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6 creative window ideas for tract homes

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | May 12, 2016

Large, white vinyl window

Do you live in a residential neighborhood where everything looks the same? Tract houses -- so named because they were built on a large tract of land that was later subdivided into smaller blocks -- offer the advantage of (usually) friendly neighbors and a lovely home. However, they have some disadvantages, and one of them is the fact that everything…well, everything looks exactly the same.

How can you express your individuality while living in a tract home? You could go with a flashy front door, or unique landscaping, or you could change up one of the prime elements of your home: the windows.

Bay or bow windows

These windows can help your home stand out and offer the added bonus of more space -- you can use that for a reading nook, a bird-watching station, or even a small indoor garden. Keep in mind that adding a bay or bow window often requires some new construction, as they weigh substantially more than the average window and require much more space. However, if you're looking for an investment that will make your home stand out from the rest of the neighborhood, this could be the way to go.

Expanded windows

Most windows in tract houses are of a standard size and shape. Break out of that mold with a bit of new construction that expands the windows dramatically, either creating much taller windows or expanding those typical rectangular windows into one long, wide picture window. This will require careful planning and the work of a professional contractor, but you might wind up with a show-stopping window that turns your home into the crown jewel of the block.

Add eye-catching elements

What would have been a typical window can turn into a showpiece when the glass is stained into a unique design. Adding small elements to the windows, such as clear windows for the bottom pane and fogged or stained windows for the top, allows you to keep the old window shape but add a fresh look. Even though the window itself will cost more than a typical replacement window, you are using the existing space, and not springing for any new construction -- that leads to money saved while creating a lasting impression.

Go with fun shapes

Use the space you already have, but install windows that bring in fun shapes or interesting amenities. An example might be a circular window with hand-carved wood details to fill in the four 'corners' that are left from the original rectangular space. An unusual shape like this will definitely get attention.

Get more light where you need it

Sometimes it's not so much a matter of aesthetics as simply the light itself. Some tract homes are at a distinct disadvantage thanks to the position of neighboring houses, trees that have grown to tower over the property, and even bad planning when the streets were laid out. The result might be plenty of big, beautiful windows that never get quite enough light.

A skylight is a good remedy for this. It's unlikely that other houses will get in the way of the light that shines down on your roof, so that leaves you with plenty of room to work. Most skylights will require some serious construction, so it won't be cheap -- but the results can leave you feeling as though you just bought a brand-new house. For those with tighter budgets, a light tunnel can bring in a good amount of light for a fraction of the cost. Consider light tunnels for smaller areas that really need some extra lighting, like an interior bathroom or that middle bedroom that has only one small window.

Dress it all up

If you live in an area where homeowner's association rules forbid any significant changes to the windows, all hope is not lost! You can dress up those windows in ways that enhance your home, such as using interior shutters to create dimension or hand-crafted windowsills that convert a typical window into a surprising garden space. You might also be able to come to an agreement concerning materials; if you are tired of aluminum windows, you might be able to install wood windows, assuming that the look stays true to the requirements of the HOA.

Though all tract homes might look the same, the people who live inside them are definitely not. So give a lot of thought to the wonderful ways you can express your individuality and make your home the highlight of the neighborhood.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.