Should You Choose Single-Hung or Double-Hung Windows for Your Home?

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated January 11, 2022
elderly man and two young kids read book in front of large windows between two white couches
Westend61 via Getty Images

Single-hung and double-hung are similar common window types, but they have their own distinct features that influence which design you opt for in your home

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The type of window you select for your home will depend on your desired aesthetic, functionality, and budget. Single-hung and double-hung windows are two of the most popular and widely available designs. While they have many similarities, understanding the key differences between single-hung vs. double-hung will help you decide which is a better fit for your home.

How Do Single-Hung and Double-Hung Windows Differ?

Although easy to confuse from a distance, single- and double-hung windows vary in functionality and appearance. Both window styles have a top and bottom panel (referred to as sashes). But the more common single-hung window’s bottom sash is the only one that slides open—the fixed upper sash doesn’t budge. This design has been around since the 17th century, and you see it on historic buildings that have kept the original window design.

More recently introduced double-hung windows have more moveable parts. This allows you to open both the bottom and upper sash up and down on vertical sliders.

Both designs can have sashes with clear glass panes or feature vertical dividers within panes called muntins or grilles. Although muntins historically provided support, they’re now usually only present for aesthetics. Whether you want this feature on your windows comes down to personal preference.

Which Is Better: Single-Hung vs. Double-Hung Windows?

Both of these sash window types offer a timeless look, but they each have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Understanding more about these will allow you to make a more informed decision when purchasing for your home.

Single-Hung Windows Are Less Expensive

The most common reason homeowners opt for single-hung windows is the cost. Because they have fewer moveable parts, they’re less expensive. They’re also simpler and more affordable to install.

If you’re on a budget, you’ll want to stick to this more straightforward design. It isn’t unusual for the cost of double-hung windows to be at least double that of comparable single-hung varieties. If you have multiple windows to replace, this can make a big difference.

Single-Hung Windows Can Better Retain Their Energy Efficiency

Poorly sealed windows can have a significant impact on your home’s energy efficiency. Single-hung windows typically have a more snug fit in their frames and are less likely to leak air. The double-opening sash has more moveable parts, meaning the seals can degrade more over time, especially in the top part of the frame. 

Unlike the top sash of a single-hung variety, the moving sash of double-hung windows can’t be sealed with caulk, and window draughts are likely to be a bigger problem.

Many local window replacement companies supply high-quality double or triple-panes in both single and double-hung windows, which will increase their energy efficiency. However, these come with a premium price tag for double-hung windows.

Single-Hung Windows Are More Secure

Providing your windows are well-maintained, installed, and shut correctly, both window types should be very secure. However, if you don’t close the upper sash properly on double-hung windows, gravity can pull the pane down in the frame—meaning it won’t lock. A simple test to ensure it’s properly locked should be enough to prevent security risks.

Double-Hung Windows Are Easier to Clean

When the bottom sash is open in a single-hung window, it partially obstructs the upper sash, making outside window cleaning tricky. Being able to tilt both sashes on double-hung windows makes it a lot easier to access and clean the outside of the upper pane. This is especially useful if you live in an apartment or have multiple floors in your home. Otherwise, you might have the additional expense of a window cleaner.

Double-Hung Windows Offer Better Ventilation

One distinct advantage of double-hung windows is that there are more options for home ventilation. They’re perfect if you have a steamy kitchen or bathroom, where mold and odors can become a problem.

Leaving each sash half-open will help air circulate more freely. Plus, only having the top sash open while you’re showering can help with ventilation while maintaining your privacy.

large white room with white walls and furniture, wood floors, and large, bright windows
Newton Daly/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Double-Hung Windows Are Safer for Homes With Kids

For homes with adventurous young children, opting for double-hung windows is the safer choice. Opening the top sash and locking the bottom means you can still let fresh air into the house without worrying about the possibility of kids hanging dangerously out the window.

Opt For a Single-Hung Window for a Historically Accurate Older Home

The type of aesthetic you’re going for will impact which window you choose. For example, if you have a historic home and want something that compliments the era, a more traditional single-hung window is best.

Because the upper sash is not moveable in a single-hung window, it’s also possible to have a customized shape, including an arch or a pointed design. But double-hung windows also come in customized frames that fit with various architectural styles and are often the more popular choice for modern home styles.

There are Maintenance Issues to Consider With Both Types

If a single-hung window’s upper sash breaks, it’s not removable. You’ll have the expense and hassle of hiring a local window repairman to make the window repair. But if you’re a handy DIYer and the top sash on a double-hung window breaks, you might be able to insert a new sash yourself.

Conversely, because a double-hung window has double the hardware, it will need double the maintenance to keep the mechanisms and tracks clean and lubricated to ensure smooth opening and closing.

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