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Window Types & Operation

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Windows on homes are an expansive subject. We can talk about sizes, glazing types, number of panes, insulating values, frame types and operation among other items. For the purpose of this blog, we'll focus on window operation. We'll look into these other subjects for another time.

So what is window operation?


The most simple type of window, this is actually an inoperable window. A fixed window does not move at all. It is sometimes also called a picture window.

Typically you would use this type of window when you would like to capture a large expansive view.


This window hinges from either the left or right side and swings much like a door. It can open inwards or outwards.

Depending on the manufacturer, the width of the window can be limited by the hinge hardware. If the width of the window becomes too wide, the hinge hardware can tend to sag when the window is fully open. For example, some manufactures can limit the width of a casement window to three feet.


Similar to the casement, the awning hinges from the top and opens from the bottom.

In general, the windows are wide and short. You may see these windows near the floor which allows for great ventilation. This also allows you to open the window to be opened in rain and not allow water to enter the building.


This is very similar to an awning but hinges from the bottom. These windows can open inwards or outwards. However, opening outwards in inclement weather is not advised as this allows water to enter the building.

You may see these more commonly used with tall narrow windows.


This window consists of two window units. The lower unit typically slides up to allow the lower part to be completely open. The lower window unit can be heavy so, a system of springs or counterweights are typically used to help lift the window.


This is very similar to single hung but both the upper and lower units can slide up or down.


This is very similar to a sliding door. One window unit is fixed while the other slides to the side.


Casement, Awning and Hopper windows have somewhat similar types of hardware.


At a minimum, two hinges are needed on the hinging side of these these types of windows. As the window increases in height or width, additional hinges may needed.

Locking/Latching Mechanisms:

For sealing and security purposes, most windows will have a latching mechanism. This can consist as something as simple as a thumb latch or something larger as a handle. This will mostly depend on the weight of the window and the manufacturer.

Push/Pull or cranks:

There are multiples ways to open and close a window. The two most common are a push/pull or crank mechanism.

The push/pull is as simple as unlatching the window and pushing it out or pull it close. Typically there are either springs or friction mechanisms to keep the windows in place. The crank system uses a small crank to open and close the window. This is simple as rotating the crank in a circular pattern. The crank systems can sometimes be more secure as the window can only operate with the crank. From the exterior, the window cannot be pulled open. This means the window can remain cracked for ventilation and still be more secure than the push/pull option.

Single & Double Hung windows typically have very similar hardware to each other.

In general, these systems us smaller thumb latches to secure the window.

For operation, these windows use a track system at the left and rights sides of the window frames. Either a spring mechanism or counterweight is used to offset the weight of the window when lifting. The springs or counterweights also allow the window to stay in place at any level the user chooses.

When a operable window is within 18" of a floor, there are limits to how far the window can open. This is prevent children from falling out the window. Always check with your local building codes and regulations to verify proper codes.


Depending on where you live, a screen may be desired to prevent bugs from entering into your home. In a majority of cases, screens are attached to exterior side of windows. However, in some cases such as a casement window opening to the exterior, the screen can be attached to the interior side of the window frame.


All these windows can be combined into a single window unit depending on the location within a house.

For example, you may see a fixed window next to a casement window. Or you may see a fixed window above and awning window. Typically, the window manufacturer will set limits on how many and what types of windows can be combined into one unit.

Below is an example of a combination of casement, awning and fixed windows.

There are still many window types beyond what I have discussed here. This is a basic intro to the most commonly used windows within the Northwest.

As with all our blogs, always check with your local jurisdiction or hire a design or building professional to ensure you are following local building codes and regulations.

Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment below!

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