Deciding on a window for your home is about balancing aesthetics and function. Selecting a shape, position and material for your window is almost limitless. In most cases, it is a balance between functional and aesthetic requirements. For example, large expanses of glass will open a room to the outside, but this may compromise privacy and allow excessive heat gain or heat loss.
Too small a window may not offer the desired amount of natural light, limit the potential for any heat gain and prevent you from enjoying the external view. A general rule of thumb is to allow more glazing to the north and less on the south side of your house. But of course, not all sites are orientated the same, and the requirements for solar gain and views can be in completely different directions. For example, a habitable space must have a window view to the outside, of which at least 50% is clear viewing. With energy efficiency awareness greater than ever, double glazing is becoming a popular choice for most windows in the home. Generally, the size limitation of a window is determined by the limits of glazing rather than the frame construction material so decide what kind of glazing you want first.
Types Of Windows
The Bay or Box window projects from the external wall. They are ideal for adding space to a room or above a kitchen bench. Their protrusion enables them to capture extra light and warmth. In this design by Dan O'Connor, the Bay window allows for extra storage and a window seat to be created.
With two glass panes moving up or down within the frame, this style allows venting from top or bottom and is common in older homes, as seen below. Also known as a sash window.
This style is commonly found in newer homes. This style is hinged on the side and swings out like a door. A casement window can be single or multi-pane.
FAQs About The List Of Common Window Materials for Your Home
When choosing window and door systems for homes, appearance, performance, and function are high on the list of requirements. In addition, factors to consider will include the visual appeal, energy efficiency, operation, ventilation and light transmission. Your choice may also come down to current trends, a material used in framing, type of glass, position and size. There are plenty of things to think about. Here we will go into depth about your choices for a new house or renovation.
Work out what is important for you.
- Appearance – Is the style or look the most important factor?
- Thermal properties – Are you worried about heating and cooling costs?
- Climate – Will your climate influence your decision?
- Maintenance – Do you want a low maintenance solution?
Many factors will determine your selection. We will cover some of the many options in today's market and make things a little clearer.
Firstly, timber windows have better thermal properties, so you're likely to choose timber if that's your main concern. Some people prefer the look of timber because it's a natural product, which can be integrated into your home to blend into the surrounding natural environment. Most timber frames will be painted or stained. Either way, you'll need to keep the maintenance up to ensure longevity. Wood rot and attack from insects such as termites are also something to consider with timber.
- Better thermal properties
- Natural visual appeal
- Classic design
- Higher maintenance (Painted or stained)
- Subject to wood rot and attack from termites
Aluminium is a relatively low maintenance product compared to timber. Available in either powder coated or anodised finish, they are less susceptible to wear over time. Although the finish on aluminium can fade, the product is more of a set and forget solution. It is rust-resistant and is more fire-resistant, which is a feature that is becoming requested more frequently in recent times.
If a commercial or minimalist look is desired, aluminium will suit this style.
- Low maintenance
- Durable product
- Not subject to attack from termites
- Ideal for the more commercial look
- Difficult to change colour after installation
- Powder coating can fade over time
- Can corrode in tough environments (e.g. Coastal)
Steel frames have similar characteristics as aluminium. The main advantage of steel over aluminium is the relative strength, which allows for thinner frames. That's about the extent of it, though. Corrosion has always been the enemy of steel frames. Rust is difficult to repair in windows and doors and, when left unattended, can result in glass breakage. If you like the look of steel frames, go for it, but aluminium wins in most other areas. Expect to pay more for steel.
- Available in slimline design due to extra strength of steel
Paint means maintenance in saying that there is a warmth that a painted surface makes a homeless clinical. Repainting windows and doors can be a headache and can be costly. As with every decision, there are tradeoffs. Maintenance is a big one for timber frames.
Stained timber windows and doors are like painted. The main difference is that poorly maintained stained frames look terrible. In many cases, timber absorbs stains to leave timber looking dry and unkempt. If you want the timber look, you'll have to pay with time or money, saying that any other product cannot match the natural timber look.
