Which Style Is Best for Your Home?

Werner Straube

Some window types go hand-in-hand with certain architectural styles-Victorian houses have stained glass windows, for example, while Craftsman and Colonial homes often feature dormer windows. But no matter what type of home you own, single-hung and double-hung windows blend in seamlessly with every style.

Thanks to their classic, timeless look, single-hung and double-hung windows (also known as single-sash and double-sash windows) are two of the most popular window styles in the country. In fact, when you think of a standard window-a tall, vertical window that opens upwards-you’re likely envisioning a single-hung or double-hung window.

Given their popularity, it’s likely that you’ll purchase one (or many) of these window types at some point, whether you’re building a new home or shopping for replacement windows. Below, we examine the differences between single-hung and double-hung windows, comparing cost, energy efficiency, safety, and more to help you choose the right style for your home.

Courtesy of Pella

What Is a Single-Hung Window?

A single-hung window has both an upper and lower sash (the part of the window that moves and holds the glass panes in place), but only the lower sash can move, sliding up to let in air and back down to close. The upper sash is fixed in place and can’t be opened.

Unlike a double-hung window, which allows both the upper and lower sashes to be opened and closed, single-hung windows can be simpler for many homeowners to use, especially if the top pane of glass is too high for them to reach, says Marco Vincent, an architectural project manager at Marvin, a leading window manufacturer in the U.S.

Courtesy of Pella

What Is a Double-Hung Window?

A double-hung window has moveable upper and lower sashes that slide up and down to let in air. Because you can open both the top and bottom, you’re often able to create better circulation in a room (or across an entire floor) than you could with other types of windows, says Vincent. Cool air can flow in from the bottom opening, while warm air vents out through the top.

Window Location: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Single-hung and double-hung windows can look nearly identical to each other, and the two are often found in many of the same locations throughout a house, including living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, and dining rooms.

Double-hung windows are a popular window option for second- and third-story rooms, like bedrooms, because the top sash can slide down and tilt inwards, allowing you to easily clean both sides of the window from inside your home.

Because they’re good at boosting a room’s air circulation, double-hung windows can also be found in many bathrooms and kitchens, which are areas prone to moisture build-up.

Window Styles for Homes: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Single-hung windows were developed before double-hung windows, which are more of a modern feature, according to Bruce Irving, a home renovation consultant and real estate agent in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can find single-hung windows in:

Because double-hung windows are comparatively modern, they’re often found in:

  • Newer builds

  • Contemporary homes

  • Modern homes

However, double-hung windows can also be a feature of certain architectural styles, including:

  • Colonial houses

  • Victorian houses

  • Cape Cod-style houses

Since single-hung and double-hung windows often (though not always) look similar to each other, they can usually fit interchangeably into most home styles. Homeowners can choose from a variety of grille patterns, hardware, and frame colors to get the right look.

Types of Window Frames: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Single-hung and double-hung windows are often made from the same materials (and in similar styles), though this can vary by manufacturer.

Window frame options include:

  • Wood (typically pine, fir, maple, mahogany, or oak)

  • Fiberglass

  • Vinyl

  • Aluminum

  • Composite

Here’s what to know about each type of window frame:

  • Wood: The classic window material can be finished in a variety of paint colors and stains. Wood window frames come with a higher price tag and require periodic painting or sealing to prevent weather damage, but many homeowners prefer the look of wood windows. Clad wood windows, which have a vinyl, fiberglass, or aluminum “cover” over the frame’s exterior, require less maintenance than regular wood windows and increase the window’s longevity.

  • Vinyl: This popular window material is also one of the least expensive frame types. Vinyl window frames are low maintenance but generally have a shorter lifespan than wood windows.

  • Fiberglass: More durable than vinyl, fiberglass window frames tend to be slightly more expensive than other materials. Fiberglass insulates well and is less prone to expanding and contracting during temperature changes.

  • Aluminum: Windows made of aluminum are strong, lightweight, and low maintenance. The flexible material can be molded into uniquely shaped windows and allows for a narrower frame, providing more glass space for expansive views. However, aluminum window frames can be harder to find, and are pricier and less insulated than other window materials.

  • Composite: A mix of polymers and wood, composite window frames are often more durable than vinyl or wood windows and offer greater strength and energy efficiency. Composite windows are more expensive than vinyl but also offer the look of all-wood windows.

Window Sizes: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Single-hung and double-hung windows come in a wide range of sizes. They can also be custom built to your home’s specifications.

While there’s no one standard size for single- and double-hung windows, widths and heights generally range from 2 feet (24 inches) to 8 feet (96 inches).

