Tom Shafer

Versatile tilt-turn windows, American-style

February 12, 2013

A new type of window is finally finding a market niche in the U.S. Originally from Europe, the tilt-turn window does exactly what the name implies -- it can tilt and turn -- inward. The top of the frame tilts in from 3 to 6 inches for ventilation. The window can also open from the side, similar to a casement, but into the house instead of out.

Tilt-turn windows were first introduced to the U.S. in the '80s by European vinyl extruders who were looking for a way to develop sales and manufacturing here. The first tilt-turn vinyl frames were heavy with weatherstripping and wide, robust frames. These early attempts failed to gain a foothold in the U.S market primarily because American home builders found the windows too expensive. Nowadays, less costly components make tilt-turn windows a much more affordable choice.

Made in the U.S.A.

Several major American window manufacturers, including Pella, Marvin, and Kolbe make wood tilt-turn windows; and Atrium, WinDoor and Milgard manufacture them in vinyl. All makes offer unique versions of colors, hardware options and glass packages but operation is similar. To appeal to American tastes in residential design, the windows can be fitted with a horizontal bar in the middle to simulate the look of a double hung window.

Tilt-turn windows: pros and cons

Besides the ventilation and airtight features, tilt-turns offer these benefits:

  • Cleaning hard-to-reach second story windows is easy: the tilt-turn window opens completely to the inside.
  • Because the hardware must allow the window to swing on two different planes, the window is pinned shut in multiple locations when closed, and compression weatherstripping makes it extremely airtight.

There are still some challenges associated with these windows for the American home owner:

  • Window treatments are a major issue. By its nature of opening inward, this window cannot be draped. Any window treatment would be purely decorative and would have to hang beyond the width and height of the window so as not to interfere with its operation..
  • Cost is 1 ½ to 2 times that of vinyl or wood windows of approximately the same size.

But for those looking for something different, the tilt-turn is an easy-to-clean, unique casement style that provides great ventilation when open and is super-airtight when shut. Have your window dealer or in-home salesperson demo one for you -- you might decide that ease-of-maintenance and all-season comfort are worth the additional cost.

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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