Tom Shafer

When is a window really a window?

October 21, 2014

It may sound like a trick question, but there actually is a definition of "window" that you may not be familiar with. The question we're asking today is what is a window and what is just a piece of glass in a wall. Confused yet? Let me explain.

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Picture a store front with huge pieces of glass that face out onto the street. These glass sheets are held into and affixed to the building with a frame made of aluminum, steel, or even wood. The frame is actually part of the wall the glass sheets in, meaning they were built into the building when it was first constructed. The glass is held in with stops and is made watertight with a silicone, butyl, or another adhesive material. If you ever needed to replace the glass, the strips of material holding it in place would need to be removed, too.

Now let's compare that to the windows in your home. Though your home windows may have that same glass and glazing material to prevent air and water leakage, similar to the store front windows, home windows have operating parts. As opposed to being built into the home, they're manufactured in a factory and installed into a frame. If necessary, they can rather easily be removed from the building.

To qualify as windows, they must have moving parts and be made in a factory as opposed to on site. For a new way to think about this, think of the last time you were in a glass enclosed elevator. The view was spectacular. You told your friends what you saw as you looked out. But were you looking through windows? To those in the window industry, you were only looking through glass. It was a structural part of the elevator.

But you know what famous site does have windows? The Statue of Liberty. There are windows in the crown made by TRACO in Pittsburgh. They are individual units, they open, and they were installed assembled.

So next time you pass by your favorite store, take a look at their windows and ask yourself, "Are these really windows?" Just don't be surprised at the strange stares you get if you decide to ask an employee.

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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