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Alignment of Windows question
lin_farmhouse
December 26, 2012 in Design Dilemma
We are in the midst of starting a major remodel and have a window size issue.

Attached is a picture of one of our bedrooms. (We used a fisheye lens so it's not proportional.)

All 3 windows will be double hung - the 2 in the front (right) and the left (which is on a side of the house). This window on the side will be a 38 1/2" (w) x 56 1/4" (h) for egress.

My question: is it better to:

a. have the top casing line for all 3 windows be level on the same line (which would mean the window sills wouldn't be on the same line)

or

b. for the window sills to be on the same line (which would mean the top casing line wouldn't be on the same line)?

Thanks.
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Wow Great Place
It looks right now like your window sills would be at the same level, the way these windows openings have been sized. That makes sense, since I also see you have two different ceiling heights, correct? Given that the ceiling is higher in the main part of the room, it makes sense visually that the top of the window does the same thing, it just looks right to me.
1 Like   December 26, 2012 at 4:59PM
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lin_farmhouse
Hi - thanks for your reply.

Sorry I forgot to include some details.

We have to install headers over the windows and thus the window sizes will likely have to change.

Should I align the top of the windows or the bottoms of the windows?

Yes, the ceiling height for the "main part" is 8' 4", while the ceiling height in the dormer is 7'.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 5:05PM
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Wow Great Place
I'd still align the bottoms....I like the look of it, especially given the ceiling transition, it will just seem more intentional if the tops of the windows flow along with the ceiling transition.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 5:16PM
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jlblum
As a home builder, i'd generally try to align the tops and let the sills vary. We'd also try to align the door casings and cased openings so that all of the window and door trim aligned across the tops. The dormer windows could be treated differently from the rest of the space as the ceiling height change will allow that to feel as if it "needed to be that way" because of the dormer. We find a lot of the time that the dormer windows are really predicated on the exterior trim details.
4 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 5:24PM
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lin_farmhouse
Thank you both. I think it will be better to align the tops and let the sills fall where they may.
1 Like   December 26, 2012 at 5:29PM
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Wow Great Place
I have to disagree with you, jlblum, as lin_farmhouse mentioned, this is not a dormer window, these are all double-hung windows, and there is a 16" difference in ceiling height in the two distinct areas of this room. Aligning the tops of the windows means you have to use the 7' ceiling height area as the 'start line", and would make the window in the 8'4" area seem oddly low as a result. (my two cents....three times....LOL)
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 5:30PM
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Joseph I. Mycyk Architects, Inc.
I have to disagree with WowGreat Place on the techinicality of the dormer window.
The two windows on the right are in a dormer. That is clear by the exposed underside of sloped roof framing to the right, and the lower ceiling at the windows.

It's amazing the windows don't seem to have any headers. Were the window openings something recently done? Doing headers is the right thing to do since you're putting in new windows.

I don't feel the dormer windows need to line up with the other window. They are viewed on different elevations of the house from the exterior. On the interior they are a result of their location. I don't feel they do anything negative to your room and it's interior.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 5:42PM
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carolannr
I agree. Since the smaller of the windows is in a different area with a different ceiling height, to align the tops of the windows would make the larger one just seem wrong in its space and it would just look awkward even if both windows are draped to the floor ( and the varying bottom sills would not be noticable). The difference in space from ceiling to window top will be much more awkward than the continuity attained by aligning the top of the windows.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 5:48PM
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lin_farmhouse
@ Joseph I. Mycyk Architects, Inc., this home was built in 1906... so yes, before Headers were required.

@carolannr, Are you saying to align the window sills of all 3 windows then? Sorry I'm not following what you're suggesting.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 5:54PM
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Nick Vanegmond
In my experience, as long as the windows aren't on the same wall, it doesn't matter much. Builders like having them at the same height for brick, and siding on the exterior of the house, more of and issue with brick than siding. I would suggest you keep the exterior in mind, and how that will look, if it's even a factor.........other than that if it's on a two different walls just be sure there is enough room to have the same trim detail on both windows,
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 6:07PM
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Linda
I would align the sills rather than the tops. I don't know whether the code applies to ordinary bedroom windows but there are rules about where you must use tempered glass. I believe there is a regulation that all windows below a certain distance from the floor must be tempered glass...maybe 16 or 18 inches but you might want to ask since tempered glass is much more expensive.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 6:10PM
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jlblum
In my previous post, I mentioned that the dormer windows could be at a different height than the non dormer windows. It is nice to have the non dormer window top and the interior doors / cased openings align across the tops. The dormer windows could be further differentiated by adding a window seat.

