Shed windows are something that we take for granted. Every day we look through a house, garden shed or office window but give very little thought to how the window frames are made, how they fit within the structure of the building or even the options that are available for the glazing.
Nice looking self build shed window
If you are building your own shed there are a lot of options to think about. Should it be double glazed, single glazed? What is the difference between toughened glass and horticultural glass? Is plastic fantastic or should you stick with traditional glazing types?
If your only experience of making glazing decisions so far has been with a double glazing salesman be prepared to be educated.
In this article I will steer you through many of the options that you may want to consider for your shed windows, including:
Before we move on to the various window frame materials and types of glazing be sure you are clear on how you want your windows to perform and why you want them in your shed.
Because you don't necessarily need the same level of performance from a shed window as a house window it opens up many options that you might not have considered. The windows aren't restricted to a certain percentage of the wall area, they don't need to be as high specification in terms of thermal performance or ability to keep out draughts. This lack of restriction means that you have a much wider range of material choice and gives you much more freedom to create the look you want.
You do however have to be quite clear on what you want from your shed window. Here is a list of some of the factors that might be on your priority list:
This stained glass shed window lets in light and adds a sense of beauty
Bear in mind that with all of the above, sheds can be left unattended with valuable items stored in them. They can allow 'undesirables' to look in and see what is stored inside and they can also be a relatively easy way for people to break into a shed
If you need to ensure that your shed can maintain a high level of security then you might consider using security windows. Security windows are horizontal, very narrow, non-opening and usually set very high on the walls of the shed. This style of window lets in light but is above most people's eye level (so preventing the casual passer-by from determining the contents) and is too narrow a slot for anything to be lifted in or out.
These non-opening shed security windows increase the protection for your belongings. But they do look a bit forbidding.
If you are not looking for quite this level of security then smaller windows set at the standard height can improve security. Also steel bars set vertically into the frames on the inside of the glass will do the trick without being too intrusive.
One of the first choices you will have to make concerning your windows will be what sort of material you will need for your window frames. The three main material choices for the window frame construction are: wood, PVC and metal.
Each of these have their own individual characteristics:
Wooden window frames
Timber shed window frame prior to installation in a log cabin shed
Wooden window frames for sheds offer a huge range of flexibility from simple diy shed windows to sophisticated shop made stormproof windows. Wooden window frames look beautiful when properly treated or painted. If they are not they will become weather damaged in the longer term.
To help you on your way with wooden shed windows I have made some plans to show you how to make some simple wooden shed window frames. (link to storage shed windows)
PVC window frames
PVC window frames are often used as replacement windows in the UK. They are mainly chosen for durability and low maintenance. In terms of longevity they are quite good but at an environmental cost. Better than they used to be as PVC can be recycled.
PVC windows are often thrown away, so look for them in skips (dumpsters), renovation projects or ebay, gumtree and craigslist.
Pre-used double glazed PVC windows
PVC window frames usually come in white or brown and don't need painting. The problem with PVC is that over time it can become brittle, fade and is not so environmentally friendly at the end of its life.
Small shed using pre-loved PVC window frames
Metal shed window frames
Pre-used metal window frames were used for this characterful shed
Metal shed windows are available with powder coated steel or aluminium frames. These are a cheap, fairly basic design but just fine for a storage shed. Be aware that they are not a 'thermally broken' design that this means that you might end up with some condensation on the window frame if you are heating the shed in winter.
Aluminium is long lasting and does not rust easily. Aluminium windows are durable and can come in a variety of long lasting anodized finishes which give good corrosion resistance with little maintenance. Aluminium can be expensive but hey! this your shed you are building here so it could be worth it.
Suppliers in the US have a wide range of sizes and shapes from standard shapes, to transoms, arched and circular windows.
Each of these frame choices have their attractions as well as their drawbacks so it is a choice you will make based on your budget and the amount of upkeep you are willing to do.
Your next choice is the type of 'glass' you will use. Much of this choice is based on the intended use for your shed. The two main choices are glass or plastic window panes.
