Window Opening Styles & Configurations: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

Whether you're renovating or self-building, window styles and configurations will make a huge difference to the character, feel and function of your project - take a look through the top choices to find the best option for your home
Articles by Build It magazine
by Build It magazine
15th September 2022

Window styles and configurations can make a significant impact on your home’s character, whether it be a period property or new build.

Many homeowners are pretty well attuned to when the style, proportion and pattern of glazing looks just right for a building – as well as when something’s off. So, it’s little wonder so much time and energy is spent on this integral design feature.

From heritage looks to the more contemporary, the vast window style options available each offer different aesthetic and performance characteristics to accommodate your lifestyle.

Window Style Basics

Period houses and heritage-style new builds tend to have well-defined rules when it comes to glazing and use either sliding sash or casement windows.

If and older building’s original windows are missing or repair isn’t possible, you can take your design cue from nearby homes and the architecture of the era. This will likely go down well with planners and conservation officers – but could still give you some options in terms of window opening configurations.

Modern architecture, on the other hand tends to favour big, unbroken panes – think windows with maximum glass and minimum frame, for example. Some of this glazing might be opening sashes, some fixed panes. This kind of window configuration can bring maximum light and a spacious feeling to your home, but there are considerations to bear in mind.

For example, how will the window arrangement look from the street or the back garden? Do you need very energy efficient windows to ensure good comfort levels; or could their be an overheating risk in summer? What about overlooking from neighbours? And on a practical note, how easy will it be to keep higher-up windows clean?

Here, we take a look through the four most popular window opening styles, so you can decide which will best suit your project – or if you want to mix and match for ultimate functionality.

Sliding Sash Windows

These classic windows are synonymous with Georgian and Victorian architecture. Their slim, elegant sightlines underpin the character of many period properties and heritage-inspired new homes, offering a simple and elegant aesthetic.

With this configuration, one or both sashes move vertically in front of the other to provide ventilation. So sash windows don’t swing outwards or into the room like other window types. Traditional sash mechanisms are based on weights and pulleys, but concealed sprung-balanced designs are now also available.

Although sash windows are versatile and brings good ventilation, it’s important to select the best configuration for your property’s style. Think about whether you need sashes made up of six-over-six panes, for example, or would two single panes better suit the architecture?

Westbury Windows & Doors's timber sliding sashes in a cosy bay arrangement
Sliding sash windows can move up or down in front of each other to maximise ventilation

If you’re thinking about replacing historic windows, check first whether it would be better to repair and upgrade what’s already there. This can be cost-effective and a low-impact way of achieving high-performing sashes that preserve your home’s authenticity.

Factory-made and pre-finished timber or metal sash windows offer slim sightlines in a range of styles, and are great options for those building a new home inspired by historic designs.

A number of manufacturers now also offer high-quality PVCu glazing with authentic-looking profiles. Alongside this, new modern seals and insulating techniques mean contemporary sliding sash windows deliver excellent performance to comparison to other types of rival design.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Windows

Casement Windows

Casement windows are affordable and versatile, and are available in options that will suit both traditional cottages and ultra-modern self builds.

Flush casement windows are a UK favourite. They give a clean look, as the opening sash is designed to sit flush with the frame surround when closed. Do bear in mind, however, that if you’re pairing casements with fixed glazing, the framework for opening windows will usually be thicker.

In comparison, rebated designs – or stormproof windows – are designed to sit slightly proud and lip around the frame surround. This provides added weather protection, but doesn’t look as sleek.

Jeld-Wen’s Stormsure Express timber casement window, including trickle vents
Casement windows are usually side-hung. Opening top-hung windows are sometimes included for secure ventilation.

When recreating the look of heritage leaded light windows, most manufacturers will now use a single double-glazed pane with stuck-on glazing bars in order to optimise thermal performance whilst retaining that classic design.

Because of their high demand, you’ll have your pick of materials from PVCu to alu-clad timber frames – in addition to some non-standard options, such as hardwood, steel and bronze.

Top-Hung Windows

This style of window is hinged from above with the handle featured at the bottom of the unit. They can work particularly well in places requiring high-level glazing or where you might need to reach across a space to access the opening, like a kitchen worktop, for example.

They also look identical to other types of casement window from the exterior – so you won’t face any restrictions in terms of architectural style.

Origin OW-80 aluminium casement with aerogel insulation
Top-hung windows can be easier to access in hard-to-reach locations, such as over kitchen worktops

Top-guided versions are available, too. Here the upper section of the panel slides downwards as the bottom opens outwards, offering a more controlled ventilation system.

The top-guided mechanism is very stable, as the hinge position enables good load balancing, so it’s great for bigger windows.

For easy cleaning, try fully-reversible top-guided designs. These allow you to swivel the window around to access the exterior pane from inside the house.

Top-hung styles are common in rooflights (overhead roof windows), as well as for small top lights above side-hung casements and other hard-to-reach openable panels.

Budgeting your project’s windows? Take a look at our Window Cost Guide

Tilt-and-Turn Windows

This versatile style of window uses a dual-opening configuration. You simply rotate the handle to the correct position to either tilt the window inwards (hinging at the bottom), or operate it as a casement (usually inward-opening).

Tilt-and-turn is a European window design. As it offers two window modes in a single unit, you’ll get two choices of opening style depending on the requirements and the option of easy-access cleaning.

Tilt mode offers secure ventilation, with key-locking systems available to hold the unit in position. As a result, this format is popular for bathrooms where you can get the ventilation you want without needing a full window to be opened.

This installation from Green Building Store combines a high-performance tilt-and-turn window alongside a wide fixed pane
Tilt and turn windows can be opened in two directions - like a conventional side-hung casement, or tilting from the top for ventilation

In turn mode, you all get the benefits of a standard casement – including tonnes of airflow and a fire-safe escape route.

As there’s more going on behind the scenes, tilt-and-turn frame profiles tend to be chunkier and more expensive than other window types. So, consider if you really require both functions and how these may impact your home’s design.

For those looking to combine both function and style, tilt-and-slide windows replicate the look of sliding sash windows – but allow you to tip the panels inwards as well as moving them up and down.

These tilt-and-slide sash windows from Jeld-Wen combine a heritage look with smart function

A variation on the theme, tilt and slide models replicate the look of sliding sash windows, but allow you to tip the panels inwards as well as moving them up and down.

Read More: 5 Steps to Choosing The Right Windows for Your Project

Main image: Aliwood Roof Lanterns

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