What’s the Difference Between Residential and Commercial Windows?

The average person probably doesn’t see a difference between commercial and residential windows. While they may look similar at first glance, appearances aren’t always what they seem. By understanding the differences between commercial and residential windows, you can choose the right type for your next construction project. Read until the end for some guidelines about how to choose the right contractor for commercial windows in the Hampton Roads, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach area.

What Are the Differences Between Commercial and Residential Windows?

Here’s the short answer: commercial windows are more durable than home windows because they use materials designed to take on more wear and tear. Generally, they also have a larger glass surface space. Residential windows, on the other hand, are usually more energy-efficient and budget-friendly.

What Are the Differences In Design?

Manufacturers make commercial windows from different materials than residential windows because of different structural requirements and uses.

Commercial windows must meet the standards of the Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance. This includes heavy-duty framing and reinforced glazing on the panes, which help the windows withstand higher wind pressure and heavier structural loads.

Residential windows are not designed to be as robust and large as commercial doors. In many places, they are still designed to withstand high altitudes and to be impact resistant. Residential windows still need to withstand severe weather, such as hurricanes.


Commercial buildings tend to heat up quickly because they contain more people and have larger sunlight surface absorption. Residential buildings are usually less crowded and therefore create less internal heat. Because of this, residential buildings benefit from windows designed to let heat enter, naturally warming the area.

Commercial windowsCommercial windows

Commercial windows, however, need to keep out more of the sun’s rays so they don’t overheat. Without the right materials and glazing, commercial buildings would overheat, leading to a spike in air conditioning usage–and your energy bill.


Commercial windows are often designed to let in more light because they are often larger spaces. To get more light, larger frames and more glass are used in commercial window design. Residential buildings have smaller spaces designated for windows, so they are designed with less glass and more paneling. Architects usually make this choice, however, and it’s one construction choice that can help with physiological work emotions.

Residential windows may also use tints and geometric shapes for aesthetic reasons. Commercial windows tend to have simpler designs with more glass and less paneling.

Durability and Performance

Commercial windows need to be more durable and tougher than residential windows. They are built to last many years without having to change them because of the large expense involved. You can usually change residential windows quickly and easily.


Residential windows typically cost much less to install because they do not have the extensive use of lifts or scaffolding to reach high floors. Commercial windows not only require this type of equipment but it also takes a longer time to get the job done. In addition, commercial windows have the added expense of specialized glazing and materials. More time and effort is needed for commercial window installation and the expensive equipment to install these windows adds up to a larger cost compared to the installation costs for residential windows.

Regardless of the type of window, the key thing is to choose the ones with the proper specifications for the building or home they will be installed in. Whether you need residential or commercial windows, it’s important to consult with your contractor before moving forward with your project.

Carlton Building Services in Hampton Roads Virginia

Carlton Building Services specializes in repairs, maintenance, renovations, remodelings and build-outs for a variety of clients in Hampton Roads, Virginia. We have years of experience handling projects in the retail, office, and healthcare space and would love to work with you on your next project!

To learn more about our services, check out past project highlights or contact Carlton Building Services to see how we can help with your next project.

JP Carlton

J.P. Carlton

J.P. Carlton is the founder of Carlton Building Services, a Hampton Roads-based construction company.