Choosing windows for your new home can be a daunting task as there are so many aspects to consider. Decisions must be made on the style, frame material, type of glass and how the windows open. Windows can show off the view – either a distant panorama or a beautiful garden. They can let light and sun flood in, offer diffused light, provide ventilation, give light but also privacy and add style and symmetry to a house design.
The desire for indoor-outdoor flow means many homes have floor-to-ceiling glass in living areas. These sliding or bi-fold doors and windows give great access to alfresco areas. However, the more windows and doors in a room, the fewer walls are available for furniture and artwork. Sometimes a magnificent view, especially from an upstairs room, can be framed by a window like a piece of art. Not every window has to be an opening one.
Window frames are usually made from wood, aluminium, vinyl and fibreglass. Wood is more unusual in new homes because of its cost and maintenance but a timber interior/aluminium exterior is a popular choice. Aluminium is a hardwearing, low maintenance material which is common in new builds and comes in a variety of styles and colours. Vinyl also has a wide range of colours and doesn’t need painting. It is the cheapest option and insulates almost as well as timber. Fibreglass composite is stronger than vinyl and slightly more expensive.
Double-glazed windows are standard in most new homes in Victoria. They not only give better insulation than single glass panes but also provide good sound insulation in noisy areas and have fewer condensation issues. Low-E glass has an invisible coating of metal on one surface and an inert gas such as argon can be added between the glass panes for superior insulation. In very cold areas, windows can be triple-glazed. This saves around 2-3% on heating but cost 10-15% more, so the homeowner needs to live in the house for some time to recover the increased costs.
When choosing windows for your new home, look for the R-value. Higher R-values mean better insulating properties. U-factor is the rate the glass conducts non-solar heat flow. The lower the U-factor, the less heat escapes and the more energy efficient it is. Glass can be tinted or laminated. Gone are the days of frilly net curtains at the window – now tinted windows offer all the privacy needed as well as improving solar performance and cutting down on glare. Obscure tints are popular for total privacy in bathrooms and for front doors.
Window size should be orientated to the position of the house. Large windows and doors can be situated on the sunniest side of the house, for views and access to the garden. Smaller windows are suitable for the colder southerly aspect, or for bathrooms and laundries. Large windows are pleasant in the bedrooms, but evening sun and privacy should be considered when choosing the size.
There is a variety of different types of opening windows. Long, narrow casement windows pivot on hinges like doors and are great for ventilation. Double-hung windows slide up and down and offer a traditional look. They are spring-mounted now rather than use a weight and pulley system. Sliding windows are easy maintenance and give an unobstructed view, as well as being a cheaper option. Bay windows are dramatic and practical and make the room feel larger. Bifolds are popular for kitchen and living areas, and fold completely out of the way but need space to manoeuvre. Louvre windows are great for ventilation and can be a design feature in the room.
Berstan Homes can give options and advice on windows when you commission them to build your new home. For further information go to: www.berstanhomes.com.au