Picture Windows: What Are They and Do You Really Want One?

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 05/08/24 •  6 min read

If you want a window that makes a real statement in a room, a picture window could offer the impact you’re after.  On the flip side, a picture window is only about aesthetics and offers no ventilation.

What is a picture window anyway? A picture window is a large window that has a single fixed pane of glass. This means the window doesn’t open and doesn’t have any “glazing bars,” which are the support bars separating the different panes of glass that make up the window as a whole.

Picture windows in a corner

Picture windows tend to be quite substantial in size, being the dominant feature on the wall in which they sit.

Their larger size brings plenty of natural light into a home, and with this light can come warmth too, meaning a picture window can save you money on both lighting and heating during daylight hours. If you have a smaller room, you may need to carefully consider if this is the best spot to showcase a view from the property, because you don’t want the room to look swamped by the window or to become too warm on sunny days.

Why Is It Called a Picture Window?

A picture window is called is designed to “frame” the outside view, giving an often unobstructed view due to a lack of glazing bars. So, as well as flooding light into a space, it can also serve as a focal point for the eye, becoming a feature for the room, much like a large piece of art.

Before choosing to install a picture window you need to think carefully about its placement in terms of what the view will be through this large, conspicuous window.  You probably don’t want to permanently frame your neighbour’s garage or a view of a parking lot. 

If, however, your property is fortunate enough to be surrounded by great views, take the time to choose the ultimate “image” to capture, be that a beautiful garden or a dynamic cityscape.  Their grand dimensions can also be cleverly used to draw the eye to an interesting architectural feature within the home, such as a high ceiling.

Is a Picture Window the Same as A Fixed Window?

Picture and fixed windows are the same in that they can’t open.  Where they differ is in the size of their frames. Fixed windows generally have thicker frames, which can be made to match the window frames of any other operational windows in the room. Picture windows often have thin frames meant to keep the attention on what’s outside.

If want your window to be a real statement piece in a room, you might not mind about a picture window not matching the frames of the other windows in the room.  If, however, you’d like more unity between all your windows, the frame matching options offered by fixed windows may be more to your taste.

Depending on your decor, the chunkier frames of a fixed window can also be a better fit for a contemporary property – though that’s not to say that a picture window doesn’t have a place in the modern, sleek home.

Finally, picture windows, with their discreet frames allow more light into the room than fixed windows and give a generally more expansive feeling view. 

Is a Picture Window Cheaper?

Compared to casement and double-hung windows of the same size, picture windows can work out to be cheaper because of their lack of moving parts. However don’t forget that picture windows are often larger, and the larger the window the larger the price tag.

This means that a larger picture window can often be the same cost as a smaller casement or double-hung window.

Another thing to consider is that the impressive sight lines and natural light provided by a picture window will often increase your property value when you sell your home.

That said, all that natural light can either add or deduct from your energy savings as well. The light they allow in reduces the number and size of operational windows you need elsewhere in the room and can save money on your lighting bill.

Picture windows are usually energy-efficient because their non-operational glass is well sealed within the frame, minimizing heat loss from the home and cold air entry from the exterior. However, if you live in a warm climate and the window is in a room with a lot of sun, the heat from all those extra sun rays can heat a room up to the point where extra air conditioning may be needed to cool the space. This can be mitigated however with a low e-glass coating.

Considering the room, its position and your climate can be important when figuring out if the extra expense of a low e-glass coating is needed.

Can You Install a Picture Window Sideways?

Yes! You can hang a picture window sideways to produce a horizontal vista, but you have to make sure the window is properly prepared for this orientation. Specifically, you’ll need to ensure the window’s weep holes are both at the bottom, or else you’ll face issues with leakage and water damage.

Horizontally hung picture windows can bring tremendous light to rooms with lower ceilings and the benefit of this configuration is that it’s often easy to flank operational windows alongside them, as the flanking edge is now shorter.  The other benefit is that the sideways fitting can make the view even more expansive, especially if you’d rather catch the width of the view, rather than the height – such as a view of a lake or the ocean.

The problems arise when you buy a picture window designed for a vertical installation, but flip it on its side without any amendment to the frame.  Windows nearly always feature weep holes, which are designed to allow water to drip its way down and off the window.  If you fit a window any other way than it was designed, these will end up at the top and the side, thereby reducing the window’s ability to rid itself of rainwater.

Conclusion

No other window quite shows off a view like a picture window, allowing you to bring the outdoors in.  They’ll flood your room with desirable natural light and in doing so can make a room feel larger.  Be careful though, they may be a little too imposing for smaller rooms, and on a warm day all that light could leave you feeling too toasty.

If you’re not sure if picture windows are right for your space, click here to see our full list of the 13 most popular window styles for your home.

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.