Custom Double Hung Window — Custom Case Study

Double Hung Window

This may look like a humble little double hung window, but what appears to be straightforward actually took a lot of attention to detail, careful coordination and amazing craftsmanship.

When this job is complete it will be very difficult to identify the original windows from our new window. Other than the fact that the new window operates like butter.

Double Hung Window

The Double Hung Window Challenge

Our colleagues at Kem’s Woodworking needed to help their clients meet current egress codes for a new basement bedroom with a historically accurate window that matches all the original double hung windows throughout this 1930’s West Hills home.

Kem’s cut a hole in the exterior wall directly between two existing windows and challenged Versatile to deliver a window that looked like it had always been there.

Double Hung Window

The Double Hung Window Uniquely Versatile Solution

Versatile built a traditional weight and pulley double hung to the necessary size to meet the egress requirements. We matched the reverse ogee interior detail and the exterior stucco mould exactly.

Double Hung Window

Even the stepped exterior window sill was reproduced to match all original sills.

(The picture below shows the window before the finish painting was complete.)

Double Hung Window

The Double Hung Window Result

It would be tricky to identify at a glance which window was new and which were original. Sometimes, the best Versatile solutions are the ones that are impossible to identify!

Double Hung Window

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Fingerjoint — Window Word of Day


Fingerjoint: A series of interlocking fingers precisely cut on the ends of two pieces of wood which mesh together with heat-based adhesive. It is stronger than a butt or lap joint, and often contributes to the aesthetics of the piece.

Alternate names include box-pin joint or box joint. It’s advantage is that it does not require nails or screws to create a very strong joint once glued. It can be much stronger than a dovetail joint. This is because of the additional intersections that create additional surfaces for the glue to adhere to.

History of the Fingerjoint

The fingerjoint originated as the primary means of constructing quick but sturdy wooden boxes for bringing produce to market. These days it is used to creates a very traditional look for window and door construction.


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Casement — Window Word of the Day

Casement illustration

Casement: A window unit that swings open from one of its vertical edges. These windows are normally operated with either a casement lock and stay bar system (the traditional hardware) or a mechanical crank system with a concealed hinge.


This unusually long bank of casement windows was custom designed by Versatile Wood Products. They feature crank hardware with concealed hinges and integrated screens.


Here’s a look at how the operate from the interior of the space.

History of the Casement Window

(excerpted from the Stroud District Council’s Design Guide for Casement Windows in Preservation Districts. Check out the full guide here.)
Successor to the stone mullioned window, the traditional timber casement became the most common window type by the second half of the eighteenth century. Subdivided by glazing bars, joining together the small panes of glass, the earlier designs had the opening part of the window, the ‘casement’, made of iron with lead latticing to the glass


By around 1840, the beginning of the Victorian period, the frames and opening casements were made entirely of timber. Windows of 6-panes per casement were the most common pattern. Designs were occasionally elaborated by the use of Gothic arches or smaller panes, especially during the mid-nineteenth century.

Here’s an example of a gothic arch from the restoraton of the Sellwood Pioneer Church.

From then, though, glass technology improved. The number of panes per casement was reduced to two with one horizontal glazing bar. Traditional windows usually were no wider than about 450mm(18″) per casement.

Here are a few of the more unusual casements that Versatile Wood Products has created for clients:


Here’s a nifty arched casement.


This pair of matched casements were designed for the Timberline Lodge.


Did you know that casement windows are usually the most practical choice for fulfilling egress requirements in basement renovations? They can even be designed to exactly mimic the look of a home’s double hung windows. This is to keep the exterior look consistent with the rest of the home.

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Stairwell Lift Door — Custom Case Study

Sometimes the answer to a tricky design challenge isn’t a choice between manufactured and custom options. Sometimes the answer is to use the best of both. Here’s how we tackled one very unusual vertical lift stairwell door with a combination of manufactured and highly custom Versatile solutions.

The Challenge

Versatile client Bobby Meeker had a very unusual request. He wanted to create a privacy barrier between his main floor and the master suite above but his narrow stairwell did not have enough clearance for a traditional door to function.


