How to find the right type of picture windows for your home

Image source: Forbes

Chris Gennone

By Chris Gennone

September 8, 2021

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If you live by the beach, in the woods, or are just looking to showcase the scenery outside your home and save money on your energy bills, picture windows are a solid option. While they don’t open or offer any type of ventilation, they create a tight seal so you won’t have to worry about any type of leakage. With picture windows varying in sizes, frame materials, and cost, finding the right type can be exhausting. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered.

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What is a picture window?

Picture windows throughout a living room

Image source: Hansons

Picture windows are fixed, non-operable windows which offer unobstructed views, more natural light, and higher energy efficiency than other window options. When installed with insulated glass, which features a combination of two or more panes of glass or argon, picture windows can become the most energy-efficient type of window. While they might not be as popular as casement windows or single and double-hung windows, they can help create a focal point inside your living room.

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Window frames and materials

Vinyl

Vinyl picture window in a home

Image source: Pella

Price range: $150-$750

Not only are vinyl picture windows more cost-effective than other window styles, but they’re also low maintenance and feature many customization options like exterior colors, shapes, and window sizes. While vinyl may not be as durable as wood or fiberglass, it’s more affordable and still resistant to dirt, mold, and rot.

Wood

Wood picture window looking over a forest

Image source: NewScientist

Price range: $500-$2,000

We all know wood is aesthetically pleasing. Wooden frames are praised for their durability, long lifespan, and natural insulation. Wood can provide up to 1,800 times more insulation than some metal frames like aluminum and steel. However, wood can be more expensive, requires more maintenance, and is also prone to insects like termites.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass picture window in a sitting room

Image source: Northwest Exteriors

Price range: $500-$1,000

Made from glass fibers, fiberglass is incredibly durable – up to eight times stronger than vinyl. Like vinyl, fiberglass is weather resistant and will not rot, warp, or fade like wood. Fiberglass is also a natural insulator and highly energy-efficient, saving you money on monthly bills. The biggest downside to fiberglass is its high price point and minimal color options.

Aluminum

Aluminum picture window in an apartment building

Image source: Newtec

Price range: $150-$600

Aluminum is incredibly low maintenance, lightweight, and highly customizable, so you’ll be able to use it for differently-shaped windows. While aluminum is moderately priced, cheaper than wood and fiberglass, it doesn't retain heat well and can be prone to moisture for homeowners in colder, wetter climates.

Top brands

Andersen

Andersen picture window in an apartment building overlooking a city

Image source: Renewal by Andersen

Price range: $200-$3,500

Andersen’s one of the top manufacturers of windows and doors, with five different types of picture windows to choose from. Its best-selling picture window is the 400 series, made with wood and a vinyl exterior that protects it from moisture. Choose between a variety of exterior colors, grilles, and low-E glass. Andersen’s other series of picture windows include the A-series (wood protected by fiberglass), the E-series (wood protected by aluminum), 200 series (wood protected by vinyl), 100 series (made from a composite material).

Milgard

Milgard picture window in a kitchen

Image source: Milgard

Price range: $300-$1,300

Milgard is another top manufacturer of windows and patio doors, with five picture window options. Milgard’s top picture window is the Tuscany series, made with a vinyl frame, Energy Star glass options, and a full lifetime warranty including glass breakage protection. Other picture window options include the Trinsic series (made with vinyl), Style Line series (made with vinyl), Ultra series (made with fiberglass), and the Thermally Improved Aluminum series.

Pella

Pella picture window in a sitting room

Image source: Pella

Price range: $100-$1,000

Pella features eight different types of picture windows, available as both new construction or replacement windows. Choose between Pella’s wooden picture window series, Reserve Traditional, Reserve Contemporary, Architect Series Traditional, Architect Series Contemporary, or the Pella Lifestyle series. Pella also has a fiberglass series called Impervia and two sets of vinyl, the 250 series and Encompass. Each style of window features optional glazing, color options, and impact-resistant glass.

JELD-WEN

JELD-WEN picture window in a kitchen

Image source: GVD Renovations

Price range: $150-$1,000

JELD WEN offers a variety of picture window styles made from vinyl, including its Builders series, DF Hybrid, Premium, and Premium Atlantic. JELD WEN’s wooden fixed windows include its Siteline Clad-Wood series and the W-5500 series. While JELD WEN may not have the greatest reputation due to complaints about leaks, they remain a solid choice for homeowners on a tight budget.

Pros and cons of picture windows

Three picture windows in a sitting room

Image source: Pella

Pros of picture windows

Energy efficiency - Perhaps the biggest advantage of installing picture windows is how energy-efficient they are. With the combination of non-operable windows and double or triple-paned glass, there’s a low risk of energy loss, saving you money on utility bills.

Cost-effective - Materials and installation for picture windows tend to cost less because of fewer moving parts and hardware than double-hung or awning windows.

Weatherproof - Because picture windows are fixed and don't open, you'll rarely have to worry about any type of leakage or damage from severe weather.

Unobstructed views – One of the biggest selling points of picture windows is the views. No matter what type of scenery you want to showcase in your home, picture windows offer large unobstructed views.

Cons of picture windows

No ventilation - Like bay windows and most transom windows, picture windows will not open, with no benefit of ventilation.

Heat gain - Because picture windows won't open, they are susceptible to bringing in a lot of excess heat to a room, so it's important to pay attention to a window's U-factor or solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) when buying. These two factors will tell you how much solar radiation is transmitted or absorbed and released as heat through a window inside.

Maintenance - While picture windows can be easier to clean because there are no moving parts, you'll have to clean them both from the inside and the outside, requiring a little extra maintenance. Especially if the windows are located in higher, hard-to-reach areas.

Although picture windows don’t open and won’t bring in any fresh air, they can offer extensive views of the scenery around your home. Picture windows can also be a more cost-effective window replacement project, and save you money on energy bills. While they can bring in a good amount of excess heat, picture windows are a great way to save money, boost curb appeal, and showcase your surroundings.

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