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Bow Window (Designs & Difference to Bay Windows)

Here we share our bow window design guide including what it is, differences from a bay window, pros and cons, installation, cost, treatments, and bow window decor ideas.
Luxurious house exterior with bow window, dormer, chimney, and front porch areaBow windows often have four or more windowpanes that extend out in an arch from the wall and create visual interest and add character to the home design.

They provide a wide range of views of the outdoors and are often found in older historical homes. While similar to bay windows, they have specific differences which we will cover in depth.

What’s A Bow Window

House exterior with white and blue bow windowsA bow window is a type of window that extends beyond the exterior wall of the wall structure that it’s attached to. It’s curved, with a bit of an overhang, and features an arched design that gracefully sweeps away from the wall. 

A bow window is a very elegant window style and is without any corners because of its curved structure. It also tends to have a lot more glass on its surfaces. This type of window is also at times nicknamed as a compass window. It’s basically a curved type of bay window in simpler terms.

These types of windows are specifically designed to create space. How they’re able to do it is that they project outwards from the exterior walls of a building. What this accomplishes is the creation of a much wider view of the outdoors, such as a garden, a street, or whatever scene the window may be looking out on. 

It’s usually a combination of four or more windows that join to form its arch. These windows first appeared back in the 18th century in the United Kingdom.

Difference Between Bay And Bow Window

House exterior with bay window, curtains, and brick wallHere’s the thing, at first glance, the bay and bow window can look very much alike. They both more or less have the same effect on the room that they’re installed in. They open up the space and widen the view of the outside. 

They essentially let your room breathe, giving it a brighter and much airier vibe. Because the surface area of the window is dramatically increased, they also let in more light and can turn out to look very posh or glamorous.

Bay window vs bow window designThere are, however, very distinct differences between the two. 

Number of openings: A bow window is known to have 4 to 5 or more panels or openings whereas most types of bay windows are limited to just 3.

• Structure and panel sizes: A bow window is comprised of 4 or more window panels that are arranged in a curved manner and these panels are usually equal in size.

A bay window, on the other hand, usually has the middle panel set as the largest frame, such as a picture window, and the two panels flanking it from both sides are smaller.

• Design Theme: A bow window is more Victorian and more formal in design which is why it’s recommended for homes with a more traditional or old-fashioned theme. A bay window, on the other hand, is more modern looking because of its angular lines paired along with the flat panes.

But of course, this really shouldn’t be the reason why you should stop going for a bow window if you fancy it. It is perfectly workable with just about any style at home.

• Protrusion: Although both windows open up the space accordingly as they both protrude out of the exterior wall, the bay window is more pronounced than the bow window. They extend further out and hence, provide more floor space than the bow window does.

• Wideness: Bow windows are far wider than bay windows because they’re comprised of at least 4 panels whereas bay windows only have 3. If you have a bigger window, bow windows are more highly recommended because you can adjust accordingly based on how many panels you actually include.

• Field of View: Bow windows can be wrapped around a building’s corner. This creates a very high-end and aesthetically pleasing look. Its result is a rounded and glassed-in turret on the outside and a somewhat enticing nook to curl up in from the inside.

Replacement Bow Window

Empty room interior with bow window, curtains, and carpet floorVery few things can compare to how bow windows can achieve the enhancement of your views and the brightening up of your space at home. This is also one of the main reasons why bow windows are actually nicknamed as “projection” windows.

They add a lot of advantages to the home. For starters, not only do they ensure that your floor space is maximized, but they also bring in a little bit of drama to your overall visual appeal to the space.

From the exterior aspect, they add some flair to your exterior’s architecture. They allow you to create unique and extra spaces within the room that wouldn’t have otherwise been made available.

Replacing your bow window is a major decision and can take up a lot of cost and time. It’s a significant investment for you as a homeowner, for sure. If you’re currently considering a bow window replacement, here are some things you ought to know.

Pros And Cons Of A Bow Window

Living room space with chandelier, and bow windowsHere we share the advantages and disadvantages of bow windows.

Pros

Instant curb appeal enhancement

It can raise your property’s real estate value

Adds more space and natural light to a room

Dramatic difference in appearance

Cons

Can be costly if the bow window installation is not energy efficient

More expensive than bay windows

When To Replace A Bow Window

House exterior bow window with wood frames, and glass panelsBow windows that have been installed about 15 to 20 years ago oftentimes suffer from poor construction. There may be issues related to rotting wood and the like.

The best way for you to tell if your bow window is outdated and requires replacement is that the cranks may no longer be working, the handles may be falling off, or some of the window panes can’t be opened at all.

There may also be other issues such as water and heat damage from too much sun exposure or maybe the seat of the bow is suffering from warping wood.

