or that at least nobody makes these, or if they do they’re astronomically expensive(?)
Otherwise, now I’m depressed after reading all of this as I’m wondering if we’re about to make a huge mistake….we’re not replacing our windows as we’re about to start framing a new build, but we’re about to order SDL double-hung, Al-clad wood windows (with bronze spacers) from Sierra-Pacific. We couldn’t justify $100K+ for the top-of-the-line brands (e.g., Jeld-Wen as our architect recommended), but as the plastic jambliners don’t show with this make we were excited to receive a quote for well below our budget. Our house is a melding of styles, but the windows seem appropriate (if a slightly modern 2/1) as well as consistently and proportionately-sized to our untrained eyes. I’ve researched other elements and finishes ad nauseum over the past few years but not windows until recently, and now that we need to place an order I’m wondering if we really dropped the ball here. Maybe we can make up for any shortcomings with the windows themselves by ensuring they’re installed properly(?) I may forward this article to our GC as he’s gone to bat for us several times thus far but may not know the ins and outs of window design and installation. Ughhh…I think even if we could pick out properly-made windows we couldn’t afford them. I like to have all of the information before making decisions but maybe in this case ignorance really is bliss!
Ken Roginski says
So true – seriously ignorance is really a bliss. I feel I would be a healthier and happier person if I never knew what I write about! Try Heirloom windows. They are a small operation. TDL is best but SDL are good too. The problem I have found is that the manufacturers are twisting the words around and even SDL is not what it should be. There really should be some standards. The new insulated glass they now offer is wonderful instead of the bulky double pane windows.
I don’t know what happened to my first post (or your reply) but I do have a bit of good news…I talked to our window salesman and was assured that we’re getting JUST the sashes and frames, with no brickmolds or extra trim to gum up the presentation. I figured this would be more of an issue with replacement windows, but I learned that this company doesn’t even sell “slide-in” windows because they don’t like how they look. If anything we can get replacement sashes down the road if needed after 20-30 years. And after reading your article on painting windows correctly, I will be sure to order the sashes and frames in different colors (as they will be clad)! As for depth from the siding or “proudness”, the sashes will sit an inch or two inside the frame, but as the overall depth is limited by the wall thickness (which is pretty standard for a modern build) any lack won’t be the windows’ fault, or even the installers’.
Another question about painting if I might…it appears that historically the frame and outer trim were one piece(?), whereas in our case (at least) trim will be applied separately after the window frames/sashes are installed. Do you recommend painting the frames and outer trim the same color (as you’ve shown), or could these contrast as well, e.g., if the trim is painted the same color as the siding? In my head three colors seems too busy, and I’ll be testing ideas out on paper first to see what makes the windows “pop” without being too zany; but I wanted to get your thoughts. Also as our siding will be different on the ground and upper levels, I’m also considering slightly different window colors on each floor – maybe reversing the sash and frame colors or going slightly darker/lighter. Again, thoughts?
Oh and I did reach out to Heirloom windows for due-diligence but their estimate was way out of our range for a new build, although I don’t doubt the quality (even though their windows lacked some features we were wanting).
Ken Roginski says
wow this is confusing and I am not able to spend a half hour explaining this. It sounds like you are really making a mess of your house with different color siding and different color windows. It will surely look like a clown house.
I wish I could post photos as I think these would be very helpful here…Again, the siding type is different on the ground/basement levels and the upper level, with a sill datum around the entire house to clearly define the two; so different paint colors for each actually don’t look out of place. I’ve explained the current dilemma under the “window painting mistakes” article as we’ve selected colors and are trying to determine the best placement for them.
Josh Bertram says
Fantastic info. Really helpful and informative. Thank you!
matthew tevelde says
Great website, very helpful as we navigate the new 1880’s colonial that we purchased last week.
One question I have is regarding the 12 over 12 windows. These do not have locks on them currently. What is your recommendation on where these should be added, offset in the middle or two locks to the right and left?
