When it comes to choosing window and door systems for homes, appearance, performance and function are high on the list of requirements. Factors to consider will include the visually appeal, energy efficiency, operation, ventilation and light transmission.
Your choice may also come down to current trends, material used in framing, type of glass, position and size.
Clearly there are plenty of things to think about. Here we will go into some depth about your choices for a new house or renovation.
What do you need?
Work out what is important for you.
- Appearance – Is the style or look the most important factor?
- Thermal properties – Are you worried about heating and cooling costs?
- Climate – Will your climate influence your decision?
- Maintenance – Do you want a low maintenance solution?
There are many factors that will determine your selection.
We will cover some of the many options in today’s market and try to make things a little clearer.
Firstly, timber windows have better thermal properties so if that’s your main concern you’re likely to choose timber.
Some people prefer the look of timber because it’s a natural product, which can be integrated into your home to blend into the natural surrounding environment.
Most timber frames will be painted or stained. Either way you’ll need to keep the maintenance up to ensure longevity.
Wood rot and attack from insects such as termites is something to consider with timber as well.
- Better thermal properties
- Natural visual appeal
- Classic design
- Higher maintenance (Painted or stained)
- Subject to wood rot and attack from termites
Aluminium is a relatively low maintenance product compared to timber. Available in either powder coated or anodised finish, they are less susceptible to wear over time.
Although the finish on aluminium can fade, the product is more of a set and forget solution. It is rust resistant and is more fire resistant, which is a feature that is becoming requested more frequently in recent times.
If a commercial or minimalist look is desired, aluminium will suit this style.
- Low maintenance
- Durable product
- Not subject to attack from termites
- Ideal for more commercial look
- Difficult to change colour after installation
- Powder coating can fade over time
- Can corrode in tough environments (e.g Coastal)
Steel frames have similar characteristics as aluminium. The main advantage of steel over aluminium is the relative strength of steel, which allows for thinner frames. That’s about the extent of it though.
Corrosion has always been the enemy of steel frames. Rust is difficult to repair in windows and doors and when left unattended can result in glass breakage.
If you like the look of steel frames go for it but aluminium wins in most other areas. Expect to pay more for steel.
- Available in slimline design due to extra strength of steel
Frame operation and styles
Almost all window and door systems include fixed windows of some description. Whether it’s a fixed panel next to a door or window, they have a place in most applications.
Traditional sliding windows and doors are mostly found in aluminium systems. They move on small rollers situated at the bottom of the window frame. While not a huge problem, wheels can fail over time due to being clogged with dirt and hair. It is not uncommon for them to crack and chip if not cleaned every so often but in general they are one of the most reliable opening systems.
These windows are one of the easiest to include a fly screen. Unless fitted with a safety lock they can be opened very wide, which can be a problem in elevated positions for children.
Hinged door systems are mainly found in front doors, laundries and other single-entry points in homes. Casement windows that have hinges on the side are rarely used today, making way for sliding, double hung or awning windows.
In general, side hinged systems are only used where there is no other practical alternative.
Awning windows are hinged from the top of window frames and open by being pushed from the bottom with a winder. They can offer a more secure window by leaving the window open slightly during the day, which will allow ventilation while you’re not at home.
These are becoming very popular in architecturally designed homes.
Commonly found in beach style homes louvres offer great ventilation. In most cases they must be toughened glass. Toughened glass lacks the security features of laminated glass and since louvres are only secured on the ends, these thin strips of glass will fall to the ground when broken.
Screening is possible for louvres, but it takes away from the visual appeal of the system as seen below.
The only practical use of bifold systems are for bifold doors or bifold kitchen windows. They are fantastic for open plan living.
Because they hang from the top, all weight is on the rollers found in guides above the frames. Poorly manufactured bifolds can be problematic. They can become stuck and hard to close. Choosing a reliable and trusted brand is important if you’re going in this direction. They look great when done right.
Installing fly screens is difficult as they need to span the whole width of the opening. Common screens are cassette style, which tend to get stuck or jammed.
If you have an insect problem, it would be a good idea to visit showrooms to test the screens first. If you don’t like the screen systems stackers can be a great alternative.
Variations of stacking windows and doors are becoming very popular. They offer the ease of operation of sliding systems but can be pushed to one side like the bifolds. Screen doors can be added with ease and recent designs have seen the development of wall cavities, which hide the doors when open.
These are the pick for many new homes as they tick plenty of boxes in modern homes.
Paint means maintenance. In saying that there is a warmth that a paint surface makes a home less clinical.
Repainting windows and doors can be a headache and can be costly. As with every decision there are tradeoffs, maintenance is a big one for timber frames.
Stained timber windows and doors are like painted. The main difference is that poorly maintained stained frames look terrible.
