Counter height window owners--Help!

nancyaustinAugust 11, 2009

I've loved the examples of counter height windows I've seen on GW and have asked that our over the sink window (38" wide 34.5" high) be enlarged to a height of 46", which would be the height of the counter. I'd planned that the new window would be a casement window, wooden with aluminum cladding (eg. Jeldwen). The exterior of the house is limestone so some stones will have to be removed and the sill reset. I met today with the GC who expressed a number of problems with doing a wooden casement window at counter height, including the narrow space between the undermounted sink and the window, the difficulty in sealing the granite counter seam with the wooden window frame, the handles for the windows interfering with the use of the faucet, the risk of water damage from splashing to the window frame, that the faucet will be in front of the window and the fact that the frame of the window really wouldn't be at the counter level since the window frame would have multi-levels (ie. the window frame isn't flat so it would be stepped back from the counter level). I think those were all of his reservations. If I insist upon the counter height window, he suggests using a metal window frame or a vinyl window (neither of which I've investigated). The other replacement windows, in the adjacent breakfast room and family room, will be wooden with aluminum clad double hung. The design is very traditional so I'd like to have wooden clad windows, not metal or vinyl. Although DH doesn't *get* the beauty of counter height windows (& wonders whether I will really like it), he's willing to support my vision. I realize that some of the problems could be solved by creating a bump-out on the exterior wall so that there would be greater depth between the sink and the window, however, the bump-out wouldn't blend with adjacent windows that would not be bumped out.

So, GW folks, help me out! What type of windows have you used? Should it be a casement or a double hung or a slider design? How do you seal the granite to the frame of the window? Do you have issues with water splashing on the seam or on the window? What window manufacturer have you used with success? Is the space between an undermount sink & the wall (looks like it will only be about 3.5" from the faucet to the wall) too narrow? The faucet is a Blanco Harvest (single faucet, no sprayer or soap dispenser) and the sink will be a Silgranit or Ticor 1 3/4 design, so the faucet will sit to one side of the sink. Have you had any issues with breaking the window, hitting it while doing dishes, a worry that DH expressed? Have any of your GCs thought your window height window was a nutso idea? I'm relying on you to help me select the right window and coach my GC through this installation! Thanks!

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I am so glad you have posted these questions. I am midway throug the planning phase of our kitchen and am wanting to do the same thing, although we are considering bumping out the window. I would love to hear pros and cons of the bump / nobump ways.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 6:52AM
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    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 9:08AM
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I've not posted pics before, but here goes. I haven't done my remodel yet - due to start next week. But maybe this will be of some help. I have a countertop window behind my sink now. It was originally a side-sliding window to the deck out back, but I closed in the deck about 20 yrs ago. The kitchen is "light challenged," so I wanted the window to stay and changed it to a leaded glass window. The ceramic tile counters were already in.

The window is framed with wood and, due to the fact they had to work with the already-there opening, the framing on the bottom is less than the sides and top. The window does get splashed, but with the kind of window it is, the splashes don't bother me. The paint on the wood does show signs of wear, but it might be that a more durable paint could have been used. And, that was 20 years ago. I don't have a closeup, but I can get my husband to take one if you want. I've zoomed in on this picture as much as I can.

The sink is one of those old cast iron ones with the indentations for soap, scrubbing brushes, etc., on the back ledge and the faucet is mounted on that, not directly on the countertop. The space from the sink edge/trim to the wood around the window is 3 inches; from the wood to the actual bowl of the sink is 8 inches.

My GC does not think that there is a problem with the amount of space and the soapstone counters that I'll have. That's my sample on the island, by the way - Iguazu from Dorado Soapstone of Austin. I'm having them fabricate a farmhouse sink, so that naturally brings the sink forward a bit. Plus, this sink won't have the ledge my old one does.

Good Luck with your decision!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 9:22AM
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I have a counter height window. Its a vinyl sliding type window. I really like it. Not sure about casement or double hung windows--they don't use them very much around here so I have no experience with modern ones. You seal the countertop to the window frame with a bead of clear silicone caulk--I did it myself when I had new countertops installed. Yeah some water splashes on the window. Same as any window behind the sink. Don't know what manufacturer. There is actually more space between the faucet and the window since the window is recessed in the wall. This gives about 4 extra inches, theres a total of 7 1/2 inches between the back of the faucet and the window frame. No problems with hitting the window breaking dishes etc.

My house is a standard 'spec' house built by a production builder. I'm sure the builder did the window this way because it was cheaper--no interior trim to deal with after the cabinets are installed.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 9:57AM
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It will be easier to have a casement window(or slider)rather than a double hung window for opening and closing (unless you are very tall).

I would match the materials and finish of the other windows...its behind a sink, not in a shower, it shouldn't get that wet.

