Double-Hung Windows Offer Singular Traditional Style

They're efficient. They're visually appealing. They come in many materials and finishes. Is it any wonder 

double-hung windows are classics?


The double-hung window is about as traditional a window as can be. It's no surprise that its style fits colonial and 

more traditional homes, as the double-hung window became the window of 18th-century America.

The double-hung, or sash, window was was invented by Robert Hooke in the 17th century. Windows before then

 were typically casement style. But casement windows were smaller, as the hardware available couldn't 

support the weight of a large casement window when it was open. Double-hung windows restrict movement to 

a simple up and down motion and use a system of counterweights for support, so the size of the window 

isn't as limited.

Double-hung windows weren't considered very efficient until recently. Gaps around the sash and the frame 

would let in cold air, and there was a constant rattle of the sash in the frame, the result of the wood 

parts drying out and shrinking over time. But with advances in materials and designs, the double-hung 

window can be very efficient.

With its traditional styling and appeal and with the new standards that allow efficient windows, the double-hung 

is an excellent window choice where a traditional or transitional aesthetic is desired.


In its original incarnation, the double-hung window was arranged singly so that there would be an expanse of 

wall between each window. And each sash, top and bottom, would be divided into a number of separate pieces of 

glass. Hence terms like "six over six," referring to how many divisions (pieces of glass) were in each sash. 

For example, the window shown here is referred to as an "eight over 12."

Also, some of these windows have an inoperable top sash; these are referred to as single-hung windows. And 

there are windows with three operable sashes, called triple hung. For the most part, however, what we see 

are double-hung windows, with both the top and bottom sashes being operable.


Architects have increasingly ganged these windows to create more modern walls of glass. From creating detail 

and scale to gathering in all that light, it's a way of achieving the best of both traditional and modern 



A great advantage of having the upper sash operable is the ability to increase airflow. It is an easy way to

ventilate a home, as the interior air will rise up and escape as it warms up. 

Double-hung windows are also quite versatile. A combination of a fixed sash held tight to the ceiling with

 double-hung windows below can create an open and airy porch-like space.


The double-hung window is especially suited to a traditional-style home with exterior shutters.

While these windows are traditional in style, modern materials and assembly techniques make them much better 

than their wooden ancestors. Exterior cladding now includes vinyl, fiberglass, composite materials and 

aluminum. Interior ones come in just about any species of wood, and the hardware (such as thumb locks and 

sash lifts) can be in whatever finish you'd like. And there are a variety of glass options, from single to double to triple glazing as well as coatings and films that can be applied.

While you can get a double-hung window for as low as a few hundred dollars, depending on its size, a better 

window that is excellent at saving energy and has a low-maintenance exterior finish will cost considerably 



A variation on the Chicago-style window is three double-hung windows grouped together, with the center window 

wider than the flanking windows. This window was created in the late 19th century by architect Louis Sullivan 

at the Carson Pirie Scott store. The style, which incorporates a large, inoperable plate glasswindow flanked 

by double-hung windows, became almost ubiquitous, showing up on just about every colonial spec home built 

in the 1960s and 1970s.


There are some locations where a different style of window is a better choice than a double hung. Above akitchen

 sink, for example, because you're standing a few feet away from the window and don't have as much leverage,

 a double-hung window tends to be more difficult to open and close than a casement window. In instances like

that, a grid pattern can be developed that makes a casement look like a double-hung window. The trick is to 

treat the middle horizontal line as a check rail (a horizontal bar between the upper and lower sashes) to 

give the illusion that the window is in fact composed of two sashes.

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