Window Basics – Part 2 (By Chad Vankoughnett)

What Does That Mean?

In this segment on windows, we would like to take some time to examine different configurations of windows and some terms for different parts of the window. Hopefully this will help you communicate your specific desires and needs with your window specialist.


Let’s start with the basic parts of the window. Every exterior window has some basic components in common. They are:

Frame = the structural component of the window, around which the window is built. This can be made of any of a number of materials, including wood, vinyl, PVC, or metal.

Pane = the glass portion of the window

Jam = the inside edge of the frame where it abuts the pane

Sill = the bottom jam of the window, on the outside of the installation

Stool = the bottom jam of the window, on the inside of the installation

Casing = the trim around the window on the inside of the installation

Nail Fin = this is a strip with pre-drilled nail holes attached to the outside of a window that sits under the Brick Mould, used to fasten the window to the wall in a way that won’t be visible on a finished installation

Brickmould = the trim around the window on the outside of the installation, often integrated into the construction of the window, but not always

In addition to these common components, windows can also have a wide variety of other features. Two of the more common terms used with windows are the Grille, which is the latticework in a window that creates several panes in one installation, and Lites, which is the word used to describe each pane of glass separated by a grille. Grilles can be structural, each holding a single pane of glass (as seen in many older window configurations), or ornamental, usually sandwiched between or fastened on top of full panes of glass to give the illusion of multiple panes. When a grille is present, each section of glass it delineates is referred to as a lite. It is common to discuss how many lites a window may contain, which really just refers to how many sections of glass you want a particular window to display.


There are a number of different window configurations to consider when purchasing new windows for your home. What you choose will be determined by where on the house the window is located, the main purpose of the window, the need for ventilation, exterior factors like trees against the house, appearance, and of course, preference. In the diagram below there are several different configurations. These comprise the basic window configurations available from most manufacturers. Other configurations are possible, but are generally custom built for a particular application.

Hopefully this will help you to be able to make an informed decision about your windows and to be able to carry on an educated conversation with your window specialist. In our next segment, we will discuss the importance of taking accurate measurements when determining the size of your windows, and give you the direction you need to take those measurements with confidence.
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