Bay vs Bow Windows: Which One Should You Get?



The demand for window replacement units exceeds 56 million units. The process yields a high 70% return on investment rate.

One of the most important steps in replacing your windows is deciding which type to replace them with. There are several options available today and choosing between them can be difficult.

Bay and bow windows are a long-standing traditional design that jets out from the home. They create a unique look that many homeowners find attractive.

While these two window types are often confused, they couldn’t be more different. Read our comparison guide to learn the advantages and disadvantages of bay vs. bow windows so you can choose between them.

What Is a Bay Window?

Bay windows are a historic style that’s been popular since the 1500s. They’re composed of multiple panels, allowing homeowners to customize them based on their needs and personal taste.

There are several different structures of bay windows available. The four major options are canted, box, oriel, and circle.

Canted bay windows are the most classic type. They’re usually found on the ground level of a home.

Box bay windows are similar but have side windows that meet to form a right angle. This creates a box-shaped alcove that is perfect for creating a sense of privacy.

Oriel bay windows are the oldest structure of all. Their supports are found underneath the window, allowing them to be placed on any floor of the home.

The circle bay window, as its name suggests, has a round shape. It’s one of the least common types but creates a unique look.

There are also several different styles of bay windows to choose from. They include Victorian, Tudor, mid-century modern, modern, and craftsman.

Victorian bay windows harken back to the Victorian era. They include elements of both the oriel and canted bay structure.

Tudor bay windows use the oriel structure. What makes them different from other options is that they use wooden supports.

Mid-century modern bay windows create a clean and sleek design. They may use glass or modern materials and create as few panes as possible.

Modern bay windows are less detailed than several other options. They instead focus on using segmented planes to create a contemporary design.

Craftsman bay windows add to the room they’re placed in. They expand the living space and provide extra seating.

Choosing a type of bay window is a matter of personal preference. If it can fit on your walls and you like it, consider installing it.

What Is a Bow Window?

Bow windows could be considered nothing more than arch-shaped bay windows, but there’s more to them than that. They have several characteristics that set them apart.

Bay windows always have 3 separate windows within them. There is one in the center and two on both sides. The largest one is parallel to the exterior wall, with the other two on the diagonal. The entire setup creates a trapezoid when viewed from above.

Bow windows have a half-oval shape when viewed from above. They contain at least 4 windows, making them look more rounded. Each pane of glass is a straight line arranged to create an arc with as little framing and hardware as possible.

There aren’t as many different types of bow windows available, but it’s still possible to customize them to your liking. You can change the number of panes, choose a color, and more. The only thing you can’t change is the rounded shape.

Bay vs. Bow Windows

Manufacturers recommend replacing your windows at least every 20 years. Signs of a failing window include getting stuck, draftiness, and panes that collect moisture.

Both bay and bow windows are great options for window replacements. They both increase the space in your home, let in more sunlight, and create a unique look.

Despite their similarities, these two window types differ in several ways. Deciding between bay or bow windows requires a careful comparison of their pros and cons.

Pros of Bay Windows

Bay windows offer several advantages to homeowners. They include beautiful designs that increase home value, lighting, outside views, surface area, and ventilation, all at an affordable price. 

Bay windows are an aesthetically pleasing addition to any home. They also provide several other additional advantages.

Bay windows are an attractive specialty element that can increase the value of your home. They have a unique style, open up the space of a room, and increase real estate value in a number of other ways. This makes them a worthwhile investment.

Bay windows are larger than the average window and allow more light in. This improves your home’s lighting and can even be beneficial to your health and mood.

Bay windows provide a better view of the outside world. They include a structural protrusion that allows you to see more of what’s parallel to the wall.

The wall attached to a bay window will have a more open surface area. This allows more air from the outside to come in, allowing for better ventilation and air quality.

Windows make up 15% of the average home’s wall space. Certain types help you utilize your square footage better than others.

Adding a bay window can increase the square footage of any room you place it in. This also gives you more design options for how you want to use the extra space. You could turn it into a seating area, indoor garden, or whatever your heart desires.

Bay windows are getting more affordable as they continue to become more common. Costs differ depending on the company and design you choose but range from $1150-$3550 with an average of $2350.

These are only some of the advantages bay windows may provide. The only way to see what they may add to your home is to install them.

Cons of Bay Windows

Choosing the right type of window is an important decision, and it’s critical to know the shortcomings of each type as well. These pitfalls keep homeowners from choosing bay windows, including installation, weight, and temperature regulation.

Bay windows require supports and professional installation due to their complex design and large size.

Not every foundation is strong enough to support the extra weight. There is a possibility of damage.

Bay windows let in extra light and have a large surface area. This can be an advantage but can also present the disadvantage of the need for extra heating or cooling.

Other disadvantages may arise depending on the installation job, your personal needs, and the structure of your home. Keep this in mind before installing bay windows.

Pros of Bow Windows

Bow windows are an underrated option that’s too often confused for the more popular bay window. They offer the most lighting and space improvements of any window type.

Bow windows are the best option for letting in as much natural light as possible. They provide even more than bay windows and much more than traditional windows.

Bow windows offer the most space for you to work with when designing. They’re large and wide, giving you free rein of what to do with the space.

These are only some of the advantages that bow windows may provide. They’re a great way to add a sense of elegance to your home.

Cons of Bow Windows

Bow windows also offer several disadvantages to homeowners. They’re large, difficult to install and open, and expensive.

Bow windows are much larger and require more planning and allocation in your home. You’ll need to designate at least 80 inches, compared to only 40 inches for a bay window.

The design of bowed windows prevents you from opening most of their panes. Opening mechanisms can’t be installed without sacrificing the curved shape. Professionals may be able to remedy this, but it could cause ventilation issues.

Installing bow windows is a difficult and expensive process. Typical installation costs range from $5,000-$8,000, but expect to pay up to $10,000 for custom jobs.

Other disadvantages can arise, especially if you attempt to install a bow window without professional help. This is not a DIY job, and you risk severe home damage if you attempt it on your own.

Once you’ve decided whether to get bow or bay windows, the next step is to find the best place to purchase them from. Check out Portland Windows Doors for a range of products to fit your needs.

Where Can I Learn More?

Replacing failing windows is one of the best things you can do for the health and happiness of your family. It improves temperature regulation, lighting, and more.

The first step when choosing to get a new window is to decide which type is best for you. Bay and bow windows are popular options, but they each have their own pros and cons to consider before deciding on one or the other.

Comparing bay vs. bow windows helps you determine which option to choose when you decide to replace your current windows. The next decision you have to make is which provider to buy them from.

Browse the rest of our content and keep checking back for more information.

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