Double Hung Windows Chicago: Here’s What You Need to Know
The odds are high that local Chicagoland homeowners have a double-hung window in their home. It’s one of the most common window styles for Chicago architecture, and for classic American homes in general.
Instantly recognizable for their two vertical sashes—meaning they comprise two window panels that move up and down—double-hung windows are energy-efficient, attractive, and functional.
But what do you really know about this traditional, versatile window style?
Most of us don’t give it a thought until we’re weighing up new options for a window replacement. If double-hung windows are high on your list—and, for most Chicago home and property owners, they absolutely are—here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Double-Hung Window?
Double Hung Windows at a Glance
- Double-hung windows have two sashes—one above the other
- Both sashes can be opened and closed
- Double-hung windows suit many traditional house styles
A Closer Look at Double Hung Windows
A double-hung window has two functional, vertical sashes (industry-speak for the window frame surrounding the glass itself). Both sashes can move up and down to allow air in and out of your home. Tracks built into the window’s frames are typically held in place by a spring mechanism or—in older builds—counterweights, and the sashes slide within these.
Double-hung windows use a latch mechanism at the center of the window frame, where the two sashes meet. This allows double-hung windows to be locked.
The traditional framework of a double-hung window allows for several different styles and aesthetics, depending on what works for your home’s architectural era or your own personal tastes. They can included window grids—like the classic Colonial 6 over 6 double hung—which are known as divided lights. A 6 over 6 double-hung simply means there are 6 divided lights in the upper sash, and 6 divided lights in the lower sash. There are multiple combinations when it comes to divided lights.
A popular style of double-hung window—known as a cottage window—features a narrower top sash and a larger bottom sash.
Double Hung Window vs. Single Hung Window
This is a common question when our clients are looking at a large-scale window replacement.
The sole difference is that single hung windows only allow for the bottom sash to be opened. The upper sash is fixed, so it provides plenty of light into your home, but doesn’t allow for air circulation. A double hung window, on the other hand, allows both sashes to open and close, making it ideal in warmer weather, and more functional in general.
Where to Spot Double Hung Windows
These are one of the most common window styles in the US, and especially in Chicago. They’re common across a wide range of Chicago home architectural styles, but especially so in:
- The classic Chicago Two-Flat
- Worker Cottages
- Renovated bungalows
- Converted lofts
- Farmhouses, ranches, and modern-traditional builds
Double Hung Windows Chicago: Why Choose Them?
Double-hung windows remain hugely popular across the US for a multitude of reasons. From curb appeal to energy efficiency and resilience, there’s a reason they are one of the most common window styles in the country.
#1. Air Circulation
One of the top benefits of a double-hung window is easily the amount of air they allow to circulate through your home. On warm Chicago summer days when the temperature climbs into the 80s, the cross-breeze enabled by double-hung windows can be hugely beneficial. Older homes will benefit from circulating fresh air through the interior to minimize condensation, and (if your home has eaves that project out far enough) you can even open the windows in wet weather to reduce indoor humidity. In comparison to a single hung window, double-hung windows can have the upper sash lowered to allow heat to escape.
Double-hung windows offer other benefits, too:
Most major window manufacturers across the US offer some style flexibility in their double-hung window series. The frames can be made from a variety of materials—from wood to aluminum, to fiberglass and proprietary fiber blends. There are a near-infinite selection of wood stains and paints available to ensure your window frames work seamlessly for your home’s exterior and interior, too.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, homeowners can explore several styles:
- A narrow upper and wider lower sash, like you’ll find with the cottage window
- Divided lights like a 6 over 6 style, or the more ornate diamond, 12 over 12, or 16 over 16.
- Prairie home-inspired lights, which give the effect of a window frame within a window.
- A 6 over 1 classic look to offer unfettered views
#3. Easy To Clean
Double-hung windows have the added bonus of being easy to clean and maintain. Because they tilt outwards, you gain easy access to all parts of the window for easy and regular cleaning.
#4. Easy To Repair and Replace
Several reputable manufacturers design double-hung windows with removable sashes. These are ideal when it comes to repairing damage to one sash—be it the frame or the window glass itself—or changing out the style of your sash in the future.
In general, because double-hung windows allow easy access to all parts of the window, it’s easier to spot an issue before it becomes a major structural problem. This, in turn, improves the longevity of your window solutions and protects your wallet for longer.
#5. Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is a high priority for most local homeowners. An energy-efficient window choice—like double-hung windows—equal reduced moisture, lower risk of air leaks, and improved ability to keep your home warm in winter and dry in summer. The flow-on effect of these factors means:
- Lower heating costs in winter
- Lower cooling costs in summer
- A healthier home with less chance of illness-causing mold
- A drier home with less chance of damage-causing mildew and damp
- Reduced energy costs due to the amount of natural light double-hung windows allow into the home
And one last benefit…
Although it’s not entirely a benefit of the double-hung window, it’s worth mentioning double glazing. Double glazing is, effectively, two ultra-thin glass panels that sandwich an insulative gas filling—like argon or xenon. The inert gas between the two glass panels acts as a buffer against energy transfer (window-speak for hot or cold outside air getting into your home).
