Tom Shafer

Getting a handle on casement windows

October 24, 2012

In many parts of the U.S. when you mention windows, what comes to mind are the ones that open and close by moving the sash up and down -- in other words, double or single hung windows. But in the Midwest and West, it's more common for homes to have casement windows -- the kind that are hinged on one side and open out. If you've never considered casements and you're ready for new windows, there are plenty of reasons to quit hanging with the double hungs and start cranking out the casements.

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How casement windows work

Operated with a crank, arm mechanism, and gear, the sash of a casement window opens out like a little door made of window glass. The gear pushes out the arm that's connected to the sash. Hinges located at the corners of the frame retract in toward the center of the opening creating a space between the frame and the open sash. This opening can be used to reach out and clean the glass.

Because the sash projects outward, the weight of the glass must be limited or else the window would be too hard to operate properly. Excessive weight could also cause the sash to sag or not hang square to the opening. For this reason, casement windows are limited in size.

Choosing casements for views and ventilation

Because they are usually tall and narrow to accommodate their size limitations, casement windows are often used in combination with other casements to form a string of windows that can open up a home to an outside view or a refreshing breeze.

By using a series of casement windows -- two, three, four or even five windows opening in opposite directions -- you can literally "catch" a breeze coming from any direction and "scoop" it into the house. And strong winds are no problem for casements. Pressure from wind actually pushes the windows closed more tightly, so they are very effective in high wind areas.

Other reasons to choose casements

There are places where casements just make more sense than double or single hung windows; for example, over the kitchen sink. It's a lot easier to reach a crank handle to open a casement window than it is to stretch across the sink or kitchen counter and lift a sash to open or close a double hung.

Casement windows might not be the first style of window you envision when you start looking for replacement windows, but they may actually complement your home design in a way that modern double hungs or sliders cannot. If your cozy cottage or mini mansion came with windows that have always just seemed out of place, consider casements.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.

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