How to Choose Windows for Your Renovation

living room windows

Window selection is one of the most important decisions in a renovation. While all choices matter, windows have a huge impact on both the interior and exterior appearance of the entire house. They are also a big ticket item so you don’t want to make a mistake!

How do you choose the best windows for your renovation? Start by considering four things:

  1. Price: Almost every manufacturer has now developed a line of windows to meet a wide range of price points. Compare prices and warranties to begin to narrow down choices.
  2. Style: When you see a construction job that has windows you like, ask for the name of the manufacturer (You may also be able to get the name from the big stickers that stay on the windows until the job is done. Smart marketing on the window manufacturers part!). There are lots and lots of  style choices that will need to be made. Double hung or casement windows? Grids or not? And what grid configuration? Color of hardware? Color of stylized exterior clad?
  3. Material: What material do you want on the exterior? Metal clad? Vinyl clad? Wood? And what about the inside? If you are going with wood on the interior, do you want it unfinished, primed or pre-painted/stained?
  4. Regulations: What are the egress and building code requirements that will affect your window decisions?


Window selection can be overwhelming. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

lake house windows1. Go big! Factor in the scale of the house, but every home can benefit from additional light and improved sight lines!

2. Be careful where you locate awning or casement windows. Both of these window styles swing out, so you want to avoid placing them close to walkways or on a deck when they will be in a traffic lane. If you have the space, I love awning windows because you can leave them open without worrying that rain will come in if it starts to sprinkle on a summer day. The water hits the window instead of the frame and is less likely to come into the house.

3. Go for quality if you must have grids instead of true divided lights. I know that grids set between the two pieces of glass make it much easier to wash windows. Just remember that there is an aesthetic trade-off. When light is on these windows, you see a single smooth pane of glass, rather than separate panes as in divided lights. If your windows have applied grids — meaning that they are attached to the outside of the glass — check the look of the filler spaces between the grids. If there are not spacers, it can look strange as you see light and space between the inside and exterior grids.

4. Match the windows to the style of your home. Make sure you are staying true to the house and not just following the trend of the moment. Remember half-round windows added above windows in spaces with cathedral ceilings? They started as a good detail, but then were overdone (and often used in the wrong application on the wrong house!). In the wrong setting, you can now point and say “hhhmmm…. 1980’s…”

Of course, budget is going to have a big impact on your choices. Often something has to give, but I try to encourage my clients to go with the right windows for the house, even if it means that we scrimp on something else. Windows are not a selection to “re-do later” and they can make or break the look of the home.  Try to go with the right windows from the start!

cottage windows

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