Bow Vs. Bay Windows

Knowing the difference between a bay and bow window is essential if you’re planning on making changes to your home. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to make the right decision in choosing which window type is right for you.

Bay and bow windows add a cheerful element to homes because they let in so much light, brightening your space. They also have excellent curb appeal and add to the value of your place.

With such similar names and appearances, it can be tricky to tell which is which. It’s actually pretty easy and has to do with the number of windows in each style. They both have their pros and cons, which need to be considered when it comes to choosing a bow window vs. a bay window.

What is the Difference Between a Bay and Bow Window?

The easiest way to tell bay and bow windows apart is to look at the number of windows. The former windows have three glass panels, while the latter windows have four or more panels.

In bay windows, there is a big picture window in between two smaller window panels that tend to be double-hung or cased. On the other hand, in bow windows, also known as compass windows, the glass panels are usually all the same size. The panels on the side of the center window can open for ventilation. Typically, they don’t open at all, so they are purely aesthetic. However, it’s possible to include windows that can be opened for airflow.

Bow windows are more versatile than bay windows, which are limited to one style. You can do almost anything with the former, including wrapping them around a corner for a unique appearance.

More About Bay Windows

You can put a bay window wherever you want more space or light. It’s important to think about why you want a bay window and what purpose you want it to serve.

You can put it in your kitchen as a breakfast nook, so you can enjoy family meals together. Keeping with the kitchen, you can add a small bay window above the sink for your mini herb garden, pot plants, and fresh flowers.

You could add a bay window to your living room and put a table in the curve where the family can build puzzles or play board games. Another good place for a bay window is in your bedroom, where you can create seating for a cozy reading nook or crossword nook, or any nook you fancy.


The best time for bay window installation is during the build. This is when it’s part of the plans, just like any other structural feature.

You can add a bay window as an extension to an existing home, but it’s not a simple matter of cutting window openings, ordering some glass panes, and sealing them in. It’s also not a weekend job for you and some friends. It has structural requirements, which means you have to hire a structural engineer to ensure it’s safe and up to code.

You will also need a contractor who specializes in windows, preferably bay windows, because their requirements are so specific. It will not be cheap.


Bay windows can provide great ventilation and improve airflow thanks to the side panels that sandwich the large picture window. Both side windows can open using either casement windows that open outwards or double-hung window styles that slide up.


You know that it won’t be cheap, but it’s tricky to come up with a specific price because the cost depends on many factors. The size of the windows is important. A bay window above your kitchen sink will cost considerably less than the breakfast nook.

Time taken is also important because that determines labor costs. Again, the smaller the window, the faster the installation and the lower the price. A very rough estimate for a medium-sized window is between $4000 and $7000.

More About Bow Windows

Bow windows tend to be bigger than bay windows lengthwise, but bay windows are deeper. This means they might not make good breakfast nooks, but they are perfect for reading and quiet contemplation. Bow windows also provide some extra storage space underneath the seat.

Bow windows that don’t open can be energy efficient because there are no gaps to let air in or out. If you add energy-efficient windows and insulating window frames, you can really hike up the energy efficiency levels.


The bow window installation is very similar to that of bay windows, except you have more options when it comes to location, size, and design. One of the things to consider is space outside. Does your chosen location have enough space to install a bow window? Bow windows jut out a fair bit from your home, so you want enough space to accommodate them without compromising on design.


Traditionally, bow windows don’t open. They’re there primarily to create more indoor space and let in more light. So, if ventilation’s important to you, you’d have to choose a bay window. These days, however, you can install some opening windows, but it will add significantly to the total amount.

Technically, you can make as many window panes as you want. You could have all of the panels open, or only the outer panels, or every second panel. The more windows that open, the more ventilation and the better the airflow. However, too many moving parts decrease energy efficiency, so think about what you want carefully.

Also, bear in mind that one of the purposes of bow window types is to provide an uninterrupted view. As soon as you start adding opening and locking mechanisms, the view becomes obstructed. It’s a pay-off, do you want loads of fresh air, or do you want an unobstructed view of your stunningly landscaped backyard?


Bow windows are more expensive than bay windows. Like bay windows, they cost a lot of money to install after construction. You’ll also need a structural engineer, who is likely to charge top dollar for their specialized services. There are more window panels, which also bumps up the cost of materials and labor.

Don’t forget customization, including the material of the window frame and the addition of decorative elements. It all adds up very quickly. A very rough estimate for the cost to install a bow window is between $5000 and $8000. Although it’s not uncommon for the cost to go over $10,000.

The Difference Between Bay and Bow Windows is How They Make You Feel

When it comes down to the crunch, the biggest difference between bay and bow windows is the feeling you get when you look at them. Perhaps bay windows talk to you, but bow windows sing.

Maybe all you can see in bow windows is all the glass you’ll have to clean, but bay windows make your inner child jump for joy.

If you’re having trouble deciding which is best for you, reach out to our specialists to guide you through the benefits of projection windows and help you make your final decision. Contact us at 877-590-2741 at Euroline Steel Windows and Doors today!

Author: Elyas Balta

Experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history in innovation and scalability in the luxury building materials industry. Passionate about inspiring and empowering others to grow in character and success. Determined in bringing art and engineering together to create and manufacture an exotic product line of steel windows and doors.