Without a doubt one of the biggest purchases in a self-build, extension or renovation, deciding on window styles can make or break your house design.

Our facades are often more window than wall these days, so it is highly important to take into account the thermal performance and energy efficiency, not just how much natural light it will bring to the table.

Be it a complete self build or renovation, or an extension and remodel, the style of window you choose makes a huge impact on the overall appearance of the building and can influence how you interact with different rooms.

Choosing the Right Window Style for Your Home

The positioning of windows will be informed and influences by room layouts and the shape of the house itself but the shape and type of the windows themselves should be taken into serious consideration when deciding on the exterior and interior finishes.

For instance, a contemporary, single-storey house is improved by similarly narrow, vertical windows (as below) but old cottages look odd with large glazed openings forced into thick stone walls.

vertical contemporary windows

The narrow vertical casement windows from Everest in this home are ideal for a contemporary look

The golden ratio – as developed in classical architecture – is still used today as a general rule of thumb. The ratio proportions are 1:1:618 meaning a vertical sash window at 800mm wide should be 1,300mm tall.

Window Styles for Traditional Homes

If you’re building in period style or renovating an older home, choosing appropriate materials and styles is a must — in most cases this will mean timber casements. Modern window companies can replicate older styles where possible but unfortunately you cannot effectively replicate wood grain with PVCu, although there are a few manufacturers might try.

Small casement windows are associated with cottages and there are some stunning offerings out there, but a trickier style to replicate with double glazing is a Georgian and early Victorian era multi-pan sliding sash as achieving glazing bars which are as elegant with modern methods is tough.

traditional cottage with glazed gable

This cottage self build showcases how timber windows can complete a traditional style 

Window Styles for Contemporary Homes

As glazing became progressively cheaper and easier to work with over the centuries, the size of our windows grew. By the time of the advent of modernism in the early 20th century, simplicity became the watchword: minimising not just the amount of framing but also the frame width itself.

You could consider the more modern the house or build-style, the bigger and cleaner the glazing should be. Timber will soften a rendered exterior of a modern home, while aluminium windows are perfect for minimalist styles.

What are the Different Types of Window?

Open-out Casements

casement window style in traditional home

JELD-WEN‘s double glazed timber windows in casement style are particularly suitable for homeowners looking to renovate in a conservation area

A traditional British option (historically and in the 20th century), open-out casements are available in a variety of formats. Large casements tend to be the cheapest, but you can choose split casements for cottage-style designs, and small glazed units (‘Georgian style’). Costs tend to be lower as they are usually made in modular, standard sizes.

Types of Casement-style Windows

1. Side Hung: The most recognisable casement. It is hinged at the side for easy opening
2. Top Light: A fixed pane divided from a narrow glazed top-hinged casement
3. Sliding Folding: The sash is hinged so that it folds, increasing the area of openable window to an almost clear expanse
4. Top Hung/ Awning: A casement window that is hinged at the top. Perfect for wet climates as it blocks out rain
5. Bottom Hung/ Hopper: A casement window that is hinged at the bottom. most commonly used in basement
6. Centre Hinge/ Pivot: A window that is hinged in the centre to allow for a wider opening, it requires less of a swinging clearance

Tilt and Turn

Continental-style tilt and turn windows open inwards, and look best on modern designs. The ‘tilt’ option provides ventilation with security. They are typically made to order, increasing the cost.

Sash

Sash windows are essential when renovating or replicating Georgian and Victorian housing, still widely used on traditional-style new builds. Sizes are typically not standard but windows need to be in proport­ion to the house, so are often bespoke.

period style sash windows in traditional home exterior

The sliding sash from JELD-WEN allow for a period look with modern energy efficiency

Sponsored by Ventrolla

When it comes to renovating older homes with original features, such as sash windows, it is worth contacting a specialist to see if the windows can be repaired or whether replacement is required. If the windows do need replacing then it is a great opportunity to solve some of the negative effects of older windows, such as draughts and rattles.

Ventrolla sash window repair

If you are looking for a sash window replacement, you will need to choose an option that not only maintains the look and charm of the original window, but that also offers increased energy efficiency and noise control as well as being fully draught proof.

Contact Ventrolla for expert advice on sash window repair or renovation.

What is the Best Material to Choose?

Plastic Windows

PVCu windows long reigned supreme as the dominant material for replacement windows and for good reason. A quick and easy option, plastic windows are low-maintenance and cheap.

Pros:

  • Cheapest overall although costs var with quality
  • Low-maintenance

Cons:

  • Can look cheap
  • Can reduce the value of period homes
  • Not easy to repair
  • Doors can be weak

Costs 

  • £5,000-£15,000 for a one-off house
grey timber frame windows exterior of timber clad house

Sustainable timber windows from Bereco have U values of up to 0.8W/m²K and can be tailored to suit individual designs

Timber Windows

Timber’s main selling point is the feel and authenticity it offers to period-style homes: there is no real replacement for the warmth of traditional timber windows.