If you have to add a header over the dormer window, explore whether or not a flush header might help. That is when the header is raised up into the ceiling and the rafters could be supported by hangers.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 6:18PM
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J. S. Perry & Co., Inc.
As a builder it's common to frame all headers at the same height unless there are extenuating or special circumstances, or if the design concept calls for special placement of windows. When a person is standing and viewing out a window, it would be odd to have a sight line interupted by wall. Typically all windows and doors are framed with the same header height...not a law, just a rule of thumb.
2 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 6:23PM
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carolannr
Nope, I wasn't suggesting that all the sills be at the same level. Obviously. bldg codes, the exterior of the bldg and the each window's size would probably dictate where the sills fall especially if a window seat were to be planned in the dormer area. I'm just saying that expecting the windows to line up in any way - either along the top headers or the sill could cause the windows to appear awkward in their spaces since the celings of each of their areas are obviously different.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 6:41PM
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lin_farmhouse
It seems like the general consensus is to try and align the headers (for all 3 windows) is best and ideally for it to match the door header as well.

Do folks agree? Thank you to everyone for their opinion.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 6:48PM
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apennameandthata
Given that the ceiling height varies and the floor is level, not having the bottom level just seems crazy. But there are people argueing against this who are well qualified. Another thing is, it looks right now. Is that how the windows always were? Did it bother you? It would cost actual money to move them, right?
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 8:00PM
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J. S. Perry & Co., Inc.
In your case where the front window is in a dormer with a lower ceiling, it probably makes sense to leave the window as it is but allow sufficient space for the window casing to fit nicely above the window, regardless of the height of the other windows in the room and let the sills fall where they may in relation. The look from and the features of the exterior should also be taken into account. You want order but architecture is so subjective and necessity is the mother of invention. The querks and features of some of the older homes do make way for some creative invention that can add to the character of the home.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 8:35PM
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Ralston Decorating Group
The window sills should all be the same, otherwise, your house will look " odd " you can play with the upper part of the windows, but not the bottom.
1 Like   December 26, 2012 at 8:53PM
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lin_farmhouse
Very enlightening thread.

I think I've heard all 3 possible options - align the tops, align the bottoms (sills) or balance in relation to the rest of the room given the differences in heights between main part of the room and the dormer.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 9:09PM
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jenjenmurray
I think definitely the tops need to be aligned. Your eye will automatically notice that difference vs. the lower level. It will look more clean and thought out.
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 10:00PM
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lin_farmhouse
I thought about this some more - and have more data to share - and think we'll align the sills.

All 3 windows are 25 1/2" from the floor. The left window (on the side of the house) is 56" tall and the right 2 windows in the front are 52" tall. So, already, the headers aren't aligned.

It thus makes sense to continue to keep the sills aligned. Since the front windows are in dormers, it should mask the difference when looking from the outside.
1 Like   December 26, 2012 at 10:41PM
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Anish Motwani Associates
hello

align the window header/tops

regards
0 Likes   December 26, 2012 at 11:05PM
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essgee
We have the same window arrangement -- on the front of the house, there is a triple double-hung window (66" H) in a large dormer area where the ceiling is cathedral -- two small single double-hung windows (48" H) are located on the side of the house in the portion of the bedroom that has 8' ceiling. The builder aligned the sills. The small ones would have been too high if aligned with the top of the large window. The arrangement looks just fine.
0 Likes   December 27, 2012 at 7:39AM
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lin_farmhouse
Thanks, essgee.

I think it does make sense for us to keep the sills aligned.
0 Likes   December 27, 2012 at 7:43AM
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Rehder Construction, Inc.
lin_farmhouse,

Your ceiling level over the right window looks to be at least a foot lower to the main ceiling window to the left. Because the ceiling heights are different, it is okay to to have different window heights.

You've posed a very good question. Visually, it is definitely more important to have the window sill the same height off the floor.

Best of luck with your project!

Steve Rehder
0 Likes   December 27, 2012 at 8:55AM
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carolannr
Definitely.
0 Likes   December 27, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Interiors International, Inc.
Tops of windows and doors should be the same. The sills do not matter.
0 Likes   December 27, 2012 at 9:19AM
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Linda
Does the exterior look "right" now? Trust your sense of proportion and balance to guide you when you look at the house from the exterior. If the sills have always been aligned, does it look really awkward from the interior space as it currently sits? Most older homes were built with great attention to getting the windows sized and placed appropriately. If you move the dormer windows up the wall, that may look very strange from the outside. Inside, you have lots of wall color, trim, flooring and furniture to unify spaces, outside you have very few options to disguise a strange window arrangement.