The standard window size for single-hung and double-hung windows is 2 to 3 feet wide and 3 to 5 feet tall.

Window Prices: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Single-hung windows often look identical to double-hung windows, but because only the lower sash can be opened, they tend to be slightly less expensive. This makes single-hung windows a popular choice for budget-conscious homeowners who are replacing multiple windows. If you’re only replacing one window in your home, the price difference may be minimal.

The cost of single-hung and double-hung windows can vary based on the brand manufacturer, window size, and window frame material, but here’s how window prices generally compare before labor:

Some of the leading window manufacturers include:

  • Andersen

  • Pella

  • Marvin

  • Jeld-Wen

You can expect to pay about $40 per hour in labor or $100 per window unit, though this can vary depending on the size or room of the home it’s being installed in.

Energy Efficiency: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

When it comes to energy efficiency, single-hung and double-hung windows meet the same performance standards at the time of installation. Since seals wear over time though, you may eventually experience slightly more air infiltration from a double-hung window since it has two moveable sashes compared to a single-hung window’s one operable sash.

The window frame material you choose will likely have a greater impact on your window’s energy efficiency than its style. Experts measure window efficiency by its U-factor-the lower the U-factor, the more energy efficient the window is.

Here’s a closer look at how well each material performs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Wood and composite window frames are efficient insulators and tend to have about the same U-factor.

  • Fiberglass window frames can be filled with insulation and are generally more energy efficient than wood or uninsulated vinyl window frames.

  • Vinyl window frames that are made of polyvinyl chloride with UV stabilizers tend to be more energy efficient than wood window frames.

  • Aluminum is less energy efficient than other materials, in part because metal isn’t a very good insulating material. To increase your aluminum window frame’s energy efficiency, look for metal frames that have a thermal break, like an insulating plastic strip, inside the frame.

Some types of window glass can also boost your energy efficiency. For example, a low-emissivity (low-e) coating can reduce energy loss by as much as 30{7fdb079a49a3139eb70ba6db044f3bbe0279c46efbc8518eda811287ddf25be9} to 50{7fdb079a49a3139eb70ba6db044f3bbe0279c46efbc8518eda811287ddf25be9}.

Window Replacement and Installation: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

After buying a single- or double-hung window, you’ll need to have it installed. While single-hung windows tend to be easier to install (they have fewer moveable parts), window installation isn’t usually a DIY job.

Instead, look for a local window installation company or professional window installer in your area, and always check ratings and reviews before hiring a contractor. A professional can also fix other problems that can crop up during the installation process, such as mold or rotted wood.

If you’re looking to replace your single-hung or double-hung windows, you can schedule a free window replacement consultation to get more information.

Window Cleaning: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Double-hung windows are easier to clean than single-hung windows because both the upper and lower sashes can be tilted back, allowing homeowners to clean the glass from the inside of the house. To begin the window cleaning process, simply unlock the sash, release the tilt latches, and lower the bottom window toward you until it’s resting on the trim or a flat surface, such as a table. Wipe it down and then repeat with the upper sash.

Single-hung windows can be harder to clean since they only have one moveable sash. Many homeowners wash the exterior of single-hung windows from the outside of their homes, or, for upper floors, enlist the services of a window washer.

Window Safety: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Both double-hung and single-hung windows are safe when properly operated and maintained. But there are some safety hazards to consider.

A double-hung window has the potential to become less secure if the top sash isn’t latched properly, leading to gravity pulling the sash down within the frame.

Because single-hung windows can only open from the bottom, pets and small children may be able to crawl through the opening. If you have a double-hung window, you can open the top sash and keep the bottom one closed, letting air into your home while keeping the opening safely out of reach for kids and pets. You can also install security screens, which are made from a strong mesh material, for extra protection.

Home Resale Value: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Most homeowners prefer-and have come to expect-double-hung windows in their homes, says Bruce Irving, a home renovation consultant and real estate agent in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If you’re looking to replace a window, it’s best to opt for double-hung. Double-hung windows also have other advantages, including increased ventilation and ease of cleaning, making them worth the extra money.

But, if you’re in the market to sell your home and it only has single-hung windows, don’t rush out to replace them all, says Irving. Single-hung windows are unlikely to be a deal-breaker, and it’s unlikely you’ll recoup your investment on top-of-the-line double-hung windows.

Conclusion: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows

Ultimately, the best windows for your home will depend on a range of factors, including your budget, preferred window size, frame material, and more.

Here are some of the pros and cons of both single-hung and double-hung windows:

Single Hung Windows

Double-Hung Windows