Softwood Pros:

  • Nothing can beat the tactility and detailing of a timber framed window
  • Softwood is popular among those on a limited budget as they are the cheapest option if glazed and decorated on site
  • Can be stained, but are usually painted
  • Suites both contemporary and traditional style homes

Softwood Cons:

  • On-site glazing carries a risk of double-glazing failure (i.e. misted units)
  • Factory glazing lowers the risk but costs more
  • Softwood requires repainting every few years

Best Softwoods to Choose

Douglas fir is a very stable, durable softwood while European Redwood (also known as Scots Pine) is less prone to dimensional change and movement.

timber frame sash windows in study

This sliding sash softwood timber frame is from JELD-WEN

Hardwood Pros:

  • Have a tighter grain than softwoods, making them more stable and durable
  • Can be treated to be further stabilised
  • Most popular on traditional-style homes
  • Usually stained

Hardwood Cons: It’s expensive — anything up to four times the cost of softwood

Costs

  • Softwood: £6,000-£15,000, less if ‘DIYed’ on site
  • Hardwood: Between £8,000 and £20,000

Composite Windows

If you’re struggling with the choice of materials, there is a compromise — the so-called composite systems that mix different framing materials inside and out.

Pros:

  • Best of both worlds as they usually consist of timber windows with a weather-proof capping, such as aluminium strips or plastic
  • Can withstand harsh climates (widely used in such as Canada and Sweden)
  • Great for triple-glazing
  • Complement modern designs
  • Low maintenance but offer the warmth of timber

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Unlikely to be made to standard UK sizes if ordered from the Continent 

Costs

  • Between £10,000 and £25,000 — expect to pay 25% more for triple glazing
modern timber windows in kitchen

Idealcombi‘s Futura+ patio door’s have slim 53mm sightlines and are priced around £450/m².

Metal/Fibreglass/Alloy Windows

(MORE: Aluminium Windows: How to Choose)

Pros:

  • Popular among contemporary-style homes but increasingly popular in period properties (particularly for Belgian doors)
  • GRP (fibreglass) can create a strong load-bearing frame
  • GRB can be supplied in any colour
  • Low maintenance
  • Produce finer frames

Cons:

  • Not as thermally efficient as wood
  • Can be expensive

Costs

  • Between £8,000 and £20,000
flush french windows in modern kitchen

The aluminium French windows in this modern kitchen are from Origin, priced from £400

Choosing the Right Glazing for the Style of Window

On-site double glazing is the cheapest option for DIY self-builders, usually done with softwood frames which are then painted on site. Slow and time consuming, most suppliers are moving away from on-site glazing for new installations.

New methods in factory double glazing mean that many windows can be clipped into templates from inside, thus stream­lining the installation. However, it is more expensive than on-site glazing.

triple glazed windows in brick house

Green Building Store‘s cost-effective Performance triple glazed window and doors have U valued as low as 0.85W/m2K

Low E

Low-emissivity or ‘low-E’ glass (as it is more commonly known) is a type of glazing designed specifically to prevent heat escaping through windows. Low-E double glazing meets Building Regulations in the UK (such as Part L1B in England) for replacement windows and new windows for extensions.

Benefits include:

  • Can reduce heat loss by at least as four or five times compared with single glazing
  • Solar control glass can be specified to educe excessive solar gain in the summer for areas of the home susceptible to overheating

Triple glazing

Once only popular in low-energy homes, triple glazing is rapidly becoming a standard solution for today’s window suppliers. 

Benefits include:

  • Excellent comfort levels as it evens our temperature profiles of rooms
  • Great for noise reduction for homes near busy roads etc.
  • Helps minimise overheating
  • Some suppliers offer special coatings that will allow solar gain when required (i.e. in winter)

However, the issue is really around where to put it, with most experts agreeing that it’s near-essential on north-facing elevations with lots of glazing and to be generally avoided on south-facing elevations.

How to Compare the Costs of Windows

traditional house with period style windows

The four-bar sash windows of this traditional-style Cotswolds self-build was specified to adhere to certain planning requirements

It’s useful to rank window costs on a square metre basis. Suppliers tend to dislike this because you don’t buy windows by the square metre: they are priced individually and generally the larger the actual window, the less it costs per square metre, so reducing a window range down to a square metre price is never going to produce an accurate pricing method. But from a comparison point of view, it’s a very useful tool.

Take the total amount quoted to supply windows and divide by the area of the window openings to derive the square metre rates.

Ordering Windows

large format windows in kitchen

The interior timber cladding of the composite bifold doors (IdealCombi) and vertical window has been matched to the finish of the kitchen units and island

This very much depends on whether you’re opting for off-the-shelf windows or bespoke products, and can also differ from company to company.

A general lead time would be around 12 weeks, however, it goes without saying that bespoke windows will inevitably carry longer lead times. It is best to not order too early on in the project in case amendments to the building design or aperture sizes occur.

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  • Barnaby Dickens

    Two things: 1) If you care about the environment, timber is by far the best solution; and 2) today’s factory-finished engineered softwood windows only need recoating every 8-10 years.

  • Isabel Stone

    This is such a good post for people like me who’ve just moved into new offices! Honestly it’s such a stressful time when you’re trying to sort everything out! My new office base is a really lovely building with beautiful views and big old windows, which is lovely but there are so many problems surrounding it – and one of the biggest ones is literally just all the glare from the sun. Though the office looks really pretty, several of my employees have been complaining that they just can’t see through the glare half the time. We have curtains and things but once we close them – the office looks quite dingy and dark and I think it’s a depressing environment to work in! I really want to sort this out as soon as possible because I really think a nice working environment is crucial in helping office moral! Does anybody have any office hacks for dealing with window glare that they could offer me? I did some research and know that you can purchase a type of ‘anti glare’ sticker type thing to put over windows (this is an example of one of the glare window films things so you know what I’m on about) – but I basically wanted to know what people thought of them? Has anyone else used this type of product before? If so what did people think? Are they good for offices? Or is there another better way to sort out the problem? I’d massively appreciate any help here that anyone could offer me! Thank you!

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