In a large open space without changes in ceiling, aligning the top of the trim for doors, cased openings and windows looks right. I recently sold a house where the side-by-side double hung windows had been replaced by a shorter picture window and they centered the new window in the old opening...it was sooo wrong!
0 Likes   December 27, 2012 at 10:03AM
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ma2 architects
Think about your furniture--you'll be pretty disappointed if you go through all this and it turns out your bed (or dresser, or desk) is a foot higher than the sill of your window. Also, it looks like in this space there are two distinct volumes and that the windows are not really adjacent--therefore having the window heads align is not as critical as it would be if the ceiling was continuous. In this case you don't have a singular frame of reference for the ceiling height so having the heads at different heights will not be as noticeable as it would be in a room with a flat ceiling. I'd go with the sills. Sorry builders!
Here's an example of a room where the sills aligned but the heads did not. The continuous line at the helped to pull all these windows together. Good luck with your remodel!
0 Likes   December 27, 2012 at 12:21PM
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Doreen Schweitzer Interiors, Ltd.
It makes sense to have the sill heights align as it looks like the top can not align anyways because of the different ceiling heights. Even if the tops can align the difference in ceiling heights makes the top alignment less noticeable. My guess is if the tops could align the windows would be the same size.
0 Likes   December 27, 2012 at 1:50PM
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Schoolhouse Renovation Inc
It doesn't matter in this instance. I'm a custom home builder of high end homes and lots of architects design window openings in the same room to have matching header heights, which builders love, or un matched due to design issues, such as dormers or mismatched ceiling heights. Sill height of the egress window is determined by code. Dormer window height should be determined by how it looks on the exterior of the house.
1 Like   December 28, 2012 at 6:10AM
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Monja Vadnais
Normally I would say align the tops because when you walk into a room you are looking more upward than down. You'll have furniture that will likely be in front of the window sills and may or may not have window treatments.

That said, since your room has not only differing ceiling heights but also a dormer area, you have some flexibility. decide how you plan to use the areas and go from there. If the dormer section is to be more lounge like, maybe with the window seat someone else mentioned, by all means drop the window down to where it works. Not knowing what the outside looks like or if there is matching that must be done with another dormer, Think about changing the style of the existing dormer window to a more square one - two or three depending on the wall space - and create a nice little nook.
0 Likes   December 28, 2012 at 6:33AM
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L L P Construction
You could very quickly draw a 3D rendering of your interior with windows using Google Sketchup. Or have someone you know draw it for you. This allows you to see not only the interior but by turning the drawing looking at it from outside. You can view the drawing from a vantage point that would duplicate your view of the room. It's a free application and worth doing.
0 Likes   December 28, 2012 at 8:16AM
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jenjenmurray
I might be converted to agree with aligning the sills after reading everyone else's comments. Considering the difference in roof heights, and architectural "issues", I don't think it would be a bad idea. I like the examples given above. I think you'll be fine either way. What a blessing to be able to do this kind of thing!! Enjoy your home!
0 Likes   December 28, 2012 at 9:26AM
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Joseph I. Mycyk Architects, Inc.
I don't believe any has yet suggested this, but, whatever you decide to do with the windows, remember, it also affects the exterior facade material of your home. Siding, stucco, brickwork, stone, etc. Whatever you have you need to address at the same time. In some way, that also affects your construction budget/cost.

Being blind to what your exterior is, I recommend that an economical solution is to have the windows made to the existing rough openings. That will minimize any exterior facade rework.
0 Likes   December 28, 2012 at 9:33AM
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lin_farmhouse
Thanks again everyone for the input. It's very helpful and appreciate it.

Joseph, yes, we're well aware of costs to other aspects and trying to minimize things. However,

1) we'll need to achieve egress via the side window. None of the existing rough openings when using Double Hungs would achieve that so we have to enlarge slightly the side (left) window. Casements not only cost more but also break the original design as there are vintage DH windows we are restoring with old wavy glass.

2) On the right side of the photo is an area we plan to enclose into the home. Currently the front has 2 (shed) dormers. We plan to enclose it into 1 wide, contiguous dormer. As such, for this area we will be impacting the exterior.

It's a big project but very fun to do.
0 Likes   December 28, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Joseph I. Mycyk Architects, Inc.
The code requires one window (min.) per bedroom to be sized for egress. It sounds like you are well informed regarding the parameters.
0 Likes   December 28, 2012 at 9:51AM
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fredm51
First you have to know the size of the header that will be over the windows. Normally the top height is the same but I don't think that is possible here. Find the size you need for the egress to be legal and cut out a piece of cardboard that size and see how you like it.
0 Likes   December 29, 2012 at 5:50PM
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