Types of Replacement Windows: Which One To Pick?

The world of windows is much bigger than you may think. There are many types of windows as well as different materials and features you can pick from.

How do you know what is worth paying for? Will your window company just try to extort as much money from you as possible?

In this guide, we’ll get you from zero to hero when it comes to understanding what you want from your new window replacement, so you’ll be the one telling your contractor what you want!

If you’re unsure of the lingo and acronyms that are used in the window world, see this complete glossary to understanding windows.

Window Types

window types

Windows come in all different shapes and sizes. Each window type has different aspects to them, such as how they open, their energy efficiency, the amount of air they can circulate, etc.

We’ll be looking at them all. Some will be more common than others. Some of these, you might already have in your home. Others… well, you probably have never seen them before. They’re all options that you can talk to your window contractor about.

Single-Hung Windows

a single-hung window

Let’s start with the simplest kind of window and probably the most common, the single-hung window.

The picture above depicts a vinyl frame single-hung window with low E coating on the outside.

These are extremely common in many parts of the country, especially coastal areas and other areas with more wind than others.

A single-hung window is a vertical sliding window, where you have one fixed window sash and one moving window sash. The fixed sash is typically the top one.

Here is a graphic depicting the difference between a single-hung window and a double-hung window, so you can see the difference.

single hung versus double hung window

The locked sash is airtight and offers a much better air seal than if it was a movable sash.

Single-hung windows only allow airflow from the bottom. Compared to its double-hung sibling, single-hung windows are not as good for air circulation.

They might also be difficult to clean because you can only tilt in the movable sash. The top sash is harder to clean from the outside if your window is on the second story.

In terms of pricing, single-hung windows tend to be on the lower end compared to all of the other window types, with the exception of picture windows. Picture windows don’t have any operable parts, so they are the easiest and cheapest to install.

Single-hung windows are best for the first floor in areas that need some extra ventilation.

Double-Hung Windows

single hung versus double hung window

Next is the double-hung window, which you’ve seen a bit of in the single-hung window section.

Double-hung windows look just like single-hung windows. However, they have two movable sashes that slide vertically up and down rather than just one.

These windows are probably the most popular type of window currently. Big window companies tend to get the best deals with double-hung windows because they will buy these from window manufacturers in bulk.

Double-hung windows are super easy to clean because the upper and lower sash can tilt in and slide. These windows are great options for the upper stories of your home because of this feature.

They also offer great ventilation because you have an air gap in the bottom and top part of your window. Cooler air can come in the bottom part of your window, and then the warmer air can exist your home. This way, you get a nice breeze throughout your room instead of just air coming in.

Double-hung windows are also great for pets and small children. If you only open the top part of your window, you don’t have to worry about your pets jumping out or being overly curious of the outdoors.

If you’re stuck deciding between single-hung versus double-hung windows, this comparison guide will help you pick.

Sliding Windows

Next is the sliding window. Unlike single-hung and double-hung windows, sliding windows slide from left to right instead of up and down.

Of course, you can call single-hung and double-hung windows sliding windows, but your local contractors would be a little confused.

Sliding windows make sense to use when the window opening is bigger lengthwise than it is in height.

sliding window

On the left, you’ll see a sliding window. On the right is a double-hung window. Notice how the opening of the window just makes sense for the type of window placed there.

When we did our full house window replacement, the sliding windows ended up being more affordable than placing two double-hung windows side by side in the large rectangular window openings.

So sliding windows can be useful if you want to save some money. They’re also great in areas where you might have a harder time pushing vertical sliding windows open such as behind the kitchen sink, although a casement window might be a better option.

Sliding windows offer really good airflow too because the opening is usually large.

This article explains all of the differences between sliding versus casement windows, in case you’re on the fence about them.

Casement Windows

casement window double frame

Casement windows are another type of window. They have a very different look from the window types we’ve talked about so far. They’re usually used in climates where it’s rainy or windy. I would also add that they’re better for areas with less bugs and pollen.

Casement windows are different than sliding windows in the way that they open. These windows open by swinging outwards on its hinge, typically on the left or right side.

Instead of using your own force, you open it by turning a hand crank. There are different types of casement windows, including single frame, double frame, and ones where you open by pushing out or swinging in rather than using a crank.

A lot of people like to decide between casement windows and sliding windows. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages overall.

Unlike sliding windows, casement windows give you expansive outdoor views and amazing ventilation because each frame can open up 100%. Sliding windows can only open to 50% of the window opening, at maximum.

Awning Windows

awning window
Image via Canva.com

Awning windows are just like casement windows, except they open up by hinging at the top.

They also open using a crank system too. Awning windows close very tightly against its compression seal, so it offers great energy efficiency when closed.

