Wood is one of the most versatile substances on our planet, and as such it has had thousands of applications over the centuries if not more. To this day we are still finding new ways to build and create with this amazing material. One of the most common contemporary uses of wood in architecture is that of windows. Wooden window frames are some of the most durable, but they do require some care, because wood is a natural material.
Some common types of wooden windows
Telescoping windows - These are characterized by multiple frames which run along a track, usually 3 or more windows are inside the track, and these either fold vertically to one side or simply slide one over the other.
Tilt and turn windows - These are particularly popular in Germany, and can be turned both vertically and horizontally.
Bay windows - The “bay” in bay windows refers to a protruding section of a building with windows on it, regardless of size. There are normally multiple window panes in a single bay.
Picture windows - Picture windows are normally a window placed in a wall which has an unimpeded view of the outside, as if the window were quite literally framing a picture.
Double hung windows - Otherwise known as double hung sash windows, these consist of 2 moving frames inside a single larger frame which can move independently of one another. There is a counterweight in the frame which allows the window to hang at any height. These windows are some of the most popular style, and work very well with more classically styled architecture.
Hopper windows - Hopper Windows are actually types of casement windows (more about these below) which are hinged at the bottom, and tilt inwards.
Bent windows - refers to a semi-circular type of window, which requires the glass in the panes to be bent to fit the frames.
Arched windows - are typified by having a normal rectangular or square window with a semi-circle or pointed top. The pointed top windows are sometimes referred to as Lancet Windows.
Casement windows - Are windows which have a single pivot, similar to a door, and can have a single or multiple panes. Here in the USA, they are normally opened with a crank.
Awning windows - Is another design based on casement windows, which are hinged at the “head” or top of the window, leaning outwards.
Ceiling lens - Is otherwise known as a skylight, and is affixed to the top centre of a room, in order to bring natural light into a space.
Pivot windows - Are joined on both sides of the Jamb (side) of the window, or the head and sill (Top and bottom). The pivot point is at the centre so that the window can be spun 360 degrees.
Gothic windows - Are extremely ornate, and have many styles which be applied to them, including tracery, stained glass etc. They very often have multiple small panes attached by use of strips of lightly welded metal. Homes with a more eclectic look are best for this type of window.
The Pros and Cons
- Wood is a natural insulator, and as window framing it provides up to 400 times as much insulation as steel window frames do. What is more astonishing is that is provides 1800 times more insulation than Aluminium Frames.
- Wood is very easy to work with, making it very easy to install wooden window frames.
- Being a 100% natural material, makes it extremely eco-friendly.
- Wood can last almost indefinitely if taken care of properly.
- Because wood is natural, it requires frequent care, to prevent damage and keep it looking perfect.
- Saltwater damages wood, so it is not recommended for homes close to the ocean.
- Because of the amount of processes wood has to go though to be used as a building material, it comes with a slightly higher price tag.
Styles and Types for wooden window frames
Vertical, sliding sash - Certain types of wood are light, making it a perfect candidate for sash windows. Sash windows should be able to hang at the centre of the frame as well as be easily lifted up or down completely. A long lasting wooden sash frame will require care, as moving parts get weathered over time.
Side opening casement - Casement windows are some of the most popular wooden framed windows in use today. They are strong and durable, and very long lasting due to minimal moving parts.
Victorian - A style popularized during the reign of Queen Victoria, these are often typified by having more than one pane in the frame and the have a slightly ornamental head and sill, sometimes with an arched top. The thickness of the frame makes this a great window for insulation, as well as making is a strong storm window. Each moving window in the frame is classically made of 3 panes horizontally, and 2 vertically.
Edwardian - Made popular in England from around 1901 to the early 20’s, and thanks to new building regulations, these were the first mass produced bay window frames. These windows are adept at filtering light into a space. They are sash frames which primarily have the bottom frame opening upwards vertically, however it is not uncommon to find them as standard, double hung.
