Enlarging windows

crl_March 27, 2014

We are in the early planning stages for our kitchen remodel and I am thinking through what I might want for budget and general planning purposes.

One thing I dislike in our current kitchen is the windows. They are set quite high. So high that I can barely see out and I am five seven. They are also very difficult to open because they are so high. The kitchen also would be nicer with more natural light. And it is a small closed off kitchen and the window situation doesn't help that.

On the other hand the view is not great. That side of the house faces our driveway, which is contiguous with our neighbor's driveway. And it looks basically into their dining room (not saying their dining room isn't nice ;) which is only about thirty feet away ).

So I'm a little conflicted. Replacing the windows with bigger windows would help with making it feel more open and bright. But it seems a bit of a waste given the lack of a view. Maybe I could put hanging plants outside the window to improve the view a bit? (Never very cold here so plants could be growing year around).

Anyone have experience with or thoughts on this? Thanks!

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The windows were probably placed like that to afford both you and your neighbors some privacy. If you have an HOA or similar, you might not be allowed to change those windows.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:02PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

You did mention the kitchen was small and closed off, so I wonder if there is a way to change that by knocking down a wall that would give you a different direction on an outside wall to add a window with a better view. Or open the kitchen up to the Dining Room or Living Room?

I definitely wouldn't count on hanging plants making the view better. If that window would face someone's Dining Room, I imagine you would have curtains and window shades pulled most of the time for privacy, so that wouldn't solve your light problem.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:11PM
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No HOA restrictions. The house is old enough to require an extra review step for any changes to the exterior in our locale, but changes like this are routinely granted. Our neighbors keep their dining room blinds closed most of the time anyway, but I am sure they would not object to us enlarging the windows.

All other windows in all other rooms are of normal height and we can actually see out of them--even my three year old can see out of the windows in the rest of the house so it's really just this one room that is like this. And yes, some of those other windows line up fairly closely with other windows in neighbors' houses. So if the height of the kitchen windows was intended to provide privacy, it's a bit odd and not very successful from the standpoint of the rest of the house.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:12PM
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Expanding the kitchen by enlarging the house is a complete no-go. That would block our driveway, and therefore prevent car access to the garage as well as eliminate our kids' main play space (lots are very small here). It would also necessitate moving the gas connection to the house. I think it might also be impossible to get through permitting--especially as I think the neighbors probably would object to that. Additionally, it would likely be cost-prohibitive.

I am opposed to turning the kitchen into an open concept for a variety of reasons, not the least that it would not be appropriate to our 1926 house. That would also not help much at all with bringing natural light into the space as the dining room is not exactly light filled either. Nor would it give me windows in the kitchen that I can actually open.

I do intend to seek layout feedback down the road when I have thought through that a little more, but at this point, I am wondering about the trade offs of enlarging the windows.

I don't think hanging plants would provide a fabulous view, but it seemed that they might soften the less than great view a bit.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:20PM
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If you'd like an example of one of the least cost-effective remodeling projects possible, change the fenestration on a building.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:22PM
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If it makes any difference, this wall will be opened up to repair some dry rot and the stucco redone at the time of the kitchen remodel anyway. Don't think they will have to go up as high as the windows though so I'm not sure it would change the cost of the window enlargement much.

It may be out of budget for sure. I can pretty easily get a ballpark on the cost though. Just want to try to pin down whether I even want the change.

I guess what I'm trying to get an handle on now is how much of an improvement would it be. If it costs rather a lot but makes the kitchen much more pleasant to be in, then I might be willing to spend the money. (Even if it meant skimping on some other items.)

I can look at houzz pictures all day long, but that doesn't give me much sense of how much nicer the room would feel with bigger windows. Would it feel vastly improved? Just a little bit? Worse because the view is not great? Obviously every situation is different, but as much feedback as I can get on the results of enlarging windows seems to be useful data.

Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:49PM
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In a 1926 stucco house, I'm guessing it would be totally appropriate to put in leaded glass with colors and maybe even an etched or stained (drawn upon) highlight section, to stand between you and the neighbors. Perhaps one big, audacious art window to bring in light, and improved mechanisms for the rest of the high windows would work? Or all of them in textured or frosted glass, with some colored borders?

I wasn't originally going to change my windows. One looks at my studio door and the other at the side fence. But everyone who saw the second one, which was small and off center, hated it, and I wanted a counter height serving counter to the back patio with the other. They both ended up down to the counter and bigger, with the side one made into a garden window bump out and moved over, as well. I lost my favorite sunbeam that shone through the door into the dining room, and some room for upper cabinets, but gained a lot of daylight and just general beauty and harmony. The view hasn't improved. :)

It's really hard taking pictures of light, so I don't have good examples for you. I did it more for the aesthetics of the kitchen. There's also a slider and the light has always been good.

This is a feeling thing. YOU feel like it would be nicer, then it will be. Does anyone in your family think it's an awful idea? Will you be losing storage/utility space that you really need?

Since the wall needs to be opened up anyway, if you really aren't sure after doing all your research, maybe you can make dual plans? Choose the windows and make sure they're in stock, then open the wall. Decide how you like it open when there's a hole, and then make your decision? It'll cost more and make your contractor crazy, besides having to deal with the building department, but it might be the opportunity you need to get it right.

If you want a vote, however, I say go for it. The only knock I've ever heard on windows is not having enough place for art or cabinets. No one regrets the windows themselves.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 6:43PM
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If the windows will bring in more light I would go for it!
You can get some nice frosted or bubbled glass for the bottom pane if it is double hung and not worry about the view.

