Whether you're looking to enhance the curb appeal of your home or have been pining away for an unobstructed view of a lake or pretty backyard, a bow window or bay window is an investment that you will enjoy for years to come. Now the hard part—choosing between a bay or bow window. Here's what you need to know before you decide.

Bow window vs. bay window

It's easy to see how bow and bay windows are often confused for one another. After all, they share a similar shape and, because they extend out from the walls of your home, they make your space feel roomier and inviting. They both provide a beautiful architectural focal point, highlight pretty views, and allow natural light to pour into your home. So what are the differences, then? Let's break them down so you can decide which type is for you.

What is a bay window?

A bay window is an arrangement of windows with three or more individual window units that protrude from the house at various angles. Most are rectangular in shape. Most commonly, there is a central window that is typically stationary with two flanking windows that angle back toward the main wall. These windows usually open and close. Bay windows typically protrude more from the house than bow windows.

Types of bay windows

The most common style is the classic angled bay window, which protrudes from the house and slants back toward the wall at a 30 or 45-degree angle. In addition to colors, glass types, grid patterns, and hardware options, you can also choose the operational style of all the units in the bay window. Choose between double-hung or casement windows, as well as if you want the center unit stationary or operable. If your style encompasses cleaner and simple lines, the box bay window may fit the bill. As the name implies, it is shaped like a box, typically rectangular with a flat front and sides that come straight off the house at 90 degrees. Keep in mind bay windows that open are an essential feature in bay window designs if you want more ventilation.

What is a bow window?

A bow window is a rounded set of windows that project in an arc shape from the wall. The Infinity from Marvin bow windows are available in four, five, or six wide assembly configurations. Bow windows tend to be wider in size and don't protrude outward as much as a bay window. They can be ordered to include fully functioning windows that open and close, fully stationary, or a mix-and-match of operable and stationary windows.

Are bow windows outdated?

Bow windows are still window features that can be added to both new construction, as well as replacement windows. The reason you might not see as many bow windows like bay windows is that they are typically seen in older built homes, especially in Victorian-style homes. The attractive aesthetic features and stately curbside appeal open up views from your home and expand the visual area of the space.

Can you replace a bow window with a bay window?

It largely depends on the existing structure. It's easier and cheaper to put in a bay the same size as the old window. A wider bay requires a larger opening and a new header. Support is another consideration as bay windows must be supported with decorative braces below the window or with hidden steel cables bolted to the overhead framing. If there is an eave above the window, a bay window is tucked underneath it with trim and insulation. If the window is in the middle of a wall with no eaves, a skirt roof is custom-built to help protect the windows and lend a decorative touch. Whatever size window you decide on, financing options are available to help make your window design dreams come true.

Which one is more expensive—the bay or bow window?

Bow and bay windows are comparable in price, depending on the size of the units and the construction that may be required. It is not uncommon for these windows to be in the $10K range, but if you're just replacing windows in an existing bay or bow structure, it would be just a fraction of the cost. Of course, the prices for both bay and bow windows vary by location, but more importantly, by the materials used. When comparing vinyl, wood, aluminum, and fiberglass, hands down, fiberglass windows are the most durable. Fiberglass is typically more expensive, but they're worth it. In fact, fiberglass bay and bow windows made from Ultrex® fiberglass are eight times stronger than vinyl, with an estimated 38 percent longer lifespan than vinyl. Plus, they don't sag, bend or warp and are highly energy efficient. Not to mention, fiberglass bay and bow windows increase the value of your home.

For more information on bay and bow windows, or to learn how you can start your replacement project today, contact us to schedule your free consultation.