Powder Coated Aluminium
This finish is most popular with aluminium frames. It's resistant to scratches and requires little maintenance once you decide on a colour that is it. Painting existing powder-coated frames never look the same. Powder-coated frames are very popular in all types of properties.
Commonly found on aluminium frames, anodised frames are found in many commercial applications. However, clear anodised, which looks silver in colour, is probably the most popular with commercial-style homes.
Open plan living has been around for a while now, and it's not going away any time soon. Blending the kitchen into the lounge, dining area, and backyard is the way to go if your property is suitable in saying that traditional framing systems still have a place in more conservative designs.
Current Trends In Windows And Doors.
- Colour trends
- ECO-friendly products
- Larger glass areas
- Opening systems (Bifold v Sliding)
- Try to stick with neutral colours as changing the track can be difficult. Painting timber windows can be expensive while changing the colour of aluminium windows never really looks the same. If the colours of the home change in the future, you don't want to change aluminium windows and doors if possible. Black is a popular option, which works well with any colour, and it is easier to keep looking clean. White or off whites are timeless but will show dust and dirt. Steer away from unusual colours that will date quickly.
- Glass Size
- Large panels of glass almost always provide a feeling of elegance and space. Small glass panels require more framing, which takes away from the home's feeling of space and openness. There are limits, so choosing glass sizes that stay within the normal requirements of domestic glazing is a good idea. 6.38mm Laminated Glass is available in many forms. Clear, tinted, frosted, and various energy-efficient variations are all available. In most applications, three square metres is the maximum panel size for this type of glass. That could be 3000mm x 1000mm, 2000mm x 1500mm or any other height or width if it stays under the maximum area.
More On The Glass Types
Let's think about what you need rather than what you will be encouraged to buy.
Heating And Cooling
In most locations throughout Australia, air conditioning is a preferable inclusion for most homes. However, regardless of the type of glass you choose, heating and cooling will be required in the peak of winter and summer. The main difference with energy-efficient glass is the length of time you will run your air conditioning. It does a great job of preventing heat from entering or leaving home, but it's not essential.
Avoiding High-Performance Glass
Truth be known, products such as double-glazed units and energy-efficient glass can be avoided. Shading can play a huge role in reducing your glass requirements when designing your home. Clear glass has little resistance to direct exposure to the sun; therefore, shade is very important. Positioning windows and doors in the right location will avoid extreme heat, the biggest problem for Australian homes. Alpine regions are the main exception when battling extreme conditions.
Besides the look and thermal performance of glass, safety and security are important. Laminated glass offers both and is available in most energy-efficient variations. The laminated interlayer also eliminates 99% of ultraviolet radiation.
Manually rotated to open or close, this window can be opened by degrees to control how much air or light is allowed to pass through. They cannot be shut airtight, but they are typically used in smaller spaces as drafts and security issues arise. They were seen in this house by Landmark Homes.
Available in single, double and multi-opening panels, sliding windows are often the safest option for decks and walkways. Featuring aluminium frames, this window design is by Aluminum Systems who offer numerous window styles for every home.
This style is the ultimate in indoor-outdoor living as it merges one area with another, as seen in the outdoor room design by Darryl Church on the previous page. Or, as in this instance by Baywood Homes, the windows can be pushed back, opening up the entire window frame area.
The most common frame choices are Aluminum, Timber, PVC, Steel and Composites, so there is window material choice no matter what the style of your home.
Perfect for adding extra natural light to the room, there are many variations on this window style to suit different roof pitches, elevations and needs. Some may open Ð operated by a long rod or electrically, while others may be simply for extra light. As seen here by VELUX. Several skylight windows in open plan kitchen, dining and living area with glass doors leading to deck, by Velux
Also known as the fixed window, this is the simplest and most versatile element of window decor as it lets in the light but not the elements.
Most commonly, this is seen with round-top windows, which can stand alone or be used as a crowning accessory to other windows, seen in this design built by Cavalier Homes. As this style will be custom made, the price can be a deciding factor. In addition, Cavalier homes square geometric windows in the dining room, with views of vineyard countryside and mountains. Finally, most window styles can be used in combinations to create a wall of glass that opens up to an outdoor space or as an internal wall separating two living areas; your imagination and budget limit you.
