Home Decor

The reno files: How to choose the right windows

OK, so I’ve set myself up as a big renovating expert, and in a lot of ways, much of the process is familiar to me. But there are just SO MANY decisions to make. I feel a little overwhelmed. And we’re only at the very beginning!

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OK, so I’ve set myself up as a big renovating expert, and in a lot of ways, much of the process is familiar to me. But there are just SO MANY decisions to make. I feel a little overwhelmed. And we’re only at the very beginning!

So my current dilemma is all about windows. Oy. There’s just so much to choose from. And because I’m a designer by trade, I feel like every decision affects the next decision, and basically I don’t want to pick windows until I know the colour of the piping on the throw pillows. Yes, that’s how far down the line I’m trying to think. Kind of paralyzing. But like fog burning off, my mental image of the house is slowly coming into focus as the details get worked out.

So back to windows. Here’s what you need to know.

There are essentially three types of residential windows:

1.Vinyl:  inexpensive

2. Wood: more expensive.

3.Steel: most expensive. My current obsession, but it’s not going to happen!



These beautiful steel doors and windows are in a kitchen designed by McInturff architects.  droooool…..

Within the realm of wood, there is all wood, vinyl clad on the outside wood on the inside, and aluminum clad on the outside, wood on the inside.

We are choosing aluminum clad on the outside because you can get a wider variety of colours, and I like the look and feel of them. Also durability and easy maintenance are key features and aluminum offers both of these. It’s crucial to think about the exterior colour of your windows since that’s going to affect the look the house in a big way. I’m all about black. Black inside and out.  (Check the photo below by Marmold Radzine arch. I’m also thinking of a wooden ceiling in the living room with the vaulted ceiling, but that’s for another day.)

Next decision to make is the type of window. Again, there are basically three types.

1. Hung (single or double)




2. Casement




3. Sliding windows



 (All images from Eagle windows, who we are buying our windows from.)

There are some other fancy ones, like push out, but those are not as common.

The thing about making a decision about windows is that you have to be very clear about what you want your house to look like on the outside and the inside. To help us decide, we’ve taken a drive around the neighbourhood and obsessively photographed all the houses we like. I swear the neighbours think we’re crazy. Then we look more closely at the details that make the houses we like work. Funny thing about looking at images- whenever you’re trying to figure out a specific detail, that’s all you end up looking at!

Casement windows have the advantage of being longer, and generally cleaner, without the break in the middle that hung windows have. But a lot of that has to do with the way you detail the windows, and what’s appropriate for the age of your house. Victorian houses tend to look best with double or single hung windows, and divided into sections with mullions. Georgian houses, like mine, tend to look better with casement windows, and a smaller transom at the top that has mullions.

The thing is that I want my house to be quite modern. So we’re going with casement windows, no transom, no mullions. That means we are taking out the stained glass that is currently in the living room and upstairs den. Can you say controversial? I actually stay up at night worrying about this decision.

Here are the windows we are taking out:

I also need to know how the windows are going to be detailed on the inside since that affects the jam depth. Traditionally, windows are roughed in and trim is put around the seam between the window and the wall to clean it up. But being a new modernist, I want don’t want any trim at all around the windows. Like this:


 (photo from Oliver Yaphe’s great blog, oliveryaphe.com/blog)

I’m not sure how that is going to work with the bay windows: I feel like it’s going to be more expensive because the dry wallers are going to have to be that much more precise…. I’m trolling around the internet to find images of windows with no trim to show them. But then that affects my choice of baseboard. Is it weird to have no trim around windows, but to have baseboards? What about the casements around the doors? I don’t want it to be overly modern and stark. Argh. Knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, and so on and so on….

Tomorrow they are taking the back of the house off. We’ll be left with half a roof, three exterior walls and some floors. What is holding this house together I ask you. But the inspector is cool with it all, and the engineer assured me the house is not going to collapse.

Check this before and after: yup  the after is the messy one. That’s what happened when we took out the fireplace! Awkward placement in the room- we kept the mantel.



What have we done??????????