Bay vs. Bow Windows (2024 Guide)

By Jessica Wimmer Updated February 2, 2024

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If you want to boost your home’s curb appeal and open up your interior space with abundant natural light, look no further than the elegant and classic bay or bow window. At a distance, bay and bow windows look alike: They both feature a set of windows that open up a room and protrude from the home’s exterior walls, but there are slight differences.

Bay windows have angular lines and typically consist of a large picture window and two smaller operable windows on either side. Bow windows are curved, containing four to six glass sections of equal size. Read our guide to understand the basics of bay versus bow windows and what makes them stand out.

 


 

What Is a Bay Window?

A bay window consists of three windows: a picture window at the center and two smaller casement or double-hung windows at the sides. Bay windows extend from the home’s exterior walls, and the two side windows typically angle at 45 or 90 degrees to meet the larger window. 

Whether it’s the bedroom, living room, or kitchen, this window type is ideal in almost any room of the house. Bay windows have numerous purposes, from a breakfast or reading nook to window seating or extra storage. These popular window types provide additional floor space and give an unobstructed outdoor view while the smaller windows open and let in fresh air. Bay windows are common in transitional and contemporary home styles as well as traditional homes, such as cottage or Victorian styles.

Bay windows are often confused with bow windows, as both types extend away from the exterior walls. However, bow windows have more window panels and are rounded rather than angular. Bow windows also require more space and can even go around the corner of your home.

Cost

On average, bay windows cost $900* for small and simple designs and up to $7,100 for larger, energy-efficient windows with added features. Bay window installation costs an additional $300 to $1,000 per window. The window material, size, and brand affect the price, as well as extra features such as a built-in window seat or a cozy nook.

*Article cost data via Home Advisor, Pella, and Angi. 

Materials

Bay window framing materials come in several varieties. Vinyl is one of the most economical materials, while wood is more costly. Higher-quality materials can increase your window price by thousands of dollars. Below are common window framing materials.

Type

Bay windows come in various types and styles, ranging from $700 to $2,500. Here are four different bay window types and their prices.

 


 

What Is a Bow Window?

A bow window has four or more glass sections that extend from the home’s exterior wall or corner at a slight curve. Bow windows are referred to by the number of glass sections, such as four-lite bow, five-lite bow, or six-lite bow. This architectural style is common in Victorian-style homes. These windows provide a wider outdoor view and allow more airflow than bay windows.

Bow windows need at least 80 inches of wall space. Because these windows are heavier, harder to install, and have more glass panes, they’re typically more expensive than bay windows. Bow windows are heavy, and installations often require a soffit tie-in or an extended hip roof. If necessary, consult a structural engineer.

Like bay windows, homeowners can opt for additional features such as energy-efficient windows and window seating. Another option is using the extra floor space for a desk area or accent chairs.

Cost

A single premade bow window starts at $1,500. If you prefer custom work, it could cost $15,000 or more. The price of window replacement ranges from $2,000 to $4,500. If you’re installing a window in a new spot, expect to pay $3,000 to $10,000 or more. Besides the window, installation requires new framing, drywall, roofing, and siding. You may also need electrical work depending on your home’s layout.

Materials

Vinyl and wood are very common bow window framing materials, but you can also find aluminum, fiberglass, or composite. Here’s what to expect from each material type.

Type

Bow windows are four to six glass panels of equal proportions. You can choose various types of windows for your arrangement, such as casement, single-hung, or double-hung. The more windows with operable sections, the higher the cost.

 


 

Bay Windows vs. Bow Windows Comparison

When it comes to bay versus bow windows, there are small but important differences. Bay windows have three panels and offer a broader view with additional floor space. Bow windows have a curved shape and provide a more panoramic view, enhancing a room’s openness. Here’s a breakdown comparing bay and bow windows.

Factors

Bay Windows

Bow Windows

Window Size

  • At least 40 inches of exterior wall space
  • At least 80 inches of exterior wall or corner space

Number of Windows

  • Three windows
  • Four or more windows

Special Features

  • Energy-efficient glass
  • Glass coating
  • Interior trim finishes
  • Window seat
  • Energy-efficient glass
  • Glass coating
  • Number of panes
  • Operable vs. inoperable

Available Materials

  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum
  • Fiberglass
  • Wood
  • Vinyl
  • Composite
  • Fiberglass
  • Wood

Benefits

  • Lower in cost compared to bow windows
  • Perfect for a bench or reading nook
  • High resale value
  • Panoramic views
  • Customizable
  • Increased airflow

Drawbacks

  • Takes up more space around the home’s exterior
  • Finding the right window treatments is a challenge
  • Harder to install
  • Costly

Cost

  • $900–$7,100
  • $1,500–$15,000
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Our Recommendation

Adding a bay or bow window can improve your view and boost your home’s resale value. They’re also great for increasing natural light and airflow or adding extra space for a cozy nook or storage. But there are key differences, and one type may suit your home better than the other.

We recommend researching the best window style for your home and contacting several professionals for installation quotes. 

 


 

Bay vs. Bow Windows FAQ

What is the difference between bay and bow windows?

A bay window has more angular lines and extends farther from the home, while bow windows have a slight curve and offer homeowners a panoramic outdoor view. Bay windows typically have three windows, while bow windows make up four to six sections of the same size. Both window types are costly, but homeowners will likely pay more for bow windows.

What is better, a bow or a bay window?

Whether you choose a bow or bay window depends on your budget, your home’s layout, and your preferences. Bow windows cost more than bay windows, but they offer a wider view of your homeu0026#8217;s surroundings and better air circulation. Bay windows are more cost-effective and can go in areas with limited space.

Can a bay window replace a bow window?

Yes, a bay window can replace a bow window. Your contractor may need to modify the window opening to adjust for its size and support needs. Contact a local contractor or window specialist for advice and a free quote.