Selecting or replacing your house windows

There's a reason many homes for sale list "new windows" as a feature: it can be a daunting task to replace your windows. However, changing your windows can also dramatically change the appearance of your home and usually increases its value.

When you are shopping for windows, your first consideration should be shape and fit.

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Hanging-style windows slide up and down in the window frame, while sliding windows move back and forth. These are ideal for homes without air conditioning because they open wide and can let in a significant breeze. Many new window styles tilt in rather than slide. These will fit in most traditional window spaces and are much easier to clean, but they don't allow as much of a breeze and may limit the use you can make of your windowsill.

Basement windows are often called awnings or hoppers because they open horizontally with the latch either at the top or at the bottom of the window. These are perfect for spots where you can fit only a small window.

If you are renovating your bathroom and are in search of a new window, consider vinyl windows or fiberglass windows instead of the traditional wood window. These are easy to install and won't rot or warp like wood can, making them ideal for moist spaces like the bathroom. They are also more energy efficient.

Fiberglass windows are more lightweight than aluminum windows or wood windows, but they may not stand up to harsh weather as well. Consult an expert on what works best in your area.

Common Kinds of Windows:

Storm Windows

Storm windows offer extra protection to common windows in areas that experience heavy rain, wind or snow. Storm windows can be installed either on the outside of the main window or against the inside. A storm window can also improve a window's energy efficiency in cold climates, therefore keeping your house warmer (and your heating bills lower). Some storm windows can be simple sheets of plastic, merely adding extra insulation to your regular window, while others are full sheets of glass mounted to the outside of your house – just like having a double set of windows. You should install storm windows before the weather gets too cold, wet or rainy because you don't want to trap moisture between the two sets of windows.

Bay Windows

Bay windows provide an expansive view and lots of light, not to mention the perfect place for a window seat! A bay window is a classic spot: In movies, characters often sit on the bench of their bay windows looking dreamily out through the rain or sunshine, depending on the tone of the movie. In real life, bay windows are ideal book nooks. Bay windows protrude from the wall of your home and have three sides, often with one wider panel in the middle and two slightly narrower panels on each side. These are the panels that touch the house. Bay windows do not generally open, so the window is ideal for great views, but is not usually great for ventilation.

Replacement Windows

With today's rising energy costs and increased focus on efficiency, replacement windows are becoming ever more popular. Window replacement doesn't have to be a daunting task. Window replacements can be made to fit the same spots as your old windows, but may be composed of different materials. Vinyl replacement windows are more energy efficient than those with wood or aluminum frames. Most professional window installers will be able to cut and fit your vinyl replacement window into the same spot your old window once resided. The only difference will be that your replacement window will save you money on your energy bill!

Garden Windows

If you can't get enough gardening in during the summer months or just want to keep some potted plants healthy all year through, a garden window will help you do the trick.

Garden windows sit on a sill just out from your house so plants have more access to light. Garden windows are like window flower boxes with protection from the outdoors, so you won't lose your plants when the weather takes a turn for the worse. They are square boxes made of glass with a slanted top pane so water can run off the top. Some also look more like mini bay windows for plants.

Choosing Windows

Many homeowners doing window renovations want to add a bay window. These can create cozy nooks ideal for living rooms and let in a significant amount of daylight. Bay windows look great in many styles of homes because they are versatile and timeless. If a bay window is out of your price range or won't fit in the particular space you are looking at, a picture window is the next best option for a new home window. It lets in just as much light, but sits flush with the wall instead of sticking out.

If you have a Victorian style home, you might want to consider special shapes for your new window. Besides square windows, look at windows that are rounded at the top. You may also consider stained glass windows, which add color and interest to older homes.

For more modern homes, a skylight might be an alternative (or addition) to traditional glass windows. Skylights add daylight and flair, and they can be easily installed by a professional in a room where the ceiling is against the roof (if you have an attic, sorry – it won't work!).