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Bow windows: An in-depth buying guide for homeowners

Wouldn't you agree that it is difficult to overdo daylight? We feel more connected to our natural surroundings when beams of sunshine stream in through the windows and brighten up a space. That's why many homeowners are installing bow windows. They are designed to funnel sun rays into our homes to light up the interiors and connect us to the natural surroundings. Read on to find out more about the pros and cons, types, installation costs, and new bow window prices. By the end of this article, you will be able to come up with an informed decision about this elegant type of window for your home.

Bow windows: An in-depth buying guide for homeowners

What are bow windows?

In brief, bow windows are typically formed by several small units. They extend from the exterior wall of a house in a curved fashion. The smaller windows form a wide, bright opening in a wall. 

Bow windows come with both fixed and operable window panes. They vary in price and ventilation properties. Bow windows lend a few architectural details as they protrude from the house—adding depth and character to a plain wall or window space. 

In some cases, they can wrap around your home's corner—giving the wall a semi-turreted appearance. And on the inside of the bow, the curve of the windows also forms a flat shelf. 

Depending on the design, the formed shelf might be level with the floor. It also frees up more floor space for furniture like tables and chairs, a lounger, or even a reading nook. The shelf may be knee- or hip height, lending a pleasant window seat for unwinding and interacting with nature.

What are the distinctive features of bow windows?

Many types of windows come in prefabricated packages, but bow windows are almost always custom-made. This is due to the lack of standard sizes for curved openings. But homeowners have several options and features when choosing new bow windows.

Frame materials

The cost of the window can be determined by the frame material you choose. However, vinyl-framed bow windows are less expensive than custom-made wooden ones. Other options include those made of aluminum or fiberglass covered in vinyl or composite material for better moisture and corrosion resistance. Make sure to pick the frame in accordance with the local climate to safeguard your investment and avoid extra expenditures.

Types of bow windows

Bow units come in different types and styles. The most common variants are canted, casement, fixed, double-hung, and corner bow windows. 

Here are some things to note about these windows:

  • Canted bow units. This is the classic style of bow windows commonly seen in residential buildings. It has a flat, straight front and an angled side. 
  • Casement bow units. If you seek bow windows that offer ample light and fresh air, casement ones with four or more panels should be your best bet. 
  • Fixed bow units. As their name implies, these windows cannot be opened for ventilation. If you install them in the bedroom or living room, you need to combine them with operable units. 
  • Double-hung bow units. Bow windows that feature two sashes are called double-hung. They can be opened or closed to ensure maximum airflow inside the room and are considered an excellent choice for large areas like living rooms.
  • Corner bow units. Thanks to the multiple window panes and specific curvature, these windows ensure a lovely panoramic view. Corner installation is more common for modern bow windows than bay ones. 

Glass options 

Bows come in single, double, and triple-pane varieties. Some windows have argon or krypton gas injected between the panes to help enhance their energy efficiency. As a rule, thicker windows, such as triple-paned, gas-filled ones, are more expensive but save money on utility costs and reduce noise.

Color and finish

Wood windows can be tinted in different colors to match your interior or exterior design scheme. However, color options for vinyl, aluminum, and fiberglass-framed windows are limited.

Screens and window grilles 

Window screens are relatively standard. But there are several options for grilles that split fixed window panes into grids—which can as well be customized to create a new look.

Bow windows vs. bay windows - What is the key difference to consider?

The primary difference is the number of sections each style of window has. Another difference is that bay windows have a picture window in the center and two smaller windows on either side. 

Meanwhile, a bow window consists of four to six windows. They have the same window style as bay windows in each section, but the entire structure is rounded. However, you'll notice that bays have sharply angled sections, while bows have nicely curved angles.

Look at the table below to plunge into the difference between both window styles.

                                                  Bow windows                                                    Bay windows                                       
Size of window Space: Exterior walls/corners with 80 inches or more Space: Exterior walls with 40 inches or more
Number of windows 4 - 6 windows, creating a more suitable angle 3 windows that come in 25°, 30°, and 45° angles
Ventilation You have the option to choose between picture windows and operable windows A picture window in the center plus a casement or double-hung windows on the sides.
Interior colors White, beige, cherry, light oak, medium oak, and walnut White, beige, cherry, light oak, medium oak, and walnut
Exterior colors Beige, boone, brown, cocoa, clay, hunter green, redwood, and white Beige, boone, brown, cocoa, clay, hunter green, redwood, and white
Material option Antique brass, beige, brown, bright brass, satin nickel, and white Antique brass, beige, brown, bright brass, satin nickel, and white
Replacement costs The average bow window replacement costs range from $750 - $1.70 The average bay window replacement costs range from $1.215 - $2.595
Homestyle Best for traditional/Victorian style homes Best for transitional/contemporary homes

When are bow windows a good idea?

