One area of our house we tend not to think about too much is our basement. These areas are more often than not the place where old furniture, boxes and unused toys go when we’re not quite ready to put them up at the next yard sale. Some folks like to store their wine down in their basement since the environment is perfect for it, others turn them into spots where the kids can go off and watch TV or play games. However, for the most part they aren’t really a central room for many families. It is important to choose the right kind of window for this space though, no matter what you’re using it for. Even if you aren’t using it for anything specific, it is the lower section of your home with close proximity to the foundation. Even if you have a water table trim board like many houses in the U.S. do, you’ll want to protect this vital area because they aren’t actually meant to have windows, so having the right kind is a huge benefit.
Considering a basement window
The weather is always a consideration, since basement windows are close to the ground where they have to deal with damp and wet conditions. This is true for parts of the Northern United States especially, since they receive snow most winters, meaning that damp will be a factor you have to consider. Humidity may also play into this, as more humid environments face the same problem, with a basement window picking up moisture from the surrounding air.
Consider what you use your basement for too, if it’s purely for storage, you may not need a high quality looking frame, but if you intend to use it for anything specific like a hangout room or any kind of area people will see often or something like a laundry or washing space, you may want something more fancy, but also perhaps one that can open to let out damp or stale air.
Other factors to look at
Measurement of the exact fit - The exact size of the window is going to define what kind of window you choose, since different windows have different properties when sized differently especially when it comes to light, insulation and strength.
Window insulation - The better the insulation, the more damp can be kept out, but the same can be said about more damp air staying in, so make sure a very well insulated window can also open up outwards.
Aesthetic appeal - If you do use your basement for more than storage, finding a window that’s both the right type and also looks good and brings in enough natural light.
Window designs - Depending on what your home is styled as and what you are using the room for, there are various styles which fit the house, eg: Hopper, bubble, slider etc.
What makes the best basement windows?
Plastic or polycarbonate windows are sometimes the best choice for basements. They are rust free, do not succumb to erosion and are still quite strong.
Choose a replacement basement window that is made of vinyl. It’s rust-free and will not rot from its damp environment. It is also modular so you won’t have any trouble installing it.
Frame size and glass thickness is a point which you have to look at very carefully. If you live in a high rainfall area, thicker glass will be more beneficial, and the same can be said for your window frame.
Basement windows like any other windows are available in a myriad of styles, so you can choose one (or more if you have more) which fits the style of your house.
Hoppers - Hoppers open toward the inside with the hinge at the top. They are the most commonly used window for basements.
Awning windows - Are the exact opposite of hoppers. They also open with a hinge at the top but swing outwards. They are the most contemporary of basement window styles and come in a variety of materials.
Sliding windows - Sliding windows are also quite common and best used for larger basements because of their strength.
What are the best materials to use?
uPVC/Vinyl - Frames made from vinyl or uPVC are the best, as they are waterproof, they resist harsh UV light and the dampness caused by humid basement climates. These windows are very easy to clean, come in a variety of colour choices, and can be cheaply and easily made to spec.
Wood - Whist it looks amazing, wood is not the best choice for basements because the natural fibers take moisture in, even the best varnished wooden windows will eventually succumb to the damp air in the basement, and this causes the frame to swell or rot.
Fiberglass - Fiberglass is fantastic for wood looking frames, can be easily made to any style and is readily available. It is one of the strongest windows and also one of the most durable, making it one of the best choices, however, it is quite an expensive one.
Aluminium - Cheap and strong, available in any colour, Aluminium is good for most areas except the North Eastern U.S, since it radiates and conducts heat very easily, meaning that cold air will cause a rapid cooling. The same reason makes it a favorite in the Southern States as the warmer climate makes this attribute really stand out.
Replacing a basement window
Sometimes we just need a change, and in other situations, we may not have much of a choice. Whether a basement window just isn’t fitting with your vision, forces you to use too much energy heating the room, or if it’s just damaged and needs to be replaced, here’s what you need to know. We recommend asking a professional for assistance with this.
Research which window best suits your basement, while staying within your budget and also suiting your aesthetic needs. Next, look at the amount of light you want to filter into the room, and decide which window in the available types and styles would best suit your basement. Make sure to use the right type of material, or correct thickness of glass to ensure the best all round insulation and water protection. Don’t forget what your own stylistic needs are for the window you want to install. Don't skip on checking the humidity levels of your room, how much energy you’ll use to heat or cool it, and think about which styles would make this most efficient.
Decorating and maintaining your basement window
If you basement is being used as a room, you may want to decorate your window to create a more homely feel. Bigger basement windows can be offset with a nice curtain rail to improve the livability of the room.
If you intend to use the space for the family, then look for curtains or other treatments that can enhance the space with lighting, or any other factors that can reduce the feeling of being at lower than ground level. Make use of bold patterning and bright colours to make the window stand out a bit more.
Don't go overboard with the window area, try and keep a balance between a well suited window and the surrounding space.
Valances can be a good way to add functionality and also a touch of style, since they don't detract too much from the space around them.
Consider using blinds for the interior of the space if you’re looking for something more private.
Don’t neglect the outside when deciding what to do with your basement windows. Outward appearance is as important as inward aesthetics.