As more Chicago homes opt for double—or even triple—glazing their windows for energy efficiency, double-hung windows become nearly unbeatable for energy efficiency, noise reduction, and minimizing condensation.
Cons of Double Hungs
A double-hung window is a solid investment for Chicagoland homes, but—as with any window solution—they’re not perfect.
#1. Wear and Tear
As your double hung windows age, the counterbalance mechanisms that keep them functioning can wear or sustain damage.
Pro Tip: Practicing general window maintenance can help prolong the life of your windows, and purchasing your double hung windows from a reputable Chicago window solutions specialist will help you secure a strong manufacturer’s warranty if things do go wrong.
Large window sashes can be appealing to would-be intruders. Fortunately, many window styles can be manufactured to deter break-ins.
Pro Tip: Ask your local Chicago window specialist about increasing window security if this is a concern for you and your family. And always ensure your home security system is working at its best—regardless of whether or not you’re replacing your windows.
#3. Child Safety
Because a double-hung window can open at the top and bottom, it’s imperative that you plan your furniture layout and window use around the smallest family members in your home. Double-hung windows can pose a small risk for small children when they are mounted low and the bottom sashes are open.
Pro Tip: All windows can pose a minor safety risk for children. Always, always, always be smart with the windows in your home.
Double Hung Windows Chicago: The History
Double hung windows are actually older than the United States.
As early as 1670, sash windows were being used across England in homes belonging to the nobility. Ham House, a 17th century home on the banks of the River Thames in London, is a prime example of an early 17th-century use of this windows style. The double hung aesthetic was also widely used across the Netherlands during that time, which makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly where these windows originated.
Wherever they came from, they were extremely popular in Georgian and Victorian England. Wealthier homes in the Georgian era favored a 12 over 12 or 9 over 9 sash with thick muntins and larger panes to reflect the easy availability of glass in that period.
Late Victorian homes preferred the aesthetic of the 6 over 6 style of window—with 6 divided lights on both the top and bottom sash. Even Edwardian England’s suburban homes used a classic sash window, although single hung windows were more cost effective for the general population. Even quadruple hung windows existed—using 4 functional sashes—to deliver an ornate full-length window style for ultimate impact and ventilation.
By the end of the century, double hung windows had made an indelible mark on English architecture, and used a complicated system of pulleys and counterweights to help them open and close.
As the European aesthetic started to influence the world’s architecture styles, muntins thinned out and 6 over 6 sashes gained favor, delivering an elegant, delicate style to modern homes.
As more and more English and Europeans came to settle in America, they brought their taste in architecture—and their preferred window style—with them. The double hung they favored so much was ideal for the North American climate, and worked well with the types of homes wealthy colonials were building in their new home.
Single and double hung windows enjoyed massive success in the New Country, until a devastating series of fires across major US cities at the end of the 19th century. These fires decimated homes and triggered the introduction of fire codes. Most of these worked to decrease the use of wood in window framing.
The Introduction of the Steel Window
Fortuitously, the Industrial Revolution brought with it the introduction of mass-produced steel. Steel was fire-resistant and long-lasting, making it ideal for window framing and sashes for commercial applications. Factories, universities, hospitals, and apartment buildings embraced the new technology. Steel had the added benefit of being stronger than wood, so it was able to hold more glass—meaning thinner frames and more versatility at a time when the Art Deco movement was taking hold.
The Introduction of the Aluminum Window
When World War II began to impact the economy stateside, aluminum window framing gained popularity. It was non-corrosive, it was easy to manufacture, and—most importantly—it was cheap.
Now, we have a massive number of natural and synthetic materials to choose from for our window frames. Premium window manufacturers offer a host of products from extruded and roll-form aluminum to the more diverse, resilient, and versatile wood, wood blend, and synthetic options:
- Marvin Windows’ proprietary Everwood. Looks and feels like real wood, but is more durable, more resilient, and more resistant to fading, warping, or buckling than real wood.
- Genuine wood framing in Oak, Douglas Fir, Pine, Mahogany, Cherry, and Black Walnut.
- Pella Windows offers a line of window solutions made from their patented Duracast fiberglass product. This five-layer composite is resistant to warping and buckling in even the most extreme temperatures.
- Marvin Windows comes to the table again with their Ultrex fiberglass material. 8 times stronger than vinyl for thinner, lower-profile framing, it expands at the same rate as glass for less cracking or deterioration.
Every reputable window manufacturer across the US has their own range of styles and options, making the double hung window of today as unique—or traditional—as the homeowner.
If you’re in the market for new windows—whether for a new build or as a replacement in your existing home—there’s a good chance you’re considering double hung windows.
For versatility, energy efficiency, and functionality, they’re a solid choice for most Chicago homes. They are also nearly infinitely customizable, to give your home a signature style. So is this what you want?
Now that you know more about this ultra-popular window style, you’re in a much better position to decide.
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