Bow windows have all of the advantages of bay windows: more space, multiple uses, great room lighting, a better view, and improved home value. They are great when you want to add more space, improve your view, increase natural light, or upgrade the look and feel of your home. Additionally, bows are preferable to bay windows when you need more light and when you want to make the room appear larger than a bay window could probably offer.

What are bay windows?

Bay windows, in brief, are three-sectioned windows that often bow outward. The center window is usually a picture window (which can't be opened), while the windows on the sides are different and can be opened.

Think of these windows as an expansion of your property. The way they extend from your house provides additional space that can be used in a number of ways. You can use the extra space as storage, a seating area, or a study room.

What to know before choosing new bow windows for your home?

It helps to know that installing new bow units is a long-term investment that will likely pay off. And while bows are less common on new buildings, homes with them get a lot of curb appeal and attract many prospective buyers.

You may want to consider the following things before installing bow windows:

  • Attractiveness. These windows are excellent for adding natural light to your house. And they also look amazing in modern, Tudor, or colonial architecture. They let in plenty of natural light, which helps with sleep and gives you some vitamin D.
  • Appearance and light. Bow units look remarkable from the outside—particularly on the second floor of your house. This means that you can get a great exterior view, as well as a striking interior design. Meanwhile, with several sections and window panes, bows can also light up your home with bright natural light.
  • Space. If you want to attract more natural light into your house, you should go with bow windows as they are large, allowing more light into the room. Regardless, these windows take up more space on the outside. As a result, you must ensure adequate clearance with power lines, trees, and other properties before installing bay windows.
  • Ventilation. It is also crucial to consider cross ventilation and airflow. And while bay windows often come with a stationary center window, allowing you only to open the side panels, bow windows provide the option of opening any or all window panes.  
  • View. Bow windows come with big screens, providing an excellent view for your viewing pleasure. And while the large pane in the center could make bay windows slightly clearer, bow windows will always offer more spectacular views. 

Once you have learned how to choose bow windows, you should consider the budget you can allow to spend on them. If you have more than two windows to replace and want to build an additional floor-level shelf, get ready to invest a considerable sum. You will find more details on bow window replacement costs in the next paragraph. Besides, we'll give you an idea of how to discover the best prices from certified window contractors in your area. 

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How much do bow windows cost?

You should be ready for big expenses when it comes to bow windows installation. The unit itself costs roughly three times the price of standard windows. Besides, you will need to find a skilled contractor who can create the rounded openings and tie them to the rest of the roofline. Additional expenses are also required to add interior seating or storage to the inside of your bow window. To complete this kind of installation, you will need to hire professional carpenters and painters. 

The primary factors that affect the bow windows cost include but are not limited to the type and frame material of the unit, its energy efficiency, and size. Spending on window replacement can vary greatly depending on the location and the contractor's rates. The total bow window installation cost may go up to $2.000 while the national average price is $1.400. If you have old windows to replace, consider adding up to $350 to the overall estimation. 

Below are a few examples of some popular bow window manufacturers and their sought-after products with costs.

 Brand name                                  Cost per window                                     Installation costs                       
Andersen 400 Series bows $1.565 $1.700
Simonton Prism bows $1.100 $1.450
Marvin bows $799 $1.000
Pella bows $750 $900

If you seek to save a few hundred bucks on bow or bay windows installation, don't hesitate to use our free contractor-matching solution. MyHomeQuote is a nationwide platform with practicing window contractors in almost every county. Their rates can vary depending on location, qualification, and other criteria. However, you can always get the most attractive price for your project as we offer you up to 4 quotes from different contractors. 

Is a bow window replacement worth the investment?

With their beautiful curves, bows bring refinement and beauty to most building architecture. They're the best way to expand the size of your interior spaces, take advantage of outdoor views, boost natural lighting, and neaten the plain external walls.

Further, the majority of regular window openings can be well accommodated. And thanks to the variety of shapes, features, and available bow color options, homeowners can now design unique windows for their homes. And although bow window prices seem far from budget-friendly, these windows can significantly improve the visual appearance of your home.

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