Windows are among the most expensive things you’ll ever have to buy for your house—costing approximately anywhere from $450 to $1,400 per window, which can obviously add up fast. You also have to choose the right kind of windows for your house—and there’s a dizzying number of choices. In order to make the best decision, you need to know the differences between the various types of windows, and their pros and cons.

Single-hung windows

Single-hung windows are rectangular and have two “sashes,” one on top and one on the bottom. Only one of these—typically the bottom one—can be moved up and down, while the other is fixed in place.

When to choose: When money is a concern. Single-hung windows tend to be the cheapest options, with an average cost of $560 per window.

Double-hung windows

Double-hung windows look just like single-hung, but both sashes can be moved up and down. These are pretty standard in most homes.

When to choose: When you need to stick to a budget, but want more flexibility. Double-hung windows aren’t much pricier than single-hung, but offer the option of which sash to open up, which may be useful in your space.

Awning/Hopper windows

An awning window has hinges at the top and can be pushed outward, resembling an awning with the outside of the window facing up. Conversely, a hopper-style window has hinges at the bottom so it resembles a chute or hopper when opened. Typically these use a crank mechanism to open and close. They offer a tight seal against the weather, too.

When to choose: When security and privacy are paramount. Awning and hopper windows are difficult to open from the outside, and can be mounted high on the wall to provide light and ventilation without letting folks peek in at you. Awning windows provide better protection from rain, however, as hopper windows can guide rainwater into your home.

Casement windows

Casement windows have a similar mechanism to awning or hopper windows, using a crank or lever to open up. They open to the left or right, however, instead of being hinged at the top or bottom.

When to choose: When energy efficiency is top priority. Because casement windows close tightly on all sides, they have minimal air leakage. The crank or lever mechanism can also make them a good choice for difficult-to-reach areas, such as behind a kitchen sink.

Pivot windows

Pivot windows are square or rectangular windows that pivot on a central hinge, either swinging horizontally or vertically. The result is that half the window is outside the house and half inside when opened. They’re easy to operate, but always partly obscure the view.

When to choose: When security plus ease-of-operation are priorities. Pivoting windows don’t offer much space for someone to squeeze through.

Transom windows

Transom windows are small windows that sit above other windows or doorways. They can be hinged and openable, but most commonly they’re fixed. They can add a touch of elegance to your home’s design, but their main purpose is to increase the natural light getting into your home, especially at a front door that blocks the light.

When to choose: When you need more light in an entryway, or when you want to add some sophistication to your home.

Bay and bow windows

Bay windows are three rectangular windows that are arranged at an angle, forming a “bump out” from your house. They’re usually single- or double-hung, but can also be “fixed,” meaning they don’t open at all. Bow windows are very similar to bay windows, but have a more rounded arrangement.

When to choose: When you want more living space. Bay and bow windows let you add some square footage to your living space while maximizing the amount of light you get. They can be pricey, however, and often require custom window treatments.

Jalousie windows

Jalousie windows are made up of glass blinds. Using a crank, the blinds swing up or down to open and close. They’re typically used in warm, rainy areas because they can be left open when it rains, maximizing airflow.

When to choose: When you live in a tropical area with lots of rain, and you’re not concerned about energy efficiency.

Garden windows

Typically found in kitchens behind the sink, these are box-like windows that protrude out from the wall, creating a greenhouse-like environment for a small indoor garden.

When to choose: When you lack outdoor space and want to add a touch of green to your home.

A garden window looking out on a backyard.
Credit: Jeff Somers

Glass block windows

Glass block windows are just what they sound like: Glass blocks stacked and joined with mortar, typically utilizing glazed or frosted glass. They’re fixed, meaning there’s no way to open them, so they let in light while protecting your privacy.

When to choose: When privacy is more important than ventilation.

Storm windows

Storm windows can be permanent windows made using shatter-resistant and storm-rated glass, or inserts that are installed outside the actual window that offer protection from winds and debris impact.

When to choose: When you live in an area prone to high-intensity storms. They can also provide better soundproofing due to their thickness and durability.

Egress windows

Usually found in basements (though they can be located anywhere in the house), egress windows are often legally required to provide an escape route in an emergency. As a result, they’re large enough for a typical adult to fit through. They’re also often below ground level and surrounded by a window well dug next to the home’s foundation. Most egress windows are casement-style windows, and they’re typically added more for function than style.

When to choose: When you must legally include an exit from an interior room in your home.

Skylight windows

Set into the roof of your home, skylight windows resemble awning windows that tilt upward. When closed, they allow in light, but when extra ventilation is needed, they can be opened to allow hot air to rise up and escape the house.

When to choose: When your home has a hot, stuffy attic or top-floor rooms and could benefit from more passive climate control.

Round windows

Sometimes called a rose window, these are fixed, circular windows, usually with metal grids dividing them into sections. They’re purely ornamental and usually have to be custom-made for your space.

When to choose: When your home design calls for it.

Radius windows

Sometimes called “arched” windows, these windows have a rectangular bottom and a rounded top section so that the whole window resembles an archway. They’re typically fixed, but can be made to open as well. They’re typically custom windows, so they can be very expensive, but they add a touch of sophistication to any home.

When to choose: When you feel like you need some extra pop in your window design.

Oriel windows

An oriel window is similar to bow and bay windows in that they encase an outcropping from the main structure, creating additional interior space. Unlike bay or bow windows, oriels are squared-off and can provide maximum light penetration, offering panoramic views of the outside.

When to choose: When you want as much sunlight as you can handle.

Cottage windows

Cottage-style windows are rectangular windows with two sashes—a larger bottom sash that is typically openable and a smaller top sash that is typically fixed. They bring powerful charm to any home.

When to choose: When you want a touch of old-school charm, or when you need smaller windows due to space limitations.

Slider windows

Sliding windows are like pocket doors: The sashes slide to the left or right. You can find them in double- or triple-sash configurations, and they’re great for rooms where you don’t have much vertical space to work with.

When to choose: When you can’t fit a traditional vertical window in the space you have.

Picture windows

Picture windows are large fixed windows—they don’t open—that frame a view so that it almost looks like a picture hanging on your wall. They provide lots of light and give you a view of something—your garden, for example.

When to choose: When seeing the view is more important than ventilation.

Tilt-and-turn windows

Found primarily in Europe, tilt-and-turn windows can be opened from side hinges, like a door or casement window but also from the bottom, like a hopper window. This makes them incredibly flexible, as you can open them in different ways depending on the weather.

When to choose: When you have variable climate conditions and feel like you need a different window depending on the weather.