Ken Roginski says
Middle is historic.
Thank you so much!
I was researching Queen Anne Victorian windows for a dollhouse build and now am armed with some awesome ideas that are true to period. Looking forward to making the house a bit more accurate.
What color should mullions be on a dark Victorian painted lady such as the Bair-Stokes house? I’m thinking dark such as the rest of the house. But would really appreciate your opinion.
Ken Roginski says
Hi – you mean muntins – not mullions. The sash should definitely be a dark color that is noticeably different from the trim. Here is the info you need. https://www.oldhouseguy.com/painting-windows/
heather gilmour says
This is the holy grail of info if you are replacing windows.
I have googled for days.
Do you give advice for a price?
I could use some that is specific to my home / project.
Ken Roginski says
Hi – send me a photo and I will take a look.
I signed a contract with a window company that installs Marvin windows. They will be coming to measure within a few days. Reading through your comments, I’m concerned I’m making the wrong design choices for my house. Can I send pics and get your recommendations?
Ken Roginski says
Why are you replacing your original windows?
Ken Roginski says
Sorry I really can’t picture it. You can email me a photo.
I have a question about my double hung windows. I cannot seem to find a description of what I have in my old 1910 house. The bottom sash meeting rail slips up behind a fixed panel on the double hung. That means that the height of the upper meeting rail on the bottom sash is about 6″. I had to remove the sash which is much more difficult than removing a typical double hung sash because the fixed panel and three stops had to be removed to get the bottom sash out. The bottom sash weighs about 40-50 lbs. Any idea what this variation of a double hung is called? I try to describe it to people on the phone and they don’t seem to understand what I’m talking about. Thanks.
Ken Roginski says
Sorry but I really don’t know. If you are having any work done it would be best to be able to email a photo of the full window – probably interior and exterior shots. It’s difficult to explain some things I know.
Vanessa F says
Hello – Your website is very informative. Do you have any recommendations for window replacement vs. restoring original 1970s wood windows with 3-track storms in a large colonial home outside of Chicago? The uppers have always been double hung and the lowers have always been casement. I can’t find anyone trustworthy who wants to work on my windows, which require reglazing and painting. However I wish I could replace the aluminum jamb liners and find a better solution for the storms.
I received an estimate for Marvin wood-clad windows at $25,000 for 8 openings, or 12 window units. Also, is there a preference for double hung vs. casements? Most homes in my area have double-hung, while I prefer casements because they have a tighter seal. I personally prefer european-style inswing windows, but these are 40% more than then double hung. Thanks
Ken Roginski says
Wood from the 1990’s is not nearly as strong as heart-grown wood of older windows. However although your newer windows are not the greatest replacing them in kind as you know is very expensive and when you already have the windows, a needless expense. If you maintain them they will last a long time. If you need glazing that is a very easy job that you can do yourself. You do not need a professional window restorer but a local glass store can come to your house and do it. Just last week I found some glazing that was failing and when removing it I broke the glass. I paid $70 for new glass and glazing. More info in my window repair pages. Also triple track storm windows are ugly. New double track with low-e glass are high tech storms. Again this info is on my website.
As for double hung vs casements, casements have a blank stare look which is not appealing. Combining both styles sounds very unappealing. I recommend double-hung.
i’m very glad i clicked on this page. i don’t quite get the window snobbery but this was extremely entertaining to read.
Ken Roginski says
Hi – the information should be educational not entertaining. Unfortunately so many people are badly brainwashed by bad design they don’t have the ability to comprehend the good versus the bad. I think if you keep reading my site and look at the before and after photos especially in the portfolio you should be able to recognize the good from the bad.