Designed to provide natural light and a breeze while maintaining privacy, this window is placed high on the wall. Hinged at the top will open at a horizontal angle—house design by Creative Arch.
Choosing A Window And Door Company
- The quality of timber, grade of aluminium and standard of fittings are factors when deciding on a supplier of your windows and doors.
- Using tried and tested manufacturers is a sensible thing to do. Many companies source their materials from companies like Capral Aluminium in Australia.
- Locks, wheels, glazing products and even screws all contribute to the reliability of the finished product.
- Try to stick with the companies with a brick-and-mortar showroom where you can touch and feel the finished product firsthand.
- Larger companies may not be the budget guy with one truck working from his backyard, but you can almost guarantee they will be there in 10 years. Going cheap on windows and doors may mean you'll be paying for it later when things start to go wrong.
- Longevity in the trade proves they are doing something right.
- Remember, anyone can have a flashy website so make sure you research. Choose a company that has the runs on the board.
- Today's semi-commercial aluminium frames are hard to beat. They are modern and suit open plan living by utilising either bi-fold or stacker door systems. Choosing a window system can be a bit more difficult. One criticism of double-hung windows is the spiral balances break down over time. An awning or sliding windows would probably be our choice due to their low maintenance features.
- So, if we are aluminium, the finish comes down to powder coated or anodised. Clear anodised is the most popular anodised finish, which has a silver appearance. This has a more commercial or industrial look. If you need a specific colour or just a simple black or white, it must be powder coated.
- Most glass in homes must be Grade A Safety glass. 6.38 mm Laminated is the preferred safety glass. Some windows don't require safety glass, but we would recommend going all the way. It's safe, secure and stronger than thin float glass. When it comes to energy-efficient glass, explore the use of 6.38mm Grey Laminated. It's cheaper and has decent thermal control properties. To glaze an entire home, this product could save thousands of dollars. Combine this with some good shade options, and you have a sound solution for your home.
Make Sure They Fit Your Home's Architecture
Choosing windows that work with your home's aesthetic is your best bet – you might not want walls of glass with sleek aluminium frames in a historic cottage; a more traditional timber-framed six-pane style would work well.
Choose The Right Style For The Right Purpose
If your main purpose for installing a window in a particular space is to take advantage of a sea breeze, choose a style like louvres, which allow just that. If it's for letting in light but happens to overlook the neighbour's bedroom, consider having frosted glass installed. Or look to skylights and roof windows for letting in light in dark corners with no exterior walls such as pantries, ensuites or walk-in-closets.
Consider Environmental Elements
Too much sunlight can be a bad thing with windows, letting in too much heat in summer, creating glare while watching TV or simply affecting your ability to sleep in!
The cold can seep in in winter, and warm air seeps out – the opposite of what you want. According to Your Energy Savings, heat gain through an unshaded window in summer can be 100 times greater than through the same area of insulated wall. Think of ways your windows can make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient – if you're installing new ones, look for double glazing to insulate against sound and temperature or look at erecting a window awning or applying a window film.
A window in an unexpected place (such as a shower) or unusual shape - a porthole in a staircase – instantly generates an architectural focal point in space.
Make It A Focal Point
A window doesn't always have to be functional – sometimes, a fixed panel in an unusual shape or pinpointed location becomes a work of art by framing a great view or adding a much-needed architectural element. For example, a bay or dormer window can slightly increase your home's floor space and create a great spot to read or for extra storage.
Ensure They Meet The Standards
All windows and doors are required to meet mandatory BCA specifications for structural sufficiency, water penetration and energy efficiency. However, your choice of frame and glass may be limited in some areas – such as high-wind or bushfire zones. If the wrong materials are used, they won't be signed off and may need to be replaced or adapted. Speak to the window supplier to ensure you're meeting the right requirements set out in the energy report.
Choosing frames will be heavily influenced by the design and appearance. Maintenance could sway your decision on framing materials, and glass selection will depend on how important thermal properties are to your home.