Casement Windows: A Classic European Style
Casement windows are beautiful and very traditional. In fact, they are the earliest form of movable window in history, and can even be found in medieval European structures. They became more popular in Elizabethan times, when glass became cheaper and the ordinary homeowner could afford them. Still, most Elizabethan homes only had a few opening casements, and they often had six panes per casement in heavy, unpainted oak frames that were borrowed from the previously unmoving medieval windows.
However, as glass improved and softer woods were introduced, the number of panes dropped to two with a leaded bar in the middle. More casement windows in more homes and businesses could open – generally outward, though in France they opened inward. The lighter, softer wood casements were now painted in strong, popular colors such as blue, green, and red that added vibrancy to the homes and buildings. Life in Europe was decidedly brighter and breezier!
Casement windows were the window of choice throughout the Europe and the colonies until the vertically sliding sash window was invented in the early 1600s and became popular in the early 1800s. Today, the simple functionality, ease of maintenance, and classic lines of casement windows make them a popular choice for new construction and replacement windows.
How Casement Windows Work
Casement windows are hinged on one side and open outward with the help of a crank. They are a classic European style that has long been popular with homeowners throughout the country. They are simple and yet elegant, easy to maintain, and can significantly improve your home's ventilation. Selecting replacement casement windows can also dramatically impact the look of your home from the street.
Casement windows are easy to clean, which is another reason they are popular. You don't have to fuss about having a tilt-in option, struggle with cleaning one half and then the other, or worry about how to get to that awkward middle section where the two panes overlap.
Casement windows also provide a tighter seal than double-hung or sliding windows. Lastly, because they open outward at an angle, the open window can catch the breeze and direct it inside for better circulation. For those who love the fresh air of a spring afternoon or the cool breeze of a summer evening, casement windows are an easy choice.
The Benefits of Casement Windows
Casement windows are familiar, mesh with any architectural style, and are highly energy efficient. They are classic and classy, simple and sophisticated – and cleaning is a breeze. From a design perspective, installing replacement casement windows can completely transform the outward appearance of a home, giving it an open and welcoming look coupled with an air of refinement and elegance.
Casement windows also provide a higher surface to actual viewing area ratio than most opening windows. Double-hung and sliding windows are divided either horizontally or vertically by the sash of the other lite, and they sacrifice several inches of prime viewing area right smack in the middle of the window. Casement windows, however, offer unimpeded views.
The hinge functionality of casement windows also allows for more natural air flow. An open casement window extends out from the house at an angle and catches moving air, redirecting it inside and improving ventilation in the home. Casement windows are also more energy efficient and weather-tight than double-hung or sliding windows because they have a tighter seal.
Casement Window: Efficiency and Maintenance
The key to the casement window's energy efficiency is the compression seal. Highly effective and consistent, compression seals mean that there is less air leakage in casement windows than in other window types.
Like other hinge-opening windows, such as hopper and awning windows, casement windows have a compression seal present on all sides. Sliding and double-hung windows only feature compression seals on two sides, in order to be able to move up and down or sideways.
Compression seals are highly energy efficient because the worse the weather gets, the better they work. The colder it is, the more the wind blows, or the harder the rain – the tighter the seal. Compression seals also stay airtight over time, while a sliding seal will wear and lose tension. Compression seals make hinged windows one of the most efficient window types of all. Some vinyl windows also offer fusion welded corners, which eliminate the cracks and openings at the corners where cold air enters and warm air escapes.
Casement windows are also very low maintenance and easy to clean. The same hinged-side attributes that give a casement window its large viewing area also make it very easy to access and clean, especially in contrast to double-hung and sliding windows.
Vinyl frames offer truly low-maintenance casement windows, with no need to repaint or restain as wood frames so frequently require. Vinyl frames are available in a wide variety of colors, and are also resistant to damage from insects or the elements. Modern vinyl frames also offer consistent color throughout the frame, and won't fade over time.
Minor Concerns about Casement Windows
Casement windows blend well with any architectural style, and are appropriate for any room of the house, from living rooms to kitchens to bedrooms. If the room is situated along a path or other well-trafficked area, however, casement windows may not be the ideal choice. Casement windows open outward, and an open casement window could pose a real danger to people passing by outside.
If you plan on installing multiple casement windows, you will have to plan things out a bit if they are going to be adjacent. Casement windows are hinged on one side and open outward and at an angle, so you should ensure they are all hinged on the same side, if possible, or there will be some conflict.
Another issue that sometimes crops up with casement windows is the wear-and-tear on the crank (or slider) mechanism. Over time, and with frequent use, these can fail or become difficult. Replacing the part is the obvious answer (especially if the window is still in great shape), and is not too expensive a prospect – cranks can start around $25 and run over $100, depending on your preferences.
The greater difficulty lies in finding a replacement crank operator (as opposed to the crank handle), but there are companies who will assist you. One idea might be to buy spare replacement crank mechanisms when you buy your replacement windows. That will ensure that, if the crank operator fails in the future, you have the right replacement part on hand.
Finding Replacement Casement Windows
Casement windows are available in standard sizes and can also be customized to meet your specific needs and preferences. Low-E coatings, gas fills, glazings, screens, and climate-appropriate U-values can all be selected per your specifications and combined with your choice of window type, color, and finish. A broad selection of window hardware (locks, handles, grid finish) can help you complete the look you choose, adding an air of luxury, elegance, European sophistication, or contemporary comfort to your windows.
Before heading off to a showroom or big-box retailer, one of the best things you can do is take a look online. You can research your options for window types, manufacturers, prices, finishes, and hardware, and also gain a better understanding of such important attributes as U-values and low-E coatings. Consumer opinions are also a good starting point, and you might also check the comments sections of DIY-sites and articles for more insight. Researching your options online is a no-investment, no-obligation way to find out everything you need to know, and then some. When you have some idea what you want and a rough notion of what it will cost, visit a hardware or home-improvement store for some hands-on investigations.