How-To Choose Windows For Your Tiny House

by andrewodom on January 26, 2011 · 10 comments


There is no simple way to go about the task of selecting windows for your new Tiny House construct. By the time choosing them comes around you will have heard multiple times that the key to making a smaller space look larger is to incorporate lots of natural light and to use windows and mirrors to give the illusion of a larger, less boxy, space. But with so many brands on the market, so many styles within those brands, and so many ideas about sustainable building, eco-friendly building, and budget-conscious building, the selection process can very easily become a frustrating one. It helps though to become familiar with a few of the most popular styles of windows available as well as debunk a few of the rating myths.

Bay Windows

I am not sure how a large, bay windows could find a suitable place in a Tiny Home. A bay window it typically rather large and more times than not involved a window seat. The most common style is one that has a flat piece and two slated side pieces that attach to the home. It is important to remember though that with a bay window, you are essentially changing the shape of your home (which is already a very limited option in a tiny house), so you may need to rework the flooring, siding, and roof of the house as well.

Awning Windows

Many of us are familiar with awning windows because they were the window of choice for most commercial structure post-WWII including many of our public schools. Awning windows swing or crank outward from the bottom assuring they could stay open even when it rained as well as making it most difficult for students to use as a means of escape from the dreaded world history class! Today these style windows are most commonly used in basement settings. But in a tiny house they may just what you need in a sleeping loft to assure proper cross breeze despite weather conditions. It is important to note that if an awning window is chosen, you won’t be able to use a wall air conditioner in it.

Sliding Windows

As the name implies, sliding window open by using two sashes that slide past one another. In my opinion these are a nice, contemporary looking window that is free of pane glass and allows for a lovely breeze when a screen is in place. The one draw back is these windows are very easy to manipulate open from the outside causing a bit of safety concern for the less brave.

Storm Windows

It is time for me to show my ignorance. I remember growing up my parents home had storm windows over top of their window-windows. They were literally a second pane of glass that helped insulate our home during colder months. Of course, this was before R-ratings, Low E ratings, and vinyl casements. I am not sure storm windows are even necessary any longer and if they are, the second pane of glass would either have to stay on year-round or they would have to be stored; not a forte of tiny home living.

Transom Windows

An architectural mainstay, the transom window probably came to full popularity in the Elizabethan and Georgian styles of building. Used to describe both windows that open for cross-ventilation or for windows that only allow in light above the room door, the transom windows on the market today typically do not open and are meant only to be decorative. They can be decorated, customized, and fashioned as an incredible focal point of an entryway but in a living situation like tiny house when every pound [on the trailer, of course] counts they are not the wisest feature to incorporate.

Skylights

For the smaller of tiny homes the skylight can be a real saving grace. While most Americans either forget about skylights or rule them out completely, the use of a skylight can greatly increase the overall feeling of size in a tiny house bed loft or even in the “great room.” They let in natural light without sacrificing privacy. And having a 10/12 (or steeper) roof pitch as many tiny homes do, the skylight may be the only hope of installing a substantial window for natural light and passive heating/cooling.

The possibilities truly are endless and while choosing “off the shelf” or “in-stock” windows from a box store or a window/door liquidator is the more budget friendly way to go you may also consider custom windows to match just the size and style you want for your tiny house! What windows are you using in your tiny house? Are you still designing and are curious what you should consider? Did you build and realize your windows were not adequate enough? Share your story with us. And as always, if you like this post consider sharing it on Facebook or putting the link out on Twitter using the social network icons below!

  • Nebraska Dave

    My tired 45 year old windows in my not so tiny house are not at all R rated and have the aluminum storm windows that were quite popular in the 1960s. I expect that if I replaced all 12 windows with upgraded windows it would be much easier to heat and cool the house, but at almost $400 a window installed, it would take a lifetime to recomp the expense in savings. I have a gang of three windows in my living room that cries out to be a bay window but there again it would be quite expensive to not just buy the window but have it installed as well. (big sigh) I guess I’ll just keep the maintenance up as best I can on what’s there.

    Have a great tiny house building day.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      You should look at the Home Depot “store” brand of vinyl, replacement windows. They are Low E by default and they have some nice options as well as a ton of sizes. Never know till you try Dave! hahahahaha

  • Anonymous

    In regard to skylights, we had them in our house in Ohio. As nice as they were to look at…they were a PAIN to clean, and when it rained on them the noise was SO loud! It would frighten the dog! I would suggest skipping the skylights.
    Have you thought about paint color? I understand that you want the space to appear larger, but there are several ways to make a room look inviting and large with color as well. Just a thought…

    • anotherkindofdrew

      We aren’t doing skylights. I still think they are a big leak waiting to happen. hahahaha. Maybe that is my “old skool” dad talking though. hahahahah.

      Yes, we have. I’ll save that for another post although I will hint to you and say light yellow, deep shelf accent colors, task lighting, wainscoting, and natural material flooring. hahahahaha

  • ET

    Sliding windows can easily be burglar proofed by putting a piece of thin lumber on the inside edge. Make it the right length so that it butts up against the edge of the sliding window and the window casing. Removable, cheap, easy.

  • ET

    Also, not all windows need to be able to open. One kitchen window, one bedroom and one other window (strategically placed) might be enough.

    Here’s a tiny house with bay windows: http://www.forgeahead.org/Productions/Tiny_Houses.html

    • anotherkindofdrew

      For us all windows need to be open as our design (which takes into consideration where we will primarily live in Tiny House) takes full advantage of cross-breeze and sun conditions. While it isn’t fully passive solar we do need to have designed ventilation.

      I like the work the ladies at Forge Ahead have done but I am not fond of bay windows. Never have been and probably never will. hahaha. Thank you for the link though ET.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=576916498 Andy Hawkins

    A bay window with a seat at the hitch end of the trailer would surely be a good idea, giving extra light AND seating without losing any floor space?

  • Sarah Tiny House Trio

    I have been thinking about windows lately… it seems that most tiny houses have tiny windows and they end up looking quite dark and small. I would love to have a few big windows in our tiny house, but I’m wondering if perhaps there is a good reason why tiny house windows are tiny? Where can I see some tiny houses with big windows?

    tinyhousetrio.blogspot.co.nz

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      Hey there Sarah. Great question. Most tiny houses have tiny windows in an effort to keep them symmetrical to the rest of the house. Oversized windows would look odd. From a structural standpoint though you can’t overbuild with windows in this situation because you would begin to sacrifice the integrity of your walls to some degree. I don’t know exactly where you can go. I can attach a photo of our tiny house so you can see our “short walls” which feature 4′ x 4′ windows. Perhaps that will help?

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