The application I did it in had a rather deep sill to begin with so the window sits away from the sink a little bit, but the faucet is kind of squeezed in at the back of the counter.

I don't think you would be in danger of breaking the window unless you were careless when you did dishes.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 10:40AM
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My kitchen remodel is just wrapping up and sticking to my guns on the counter-height windows was one of my best decisions. My dh also didn't think they were worth the extra planning- now he loves them. We went with Anderson 400 series double hung. Many people will warn you about double hung behind the sink, but for me- I just like the look of them. We are in a historic area with a century house, so the double hungs were the way we went. Leaning over a farm sink to open a new double hung window is still much easier than opening any of the original windows to our house. Our sink is bumped out a bit so splashing the windows or seal has not been a problem. None of our installers seemed concerned with the seal. As far as my GC thinking the windows were a PITA- no, he actually liked the idea. He just had them measure everything multiple times, and when the windows went in, he allowed for wiggle room incase they needed to be adjusted. Buehl has a great post about how to measure for counter-height. Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 11:49AM
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I have two side by side older wood framed double hung windows above my sink. The molding around the window is about 3 inches about the counter. I'm 5'6" and find it a stretch to raise and lower the bottom half of the window. I have to climb on the counter or stand on a stool to reach the top half. It can be a struggle to open or close the window on humid days when the wood swells. Based on my experience, I would use metal clad windows and not "bump".

My sink is top mount and backs up to the backsplash with less than an inch between faucet and backsplash. Just awful-hard to clean and I'm constantly recaulking the corner. But a couple of inches of space would be fine. Hitting a window has never happened-not even when washing large pots, roasting pans, cookie sheets, etc., but I do get a few drops of water on the glass when I'm shaking rinsed lettuce or veggies "dry" in a colander.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 12:32PM
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I just replaced a 36" casement with a triple double hung window to the counter - I love it! I'm 5 foot 2 and do not have any problem opening the window - new windows are very easy to open and close, a big improvement over old windows. Casements are nice, I just wanted a change. I would have liked to go a bit taller on the window but the existing support beam plus a room off of the kitchen dictated that I stay with the size I have. Here's the old window and then after that, a picture of the new window.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 12:37PM
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If you can bump out the window (make it bow or bay casement) then definitely do it. I think a bow window would look less different from other windows outside. Also, if you can make it wider than the sink do it. Extra width would avoid splashing on side frames. We have a double casement window over the sink, about 45 x 45 in., with stained wood frame. It's not bumped out. I so wish it was! I could definitely use the extra space behind the sink. We have 2 3/4 inches between the faucet and the wall and 2 inches between countertop and the bottom of the window frame. The frame is 4 inches thick (bottom to where the glass starts), very detailed, multi-level (multiple thin vertical and horizontal surfaces). And there is a 4 inch wide frame separating the 2 casement windows, in the middle, behind the faucet. Each window has a handle on the bottom for opening it. The handle does stick out and I need to move the dishwashing soap bottle every time I want to open the window. We also have a screen in one of the windows. The window is behind the 25 inch deep countertop, so we never had a problem bumping it with anything - it's just too far away. But is does get splashed - water, grease, etc. every time we wash anything. The sink is only 6 1/2 inches deep, so if you get a deeper sink you might have less splashing. The glass is easy to clean, but the screen and all that multi-level wood trim get sticky and are not easy to clean. As we plan our remodel we cannot change this window, bump it out, or move it higher over the countertop. The designer suggested we remove part of the bottom frame (actually a separate trim piece, maybe 2 inches thick) and add a ledge, a thin shelf, between the faucet and the window. I like wood trim and I don't think it would look as good with the bottom one "missing". I do like the idea of having a ledge though. All the windows in the house are Pella casement, 26 years old, and are fine. I am going to add a 2nd window to the kitchen to get more natural light, across from this window, that will be over prep countertop. It will also be Pella and match well, except now they make the handles hide flat when not used, which is very nice. Unfortunately these handles cannot replace the ones in the old windows. If I had a chance to change that window I would bump it out. I would not suggest you do a not bumped out counterheight window wood frame unless you will wipe it clean daily. Also, you will need to be very exact on the height measurements. If you put tile or wood on the floor it will raise your base cabinet height. We will be replacing vinyl with tile and our 2 inches between countertop and the bottom of the window frame might become 1 1/4 inches. We have laminate now, both countertop and backsplash under the window, and I don't see any problems with seams. Now I just need to figure out what sink and faucet to get, how tile backsplash and undermounted sink will affect the distances, where to place the faucet, and how to make a ledge that will protect the wood, look good, and be practical, not be bumped by hands operating the faucet or the window handles... I hope reading about my problems will help you figure out how to avoid them!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 12:39PM
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Having always had a double-hung window over every kitchen sink where we'd lived or in family members homes and finding them rediculously hard to open...when we moved into this house we put double-hung windows in all around our house except for the one over the sink...which is a casement window! We've lived here now over 20 yrs now and it's still easy to open. And I love being able to open it whenever I want, any season!

