No single item has more importance to the function of your cottage than the windows. They are also one of the largest single expenditures, so your choice should be well researched. Unless you are going to simply rely on the recommendation of your Architect or Builder, plan on giving yourself at least a month to research your window choices and to decide on the company you want to use.
Window trim can be painted or left natural
Windows create the liveability in the cottage, letting in air, view, and light. It is important to realize that light coming from more than two directions is one of the factors that make a room one in which people feel most comfortable. This has been proven to be true universally.
With the price of land on a lake, the cost of construction materials and labour, it behoves you to end up with a building that is worthy of its site and expenditure. The connection between the lake, the land and the interior of the cottage is of paramount importance in Muskoka, hence your window size, placement, and function is vital.
Someone once asked an architect to reduce the number of windows in the cottage design by 20%. This request was designed to save money, however it was false economy, as doing so would reduce the quality of light, in many rooms, hence reduce the appeal of the cottage to its owners. The quality of light is a huge part of what creates that good feeling you get when you walk into certain buildings. Destroying the quality of light reduces your desire to be in a cottage and can reduce the value and saleability of the building.
The size, pattern and types of windows contribute to the character of the cottage. Windows that are evenly spaced and lined up bestow a formal air on a building, like Georgian design. A playful and irregular placement of windows conveys a casual or romantic character, as is typical of Queen Anne designed cottages. Queen Anne style cottages often had this irregular window design because the building was designed from the inside out. A window was placed in the spot where light was required from the inside of the building, regardless of the pattern it created on the outside of the building.
Windows can be vertical, square, horizontal, round, semicircular or octagonal in shape. Vertical windows subtly echo the shape of a standing human form, providing a feeling of human scale, which is comforting. Square windows echo the shape of a human face.
In traditional styles, square windows are most commonly used high up on a wall and are called Clerestory windows.
Clerestory windows are especially functional in bedrooms and bathroom where you want light but also need privacy. Horizontal windows are most commonly found in modern styled buildings, such as the large unsegmented picture windows common to the postwar ranch houses.
Windows create a struggle in the design of old Muskoka cottages. On one hand the traditional windows used in these cottages were tall and narrow. On the other hand there is also a natural desire to have large expanses of glass that show the magnificent lake view. It takes a good architect to find the right compromise in window design.
Windows come in casement, awning, jalousie, double hung, single hung, drop down, or hang up styles which open. There are several styles which do not open. Do not forget about skylights, which are roof windows that can be an important source of light in many cottages designs.
Double and Single Hung windows are composed of two sashes with one sash able to ride slightly in front of the other, so that it can move up and down inside the frame. With double hung windows, both the upper and the lower sash move, whereas with single hung windows there are still two sashes, but only one of the sashes moves.
In the old days double and single hung windows used to operate with counter weight balances, but modern ones use spring balances and run more smoothly and easily. Modern double hung windows are also tiltible on both the top and the bottom sash for easy cleaning. Double and single hung windows are a very traditional choice, common to older homes and cottages.
Casement windows crank open to the side. They can be ordered so that they crank to the left or to the right. Casements provide a large viewing space and are common to modern homes and cottages. In a more traditional application is would be best to consider a 1 to 1.5 ratio of width to height, in order that the casement look appropriate to an older building. Casements are a very good choice in areas where it is difficult to reach the window to open it, such as over the kitchen sink. These windows do tend to be less weather tight than double hung windows.
Awning windows are made like casement windows except that they crank open from the bottom to the top. These windows can usually be open during a rainstorm without water coming in and making things wet. They usually do not open very wide, just enough o let the breezes blow through. When open, the sills would limit your view, so awning windows are not usually used in front of main views. They can be used as clerestory windows in a bedroom or bathroom, or as an opening window for ventilation over top of a door. These windows are usually wider than casement windows.
A double hung window
Hang up windows are not common these days and usually have to be custom made out of single glaze materials due to the weight of the open window. The window is manually lifted and hung from hooks hanging down from the ceiling. These windows were often used on old cottages and are currently used to replicate the old methods in spots like sun porches, where it may be sufficient to have single glazing.
Drop Down windows are two sash, single hung windows that disappear into a space in the wall. These windows are countered balanced and ride on chains so that they can be as large as five feet wide and made from double glazed glass. These windows are quite new and are prized as a way to have a room able to be totally open to the air, or screened, or closed in with fully insulated windows. Some architects are using these windows in smaller cottages that need to have multiple use rooms. Using these windows the great room can also be the Muskoka room. It is worth your while to investigate the use of these windows to see if they would work in your cottage.
Sliding Glass windows are two large panes of glass that slide one behind the other to open. Sliding glass windows are quite inexpensive, but are not commonly used in custom construction.
Sliding Glass doors are windows that are used as doors. One window slides in behind the other window to open, taking no interior space to do so. It is this space saving quality that is prized, as well as the wide expanse of viewing area they provide. Sliding glass doors can have grills put in to make them look more like French doors.
French Doors are windows that open like doors. They are composed of a series of panes of glass held together by a wooden grill. This is called a true divided light. Many modern French doors have faux grillwork which is on the inside of the glass in a removable form for easy cleaning. In other modern styles, the grills are held in between the two panes of glass for easy cleaning inside and out. True divided lights are the most expensive to purchase and the most difficult to clean, but give the most elegant impact. This is because the wooden grillwork casts shadows, giving depth.
Craftsman style door
French doors look wonderful, but they do take up significant space when they open and close. Be sure to plan your furniture arrangement in a room before you decide to use French doors, so that you can see if the door opening will block the use of some furniture.
Jalousie windows are not common any more. The window glass runs horizontally in slats which open and close like Venetian blinds. You still see this type of window in old Florida homes.
Skylights are an important kind of window in many locations. Skylights are windows that are installed in the roof of your cottage. They can be fixed or they can be opened by winding them or electronically on a sensor. Sometimes the wall windows will not bring in enough light to a room and so the architect plans skylights to make the rooms.
Fixed windows can be created in any form, however the kinds that are usually fixed are bay windows, bow windows and circular windows.
You will be faced with many decisions regarding your windows. It could be worthwhile to begin some research on the Internet before you go to window retail stores so that you have the vocabulary and some knowledge about the benefits, limitations and costs of your choices. Be sure to understand the actual energy savings versus the cost of some alternatives, so you can gauge whether they are cost efficient over the life of the window.
Research the following:
- Window composition choices-for instance, wood and aluminum, wood and vinyl, all wood etc
- Energy efficiency- cost of double glazing versus triple glazing
- Alternative insulation factors such as gas, coatings etc
- Standard window sizes versus custom sizes from each company
- Life and warranty of the window
- Window styles available from each company
- Grill styles available from each company