Similar to casement windows, awning windows are also very secure. They’re both nearly impossible to break in and pry open from the outside. They both have locks on the inside that can only be accessed from the indoors.

Picture Windows

Picture windows, also called fixed windows, are just pieces of glass in your walls that let you see outside.

Unlike other window types, picture windows have no operable pieces. They don’t open.

Picture windows are only used in areas where you don’t need any additional ventilation, but you do need light.

Some reasons you might want a picture window include:

  • If your window is very high up in your home, and you cannot access it to open it anyways,
  • You want uniquely cut shapes.
  • It’s purely decorative.
  • It’s the middle window of a bay window.
  • You want to save money.
  • You have windows that accent your stairway.

Picture windows are much more affordable than other window types because they’re the easiest to install.

Hopper Windows

Hopper windows are commonly used in basements. They hinge at the bottom instead of the top. In terms of operation, they’re very similar to an awning window.

Hopper windows can open by swinging inwards or outwards.

Why are they used in basements? These windows save you a lot of space because they can swing in rather than out. You don’t need to create a large space outside of your basement just so you can let air in.

Bay Windows

Bay windows are an exquisite window type to add to your home. They are so much more than just windows.

bay window area

Bay windows consist of more than just one window. They’re a set of windows that create a “bay” area within your home. This can be used for a variety of different things, such as:

  • Adding a built-in study desk. Bay windows offer a lot of natural light for a work area or a drawing area.
  • Creating a cozy sitting area. You can use this area for reading, journaling, listening to music, or anything relaxing.
  • Creating a space for talking. Set up two comfy chairs next to each other with a small table between to encourage conversion.
  • Adding a built-in shelf. Usually bay windows have built in sills, but if it doesn’t, you can add on. Decorate it with houseplants, books, or other knick knacks.
  • Creating a breakfast nook. The natural light goes perfectly with waking up in the morning and drinking coffee.
  • Making a window-facing sitting area. The openness of your bay windows and natural light make this a perfect way to enjoy the view.
  • Starting an herb garden. If your bay window is above your kitchen sink, this is a great place for plants to get sunlight.

The options are endless with bay windows. Usually, you have 1-2 picture windows that make up the middle portion and then a casement window or a double-hung window on each side that opens up to let in air.

Bay windows are definitely not one of the more affordable options to add, but they end up adding a lot of home value by increasing the square footage of your home as well as the overall aesthetic and functionality.

To learn more about bay windows, read this article on the different bay window types you can pick from.

Bow Windows

Bow windows are similar to bay windows, except there are more individual windows, making it shaped like a “bow” and arrow.

bow window

Bow windows also tend to use just picture windows, so it doesn’t add much airflow. However, it does provide you expansive views of the outside, and creates a “turret” feature on the outside of your home.

Bay windows are interesting. I don’t think they’re very common nowadays, but they can also make your home look quite unique.


Image via Canva.com

A skylight window is a picture window that’s added to the top of your home. It slants at an angle on your roof to provide additional light into your home.

Skylights are common in states where light is needed, such as Washington state where days are mostly gloomy and rainy.

Skylights can also come in operable kinds too, where you can use a remote or a button to open and close them.

Skylights can add so much natural light into your home.

Frame Material

Okay, so we’ve looked at various window types. You might now know which ones you want to add to your home to replace your old windows. However, there are still more choices to make.

The next choice would be what frame material do you want your windows to be made out of. This choice is important because frame materials vary in cost and function as well as energy efficiency, security, and maintenance as well.

Who knew picking out windows would be like taking a test?


wood window
Image via Canva.com

First up is wood. This gives your home a classic look, a wooden cabin style, if you may.

If you have an older home, wood may be your only option since everything else feels out of place.

Good thing for you, wood is very customizable because you can paint or stain it to fit the colors of your home.

However, wood can be quite expensive to use. Real wood is a great insulator and makes your home very energy efficient. Because of their density, they also are great with sound reduction as well.

Wooden frames need a lot more maintenance. If taken care of right, they can last a lifetime though. Much longer than other frame materials such as vinyl or aluminum.

Wood needs to be treated properly. You also have to watch for any rot, twisting, warping, and moisture penetration. You also have to be wary of insects and salt water if you live near the ocean.

Overall, wood is timeless in its appearance. Looks are probably the number one reason why people choose wooden windows.


vinyl window

Vinyl is the most common material for window frames when people want new windows.

It’s the most affordable and also the most available. You can customize it to your liking as well, but it’ll never have the one-of-a-kind look like wood will.

Vinyl windows are super low maintenance. In fact, you don’t need to do anything. They don’t need painting, staining, or refinishing like other types of windows.

It’s also durable and resistant to warping. Vinyl is not as strong as other materials because it is a manufactured product. It’s also good for energy efficiency as well. Vinyl is great at keeping the heat out in the summer time and the heat in during the winter.


