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Ask an Architect, Custom Residential

How to Match Heights of Doors and Windows

By Jeff Pelletier
August 17, 2011

You know how everyone has their little "issues" that they love to focus on? Some people can see a small imperfection in a paint job a zillion miles away. Others can't deal with squeaky hinges. And then, we have a Seattle mayor who can only focus on a tunnel.

But I digress.

I have a bunch. I guess I'm paid to focus on all the little details so my clients don't have to. Some are things that my clients honestly don't even notice (but I do) and others are ones that I wish they would. One of those little issues that gets me going is when the tops of doors or windows are just oh so slightly off. This is not an answer:

Look at that picture! This is the stuff that keeps me up at night. Let's forget for a second that the trim on the left is missing the little piece of trim at the top. These two are SO CLOSE! Clearly, this was a remodel situation where it was just assumed it would work out and the new doors were ordered without really measuring what was already and not going anywhere.

You know what they say about assuming, right?

More subtle situations are everywhere and they occur because of adjacent different door types and windows. See, windows and doors are all built differently (duh, right?). They have different dimensions "behind the scenes" that you don't see once they're installed. If you measured from where the door casing can start above a pocket door compared to a normal swing door they'll typically be about 1/4" off at a minimum. Couple that with a double-hung window and maybe a picture window in one room and they'll all have different heights of trim in the room. Have you been in a builder home out in the suburbs? Chances are about 99% that all of the "head heights" (the underside of the framing above a window) for all of the different openings will be placed at 6'-8" or 7'-0". See, someone was thinking of making everything look great! But wait! Why is that casing above the pocket door a good 3/4" above the window trim right next to it?

Because no one drew the actual details and thought about it. Here are some quick and dirty sketches of what I'm talking about and what NOT to do.

Casement Window:

Double Hung Window:

These two windows have different conditions: maybe they're built by different companies or maybe they just don't like each other. Who knows. Who cares. What matters, is that they are different and warrant different details. Otherwise, when the contractor goes to install them at the specified 7'-0" on the window schedule the trim will NOT line up on the wall. These details need to be thought through by an architect and made so they line up and they look harmonious. Perhaps the 1/4" that is typical from the top of the window to the bottom of the casing has to change slightly or, more likely, the rough opening height for each window is different depending on the details of how it is built. The double-hung window should have a head height of 6'-11 1/2" to allow the two trims to match.

Now everyone's assignment is to look at the little details like this. They never drove you crazy before but I'm betting they will now.
You're welcome!

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