We may be compensated if you purchase through links on our website. Our Reviews Team is committed to delivering honest, objective, and independent reviews on home products and services.More

Bay vs. Bow Windows (2024 Guide)

Advertiser Disclosure

By using, you are leaving This Old House and will be connected with partners of Home Service Quotes. Who, by submitting your information, may contact you with information related to your inquiry. The listings that appear are from companies from which this website receives compensation.

Compare quotes from local window experts

Enter details in under 3 minutes

front garden of house with bay window and leaded glass

Author Image Written by Jessica Wimmer Updated 06/27/2024

Bay and bow windows both provide a stunning focal point for a home’s exterior as well as plenty of natural light and outside views for the interior. However, the differences between them make each one better suited then the other for different kinds of spaces. Both are a set of windows that protrude from your home. However, bay windows are angled and typically consist of a central picture window with two smaller windows on either side, while bow windows consist of a semicircle containing four to six fixed or casement windows.

Whether you’re remodeling your home or just curious about architecture, we’ll break down the differences for you. Below, we’ll compare bay and bow windows on cost, materials, and types.

Use our expert research to learn more about your project

Enter your ZIP code and tell us about your home

Match with local experts who can meet your needs

Get Estimates from Window Experts in Your Area
Compare quotes from local pros
New Windows in Home
Window Replacement

Window replacement typically costs $300–$2,000 per window, depending on the window type.

GET ESTIMATE
View looking out a casement window from the inside of a house that has turquoise interior walls
Window Repair

Window repair typically costs $177–$623, but it can vary based on the type of repair.

GET ESTIMATE
Picture of a man cleaning a window with a yellow cloth
Window Cleaning Cost

Window cleaning typically costs $80–$430 for an entire home.

GET ESTIMATE

What Is a Bay Window?

A bay window is made of three windows—one large, inoperable window at the center and two smaller, operable windows on either side. The two smaller windows, which are casement or double-hung windows, angle away from the home’s walls to meet the center window, usually at an angle of 25–45 degrees. Bay windows are commonly used in transitional and contemporary designs but also work in traditional homes such as cottages or Victorian-style houses.

Bay windows often serve as a room’s centerpiece, bringing in natural light through the main picture window. This picture window provides an unobstructed outdoor view, while the narrow side windows open, allowing fresh air into the room. The interior space within the bay window is often ideal as a dining nook or window seat.

Cost

Materials

Type

The cost of a bay window ranges from $900* for a small window with single-pane glass up to $7,100 for a large, customized, energy-efficient window. Labor for installation adds another $300–$1,000 per window. The material quality, window size, and brand greatly affect its price. Extra features such as a built-in window seat or reading nook also impact price.

Your chosen framing material can change your overall bay window cost by thousands of dollars. Below are common options.

  • Vinyl: Vinyl is often the most affordable bay window material, ranging from $700–$3,500. Vinyl requires little maintenance and is known for its durability.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum costs fluctuate, but these windows tend to cost $500–$2,200. Aluminum is resistant to deterioration but makes a poor insulator and is best suited to mild climates.
  • Fiberglass: Fiberglass is another durable material suitable for large panes of glass without extra support. Expect to pay between $900 and $4,500 for this material.
  • Wood: Wood costs $1,100–$6,000 but requires regular staining and sealing. Wood also expands and contracts with humidity and fluctuating temperatures.

Bay windows come in various types and styles. Here are four different bay window types, including prices.

  • Box bay windows: This type of bay window is smaller and often found in kitchens. The flanking side windows meet the picture window at a 90-degree angle, similar to a box. Expect to pay $750–$1,400.
  • Full bay windows: Full bay windows are the classic style with a flat front window and angled sides. Full bay windows cost $1,100–$3,300 each.
  • Circle bay windows: Circle bay windows have large glass panes in each section with smaller panes above the windows. This type costs $2,500–$6,000 and has more intricate moldings and details than other bay window types.
  • Oriel bay windows: Oriel bay windows are the oldest type of bay window, first appearing during the English Renaissance. They cost between $1,300 and $3,800 and are built into the home’s side. Because oriel bay windows don’t touch the ground, they need additional structural support.