If you’ve spotted any of the above-mentioned issues, it would be best to replace your bow window altogether. It would cost less and would be so much more practical to just replace your windows altogether instead of having to go through the laborious and time-consuming process of having to re-sand, repaint, or refinish a damaged bow window.

Bow Window Installation

Living room with bow window, sofa chairs, and carpet floorBow window installation may seem or sound like a complicated process but with some basic handyman skills, believe it or not, this is actually something that you can accomplish yourself.

One thing to take note of before you start is that the windows are heavy. This will be your biggest challenge in the entire installation process. It will be a real struggle to lift them up and to set them in place.

What you need to do is make sure that you actually have another person helping you out with this particular task. This task can be generally accomplished within a matter of a few hours. It doesn’t have to take up an entire day.

Here’s how to install a bow window:

• Build your frame or brace: Do this with the use of 2×4 boards. This brace is placed against the ceiling and usually several feet back from where you would like to get the window installed. You also need to build out a header with the use of a 2×8-sized lumber.

• Create your rough frame: This is for the opening of your bow window. The size of your rough frame will ultimately depend on the overall size of your window. For support, make sure that you secure your header with double studs from both sides.

• Call a friend: Now for the heavy part, get someone else to help you out with lifting the bow window into the frame that you’ve just fitted in. Make sure that you level the window under your footboard with the use of shims. Extension jambs should be securely nailed into the framing studs with the use of penny nails.

• Install the sill: Measure out the full height of your window. Get the sill installed by nailing more studs to the double studs that you’ve previously put in. If your work isn’t seamless or perfect for now, that’s alright. This is just the rough version and you will have every opportunity to refine it later on.

• Cables and rafters: Set the screw eyes into the rafter tails and secure this with the use of cables. Tighten those said cables up for added security. There may be a need for you to get an exterior knee brace installed right under the window for added support. This will all depend on what the window manufacturer recommends to you.

• Additional support with cables: Run the cables through the footboards and through the headboards for additional support. Some bow windows come with support cables already built-in.

There will be other times wherein they are not installed but they come with the purchased window. If you don’t see any support cables available, there might be a need for you to purchase them separately.

• Flashing: Now it’s time for you to install the flashing. Make sure that you get them installed both at the bottom and the sides of the window exterior. This is something that you’d want to take your time with.

Don’t rush through the process. Poorly installed flashings may lead to leaks and other damages to your bow window. Once you’re done with the installation of the flashings, you can proceed with adding the interior jambs.

And once you’re done with that, you can proceed with the insulation. Fiberglass insulation is usually the easiest and best way to go with this.

Finishing touches: And that’s it, your bow window’s done. You can now proceed with further inspection and putting in some finishing touches to make sure that everything is seamless and perfectly made.

This includes adding some trim or molding to make it more aesthetically pleasing. This also includes the prep work needed for your window treatments, if you plan to put any of them in.

Bow Window Cost

Dining room with bay window, and curtains A bow window is a more elegant type or style of window construction and it comes as no surprise why it doesn’t usually come cheap. They are understandably large and very bulky. They can also be quite heavy and can easily rack up at very expensive price ranges.

Bow Window Replacement Cost

Replacements for bow windows can cost you anywhere from $1500 to $6500 each per replacement. The prices may vary greatly depending on the width and height of the window, how many panels are included, what material it’s made of, what type of glass it has, and so on.

Bow Window Vs. Bay Window Cost

A brand new bow window can cost you anywhere from $3000 to a whopping $10000 per window. Take note that this is just for the cost of the window alone and it doesn’t include labor costs.

A bay window, on the other hand, can run at a range of $1500 to $3550 per window. This pricing also does not include the cost of labor in its calculation. It’s for the cost of the window alone.

Pricing for labor may vary greatly depending on where you’re located but on average, a good range is averaged at around $38 or so per hour. Bow window installation can run on for several hours but not exactly for the entire day. A good range for the overall cost of labor is at $300 to $500. 

Bow Window Treatments

Living room with bow window, curtain, sofa chairs, coffee table, lamp, and chandelierBow windows are great for glamming up a room’s space. It can really open it up to the outside view but alongside this comes the fact that it also offers limited privacy and can allow the room to be exposed to a little too much natural light at the end of the day.

This can be both uncomfortable to the eyes and can also cause damage to your indoor furniture, and delicate art pieces, especially the ones which are sensitive to sun exposure. Thankfully, there’s a fairly easy solution to all this: window treatments.

Here are some of the best window treatments to have for bow windows.

Bow Window Curtains: You are going to need a curved curtain rod for this one. It can be as simple as installing a single piece of curved curtain rod spanning the entire length of your bow window.  If it happens to be a bit of a challenge for you to find curtain rod sizes that will fit your entire window’s expanse, you may need to get it custom-made. 

This window treatment is not only stylish, but it’s also highly practical and flexible. Imagine, you can easily match your curtain design with whatever the season is. It can give your space a solid and seamless look and can help you easily achieve coherence for your décor for the entire space.

