Storefront vs Curtainwall


You may have at one point heard either term, “storefront” or “curtain wall” in relation to a building, the façade of a building, or as a term being thrown around by architects or project managers involved in your real estate project. Did you know what it meant? Do you know the difference between the two things? Watchdog is here to help with a quick explanation of the difference between storefront vs curtain wall.


Firstly, both are architectural terms that refer to the exterior wall. Think of the glass that you see on the outside of a building, whether at street level or going all the way up a building. This is the exterior wall of the building and a number of factors determine a storefront vs curtain wall.


Storefront: Storefront is defined as a non-residential, non-load-bearing assembly of commercial entrance systems and windows, usually spanning between the floor and the structure above, designed for high use and strength. Storefront spans should be 10 feet high or less. Typically, storefront is only used on the ground floor of a building but can be used up to the second or third floor.   Storefront is typically center glazed and is not self-draining.


Curtain wall: In the most basic sense of the term, the curtain wall is any non-load-bearing exterior wall that hangs (like a curtain) from the floor slabs. Curtain wall can be 25 feet or higher, depending on the design of the building.  Curtain wall typically spans multiple floors and is usually front glazed. It also incorporates a self-draining system.


Key Differences in Storefront vs. Curtain wall:

  • Curtain wall is taller than storefront. Curtain wall is used for frames that are 13 feet or higher (though they can be used on frames 11-12 feet tall). Storefront is used for frames up to 10 feet.
  • Curtain wall is thicker than storefront. Curtain wall starts at 2.5in in depth and can be as thick as 8in deep. Curtain wall is 2in deep or less.
  • Curtain wall is used to span multiple floors. Typically, storefront is used on the ground floor only.


Related: The Basics: How to Read Architectural Plans

The Three Types of Commercial Window Systems

Katie Craven
Katie Craven is Marketing, Communication and Brand Manager at Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers, a real-estate consulting firm that provides owner’s representation and project management services. More about Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers as well as additional blog posts can be found here.
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