Glass walls have become an essential tool to meeting a remodeling trend: light-filled homes that are open and airy while also providing a deeper connection to the outdoors. This growth in demand has translated into increasing availability of larger windows in sizes that often can be used in existing wood framing -with some modifications.

For the Blue Dog house in Durham, N.C., the availability of stock sizes was a key factor in incorporating large expanses of glass while still staying on budget. “JELD-WEN was able to provide the sizes that we needed and also come within the price point,” says Jason Smith, AIA, who co-owns smitharc architects with his wife, Signe Smith, AIA. “We let their stock sizing drive the design.”

The home’s upper-level master bedroom, kitchen, and great room are wrapped with vertically mulled 8- to 10-foot JELD-WEN Siteline windows. The effect lends a contemporary feel to the country setting while providing ample views of the rolling property and its pond and woods.

“It reads like one large wall of glass, but it’s standard stock sizes,” says Signe Smith. “It’s a mistake to think that the only way to get a large, dramatic wall of glass is with a large budget and doing heroic sizes. With design and thoughtful placement … you don’t need to throw money at that problem to get that same feeling.”

On the ground level, which emerges from a slope, wide sliders bring in more light and views while serving the family’s outdoor-centric life. A 16-foot-wide opening connects the rec room to a patio, where the parents can watch the kids in the pond from under the protection of a second-floor cantilever. Two slightly smaller sliders lead to an equipment room and a bathroom, further accommodating outdoor activities.

It’s important to note larger expanses require precise engineering to determine what additional framing is required to accommodate increased weight and lateral loads. For the Blue Dog house, the architects were able to keep the spans to a dimension that didn’t require steel beams, allowing for wood framing exclusively except for a few steel columns for some of the openings.

Careful installation is crucial with any window and door application. Proper preparation of the building envelope will ensure long-term performance of both the window and the structure. But the need only grows with unit size. Along with traditional best practices, larger windows may require upgrades to HVAC systems to make up for the greater glass exposure, says Kelly Nicholson, business manager for Rufty Homes, builder of the Blue Dog house.

Remodelers also should consider how much room is available to stage products, Nicholson advises. Though not an issue for this project’s large lot, other jobs without storage space require careful delivery coordination with dealers and the flexibility to install windows out of order if that coordination falls through.

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