Herman Dick says
We purchased a structural red brick rural Ohio Italianate Farm house that predates 1874. Original windows were 6 over 6 according to an 1874 etching. Simple limestone headers and sills (no arches). 30 years ago the windows were replaced with vinyl replacements (9 over 9). They look bad. What’s interesting is we have seen similar examples with 6 over 6, 2 over 2 or one over one configurations. We are looking at Marvin Wood windows (aluminum clad on outside). Even though the simulated divided Marvin’s aren’t bad looking (we don’t have the budget for true divided), we are thinking about the simplicity of one over one windows with interior wood blinds with tapes. Appreciate your thoughts.
Ken Roginski says
Hi – I’m a bit surprised that your house had 6/6 windows but then in a rural area that could be. Most windows during this time were 2/2. Since you have documentation the windows were 6/6 I would definitely do this configuration. If you did not have the documentation that I would say 2/2. 1/1 windows were not used until the 1890s and in a rural area possibly later since they were a bit more costly. SDL is fine. Shades however were most popular. Look into Heirloom Windows.
Richard G Lyons says
I have maintained and restored most of the windows in my circa 1900 Victorian here in Newton Massachusetts. After 26 years living here I finally made the decision to remove all of the (? 1965 or 1974) aluminum siding. This has left me with wonderful shingles of which I only needed to replace about 15% on this very large home. My current concern is the three third floor triple windows that I would like to accent. I am looking at accenting above the two small and the middle curved top window and I’m looking for ideas. I believe a picture is worth 1000 words if you would allow me to send it. I guess you could also google earth my house (472 Crafts Street Newton) but it would show the house with the aluminum siding.
Could I send you a picture for your review.
I am fearful of screwing this up.
Ken Roginski says
Please send it to me using the contact us form and I will let you know. My SEO person does not allow photos posted here unfortunately due to spam issues.
Should Jamb casing on windows match the size of corner trim?
Ken Roginski says
The casing should be about 4.25″ wide. The jamb does not depend on that however new windows are now being installed flush with the face of the casing which looks awful.
I purchased a tiny 1946 house, that probably had no character to begin with, but the windows it has now are bad and need replacement, so any chance you could recommend what window style Should be on this humble house? It is one storey and very plain.
Ken Roginski says
If the windows you have are original then just copy that style. I would still look into repairing them otherwise you will be replacing windows every 15 or so years. A 1940’s house probably had 1/1 windows but that really depends. Feel free to send a photo to the contact us and I can let you know.
Thanks for all of this great information! My question: do you think the thickness of the SDL muntins will make a huge difference. Trying to decide between 5/8” and 7/8”. Traditional looking home -1986- cape coddish? 2 bay windows on first floor,3 dormers on second floor.
Ken Roginski says
Yes they really do but not sure which size is best – probably the larger. Here is a link https://www.oldhouseguy.com/window-sash/ This is really the only info I have to go by.
Martha Harbin says
We live in a 100-year-old house alongside a busy road in Florida. The glass in our original wood windows is very brittle and a lot of heat and noise seems to radiate through. After reading this entire page should I understand that we are wrong in thinking that replacing our windows would give us more insulation from heat and road noise and more resistance against hurricane-force winds? Should we instead be looking at replacing the glass within the existing windows? The previous owners bolted on fixed pane panels over the outside of the windows – ugly, cheap and no way to let fresh air in – but we’ve left them for now thinking we’re getting some insulating qualities while we figure out next move. Thank you for taking time to consider this question.
Ken Roginski says
All you need is a good storm window. As Quanta Panel states – You don’t need new windows – your windows need new technology. Storm windows are now available with Low-e glass. This storm combined with your historic window will give you all the insulation you can get unless you board up the window.
I absolutely loved this article. A couple years back, I had a company come out & give me an estimate on replacement windows for my 1950’s Ranch-style home. The price was -quite good- I did some homework after they left. The windows that they would replace my wood windows with were vinyl & I didn’t care for that nor the way they looked. I still haven’t replaced my windows yet, and after reading this article, I think I’m going to just repair what needs repairing. I used a zipper tool and was able to get them all to open and shut, and I love house some of the glass panes are wavy/rippled, new windows don’t impress me. Not for my house, anyway. Thank you for the education!!