What is a Picture Window? 13 Pros & Cons

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A picture window is an innovative way to create a connection between the indoors and outdoors of your home. While most experts don’t consider it a distinct glazing style, the term “picture window” has become popular in modern building designs. But what exactly is it?

A picture window is a large, stationary window that can’t be moved or opened. These windows don’t provide ventilation, but they are energy-efficient and a great option to increase the natural lighting and create a breathtaking view of the outdoors.

1. Pro: Picture windows offer unobstructed views

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The sizable glass pack with a picture window creates an expanded outdoor view. Not only do you get panoramic views of your surroundings, but a picture window can also make a room feel larger than it is.

2. Pro: They increase natural light

A strategically-placed picture window becomes a reliable source of natural light and minimizes the need for artificial indoor lighting during the daytime. This helps reduce your costs for lighting and potentially make savings on your energy bills. Other benefits of natural light include:

3. Pro: They are generally more affordable

A common misconception about picture windows is that they are costly because of the amount of glass they contain. However, compared with maneuverable windows, picture windows are one of the most affordable windows with maximum benefits. When you ask for a quotation for a picture window of the same material and size as, say, double-hung windows or casement windows, you will get a lower rate because fixed windows don’t require moving parts that need to be replaced when they fail. It’s worth mentioning that when picture windows reach the end of their lifespan, they have to be replaced in their entirety.

4. Pro: They boost your home’s curb appeal

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Picture windows can add significant appeal to your curb. Oversized and well-placed picture windows are now standard architectural accents in many contemporary homes.

5. Pro: They offer better insulation and energy efficiency

Picture windows offer reliable insulation when they’re correctly installed, keeping your home warm and cozy on chilly days. Because these fixed windows are inoperable and sealed on the edges, there’s little to no risk of a gap for air or water to enter or escape. Consider going for picture windows with added features such as low-E coating and double coating to improve insulation and energy efficiency.

6. Pro: They are durable

Because picture windows are fixed, there are no movable parts to break, and this can help you save on the expenses typically associated with buying replacement parts for windows. The durable nature of these windows can also help improve your home’s security since the lack of moving parts makes them more challenging to be broken into.

Related article: Does Every Room Need a Window?

7. Pro: Picture windows are versatile

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You can use picture windows with other window styles if you want your home to have better ventilation.

8. Pro: They are low maintenance

Picture windows generally require little maintenance because they don’t have moving parts, and you don’t have to worry about repairing them because no mechanical parts break down with continued use. All you need to do is keep the large glass panes clean.

Related article: 6 Reason Why Do We Need Windows in a Room

9. Pro: They come in custom options

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Picture windows come in an array of finishes and colors. Furthermore, numerous materials are available, including vinyl, wood, and fiberglass. Decorative grilles may also be added to these windows for homeowners who want to experiment creatively.

10. Con: Lack of ventilation

Because they don’t open and close like other windows, picture windows cannot allow the cool breeze from outside in or encourage air circulation. This might not be a big deal if you live in an area that is chilly all year round, but if you live in a hot region and heavily depend on ventilation to cool your home, installing a picture window might not be the best idea unless the room has other operable windows.

Related article: Effects of Sleeping in a Room Without Windows

11. Con: Heat gain in the home

While picture windows are generally energy-efficient, they let in plenty of sunlight during the daytime may also mean unwanted solar heat gain inside the home. Some experts also believe that the difference between the energy performance of inoperable and operable windows is minimal. If you want to prevent unwanted heat gain while still benefiting from the use of tightly-sealed fixed windows, be sure to pay attention to U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) values when shopping for replacement windows. In addition, you can install blinds, curtains, or drapes that block out excessive heat during the summer season.

12. Con: Cleaning can be an issue

Cleaning can be both a pro and a con for picture windows. On the one hand, their lack of moving parts makes them relatively easy to clean, but only from indoors. On the other hand, cleaning the exterior of this type of window is quite tricky because you cannot open them, which means you have to go outside to get to the exterior surface. Large picture windows installed on upper floors are tough to maintain.

13. Con: Breakage issues

Picture windows’ large glass surface area can mean a greater breakage risk in some situations. However, many units are typically fitted with shatterproof glass or films, which goes a long way to minimize this risk.

Picture window designs

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  • Combination picture windows

While picture windows can sometimes be installed by themselves, they are commonly used with other windows to create an appealing configuration. If you want scenic views and exceptional natural lighting but are unwilling to sacrifice window functionality entirely, consider going for a combination window. 

Picture windows can be combined with double-hung, gliding, casement, specialty, or awning window styles. Casement or double-hung windows on either side of a rectangular-shaped picture window are trendy for homeowners as they provide maximum natural light with exceptional airflow. 

It’s not uncommon to find bay window configurations using a picture window in the center flanked by venting side panels to maximize the view. Bay windows are an excellent option for adding interest and aesthetics to your home because they extend from the building, giving the sought-after illusion of additional space.

  • Picture window sizes

It’s unlikely that you’ll buy your picture window off the shelf, so they don’t come in standard sizes like regular windows. The most common widths for picture windows are 2ft, 3ft, 4ft, 6ft, and 8ft. Standard picture window heights typically range from 1ft to 8ft. 

If you’re combining double or single-hung windows with a picture window, the ideal size range is 28-36 inches wide and 52-74 inches tall. If you want to use awnings/casements with your picture window, then a range of 20-24 inches wide and 24-48 inches tall may be more suitable. 

  • Custom-made picture windows

Most picture windows are custom-made to allow you to determine a suitable size based on the specifics of your home. You can also have picture windows installed without bars or grids or include a specialty grid pattern.

Depending on the layout of your home, you could go for a picture window that features a large pane of glass. This is an especially great option for a contemporary home. If you have a more traditional-style home, consider combining smaller windows to make a bigger widow achieve a classic look. You can have a window designed to fit an opening that has a picture window, with either casement windows or double-hung designs on either side.

  • It is a natural mood booster
  • It brings out the natural beauty of your interiors
  • It increases the quality of your sleep
  • It promotes the amount of vitamin D generated in your body

Where do picture windows work best in a home?

Picture windows work almost anywhere in homes, but they may be better suited for other areas than others.

  • Unused exterior walls
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Picture windows can help create a seamless wall, a creative way to capture scenic views and natural light through unused exterior walls. An array of carefully-shaped picture windows will look stunning on an empty wall space adjacent to a vaulted ceiling, for example.

  • Low-lit spaces

You can have one or a series of picture windows strategically placed to increase the amount of natural light coming into specific parts of your home like the hallway, bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen. For privacy, employ the use of window treatments or tints.

  • As an architectural accent in unexpected locations
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A circular picture window above the landing of your stairs, for example, serves as a charming accent while lighting up this often sad part of the home. Yet another unexpected application is installing a picture window in the corner of a room, which opens up the space and instantly brightens it.

Final thoughts

Picture windows are an excellent option for homeowners who want a window that can significantly improve their home’s aesthetics, allow even more natural light, and offer unobstructed views.

Zoltan Szatmari

Zoltan is a test and industrial engineer from Europe who loves learning anything new and working on small projects. When he is not working, he is usually hiking or going to the cinema.

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