How To Choose Windows For Your Tiny House

choosing tiny house windows

NAVIGATION

When I went to buy windows for my tiny house, I had no idea how many options there were. The choices you have when buying tiny house windows is dizzying, so let’s make the process as simple as possible.

tiny house window design ideas

How To Choose Tiny House Windows

how to choose tiny house windows

When it comes to windows, there are a few big things to consider. These boil down to cost, custom vs. stock, and styling. Windows should be one of the things you decide on pretty early because it takes a lot of time for them to come in. If you’re buying stock windows, it may be a few weeks, while custom windows can take 30 to 60 days to arrive.

Cost is going to be a huge factor in your decision. Simply put, you’ll either be able to afford custom windows or they will be so far out of your budget that you’ll have to go with stock. Beyond that, you’ll want to choose a style that suits your design. More on that soon.

Tiny House Windows Costs

Tiny House Windows Costs

One of the first things I learned very quickly is that windows are expensive! Even using stock windows, the cost really adds up. I spent about $6,500 on just windows for my tiny house, which is actually pretty comparable to a more traditional-sized home.

In a tiny house, you’re going to want a lot of windows to let in as much light as possible. The average traditional home of around 2,600 square feet has about 10 to 12 windows in the entire house. Compare that to my house of 150 square feet, which I have 12 windows in — kind of shocking when you think about it.

My windows were custom, averaging out to about $375 per window, plus one very expensive casement window and a skylight that opened which cost me about $600.

Using Reclaimed Windows

Using Reclaimed Windows

This is where a lot of people will begin to ask about using reclaimed windows. You may be able to find used windows, factory rejects, construction surplus, etc. at a very attractive price. I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear and there will be many that don’t heed my advice. Those people will also be very sorry later on.

using reclaimed windows on a tiny houseUsing second-hand windows or reclaimed windows is a bad idea. First and foremost, it’s almost impossible to find second-hand windows that are tempered. You’ll be tempted to use untempered windows and that’s a really bad and frankly dangerous idea.

Unless your tiny house is built on a foundation, you must have tempered glass for all your windows. I’d go as far as saying this isn’t really even a question. Not only is it the law in many states, but it’s also a major safety concern. Tempered glass is much safer and if you ever move your tiny house, not having tempered glass will lead to a lot of broken glass (and wasted money) as you go down the road.

Beyond the issue of tempered glass, used windows also come with a lot of issues typically. The seals are broken, the windows don’t work well, the nailing fins are broken, or the housing is beat up. Windows are very precise things and if everything doesn’t go perfectly, you’ll have a drafty house that costs more to heat and will run into water issues that could cost you thousands.

For these reasons and many others, it’s best to buy new windows. Much like when people buy used trailers against my advice, it often ends up costing more in the long run, eating up any savings that were initially gained.

Custom Window Vs. Stock Windows For A Tiny House

Custom Window Vs Stock Windows For A Tiny House

When you plan your budget, realize that windows are going to be a pretty big percentage of that budget. Figure windows will be around 10% to 15% of your budget.

If you’ve finalized a budget, figure out what 10% of it is. If that number is $1,000 to $3,000, you’ll need to go all stock windows. If that works out to $5,000 or more, then custom windows are possible.

This decision is really a budgetary one — either you can afford it or not. Either way, it’s going to be expensive.

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Types Of Windows For A Tiny House

Types Of Windows For A Tiny House

One thing I didn’t think too much about is all the different types of windows and which kind were best for me. I chose a lot of awning windows for my tiny house, which are nice, but don’t allow for a ton of air flow. They are really great for when it rains, though, as you can open them up and not have to worry about water coming in.

I think a mix of window types is the best way to go, but double hung or fixed picture windows will be the cheapest. Below are some of your window options.

Awning

Awning windows

tiny house awning windows

Like I mentioned, I went with a lot of awning windows in my tiny house, but I wish I had a few more in a different style. Awning windows are hinged at the top and open outwards from the bottom. They’re good to have when you want the window open but don’t want to worry about rain coming in.

Awning windows are especially great in your loft, so you can crack them open while you’re sleep to allow fresh air in, while not having to worry about getting rained on in your sleep.

Casement

Casement windows

tiny house casement windows

The other style of windows I have in my tiny home is casement windows, and if I could do this all again, I’d have more of these. In particular, I’d have these at either end of my tiny house: one at the front, the other off the back near the kitchen.

This would allow a nice cross breeze to flow through the entire house when I want to cool things off or air things out. Having one of these near the kitchen would also help me better deal with kitchen smells, smoke, and other things I’d like to vent outward.

The downside to this style is that it’s usually about twice the price as double hung windows.

