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What Are Double-Hung Windows and Why Might They Be Right for Your Home?

  1. Window Buyer's Guide
  2. Appendix
  3. What Are Double-Hung Windows? Review the Pros and Cons

The double-hung window is a lovely, classic form of window that can make a beautiful addition to nearly any home. Many homeowners who decide to install new windows in their home will at one time or another consider double-hung windows for their property.

Understanding the advantages and benefits of double-hung windows can help you decide for yourself whether this window type is right for you.

Here’s what every homeowner should know and what we will cover:

What Is a Double-Hung Window?

Double-hung windows are simple, traditional rectangular windows with two sashes, one upper and one lower. Sometimes the glass in each sash is made up of one pane, other times the glass may be divided into many panes, separated by dividers known as "muntins" (1, 2).

With a double-hung window, both sashes are able to move up and down. This means that homeowners seeking extra ventilation have a variety of options, and either half of the window can be opened if desired.

Double-hung windows are designed for convenience, so on modern models, both sashes can tilt inward for cleaning purposes.

What Does a Double-Hung Window Look Like?

When people imagine windows, they often imagine double-hung windows. Usually these windows are taller than they are wide, and feature a horizontal rail in the middle where the two sashes meet. Sometimes the upper sash is divided into multiple panes (3).

Double-hung window

The casing on a double-hung window is typically thicker than a single-hung window, because both sashes must exist on their own track in order to move up and down independently.

Despite this difference, double-hung and single-hung windows look very much the same and to the untrained eye may not be distinguishable from one another.

How Do Double-Hung Windows Work?

To move the upper sash on a double-hung window, simply pull down on the sash by applying downward pressure to the muntins or rails. To raise the lower sash, push up on the rails from beneath.

New forms of double-hung windows also include latches that make it possible to lean the windows out from their tracks. Doing this enables the homeowner to clean the windows from the inside of the house, without ever stepping foot outside (4).

Comparing the Pros and Cons Of Double-Hung Windows

There are many reasons that homeowners choose to install double-hung windows in their homes (5).

  • Easy to use. Opening and closing the windows is easy with double-hung types making it easy to let in fresh air, let out strong odors and control the temperature in the house.
  • Easy to maintain. Many homeowners pull down the upper sash for easy reaching when it's time to clean the glass. Having the ability to tilt the sashes inward makes it easy to clean the window exteriors as well.
  • Safer. Cleaning double-hung windows can be far safer because they enable homeowners to stay inside while cleaning the window glass.
  • Adds more value to the home. Double-hung windows are more desirable than some other types of windows because of their functionality, and can deliver a greater return on investment in terms of added home value.

Given all these advantages, there aren't many disadvantages to double-hung windows.

  • Expense. While they come with added value, double-hung windows do tend to have a higher up-front cost than some other types, particularly single-hung windows.
  • Ventilation is limited. Ventilation in double-hung windows is naturally limited by the fact that at least half of the window will always be covered by the sashes.
  • Not always airtight. Because double-hung windows are on separate tracks from one another, they're naturally separated and not as air tight as some other types of windows.

What Are Signs Windows Need To Be Replaced?

If properly maintained, double-hung windows should last a very long time. However, older windows that have not been properly maintained may become warped over time, leading to poor functionality. Some of the common signs that windows need to be replaced include:

  • Rot around the sashes. A single rotten sash is typically something that can be fixed, however, if many windows have rotten sashes, this is usually a sign that it's time to replace the windows. A contractor can help you decide whether it's better to repair or replace.
  • Rot or decay around the frame. Once the frame in a window begins to rot, it usually needs to be replaced. Keeping the frame properly painted and sealed can help prevent this problem, as can fixing roof leaks and gutter problems as soon as they occur.

Some homeowners choose to replace their windows if they stick frequently or when they become energy inefficient. Weather stripping and general repair can often help with this problem, so talk to a contractor to find out whether repair work is better than replacement (6).

How to Clean or Care For Windows?

Double-hung windows, especially new models, need little annual maintenance. A simple mixture of vinegar and water can be used to clean your windows if they become dirty. For a streak-free shine, use a squeegee to wipe away the cleaning solution.

Power washing windows is unnecessary and can be damaging. If your windows are made of wood, they will need to be repainted or re-sealed on a regular basis to maintain water resistance. Windows made from wood alternatives will not need to be painted or sealed to maintain their beauty or functionality (7).

Are There Alternatives To Double-Hung Windows?

Single-hung windows are usually viewed as the standard alternative to double-hung windows. These windows are found in most new construction houses. Single-hung and double-hung windows look alike, but function slightly differently. On a single-hung window, the top sash is stationary. The sashes will not tilt inward, nor can the top sash be moved on its own track. Single-hung windows are harder to maintain, but they appeal to many homeowners because of their affordability (8, 9, 10).

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