I had various estimates for my 3x3 foot kitchen window (using vinyl windows).

1. Replace double hung with casement $700, in same frame
2. Replace DH with casement and increase window height 6" to counter height $1200
3. Replace DH with casement, bring it down to counter height, and add 6" bumpout $$1950.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 9:22PM
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I know this is more money, but would it be practical to eventually put in some type of wall or trellis, with greenery, between the two properties? At the very least you could use large louvered shutters that would add light but provide some privacy. I wouldn't like those high windows either if you have no other light source, so go for it.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 10:14PM
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I have a corner in my kitchen with a big crank out window on each wall and meeting in the corner. One window overlooks our oversized detached garage (maybe 25' away) and the other one has the yard and shop then highway in distance which faces East. It is still my favorite part of the house and my next kitchen will also have windows like this.

If you were worried about the view just plant a shrub or put up a trellis and maybe a bird feeder. I would do it in a heartbeat especially since someone will already be in the wall.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 10:42PM
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From a effort/cost perspective, it's generally pretty easy to extend the bottom of a window down because you don't need to touch the header. By "pretty easy" I mean only marginally more difficult than simply replacing the window. Moving a window up or expanding to either side is considerably more difficult because it touches the header.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:00PM
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Thanks so much for all the feedback. It's all really helpful. The cost information wasn't as high as I was guessing actually. But I can get an estimate pretty easily from my bathroom contractor.

Walls or anything else between the properties are not possible as the driveways are completely contiguous. It actually looks like one driveway, except that ours is plain concrete and theirs is stained concrete. (And they are not legally shared.). Our kids play together on the whole space. And we all routinely drive onto the "other" half to get in and out more easily.

As I was working in the kitchen today, I realized that one of the reasons I am bothered by not being able to see outside is that I have to go to a different window to check on the kids in the driveway. So in addition to not being able to open the windows (well, I can't, dh can) there is that functional issue.

I really appreciate the feedback and the opportunity to think/"talk" though the issue!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:07PM
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Crl, would a garden window work? If so , take the window down to the counter and extend the counter into the window. The potted plants would block your view, you'd have more light, and still see your kiddos. Garden windows really give the illusion of a larger kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:31PM
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Hmm, I think I know what you mean. A garden window is one with a slight bump out, right?

I will have to ponder that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Houzz link to garden window

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:10AM
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I had thought about a shelf across the windows as I have always liked that look, but that seemed like it might defeat the purpose of bringing in more light and complicate opening the windows.

As I think a bit more about the existing window, it is currently just the right height and size so that all I can see is my neighbors' dining room window. So expanding it might improve the view a tiny bit, in that I would be able to see some of their plantings as well and not feel quite so focused on their dining room.

Here is a link that might be useful: Houzz link to shelf across window

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:14AM
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Somewhere I read, "you can never have too many windows."

While I'm not sure I completely agree, I enlarged most of my windows, keeping the costs down by not changing the header and am very happy with the increased light.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:19AM
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Please post a picture. I'm horrible at visualizing.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 6:06AM
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I cannot imagine you would not be happier with a larger window. I say get it enlarged as much as your space and budget dictate. You are not always standing at the sink and that light will be amazing. In a previous home our sink window looked out on the neighbor's backyard and back door. Not bad but not great but to not have had a view there at all would have been worse.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 6:34AM
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I vote for a bigger window. : )

There is a cottage on a lake that we've stayed at through the years. There are windows along the entire north face of the kitchen-dining area facing the water. The kitchen cabinets run along the west wall. Over the sink is a tiny window, maybe 32" wide and no taller than the top of the cabinets. The owners have a dark curtain that covers almost 1/2 of that little window hanging on a tension rod, blocking most of the view. One of the first things I do when I settle into that kitchen is remove the dratted curtain and stick it in on a shelf in the pantry! Is there a view out that window? No. There is a fence and then another cottage probably less than 20' away. But there is light and a sliver of sky out there. And I need to see it. : ) I feel much better about working in that kitchen once the curtain is gone.

I'm guessing you'd feel much the same way about a bigger window facing the neighbor's house. If the view bugs you, you can always put up a cafe curtain or some window film. But you'll appreciate the light and airiness either way. With the curtain, you could pull it out of the way and take a peak at the kids.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 7:54AM
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Thanks everyone! I appreciate all the thoughts and feedback on this.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 9:47AM
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I had what sounds like a similar situation--window over the sink, pretty impossible to open, looks over our driveway and the neighbor's (so not a particularly fabulous view)...
Here's the "before" picture:

I looked into the possibility of a garden window, but ultimately didn't go that way. First, it wasn't inexpensive. Second, I just anticipated a shelf becoming a clutter magnet, and I wanted to stay away from that.

I ended up getting a new single-pane window with an awning-type opening.

Here's the "after" picture:

If you look closely, the new window is actually a tad smaller than the old one vertically--that was to avoid going to a custom window size. But, it feels so much bigger since it is one single pane in the center, rather than 4.

This is one of the things I like best about my kitchen update. The new window is so easy to open, and just makes the kitchen look more open and light. The previous windows weren't that closed off, but just having it be one big window instead of 4 panes really makes a difference.

For me, the fact that the view isn't anything to write home about hasn't been an issue. I like the more open look of the window, I like getting more light into the kitchen, and I love being able to open the window so easily.

Changing out the window was a "nice to have" for me, the old window wasn't leaking or anything. But, I'm definitely glad I did it and would definitely say if you have to do something with that wall anyway, I don't think you can go wrong with enlarging/improving the window.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:13PM
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