Georgian - Another period in english history which saw both sash and casement windows in use, it is not uncommon in this style to have 3 or 4 casement windows in a horizontal row, with smaller hopper windows opening outward, above. Often the primary panes are single large panes, with the smaller frames holding 2 or more panes.
Regency - Regency style in the United Kingdom is often referred to as Federal Style in the United States. Buildings such as the Boston State House were built in this style, and some may argue that the same can be said of the White House. The thickness of the walls make these types of buildings the perfect candidates for double hung sash windows, both for strength and durability.
Wooden window care
Keep your wooden windows as clean as possible - Step one - remove loose dust with a soft brush or dry sponge. Step two - Apply wood cleaner such as Orange Glow or Simple Green to your cleaning cloth and wipe the frame down, ensuring to clean out any recesses. Step 3 - Wash the frame with a sponge, lukewarm water and a light soap. Step 4 - Dry the frame with a dry cloth. Step 5 - Inspect the frame for cracked paint, soft spots and cracked wood.
Water penetration - To prevent water from penetrating wood, you can apply wood oil, varnish or paint to your frame. Wood oil is less effective, and will need to be reapplied often. If the frame has already had water damage, wait for dry, warm weather before applying a linseed oil to the affected area and repeating the previous process.
Rotting timber - First, remove the rotten wood (It will be soft and easily breakable). Once this is done, treat the wood with an epoxy. If the area is large, you can use an epoxy filler to place another wood block in the recess, which you will then have to sand and work this shape until it is flush with the frame.
Window hardware - If you have wooden window frames, ensure that you keep cloths, window sponges, and a squeegee for keeping your windows clean and free of dust and other dirt. This can greatly assist the longevity of wooden frames.
Sticking windows - If you have hinged windows, oil the hinges with a household all purpose oil, and slowly move them until the window moves freely.
Sash windows - If your windows are sash windows, check the running mechanism in both jambs (sides) and oil the running wheels which the cord runs from. If the cord holding the counterweight is broken it will need to be replaced. If you cannot reach the wheels, use a household oil and apply minimal amounts to the frame to loosen the window. If the window still does not budge after a short time, is is likely the cord has become broken and is firmly stuck. Keep the rails clean and do not over-paint them, as this can lead to your frame sticking. Vaseline can also be used along the rails to add in ease of motion.
Insect problem - Termites and borer beetle can get into wood and cause serious damage, as can certain species of ant. If you have identified damage of this kind, or are aware that insects are the problem then these need to be dealt with first. Once this is done, remove the damaged wood with a chisel and apply a wood hardener. You can fill the affected area with a wood filler, or epoxy, and sand it down until it is flush with your frame again.
Cracking in the finish - There are various fixes for wood cracks. Epoxy, wood filler, wood shaving dust and cold glue and some even suggest a mix of baking soda and CA glue. Apply your preferred technique to the crack, filling it completely. Once dry, sand the area until flush with the frame.
Varnish the window - Keeping your window well varnished, or painted, will keep water and insect damage at bay. A good paint well applied doesn’t need to be washed too much, but all paint and varnish work requires regular checkups to ensure that the wood isn’t showing or open to the elements.
Wooden windows for different climates
Europe has for a long time been at the forefront of wooden window architecture, with many of the most durable and practical styles coming overseas to the United States. With the milder climate in the Northern states, wooden windows can provide an easily customisable look with excellent insulation during the winter months, making it a must have for homeowners. However, this doesn’t mean that wooden windows are out of place in warmer climates. Whilst wood can get warm quickly in direct sunlight, this can be prevented due to the ability of wood to be easily painted and styled. A cool white overtone will prevent wooden frames from getting hot quickly as it reflects sunlight. Simultaneously, a sash window can be opened from the top, leaving space for hot air to escape, since warmer air rises. If you have a home with wooden windows, or are looking to install some of these beautiful designs in your home, we recommend you contact a professional to assist you with the right design and style to fit your needs.