The double hung windows "look" pretty from outside but IMHO I think either a casement or slider over the kitchen sink is the way to go.

Ours comes down to about 4" above the counter and it only very occasionally gets splashed up on the window sill. However, there have been many times when water has been spilled/sprayed behind the faucet and I often silently thank our builder for NOT making that window come down to the countertop as we had originally requested. By now it would be a mess (maybe we are messy/splashy people?)

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 1:05PM
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We had issues with trying to get a casement crank to work with our counter height windows (Vinyl Milgard). Our contractor looked into it (by the way my old windows were counter height aluminum)but thought the clearance would have been too close. Different manufacturers have different crank styles, so that will make a difference in how you get it to work.

I ended up with a double hung. My sink window is in an extra deep (30") angled corner. The new window is so easy to open I can open it with one hand from the middle of the window, so I don't have to reach all the way to the bottom of the back of the window. I love it...the old window was a solid nice to be able to open it easily.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 1:32PM
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Anyone have Buehl's link on how to measure? I'm just about to order windows and would like to make sure I get this right. We're going with the Anderson 400s in double hung too.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 1:54PM
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That's beautiful!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 2:53PM
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We're still under construction, but:

Counter height sink window is bumped out-pretty good space between faucet and window (I can find out exact measurements if you need it) so I don't see water splashing as a problem.

We opted for double hung because the whole house has double hung & I just like them better. Since the window is new (Harvey's Tribute, Vinyl), it is easy to lean and open. The lean/open effort was worth it to me to have the look of a double hung. Our framer was surprised I wasn't doing a casement, so I'm probably in the minority on that one.

I have to find out about a sealer-never thought of it.

The window doesn't have trim yet, but here's a look.
Hope this helps,

Close up so you can see bump out

The counter guy was a good sport about posing the faucet!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 3:11PM
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I haven't posted here b/c (1) our counter-height window is a bay window so most of the concerns (splashing, etc.) don't apply to us and (2) We have vinyl (clad?) windows throughout the house, so our new kitchen window is the same. We do, however, have a small piece of wood trim where the window meets the counter so there is wood on the counter...however, since it's a bay, it would take a major counter flood to get the wood trim wet.

But, now that someone has asked for the measuring post, I decided it might be useful if I did post. The thread linked below contains the post for measuring. One note, as BornGrace pointed out, I flipped the "inches" and "cm" conversions (it was late!). 1 inch = 2.54 cm

Regarding the question about casement vs sliding vs double hung, I vote either casement or sliding, preferably casement.

Double hung...I know others have said they have no problems opening double hung, but my parents had a double hung wood window over their sink for years and it was always a pain to open...I don't know if the wood swelled during the summer (no A/C), but it was a struggle to open it w/o a chair. A few years ago my parents replaced all their windows and put in a casement window over the sink....and what a difference! It opens easily every time!

Sliding...Sliding windows are OK, but you can't have all your windows open then. In the case of our bay, it wouldn't have worked anyway, but I would have gone w/casement in any event.

Casement...This is what we went with and it's great! just unlock it, and crank. Yes, you do have to be sure the crank will clear the countertop, but check w/your window people and they should be able to get a crank for you that will work. (Our windows were done by "Castle Windows".)

One last comment, are you sure a bumped out window will look bad? I've seen houses w/just one bumped out window and far from looking bad, it actually add architectural interest to the homes...separating them from the rest of the, sometimes, boring look of all windows the same. (No, the "all the same windows" look isn't always boring, but if the house is pretty basic w/no other architecturally interesting details, something different like a nice bump out can be a plus.)

Here is a link that might be useful: Thread: Counter window hight -- please help!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 3:29PM
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I would definitely bump it out a little in which case you will want a casement instead of a double hung. You will get used to the bump out outside.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 3:59PM
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A "box" bump out would probably be best if you're worried about how it would look outside w/your other windows.

Check out MamaDadaPaige's & ErikaNH's windows...inside & the thread linked below. [It also has the measurements information...with the conversion correction!]

Notice that MamaDadaPaige has double hung windows.

(If I had it to do over, I might have done what they did and just removed the bay...maybe made it a 12" bump out instead of a 6".)

Here is a link that might be useful: Thread: counter height window pictures please

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 5:59PM
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Thank you all for your comments and photos of your beautiful windows and to you, Buehl, for the links to the threads and your measurement guide. With your encouragement, I am reconsidering the idea of a bump-out to provide more space. I'm meeting with a window company tomorrow and with your help, I can now go armed with photos that will illustrate what I have in mind. Again, thanks to each of you for your comments and photos! Nancy

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 8:59PM
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