A window is an opening in an otherwise solid and opaque surface that allows the passage of light and, if not closed or sealed, air and sound. Windows are usually glazed or covered in some other transparent or translucent material. Windows are held in place by frames, which prevent them from collapsing in.
The word Window
originates from the Old Norse
‘vindauga’, from ‘vindr – wind’ and ‘auga – eye’. In Norwegian Nynorsk
the Old Norse form has survived to this day (in Icelandic only as a less used synonym to gluggi
), while Swedish
has kept it—mostly in dialects—as ‘vindöga’ (‘öga – eye’). Danish
‘vindue’ and Norwegian Bokmål
‘vindu’ however, have lost the direct link to ‘eye’, just like window
has. The Danish (but not the Bokmål) word is pronounced fairly similar to window
Window is first recorded in the early 13th century, and originally referred to an unglazed hole in a roof. Window replaced the Old English ‘eagþyrl’, which literally means ‘eye-hole,’ and ‘eagduru’ ‘eye-door’. Many Germanic languages however adopted the Latin word ‘fenestra’ to describe a window with glass, such as standard Swedish ‘fönster’, or German ‘Fenster’. The use of window in English is probably due to the Scandinavian influence on the English language by means of loanwords during the Viking Age. In English the word fenester was used as a parallel until the mid-1700s and fenestration is still used to describe the arrangement of windows within a façade.
Definition and types of windows
A window is an opening in a wall
that lets light and possibly air into the room and allows occupants to see out. Primitive windows were just holes. Later, they were covered with animal hide, cloth, or wood. Shutters
that could be opened and closed came next. Over time, windows were built that both protected the inhabitants from the elements and transmitted light: mullioned glass
windows, which joined multiple small pieces of glass with leading
windows, flattened pieces of translucent animal horn, and plates of thinly sliced marble
. Mullioned glass windows were the windows of choice among European
well-to-do, whereas paper windows were economical and widely used in ancient China
. In England
, glass became common in the windows of ordinary homes only in the early 17th century whereas windows made up of panes of flattened animal horn were used as early as the 14th century in Northern Britain. Modern-style floor-to-ceiling windows became possible only after the industrial glass making
process was perfected. Evidence of glass window panes in Italy dates back nearly 3000 years.
Styles available include:
Double-hung sash window
The traditional style of window in the USA, and many other places that were formerly colonized by the UK, with two parts (sashes) that overlap slightly and slide up and down inside the frame. The two parts are not necessarily the same size. Nowadays, most new double-hung sash windows use spring balances to support the sashes, but traditionally, counterweights held in boxes either side of the window were used. These were and are attached to the sashes using pulleys of either braided cord or, later, purpose-made chain. Double-hung sash windows were traditionally often fitted with shutters
. Sash windows may be fitted with simplex hinges
which allow the window to be locked into hinges on one side, while the rope on the other side is detached, allowing the window to be opened for escape or cleaning.
Single-hung sash window
One sash is movable (usually the bottom one) and the other fixed. This is the earlier form of sliding sash window, and is obviously also cheaper.
Horizontal sliding sash window
Has two or more sashes that overlap slightly but slide horizontally within the frame. In the UK, these are sometimes called Yorkshire
sash windows, presumably because of their traditional use in that county.
A window with a hinged sash that swings in or out like a door comprising either a side-hung, top-hung, or occasionally bottom-hung sash or a combination of these types, sometimes with fixed panels on one or more sides of the sash. In the USA these are usually opened using a crank
, but in Europe they tend to use projection friction stays and espagnolette
locking. Formerly, plain hinges were used with a casement stay. Handing
applies to casement windows to determine direction of swing.
A top hung hinged sash is also called an awning window.
Tilt and slide
A window (more usually a door-sized window) where the sash tilts inwards at the top and then slides horizontally behind the fixed pane.
Tilt and turn
A window which can either tilt inwards at the top, or can open inwards hinged at the side.
A window above a door; if an exterior door the transom window is often fixed, if an interior door it can often open either by hinges at top or bottom, or can rotate about hinges at the middle of its sides. It provided ventilation before forced air heating and cooling.
Also known as a louvered window, this window is comprised of parallel slats of glass or acrylic
that open and close like a Venetian blind
, usually using a crank or a lever. They are used extensively in tropical architecture. A jalousie door is a door with a jalousie window.
A vertical window set in a roof
structure or high in a wall, used for daylighting
A flat or sloped window used for daylighting, built into a roof structure that is out of reach.
A sloped window used for daylighting
, built into a roof structure that is within reach.
Roof Lantern or Cupola
A roof lantern is a multi-paned glass structure, resembling a small building, built on a roof for day or moon light. Sometimes includes an additional clerestory
. May also be called a cupola
A multi-panel window, with at least three panels set at different angles to create a protrusion from the wall line.it is commonly used in cold country where snow often falls. The panels are thus set in three different directions,from where a person would have a view from the interior of a building.
A window with many panels. It is most often seen in the typical Tudor-style house and monasterie. An oriel window projects from the wall and does not extend to the ground. Oriel windows originated as a form of porch. They are often supported by brackets or corbels. Buildings in the Gothic Revival style often have oriell windows.
A window that cannot be opened, whose function is limited to allowing light to enter. Clerestory windows are often fixed. Transom windows may be fixed or operable.