Double Hung Windows

Double Hung Windows

tiny house double hung windows
These are the most common windows, and that brings the benefit of economies of scale. This means you can find these windows for pretty affordable rates (relatively speaking) and they will perform pretty well, too. You also want to consider how easy it is to clean them and the material they’re made of.

Fixed Picture Windows

Fixed Picture Windows

tiny house fixed picture windows
These are a great way to allow in a lot of light without too much cost. Since they aren’t operable, you can save a good bit of money because they’re less complex. Additionally, since they don’t open, you can have much larger spans for your openings.

Slider Windows

Slider Windows

tiny house slider windows
Slider windows are basically a double hung turned on its side. These are good for places you might want to be able to reach through or some other specific need.

Louvre Windows

Louvre Windows

tiny house louvred windows
I thought I’d include these, but realistically they’re not very practical because of how much air leakage will occur. They’re also not secure, so in general, I’d pass on this style all together.

Bay Windows

Bay Windows

tiny house bay windows
Bay windows are one of those things I have a love/hate relationship with. Done well, they can be an amazing place to sit and read a book. How they’re most often done, however, is an awkward architectural feature that is prone to leaks. From the inside these usually look good, but on the outside, the odd bump out really can ruin the aesthetic very quickly.

Transom Windows

Transom Windows

tiny house transom windows
This is a great way to add more light around a front door, increase ventilation at the top of a bedroom door, or extend a traditional window’s height without a ton of extra cost. These come in two types: operable and fixed, with ones that open (operable) often costing double.

Hopper Windows

Hopper Windows

tiny house hopper windows
Hopper windows are basically the opposite of awning windows. They are hinged at the bottom and open out from the top. Often wider than they are tall, they’re used for passive house ventilation so that hot air can be passively vented out.

Skylight Windows

Skylight Windows

tiny house skylight windows
Skylights are one of those things that need to be installed very carefully so they don’t leak. Where possible, I don’t like to put any holes in my roof, no matter how well planned. You have two options: fixed and operable, with fixed usually being about three times cheaper than skylights that open. My go to brand on these is Velux.

Tiny House Window Materials

Tiny House Window Materials

Choosing the right material for your windows is a balance between cost, maintenance level, and looks. My tiny house has aluminum clad wood frame windows and while I love the look of them on the outside, I find them finicky to clean on the inside. I don’t think white vinyl windows would look good in my house, but the ease of cleaning and durability is definitely appealing.

Fiberglass Windows

Fiberglass Windows

Fiberglass Window PROS

  • Low expansion rate
  • Paintable
  • Good thermal performance
  • Low maintenance

Fiberglass Window CONS

  • High cost

Vinyl Windows

Vinyl Windows

Vinyl Window PROS

  • Low maintenance
  • Low cost
  • Good thermal protection

Vinyl Window CONS

  • Non-paintable
  • Strength
  • Expansion and contraction

Clad Wood Windows

Clad Wood Windows

Clad Wood Window PROS

  • Low exterior maintenance
  • Color choices
  • Interior paintable/stainable
  • The look and feel of real wood
  • Hardware choices

Clad Wood Window CONS

  • High cost
  • Lack of exterior detail
  • Interior maintenance
  • Quality can vary

Wood Windows

Wood Windows

Wood Window PROS

  • Exterior architectural detail
  • Color choices
  • Thermal performance

Wood Window CONS

  • Exterior maintenance
  • High cost for quality

Aluminum Windows

Aluminum Windows

Aluminum Window PROS

  • Strength
  • Color choices
  • Low maintenance
  • Durability

Aluminum Window CONS

  • Quality varies
  • Low thermal performance
  • Thermal barrier issues

Steel Windows

Steel Windows

Steel Window PROS

  • Strength
  • Narrow sight lines
  • Color choices
  • Durability

Steel Window CONS

  • Feels cold
  • Commercial look
  • High cost

Glass Types

Glass Types

You also are going to have a lot of options when it comes to the type of glass you put in your tiny home, but you want to make sure that you choose glass that can withstand the impacts of driving down the road.

Tempered Glass For Tiny Homes

Tempered Glass For Tiny Homes

This is essentially safety glass just like your car windshield or a glass shower door. It’s treated with heat to be much stronger and, when it does break, breaks in to little small pieces instead of large shards, which can cause deep lacerations.

You’re going to want to buy tempered for every piece of glass in your house because the added strength will withstand all the bumps and jostles of the road. When you’re going down the highway at 60 mph and hit a big pothole, you’ll be glad you did.

