Casement Vs. Double-Hung Windows: Which One is Right for Your Space?

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Architects will tell you that the type, appearance, and quality of windows in a home is an important element in any design. Why? Try to imagine a wonderful house in a beautiful setting… without any windows. You can see then, how the windows and doors have so much influence on a building’s overall character and personality. Whether designing or renovating a cottage, a courthouse or a castle, choosing window types is one of the most important design decisions you will make.

Revival Sash understands this, which is why they’ve been committed for generations to creating quite simply the most beautiful and the most functional windows and doors available today. In the design of custom windows, the possibilities are almost limitless and might seem overwhelming at first. But the basics are simple, and once understood, the opportunities for combining creativity and practicality is one of the most exciting aspects of design.

There are really only two basic families of windows; double-hung and casement. Stylistically, it’s generally the case that buildings designed in a traditional manner use double-hung windows, while modern or contemporary buildings prefer some variation of the casement family for their typically larger openings.

Here are the main differences between these two common types of windows.

Double-Hung | Casement

The double hung window dates from the 18th Century, in both England and the early American colonies. It has two separate parts (sashes) – a top and a bottom – that overlap in the middle and each part moves separately either up or down inside a frame. Originally, and for many years, the mechanism controlling this movement was an iron counterweight and pulley system with rope or chains inside the side trim, balancing the weight of each sash. Some of today’s double hung windows now use simple spring balances that support the sashes with friction against the frames.

Casement windows are the earliest known operable windows (originally made of stone) and function like a small door, hinged on one side and swinging completely open either to the outside, or the inside of a room. Common variations are the “awning” – hinged at the top and opening up from the bottom – and it’s opposite the “hopper”, hinged at the bottom and opening from the top. Hoppers made of thin steel are often seen comprising entire walls of older industrial buildings.

Appearance | Style

The double hung window is by far the most common type in the US, partly because it has a more traditional look matching the dominant style of US homes. Very often a double hung window has divided lights, meaning the window is divided into smaller panes by thin pieces of wood. Originally this was necessary due to the size limitations of glass, but today it’s often preferred simply for aesthetic reasons. This family of windows has a classic appeal, and suits just about every “historic” style from Victorian and Colonial to Craftsman and Shingle Style.

Casement windows – dominant in European buildings – are found both in modern styles like Mid-Century and Ranch, and certain traditional designs such as Tudor and Arts and Crafts. They are a favorite for Modern and Contemporary buildings, because their glass panes can be large and uninterrupted. Steel casements were very popular during the early 20th Century everywhere and are now considered the premier window type, manufactured only by a few exclusive companies like Portella, who partner closely with Revival Sash.

Appearance | View

Double hung windows require a “meeting bar” in the middle where the upper and lower sash horizontals overlap. Depending on the size and location of the window, this can end up at your eye level, either sitting or standing, negatively affecting the view. The “muntins” or thin wooden strips that – if used – divide the glass into smaller panes can also interrupt the view, though some prefer the multiple views and small scale they provide.

Casement windows rarely have muntins or divisions within the glass, although with Revival custom wood or Portella steel windows,  muntins can be added wherever a designer feels they would be a good fit. Casements are preferred by modern architects as they fully open the building to views and the outdoors, with little to no visual interruption.

Air | Ventilation

Double hung windows are both more restrictive and yet more versatile than casements in their ventilation options. Since the top and the bottom sash move independently, outside air can enter from just the top, just the bottom, or a little of both.  However, since the two pieces are fixed within the frame, only half of the total window area can open, no matter what the configuration.

With Casement windows on the other hand, the entire window area opens up to the outside, providing twice the ventilation area of a double hung window. Depending upon prevailing wind directions, casements (if opening out) can also be angled on warm days to pull breezes directly into the room.

Use | Opening

Operating double hung windows requires little more than pushing up or pulling down on them.  The spring loaded system needs little pressure, but if you can’t stand directly in front of them, as with a kitchen or laundry counter, they can be awkward to use. They are, however, an excellent choice for areas near outdoor decks, porches, or walkways since they remain flush with the wall when open. And if you’re adding window air conditioners in summer, double hungs easily accommodate anything that fits in the frame.

Since casement windows in the US usually open out, they’re a problem in those deck or walkway locations, but perfect in the kitchen counter areas. Casements open either with a crank, with simple lever handles that lock the window closed, or with “espagnolette” bars similar to French door hardware. With the lever systems, a kind of friction hinge keeps the window open in windy conditions. Keep in mind that window air conditioners don’t work well with casements – the units are both more expensive and more complex to install.

Energy | Glass

Both types of windows have excellent insulating and air sealing qualities, especially from exceptional custom companies like Revival and Portella. However as a rule, casements always perform slightly better because the sash closes tightly against the frame. With double hungs, the two sliding sash close against one another (in the middle), which is never quite as tight as closing against the frame.

Both Revival Sash and Portella use a variety of insulating glass options that vary with the choices of the designer and the building’s climate. They also incorporate Dynamic Glass, an innovative self-tinting technology that eliminates the need for window coverings for sun control. 

In the end, one of the very best ways to choose between these two window types is with a visit to the showroom of a custom window provider like Revival Sash. There, you can physically feel the windows, their mechanisms, materials and appearance. With either type, a first class custom window will not only provide the functions of daylight, fresh air, and security but will make any building a constant source of comfort and delight.

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