A very large fixed window in a wall, typically without glazing bars, or glazed with only perfunctory glazing bars near the edge of the window. Picture windows are intended to provide an unimpeded view, as if framing a picture.
Multi-lit window / divided-lite window
A window glazed with small panes of glass separated by wooden or lead "glazing bars", or "muntins", arranged in a decorative "glazing pattern" often dictated by the architectural style at use. Due to the historic unavailability of large panes of glass, this was the prevailing style of window until the beginning of the twentieth century, and is traditionally still used today.
Emergency exit window / egress window
A window big enough and low enough so that occupants can escape through the opening in an emergency, such as a fire
. In the United States, exact specifications for emergency windows in bedrooms are given in many building codes
. Vehicles, such as buses
, frequently have emergency exit windows as well.
- Main article stained glass
A window composed of pieces of colored glass, transparent or opaque, frequently portraying persons or scenes. Typically the glass in these windows is separated by lead glazing bars. Stained glass windows were popular in Victorian houses and some Wrightian houses, and are especially common in churches.
A French window, also known as a French door
is really a type of door
, but one which has one or more panes of glass set into the whole length of the door, meaning it also functions as a window.
An awning window is a window that is hung horizontally, hinged
on top, so that it swings outward.
Etymologically speaking, any window can be called a "light". However, within the window industry, particularly in insulated glass production, the term "lite" (so-spelled to keep the meaning differentiated from actual sunlight) is used to mean a single glass pane, several of which may be used to construct the final window product. For example, a sash unit, consisting of at least one sliding glass component, is typically composed of two lites, while a fixed window is composed of one lite. The terms "single-light", "double-light" etc refer to the number of these glass panes in a window.
The lights in a window sash are divided horizontally and vertically by narrow strips of wood or metal called muntins. More substantial load bearing or structural vertical dividers are called mullions, with the corresponding horizontal dividers referred to as transoms.
In the USA, the term replacement window means a framed window designed to slip inside the original window frame from the inside after the old sashes are removed. In Europe, however, it usually means a complete window including a replacement outer frame.
The USA term new construction window means a window with a nailing fin designed to be inserted into a rough opening from the outside before applying siding and inside trim. A nailing fin is a projection on the outer frame of the window in the same plane as the glazing, which overlaps the prepared opening, and can thus be 'nailed' into place).
In the UK and Europe, windows in new-build houses are usually fixed with long screws into expanding plastic plugs in the brickwork. A gap of up to 13mm is left around all four sides, and filled with expanding polyurethane foam. This makes the window fixing weatherproof but allows for expansion due to heat.
Insulated window frames
Windows can be a significant source of heat transfer. Different kinds of glazing and window frames can reduce thermal losses and gains.
Frames and sashes are traditionally made of wood, but metal, vinyl or PVC, and composites are also common. Their cost and availability may vary from country to country. Solid metal frames and sashes are poor insulators because metals conduct heat quickly. Vinyl frames are popular in Europe because they conduct heat poorly. However, vinyl frames are not as strong as metal, wood or composite window frames. Because of this lack of strength some vinyl frames are reinforced with metal, however, this will reduce the thermal efficiency of a vinyl window frame. Wood is also a good insulator. Composite frames may combine materials to obtain aesthetics of one material with the functional benefits of another. Modern metal window parts typically consist of two surfaces separated by insulating spacer material.
Many windows have movable window coverings such as blinds or curtains to keep out light, provide additional insulation, or ensure privacy.
Air infiltration and hence convective heat losses can be reduce by good window seals and attention to construction. Evacuated or argon-filled Insulated glazing units are also dependent on meticulous frame construction to prevent entry of air and loss of efficiency.
Modern windows are usually glazed with one large sheet of glass per sash, while windows in the past were glazed with multiple panes separated by "glazing bars", or "muntins", due to the unavailability of large sheets of glass. Today, glazing bars tend to be decorative, separating windows into small panes of glass even though larger panes of glass are available, generally in a pattern dictated by the architectural style at use. Glazing bars are typically wooden, but occasionally lead glazing bars soldered in place are used for more intricate glazing patterns.
A beam over the top of a window is known as the lintel or transom.
Windows and the sun
Sun incidence angle
Historically, windows are designed with surfaces parallel to vertical building walls. Such a design allows considerable solar light and heat penetration due to the most commonly occurring incidence of sun angles. In passive solar building design, an extended eave is typically used to control the amount of solar light and heat entering the window(s).
An alternate method would be to calculate a more optimum angle for mounting windows which accounts for summer sun load minimization, with consideration of the actual latitude of the particular building. An example where this process has been implemented is the Dakin Building, Brisbane, California; much of the fenestration has been designed to reflect summer heat load and assist in preventing summer interior over-illumination and glare, by designing window canting to achieve a near 45 degree angle.
Solar windows not only provide a clear view and illuminate rooms, but also use sunlight to efficiently help generate electricity for the building.
Windows and religion
The symbolism of windows plays a part in the customs and traditions of certain religions.
- On the holiday of Hanukkah it is customary to place the lighted menorah on a windowsill, preferably facing the street, so others can see it.
- In Karaite Judaism, Bar Mitzvah boys stand at an east-facing window and recite a meaningful passage of their choosing from the Torah.