Laminated Glass For Tiny Homes

Laminated Glass For Tiny Homes

This has become more and more popular mainly because Florida and other hurricane-prone states require it in code now. Laminated glass is essentially several pieces of glass layered with clear vinyl sheets so that if it does break, it will still hold together.

Laminated glass is more expensive than tempered glass by a good margin. A standard size laminated window will cost around $500, while a tempered window of the same specs will cost about $300. That said, you have the added benefit of increased security with these windows, so you might consider spending the extra money for glazing around your front door where someone might want to try and break in.

Plexiglass Windows For A Tiny House

Plexiglass Windows For A Tiny House

Let’s just put this one to bed. Many people considering plexiglass windows are doing so as a way to cut costs, and while the notion is a good one, the practicality of it falls short.

The main reason for this is that a standard window is a double pane window that is sealed with a gas between the panes. That adds a huge advantage in both insulation value and reduction of condensation. If you make your own windows with plexiglass, there isn’t a way to seal two panes of plexiglass, draw a vacuum, fill it with a more suitable gas, then create a long-lasting seal.

Using plexiglass as a storm window isn’t a bad idea for some protection, but it won’t meet any local code requirements if you’re in a storm-prone area that has special codes for windows. There may be some advantage in terms of insulation performance, but I’d be concerned about moisture buildup between my window and the storm window, which would lead me to want to vent it, negating any insulation benefit.

Double And Triple Pane Windows

Double And Triple Pane Windows

In a perfect world, we’d all have triple pane windows, but the added cost means we have to consider the benefit vs. our budgets. I’m still very split on this issue, but if I had a stack of extra cash, I’d probably put it toward better insulation first, then turn my attention to the windows.

In case you’re not familiar, windows are really bad insulators. Today’s windows have a ton of science and engineering baked into them, but even so, a good quality window might only be the equivalent R-value of 3 (technically U-factor of 0.20 to 1.20).

Compare that to your average wall which today is anywhere from R 23 to R 30, and you can see that’s a big difference. We take the hit in efficiency in exchange for comfort, natural light, and practicality.

Tiny House Window Ideas – Tiny House Window Photos

Tiny House Window Ideas

At the end of the day, having a ton of natural light in your tiny house can make your house a great place to live. Here are a bunch of photos of tiny house windows for you to get inspired when planning your tiny home windows.

Tiny House Window Designs

Tiny House Window Designs

modern tiny house window designs
tiny house creative window design
tiny house windows
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Tiny House With Big Windows

Tiny House With Big Windows

Think about which way your house will face when you park it and which way the sun will rise and set, then design a big wall of windows to capture all the natural light in your tiny house.

big windows in a tiny house
tiny house with lots of windows
tiny home big windows
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big picture window in tiny house

Tiny Houses With A Wall Of Windows

Tiny Houses With A Wall Of Windows

wall of windows in tiny house
tiny house wall of windows
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wall window in tiny house bedroom
tiny home wall of windows
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designing your tiny house

Tiny House With Accordion Windows

Tiny House With Accordion Windows

tiny house accordian windows
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tiny house accordian window

Tiny Houses With Fold Up Windows

Tiny Houses With Fold Up Windows

tiny house fold-up window
fold-up window in tiny home
tiny house fold-up window design

Tiny Houses With Stained Glass Windows

Tiny Houses With Stained Glass Windows

stained glass butterfly window in tiny house
tiny house with stained glass windows
stained glass in tiny home
stained glass window details in tiny house
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Tiny House Dormer Windows

Tiny House Dormer Windows

tiny house with dormer windows
dormer windows in tiny house on wheels
tiny house dormer windows
tiny home dormer with windows

Tiny House Loft Windows

Tiny House Loft Windows

tiny house loft windows
loft windows in tiny home
tiny home loft with windows
window in tiny house loft
tiny home loft with windows
slider window in tiny house loft
tiny house with skylight and loft windows
loft windows

Your Turn!

  • What are you planning on doing with your tiny house windows?
2 Comments
  1. I enjoyed reading this – so much good information. I have a problem. I cannot sleep with any light coming into the room. I really like as much light as possible during the day. It seems to me that it would be very difficult to accommodate both of these needs in a Tiny House.What wold your suggestion be ?

  2. Hi, If I can jump in here. I would suggest a blackout roller blind. (make sure it is truly blackout and not just room darkening) Mount it so it covers the window frame completely, if you can have it extend a couple inches either side and above and below the window even better. It will be completely out if the way during the day. If you want to spend more there are some really nice “pleated blackout shades” out there. They have no cords either, you just grasp the bottom rail and raise and lower them. I just had a quick look at that big Swedish stores website, they have some reasonably priced options.

    Great article Ryan, really in depth. Thanks!

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