In many cases timber absorbs stains to leave timber looking dry and unkept. If you want the timber look you’ll have to pay with time or your money. In saying that the natural timber look can’t be match by any other product.
Powder Coated Aluminium
This finish is most popular with aluminium frames. It’s resistant to scratches and requires little maintenance.
Once you decide on a colour that is it. Painting existing powder coated frames never look the same. Powder coated frames are very popular in all types of properties.
Commonly found on aluminium frames, anodised frames are found in many commercial applications. Clear anodised, which looks silver in colour is probably the most popular with commercial style homes.
Factors that influence the appearance
Open plan living has been around for a while now and it’s not going away any time soon. Blending the kitchen into the lounge, dining area and into the backyard is the way to go if your property is suitable. In saying that traditional framing systems still have a place in more conservative designs.
Current trends in windows and doors.
- Colour trends
- ECO friendly products
- Larger glass areas
- Opening systems (Bifold v Sliding)
Try to stick with neutral colours as changing down the track can be difficult. Painting timber windows can be expensive, while changing the colour of aluminium windows never really looks the same. If in the future the colours of your home changes you don’t want to change aluminium windows and doors if possible.
Black is a popular option, which works well with any colour and it is easier to keep looking clean. White or off whites are timeless but will show dust and dirt. Steer away from unusual colours that will date quickly.
Large panels of glass almost always provide a feeling of elegance and space. Small glass panels require more framing, which takes away from the feeling of space and openness of the home.
In saying that there are limits, so choosing glass sizes that stay within the normal requirements of domestic glazing is a good idea.
6.38mm Laminated Glass is available in many forms. Clear, tinted, frosted and various energy efficient variations are all available. In most application three square metres is the maximum panel size for this type of glass. That could be 3000mm x 1000mm, 2000mm x 1500mm or any other height or width if it stays under the maximum area.
More on the glass types
Let’s think about what you need rather than what you will be encouraged to buy.
Heating and cooling
In most locations throughout Australia air conditioning is a preferable inclusion for most homes. Regardless of the type of glass you choose heating and cooling will be required in the peak of winter and summer.
The main difference with energy efficient glass is the length of time you will run your air conditioning. It does a great job of preventing heat from entering or leaving the home but it’s not essential.
Avoiding high performance glass
Truth be known products such as double-glazed units and energy efficient glass can be avoided.
When designing your home, shading can play a huge role in reducing your glass requirements. Clear glass has little resistance to direct exposure to the sun therefore shade is very important.
Positioning windows and doors in the right location will avoid extreme heat, which is the biggest problem for Australian homes.
Alpine regions are the main exception when battling extreme conditions.
Why laminate glass?
Besides the look and thermal performance of glass, safety and security is important. Laminated glass offers both and is available in most energy efficient variations.
The laminated interlayer also eliminates 99% of ultraviolet radiation.
Choosing a window and door company
The quality of timber, grade of aluminium and standard of fittings are all factors when deciding on a supplier of your windows and doors.
Using tried and tested manufacturers is a sensible thing to do. Many companies source their materials from companies like Capral Aluminium in Australia.
Locks, wheels, glazing products and even screws all contribute to the reliability of the finished product.
Try to stick with the companies that have a bricks and mortar showroom where you can touch and feel the finished product firsthand.
Larger companies may not be the budget guy with one truck working from his backyard, but you can almost guarantee they will be there in 10 years. Going cheap on windows and doors may mean you’ll be paying for it later when things start to go wrong.
Longevity in the trade proves they are doing something right.
Remember, anyone can have a flashy website so make sure you do some research. Choose a company that has the runs on the board.
Choosing frames will be heavily influenced by the design and appearance. Maintenance could sway your decision on framing materials and glass selection will depend on how important thermal properties are to your home.
Today’s semi commercial aluminium frames are hard to beat. Utilising either bifold or stacker door systems, they are modern and will suit open plan living.
Choosing a window system can be a bit more difficult. One criticism of double hung windows is the spiral balances break down over time. Awning or sliding windows would probably be our choice due to their low maintenance features.
So, if we are going aluminium, finish comes down to powder coated or anodised. Clear anodised is by far the most popular anodised finished, which has a silver appearance. This has a more commercial or industrial look. If you need a specific colour or even just a simple black or white it must be powder coated.
Most glass in homes must be Grade A Safety glass, 6.38mm Laminated is the preferred safety glass. Some windows don’t require safety glass, but we would recommend going all the way. It’s safe, secure and stronger than thin float glass.
When it comes to energy efficient glass, explore the use of say 6.38mm Grey Laminated. It’s cheaper and has decent thermal control properties. To glaze an entire home, this product could save thousands of dollars. Combine this with some good shade options and you have a sound solution for your home.