Make it a point to match the types of curtains with the upholstery as well for a more uniform look. As an extra note, make sure that your curtain rod extends far beyond the window. This will give you enough leeway to pull the curtains back during instances wherein you want a full and uninterrupted view of the outside.

Bow Window Blinds: Blinds or shades can work great as a  treatment for bow windows as well. If you feel as if curtains are too sheer or can make your room feel a little off, you can always opt for blinds or shades.

Mounting individual shades per window panel will give you better light control for the room. It can provide way more privacy than sheer curtains ever could. Make sure that the shades are sized accordingly. 

They should butt up side by side with each other as they are placed across the window panes. If you want to play around with different types of effects, you can use different types of window shades as well. Always make it a point to install the shades within the molding so that you have a look that’s separated per window panel.

What Are The Best Blinds For A Bow Window

Bow windows with white blinds• Pleated Blinds: These types of shades or blinds have the capability of framing your bow window quite nicely. It can really make your view of the room the focal point of the space.

It lets you capitalize on what can be seen outside the window. This is great for bow windows that are facing outdoor spaces that are particularly picturesque.

• Roman Blinds: These blinds are a nifty solution for when you want to maintain privacy in your bow window but at the same time make sure that you have pleats that are clean, simple, and fairly easy to maintain especially once they’ve been retracted.

Having separate roman blinds per panel on your bow window ensures that you have the advantage of expertly angling the natural light in your space.

• Vertical Blinds: These blinds provide uniformity and a somewhat modern and seamless look especially when arranged side by side and individually per window.

• Roller Blinds: These rollers are typically extremely lightweight. This ensures that your bow window will be able to take full advantage of its exposure to natural light at the end of the day.

Roller blinds can open up a room in a way no other type of blinds can and they can frame your bow window with minimalist sophistication. See the most popular types of window blinds here.

Bow Window Decorating Ideas

Living room with cozy chair, floor lamp, bay window, chandelier, and sheer curtainsBow windows are already assets within themselves without you ever having to do anything. But to enhance the aesthetics of a room some more, you can actually decorate your bow windows. Here are some ideas for you to check out:

• No window treatments at all: You actually have the option to just leave your bow windows alone. If this is something that your space will allow, you can leave your bow windows wide open; especially if you have a particularly exceptional view to enjoy.

This is great if you don’t have particularly overwhelming amounts of natural light coming into the room all throughout the day and if it isn’t in a space that requires a lot of privacy (such as your living room, etc.).

• Curtains, Shades, or Blinds: If you want to go for a more formal look with a certain amount of control over the natural light streaming into the room. If you need a bit more privacy, you can always layer over these with drapes or sheer curtains.  Layering your shades, blinds and curtains will add depth and texture. Layering can even help out with a little bit of insulation.

• Add a bar cart: You can turn your bow window area into a makeshift lounge/bar with the simple addition of a basic bar cart on wheels. Throw in a comfortable lounge chair or single couch while you’re at it. This space can easily turn into a nook where you can relax, enjoy a drink or two, and just curl up with a book or whatever it is you fancy.

• Window seating with plants: Adding in a built-in seat by your bow window will turn the area into a perfect spot for you to do some reading or lounging around in. Because bow windows are excellent at soaking up a large amount of natural light, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw in some plants as well. They are bound to thrive because of the ample amount of natural light coming in.

• Place a desk by the window and turn it into a study area or a home office: Bow windows get a lot of natural light which means that they can easily be turned into an area where one can study or work in easily, especially during the day.

Bow windows are awesome when it comes to creating a space that’s somewhat a bit of a room in itself without ever having the look and feel of being closed off.

• Place exercise equipment by it: A window nook occupied by a bow window is just the perfect size for you to work out in. it’s also the perfect space for you to be able to fit in workout equipment or so while you’re at it.

It’s great because it ensures that you never have to worry about your workout accessories and equipment spilling over into the other parts of the room. You can effectively and neatly section it off to just that nook by the bow window.

• Turn it into a kids’ area: Although a bow window is a bit cramped for you to fit in some real or actual pieces of adult furniture into the space, this is not the case with kids’ furniture.

This is mainly because kids’ furniture pieces are miniature and typically scaled down.  This space can be converted to contain your kids’ furniture and other toys. This way, they have their own little space or room to play without you ever needing to get some extra construction done.

• A piano: Grand pianos are great. They can turn out to be the main focus of a space. They look grand and sophisticated and can easily elevate the aesthetic of a room. They deserve a special place in the spotlight.

You can turn your bow window area into a music spot by placing a grand piano there, front and center. Add in a nice rug underneath and you have a real winner for your interior décor.

• A hanging chair: Adding a hanging chair by your bow window area could paint a casual and carefree seating area that can be a breath of fresh air in your home.