He wanted it to be beautiful and he needed it to integrate seamlessly with the traditional style of his home with no visible operation. And it needed to lift vertically. There was no room in the stairwell for a traditional swing or pocket door. But there was plenty of room for the door to lift up out of the way into the upper portion of the stairwell.

The Uniquely Versatile Solution



The  inspiration was a door our Director of Product Development, Alan Hart-McArthur, saw in a 1920’s Bungalow in SE Portland.  From that original inspiration Alan set out to devise a weight pocket and track system that was robust enough to support the weight of the door, large enough to house large steel weights, and yet still low profile such that they didn’t take up too much space on the stairs.

The results are 15’ long weight pockets that house nearly 40 lbs of solid bar stock steel in each side and yet are a little over 3” deep.


The Materials

The door is a standard VG fir Simpson door with Prairie grids.  The client then took it to an artist named Ron Branch who sandblasted the custom tree branch etching into both sides of the insulated glass. The door was finished with clear coat and the weight chases and tracks were primed and then painted to match the walls and trim. By using a manufactured door for the base design, the client was able to free up budget that could then be applied to creating a very custom and visually stunning etched glass design.

The Result


The door lifts easily into the upper portion of the stairwell and the narrow weight pockets blend in visually with the rest of the space. We had so much fun helping Bobby find his Uniquely Versatile solution!

What tricky design dilemma would you like our window and door designers to tackle next?

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Cottage Style — Window Word of the Day


Cottage-Style: A Double Hung window with a bottom sash that is taller in height than the top sash.

This style is commonly seen in Craftsman style houses (1900 to 1930) in the configuration shown on the left, where the six lite upper sash is paired with a unobstructed larger lower sash.


A bit about the Craftsman Style:

In A Field Guide to American Houses, Virginia and Lee McAlester explain,

The Craftsman Style was the dominant style for smaller houses built throughout the country during the period from about 1905 until the early 1920s. It originated in southern California and most landmark examples are concentrated there. Like vernacular examples of the contemporaneous Prairie style, it quickly spread throughout the country through pattern books and popular magazines. The style rapidly faded from favor after the mid-1920s; few were built after 1930. Craftsman houses were inspired primarily by the work of two California brothers – Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene – who practiced together in Pasadena from 1893 to 1914.
From about 1903 they began to design simple Craftsman-type bungalows; by 1909 they had designed and executed several exceptional landmark examples that have been called the “ultimate bungalows.” Several influences – the English Arts and Crafts movement, an interest in oriental wooden architecture, and their early training in the manual arts – appear to have led the Greenes to design and build these intricately detailed buildings. These and similar residences were given extensive publicity in such magazines as the Western Architect, The Architect, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, Architectural Record, Country
Life in America, and Ladies’ Home Journal, thus familiarizing the rest of the nation with the style.
As a result, a flood of pattern books appeared, offering plans for Craftsman bungalows; some even offered completely pre-cut packages of lumber and detailing to be assembled by local labor. Through these pre-cut examples, the one-story Craftsman house quickly became the most popular and fashionable smaller house in the country.

Check Rail — Window Word of the Day

Check Rail

Check Rail: The bottom rail of the top sash and the top rail of the bottom sash of a double hung window that meet horizontally in the center of the unit or the two vertical members of sash in a slider window that meet in the center. This is also sometimes called the meeting rail.

Check Rail

Did you know: Robert Hooke, the 17th century inventor of the double hung window was also the architect who rebuilt the famous London mental hospital, Bedlam (aka the Bethlehem Hospital, Moorfields) after the Great Fire of London?

Check Rail

Bedlam is Europe’s oldest extant psychiatric hospital and has operated as such, continuously, for over six hundred years. Hooke kept offices in the central cupola of the hospital until his death.

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Brick Mould — Window Word of the Day

Brick Mould

Brick mould: The part of the exterior of a window that is designed to cover the small gap between the frame and the exterior siding. It is typically made of wood, wood composite, aluminum or PVC and received its name because brick was once the most common exterior facade or facing.

