Tom Shafer

6 reasons not to install a garden window

February 20, 2014

Dreaming of a garden window? It's easy to understand why! A garden window - a square bay window that projects out several feet from the house - allows for plenty of plants, and sometimes the sides and top of the window even open up. The extra depth means you can grow your African violets and even start seedlings for spring planting. If you already need to replace that window over your sink that doesn't open, and you want to make the space useful, a garden window can seem like a great idea.

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But be warned - the idea of a garden window is usually far better than the reality:

  1. Garden windows leak. These windows are very difficult to install correctly. Typically, they are replacing a window as opposed to being installed when the home is first constructed, and when that's the case, no flashing is included to help guard against leaks. If the window is going to be watertight, it must be flashed properly.
  2. Humidity destroys the seal on the insulated glass. Remember, this kind of window is entirely outside the home, so it is exposed to all types of weather. Additionally, the dirt in the potted plants contains moisture, which in turn creates condensation. All of that adds up to a seal that will corrode.
  3. The window will sag and start to fall out of the house. Most retrofit bay windows are hung with a cable system attached to the roof trusses. However, since a garden window has a glass roof, it cannot be hung. Unless there is strong support - like brackets supporting the window's weight - the unit will sag to the outside, causing leaks.
  4. Temperature is impossible to control. The window has glass on the front, on the sides, on the top…all of which are going to be exposed to direct sun or cold. The plants get exposed to the weather in turn and are either baked or frozen.
  5. They are not energy efficient. It does not matter what type of glass you choose for your garden window, the unit itself is still outside the dwelling and thus prone to extreme temperature fluctuations. The addition of a clear panel, either glass or plastic, on the inside will help, but won't solve the problem completely.
  6. The bottoms are usually wood. Plants get water, the water drips on the wood, and the wood stains and rots over time.

Garden windows may seem like an aesthetically pleasing addition to your home, but there are pitfalls that should be considered before installation.

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