*Article cost data via Angi and Pella.


What Is a Bow Window?

Bow windows, also called compass windows, have four or more equally sized glass sections arranged in a subtle curve. They extend outward from the house in a semicircle, but usually not as far as bay windows. Bow windows are referred to by the number of glass sections in the bow, such as four-lite bow, five-lite bow, or six-lite bow. This window style is often found in Victorian-style homes.

This window type is best for exterior walls or corners with 80 inches or more of space. Bow windows fill a large interior space better than bay windows. They can wrap around a home’s corner, resembling a turret shape on the home’s exterior. The windows may be fixed and inoperable, or they may be casement windows that open by means of a side hinge.

Cost

Materials

Type

A premade bow window costs as little as $1,500, but a custom window costs $15,000 or more. The cost of window replacement is $2,000–$4,500, but if you want to install a new window where one wasn’t previously installed, expect to pay between $3,000 and $10,000 or more.

Vinyl and wood are the most popular framing materials for a bow window, but you can find aluminum, fiberglass, or composite. Here’s what you can expect to pay for a complete bow window of each material.

  • Vinyl: Vinyl is the most cost-effective material at $950–$2,100. It comes in premade designs and though you can’t paint or stain it, the material is durable and long-lasting. 
  • Composite: Bow windows with composite frames cost between $1,400 and $4,600. Composite refers to frame materials that combine elements such as plastic and wood fibers.
  • Fiberglass: Fiberglass bow windows cost $1,400–$3,800. This material is weatherproof and long-lasting.
  • Wood: Wood bow windows are the most expensive, ranging from $1,200–$6,000 per window for materials alone.

Bow windows come in various configurations, typically four to six glass sections, with a combination of different window styles. Bow windows with more operable sections—whether casement, single- or double-hung—cost more.


Comparing Bay Windows vs. Bow Windows

All types of windows cost more when you choose a custom design. Overall, though, custom bow windows and additional features typically cost more than bay windows. For example, bow window installations require a soffit tie-in or an extended hip roof, which may necessitate hiring a structural engineer. Here are some direct comparisons of bow and bay windows.

DifferentiatorBay WindowsBow Windows

Window size

Exterior walls with at least 40 inches of space

Exterior walls or corners with at least 80 inches of 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 or inoperable

Available materials

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

Pros

  • Less expensive than bow windows
  • Boost curb appeal
  • Higher resale value
  • Wider views
  • Bring in more natural light

Cons

  • Take up more space outside of house
  • Limited light and views compared to bow windows
  • Wider and heavier, so they’re harder to install
  • More expensive than bay windows

Cost

$900–$7,100

$1,500–$15,000


Our Conclusion

Both bay and bow windows can help boost your home’s curb appeal. They’re also great options for bringing in natural light, increasing airflow, or adding extra space for a cozy nook or storage. But there are key differences, and one type may suit your home more than the other.

Certain types of bay windows fit in small areas, but bow windows require at least 80 inches of space on an exterior wall or corner. We recommend consulting a window professional to determine the right type for your home and getting at least three quotes before hiring a window installation company.

Get Estimates from Window Experts in Your Area
Compare quotes from local pros

FAQ About Bay vs. Bow Windows

What is better, a bow or a bay window?

Choosing a bay or bow window depends on your budget, wall space, and window style preference. Bow windows are more expensive than bay windows, but they’re wider and let in more natural light. Bay windows have more angular lines than bow windows, making them perfect for transitional and contemporary styles.

Can a bay window replace a bow window?

Yes, you can replace a bow window with a new bay window. Bay windows have fewer panels and can be smaller than bow windows, so your contractor must modify the window opening to accommodate its size and support requirements. Consult with a professional contractor or window specialist to help advise you on your specific circumstances.

Which is cheaper, a bay or bow window?

Bow windows are up to 2.5 times as expensive as bay windows. Bow windows are more intricate than bay windows and typically require additional structural support. Bow windows are often customized to fit specific styles and design preferences, and the window’s curved structure makes it more challenging to install.


To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.