Pair it with some plants, some pouf made out of wicker, and perhaps an eclectic rug and you certainly have a great vibe to work with. Think of the things you can do with the space. You can soak up some sunshine while you curl up with a great book.

Bow Window Seat

Nook area with bay window, cushioned seats, and red tile flooringBow window seats are usually added on as an extra attachment to the bow windows installed. Aside from the obvious extra seating, you also get to have the option to put in some extra storage underneath the seat, should you decide to have some.

They’re great to look at, they can easily turn your window space into a comfortable nook and into a little room all by itself. And more importantly, it maximizes the amount of floor space you actually have by the bow window.

It’s a great thing for you to take advantage of and something that you really ought to consider if you want to make the most out of your bow window area at home. 

How To Insulate A Bow Window

Victorian-style apartment buildings with white bay windowsAlthough bow windows can make a room feel spacious and let in a lot of natural light, they can also be an insulation nightmare. Poorly insulated bow windows could lead to drafts coming in through the windows and immense heat loss.

If you want to save up money when it comes to heating costs, it’s important that you make sure that your bow windows are properly insulated.

Here’s how to insulate your bow window.

Make sure that the underside of your bow window seat is fitted with some foam insulation board that has been cut and fit to size.

Attach these cut boards to the bow window seat.

With a bit of plywood, get your insulation board covered up. This can easily be done with a saw, either manual or electrical.

Fasten the piece of plywood firmly in place with nails, screws, or rivets.  If you want to make sure that you improve upon its aesthetics, you can even opt to add some edge molding on the parts where the plywood pieces meet.

As a finishing touch, you need to make sure that you caulk up the gaps in between the insulation boards. This will effectively create an air seal, turning your bow window into a fully insulated space in the house.

Properly insulating your bow windows will improve the effectiveness of your HVAC system. You don’t have to work extra hard to ensure that you keep your home’s temperature stable and suitable.

And because your heating or cooling system isn’t overworked because everything is insulated properly, this means that they won’t break down so much and you get to maintain a comfortable temperature around the house all throughout the year.

And because you get to effectively keep the heat or the cool in, it means that your energy bills are substantially less month on month.

Are There Bow Windows That Open?

Bow windows are commonly a collection of four or more casement windows arranged side by side so yes, they normally open and close. This is great for ventilation and the days when you want to let a little bit of some outside air in.

Who Makes Bow Windows

Exterior of residential structures with siding, and bow windowsAndersen Bow Windows: Andersen has been making bow windows since way back in 1903. This company was founded by Hans Andersen, who was Danish and who moved to the Wisconsin area during that time. They have about 6 types of bow windows and we’ve listed them down below (pricing updated as of the year 2021):

Andersen 100 series: $680 to $1570

Andersen 200 series: $715 to $2330

Andersen 400 series: $850 to $2700

Renewal by Andersen: $1200 to $3000

Andersen Architectural E-series: $1400 to $3300

Andersen Architectural A-series: $1550 to $3500

Pella Bow Windows: Pella Corporation specializes in windows and doors for both commercial and residential applications. They’ve been around since 1925 by Pete Kuyper and are headquartered in Pella, Iowa. They have over 200 showrooms and more than 17 locations for manufacturing all over the country.

Pella bow window prices can vary greatly depending on what material they’re made from and in what style. They can range anywhere from $500 to $1200 per unit.

They come in different sizes, frame types, colors, and may even have variances in the cost of local labor for installation depending on the area you’re in. On average, including installation, a Pella bow window can cost you a range of $625 to $1500.

Marvin Bow Windows: Marvin is a company that was founded back in 1912. It initially started as a lumber company that was family-owned and family-operated. They’ve raised the bar ever since and have expanded into manufacturing bow windows as one of their specialties.

Marvin bow windows are generally more expensive compared to the rest of the other brands because they’re known for their exceptional quality and craftsmanship.

A Marvin bow window can cost you anywhere from a range of $2650 to $4000 and above per window, depending on the size, style, and material the window is made of. 

How To Measure A Bow Window

Measuring a bow window is a pretty simple and straightforward process. You will only need the simplest tools and it is definitely something that you can do yourself or without the need for professional help.

Here are the steps to measuring a bow window:

Prepare the materials you’ll need: You will only need the following: measuring tape, a pencil or pen, and a piece of paper to write your measurements on. When listing down the measurements, make it a point of noting them in both inches and centimeters, just to be exact.

Measure out the height and width: With the use of a tape measure, measure out and note the height and width of a bow window.

• Height: The area from the top frame to the base of the bow window.

• Width: The straight line coming from the outermost corner of the base of your window to the other outermost corner on the opposite side. 

There is no need for you to measure out the individual component pieces or panels in your bow window

See more related content in our article about the different types of bay windows on this page.

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