The range of glazing available to let light into your shed is wider than it would be for domestic windows.
Types of glazing include:
Horticultural glass - This is the thinnest most basic form of glass. It is typically 3mm thick. It can be cut into smaller panes by scoring it with a diamond cutter and then breaking it along the line. This benefit is partially counteracted by the relative weakness of horticultural glass. If hit by a ball or other object it shatters and the breaks into long dagger like shards.
Tempered or toughened glass - Much stronger than the horticultural glass. Also thicker at a minimum of about 4mm thick. Tempered glass is cut to the finished size and then heat treated and the edges polished to reduce the likelihood of cracking. If toughened glass is hit hard enough to shatter then it breaks into lots of tiny pieces. Which pose less of a hazard than the large shards of horticultural glass. However it needs to be ordered in standard size panes.
Opening shed windw with tempered glass
Double glazed shed windows - Double glazed windows are most often made from toughened glass. The two panes are bonded together with either a slight vacuum or filled with an inert gas such as argon. You can order readymade windows for your shed in the same way as you would ordinary house windows.
Double glazed unit about to be installed in wooden window frame
One way of making your own shed window frame to accomodate a double glazed unit
You can also use recycled windows (frame and glass) that you recover from a refurbishment project. Or if you want to just use some recycled glass then it is fairly easy to remove the double glazed unit from these windows and make your own timber window frames to suit.
Plastic for shed windows
There are alternatives to the relative inflexibility of glass, these are acrylic and polycarbonate. Both are types of plastic and have the advantage that in the types of thickness frequently used for shed windows (2-6mm), they are easy to cut using circular saws or routers. They both have excellent transparency 92 vs 88% (glass approx. 90%). One of the slight negatives for both is that they are less scratch resistant than glass and can become less transparent with age. To minimise scratching they should both be cleaned with soapy water rather than abrasive cleaners and avoid cleaning either with solvents at any cost as these will mark the surface.
One significant difference between the two types of plastic is the price. Cut price sheds use the thinnest material available which at 2mm is too flimsy and flexible.
Acrylic shed windows are more scratch resistant and rigid than polycarbonate
Available in thicknesses of 2-30mm
Very impact resistant, so much so that it is used for bus shelters and police riot shields
Polycarbonate is stronger and more crack resistant than acrylic
Available in thickness of 2-10mm
Finally polycarbonate is more expensive than acrylic, probably about 40-50% more for the thicknesses involved for windows.
One last thing that you might consider when installing your windows is whether or not you will choose to install shutters, blinds or curtains. These are used to control the views into (and out of your shed) they can also help with heat loss/gain and improve security.
Shed window blinds or curtains
Main purpose is to keep out the sun or make cosy at night. They also help to restrict the view of contents from prying eyes.
They protect from the sun and provide security by obscuring the contents of the shed from outside viewing.
Hinged shed window shutters with security bars
Removable shed window shutters secured from the inside
Installing trellis over the outside of this allotment shed window added somewhat to the security
Vertical steel bars installed in the shed window frame improve security without overly affecting external appearance
I hope the above discussion has helped you to make a decision on the best type of window for your shed.
In my experience the the main decisions you need to make fit into the following categories.
Shed windows can be one of the most influential design elements of the shed, second only to the style of the roof. Sometimes it seems that when people set out to build their shed they pay a good bit of detail to everything except the windows. consider the fact that the windows can influence the look, feel and style of the shed.
Decide on use of building
heated vs. unheated
preferred window frame material
opening vs. non opening
premade,diy or recycled window
Fixed shed windows with board and batten siding
If all you are looking for a source of light, to be able to see out and ventilation is not too much of a concern then a fixed window may be exactly what you need.
For a simple window that looks nice but is more functional than beautiful then you might consider either a side hung or top hung casement.
Nice little side opening shed window
If you are looking for a beautiful looking window for your garden office shed then you might choose to install double hung sliding sash windows or horizontal sliding sash windows.
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