Composite windows are not as common as vinyl windows. They have a unique makeup. In terms of pricing, composite windows are the most expensive, depending on the quality of materials you buy.

Composite windows are made up of two different materials. The materials that are combined depend on the window. However, the common ones are wood on the inside and aluminum or vinyl on the outside.

This way, you get the protectiveness of the aluminum frame while also getting the energy efficiency of the wood.

These windows tend to be much higher in price than vinyl windows too. Composite windows can withstand much more extreme weather conditions than vinyl. They are resistant to rotting, cracking, and any kind of warping even in extreme temperatures.

According to Architectural Digest, composite windows cost between $400 and $1300 per window depending on various factors such as the size and feature-set of each window. Vinyl only costs between $150 and $600.


Aluminum frames have the best security out of all of the frames due to its material. However, it’s not as energy efficient. Aluminum is not good at insulation.

Aluminum also requires more maintenance over time as well. You need to clean them regularly. Because they’re made of metal, aluminum frames will expand and contract in very hot and very cold temperatures.

Read more about aluminum versus vinyl window frames to see which one is a better fit for you.


Fiberglass windows are not common or popular.

This material is meant to look like wood, but it’s not as affordable as vinyl, which can also be made to look like wood.

Fiberglass has its own advantages, however. What is fiber glass exactly? It’s a material made of glass fibers. Haha, how original.

The glass fibers are placed together in a way that maximizes the strength of the end product. So it’s glass, but it’s not fragile at all. Fiberglass is more durable than vinyl and wood. Because of this, fiberglass is used for much larger windows.

This material also doesn’t get damaged easily either. Depending on how many layers of fiberglass is used, the durability and strength can change.

Fiberglass also has good energy efficiency. Glass itself is quite energy efficient already, but fiberglass is engineered to withstand extreme cold and hot temperatures. It doesn’t expand or contract with temperature changes. You also don’t need to maintain it at all.

Extra Features to Look For

Now that you know the type of window you want and the frame material, it’s time to look at all of the additional features that you can get too. A lot of this has to do with energy efficiency and the functionality of the window itself.

Low-E Coating

We’ve discussed this in-depth in this complete guide to Low E glass. To summarize, low E glass has various layers of low E coating on it that improves its insulation.

It helps your home maintain its desired temperature better. By adding these thin, transparent layers of coating, your windows get better at reflecting heat rays and UV rays instead of letting it go through your window glass.

There’s a bunch of science and jargon, but to simplify, your windows become better at keeping heat in during the winter and keeping heat out during the summer because of these layers of microscopic coating on your window glass.


Cladding is a method that’s used in the installation of new windows to make your wooden windows more durable.

Wood, by itself, is prone to issues such as swelling in humid weather or warping, rotting, and molding with moisture.

Cladding protects your wood. It’s a vinyl or metal cover that goes over your wooden window. Cladding goes on the outside of your window and protects it from rain, heat, and all of the elements.

Cladding is only on the outside, so you can still enjoy your wooden windows on the inside of your home.

Tilt-In Sashes

Being able to tilt in your window sashes makes it 100 times easier to clean your windows, especially if they’re on the second floor. Rather than hiring professionals to clean your windows, you can now just use Windex and a cloth to clean them once or twice a year.

Most double-hung windows will already come with this feature.


If you live in a big city area with lots of cars and noise, maybe getting soundproof windows will help you improve your quality of life.

Some of the ways that windows can reduce noise is through the number of panes you decide to use. Double-pane will reduce noise better than single pane, and triple-pane will be better than double-pane. Each layer of gas and glass the noise goes through decreases the sound volume.

Another way to reduce sound is to increase the glass thickness. You can also get frames that have better noise reducing qualities. Wood has the best noise reduction, whereas aluminum is not that good at it.

Stormproof or Impact-Resistant Glass

If you live in areas where tornadoes or hurricanes are common, getting impact-resistant windows may benefit you greatly.

These windows are designed to withstand much more extreme weather conditions than normal glass.

Impact-resistant windows protect your home from flying debris.

Storm resistant glass has a layer of polymer in between the standard pieces of glass. If something big hits your home, your windows won’t shatter into big pieces. Instead, it breaks into small tiny pieces but doesn’t fall out of the window.

Here is an example of Pella’s hurricane glass that’s meant specifically to withstand large objects hitting your windows.

Double and Triple Glazing

This one may be real obvious, but the amount of glass panes you want to use will affect your window’s pricing and performance.

Read more on the differences between single, double, and triple pane windows in this complete guide.

The most common you’ll see nowadays is double-pane windows, also known as double-glazed windows.

It has two pieces of glass with argon gas in between to improve its insulation and sound reduction properties.

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