Brick Mould

Traditionally, brick mould was made of wood, which insulates well and can be easily painted. Over time, however, exposure to water and sun can cause it to rot and crack. For maximum durability, it must be maintained with regular cleaning and painting.

Brick mould can also be aluminum-clad, which makes the surface extremely durable. It cannot be painted, but contemporary window manufacturers like Marvin provide a variety of profiles and colors to choose from and the result is a window that needs significantly less maintenance.

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Bead — Window Word of the Day


Bead: Also called sticking, this is a molding or stop placed around a window frame to hold the glass in place by pressure.

In traditional woodworking, a bead is typically a rounded shape cut into a square edge to soften the edge and provide some protection against splitting. Beads can be simple round shapes, or more complex patterns.

Here are some common sticking profiles used for traditional wood window beads:


Ovolo and Ogee are the most common traditional bead profiles.


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Balance — Window Word of the Day


Balance: A mechanical device, normally spring-loaded, used in hung windows to counterbalance the weight of the sash during operation.


History of Spring Balance Systems


The Old House Journal shares some intriguing history on the invention and original uses of a spring balance system to replace to weight and pulley system. Here’s an excerpt:

The Source of Springs
In the 1890s, as the Industrial Revolution was reaching its peak, technological achievement became both the essence of the American spirit and good business. Everyone wanted to patent a better mousetrap, and there was a steady stream of novel inventions seeking to improve every industry, including building construction. The need to conveniently control double-hung sash had spawned many gizmos, from cams and ratchets to tension bars and spring pins, but the spring balance, which first appeared in the 1880s, was something different.

Also called a tape or clockspring balance, the spring balance is a metal tape, permanently greased and wound on a wheel. This wheel in turn is mounted on a coiled, high-carbon steel spring inside a metal case, similar in construction to a small carpenter’s measuring tape. Just as cast iron or lead weights were matched, pound for pound, to each sash, spring balances were manufactured and sold in various sizes that would offset the weight of a particular sash. However, instead of running cotton rope from sash to weights over a pulley, the spring balance connected to the sash by a metal tape that stretched up the channel into the spring case that took the place of a pulley. Visually, there was little difference.

At the turn of the 20th century, Frank Kidder’s pioneering guide Building Construction (1913) listed several reasons for choosing spring counterbalances. The primary advantage was that the spring balance required less space than weight-and-pulley systems, which had to leave several inches of room for weight pockets on either side of the window. This was especially important on bay windows (or the increasingly popular banks of windows) where the mullion space between sashes was limited. Spring balances were also invaluable for plank-frame houses, where the absence of wall framing made weight pockets impossible, and in solid brick walls, where spring balances alleviated the need to build openings any wider than necessary for the window proper. By 1894, the Sensible Sash Balance of Groton, New York, was one of several spring balances being advertised. A decade later Kidder mentioned two sources for spring balances: Pullman Manufacturing Company and Caldwell Manufacturing Company, both of Rochester, New York. Though Caldwell balances are no longer sold, Pullman spring balances have been on the market since 1886 and are still manufactured today.

Read the whole story here.


Marvin double hung windows, inserts and tilt pacs use modern spring balances that allow you to leave the original weights and weight pockets in place when replacing an old window.

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Blind Stop — Window Word of the Day

We’re launching a new feature: A Window Word A Day.

We hope you’ll find this look at the history and meaning of some of the window world’s more obscure terminology informative, useful and maybe a bit entertaining.

We’ll spend the next 2 months unveiling a new definition each day. Pay attention! At the end we’ll have a pop quiz- you could win a custom designed tool box from Versatile Wood Products.

Today’s Word: Blind Stop

doublehung_diagramA rectangular molding used in the assemblage of a double hung window frame; nailed between the outside trim and the outside sashes, it serves as a stop for storm sashes and screens and assists in preventing air infiltration.

blind stop 2Did you know?

The invention of the double hung window was ascribed to Robert Hooke,  (1635-1703), surveyor to the city of London and chief assistant to the renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren. Hooke was responsible for rebuilding the city of London in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1666.


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