Real estate agents love to wax poetic over the amount of natural light that a home has. “Sun-drenched” and “light-filled” have become clichés in listing lingo, and floor-to-ceiling windows are practically the Holy Grail for some house hunters.
Marilyn Wexler, a licensed associate real estate broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, says that floor-to-ceiling windows are a big draw for buyers. “They maximize the entrance of natural light into [the home], thus reducing the constant need for as much artificial lighting for much of the day,” she says, noting how this is a big advantage when conserving energy. “It is also an opportunity to connect more closely with the outside landscape, especially if you are looking out to panoramic views.” Even if you don’t have those majestic views, bigger windows can make a space feel larger.
Despite those advantages, there are issues that come with having that much more glass in your home. Here, a few real estate agents and an interior designer weighed in with some special considerations for floor-to-ceiling windows.
Energy-efficiency is everything…
Jennifer Baptista, a Realtor in Massachusetts, loves it when a home has a lot of windows to let in all that natural light. She notes that floor-to-ceiling windows are “the biggest rage today,” and though she is a fan of them, she does have some words of warning.
“Windows can make or break the heating and cooling of the house,” she says. “To be cost-effective as well as visually appealing, they must be completely energy efficient.” You might never have to turn a light on in the daytime because of those windows, and the sun will keep the room naturally toasty. But in the summer sun, you’d better have some excellent thermal curtains up unless you want the AC pumping 24/7 — and there goes your energy savings right out the, um, window.
“Make sure they are tempered glass,” says Andrew Westphal, a Realtor with Corcoran NYC. “A lot of floor to ceiling windows are installed on new developments and sometimes corners get cut [to save money and time].”
Tempered glass has been hardened with a thermal process, and it can withstand changes in both temperature and pressure. How do you know it’s tempered glass? Westphal says it should have markings on it that a home inspector can easily recognize.
Baptista notes that newer windows will offer peace of mind to buyers, particularly those with young children and pets, in that they won’t crack or shatter during play. “You want to make sure they are not going to pull a ‘Kool-Aid Man’ and run right through it,” she says.
Cleaning is a real chore.
From a practical perspective, you’ll also want to know how to keep them clean. If you live in a larger home, you might not be able to take care of them on your own. Westphal notes that if you need to hire a pro to keep them clean, that’s an extra expense on your tab as a homeowner. (Not to mention a lot of Windex if you decide to DIY it.)
They’re all about form, not function.
Floor-to-ceiling windows are there for the aesthetics only, not the function. You can’t open them, which is a good thing for safety, but there goes any chance at ventilation. It would seem strange to call a room with that much light coming as “stuffy,” but that’s exactly what it will be if you don’t have another window or door that can be opened to the outside.
Window treatments could be tricky.
If you value your privacy, then floor-to-ceiling windows might not bode well for you. Yes, there are options, like super-long window treatments or privacy film. But you’ll want one of them installed prior to moving in.
Of course, installing window treatments for floor-to-ceiling windows will be harder — not to mention more expensive — than for smaller windows. While there are full-length curtains for sliding glass doors and the like, you might have to go with something custom to provide shade and privacy for those floor-to-ceiling windows.
“For a more modern and streamlined look, motorized solar shades work great,” says Brittany Farinas, CEO and creative director at House of One, noting that drapery can help soften the look.
You’ll see your decor in a different light — literally.
“It’s important to be cognizant of the materials that live within the home and how they will be affected by environmental conditions,” Farinas says. “For example, a home with natural wood floors may look lighter in areas closer to windows and darker in areas more centralized within the space.
Aside from aesthetics, you’ll also want to make sure that your interior design can stand up to the heat of the sun’s rays. In particular, furniture and carpet can fade in the intense light. And just as you don’t relish the thought of getting into a hot car with leather seats, imagine a leather couch in front of a floor-to-ceiling window baking all day in the summer sun?
A light-filled home is certainly better than a dark, cavernous one. But in order to make floor-to-ceiling windows work in your home, there are some considerations and precautions to take as a homeowner so you can safely enjoy these desirable features.