What is a Bow Window?

Bow windows feature three to six glass panels of equal proportion and offer panoramic views. Instead of coming in standard sizes, they are almost always custom-made.

If you’re trying to increase the natural light in your home, bow windows are a good solution. Their gentle projection creates a nook where you can place window seating or display your favorite decor. The classic look of these windows can also boost your home’s curb appeal.

Bow Window

If you’re considering adding or replacing a bow window in your home, here’s everything you should know.

What’s the Difference Between Bow and Bay Windows?

Bow and bay windows are both projection windows but have some key differences.

Bow and bay windows

Bay windows feature three glass panels, although some have five. The largest panel is in the middle, with two smaller panels on each side.

Bay windows panels have 30, 45, or 90-degree angles. The sharp angles cause the window to jut out, creating a unique nook inside, often suited with a bench to create a window seat.

Bow windows feature four to six glass panels of equal size, with typical 10-degree angles. These windows also protrude past a home’s walls – only not as far as a bay window. Bow windows have gentle arcs and are a great source of natural light.

While you can find bow windows in modern homes, they’re more common in Victorian styles.

The most significant disadvantage of a bow window vs. a bay window is that bow windows are more expensive, even for equal sizes. The expense is higher since bow windows use more panels.

Bay windows also typically allow more space for window seating than a bow window.

Does a Bow Window Open?

Most bow windows open. They are commonly casement style, which means they have a hinge at the side and open outward, toward the left or right. To open them, you turn a crank.

Aside from casement style, some bow windows are single-hung. Single-hung windows feature a fixed upper sash and a lower sash that you push upward to open.

Even though most bow windows open, not all do. If you’re purchasing an older home with a bow window, it may be stationary.

What is the Average Size of a Bow Window?

Bow windows can be as small as 3 feet 6 inches and as wide as 10 feet. The window height ranges from 3 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 6 inches. Bow windows are better suited for wide spaces more than 7 feet since they have multiple window panels to occupy the space.

What Kind of Features and Finishes Do Bow Windows Come In?

Bow windows are customizable. They come in a range of finishes and features, including:

  • Number of Panels – Bow windows have four to six panels.
  • Single Hung vs. Fixed vs. Casement – There are many window types you can choose from, which will affect the operability of your window.
  • Frame Material – You can get a bow window in a few frame materials, including vinyl, wood, aluminum, or composite.
  • Glass/Energy Efficiency – Bow windows come in single, double, or triple-pane glass. The thicker the glass, the higher the energy efficiency.
  • Hardware Style and Finish – The hardware on a bow window can range from the single white locks you see on vinyl windows to something bold and custom.

With so many options to customize a bow window, it’s easy to see why the price of these windows vary.

How Much Do Bow Windows Cost?

The average cost of a bow window is $3,600, including materials and installation. Standard prices range from $1,500 to $6,500.

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Brand New Bow Window?

If you want to place a new bow window where one has never been, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. Aside from material and installation, you must pay additional costs for framing, siding, roofing, and drywall.

What Should You Put in a Bow Window?

Not sure how to style your bow window? Here are some ideas:

  • Add Window Seating – If you have a large bow window, consider adding window seating underneath so family members can enjoy the view.
  • Display Seasonal Decor – Your bow window is the ideal place for your Christmas tree or another seasonal decor.
  • Hang Greenery – If you like houseplants, consider setting them up in front of your bow window – they’ll act as decor while getting necessary sunlight.
  • Add Privacy with a Window Treatment – If you don’t like the idea of passersby seeing into your home, consider a privacy window treatment.

What Window Treatments are Best for Bow Windows?

While bow windows are popular for the natural light they let into a home, they also pose privacy issues. If you don’t like leaving your bow window bare, you can add a window treatment.

The most popular window treatment for bow windows are blinds or shades. You can add these to each window panel and pull them down whenever you want privacy.

Another option is to add a straight curtain rod on the wall in front of the window, extending it at least a few inches past each side of the window. Then, add long curtain panels and pull them shut at the end of each day or whenever you need privacy.

A third more permanent solution is privacy film. Tinted privacy film can block people from seeing inside your home while allowing you to see outside.

How Do You Clean a Bow Window?

You can clean a bow window the same as any other type. First, spray your favorite glass cleaner on the window and wipe clean with a lint-free cloth. If you can’t reach the outside of the window to clean it, consider an outdoor glass cleaning kit that comes with an extendable rod.

Pros and Cons of Bow Windows

If you’re choosing between a bow window and a different type, knowing the pros and cons can help aid your decision.


  • Added curb appeal – The timeless style of a bow window adds curb appeal to a home, and these windows are versatile, working with modern and older houses.
  • Allow more light in – Since bow windows have four to six panels, they allow plenty of natural light.
  • Prime space for a bench or reading nook – As the name implies, bow windows “bow” outward. The space left behind is large enough for a bench or cozy reading nook.
  • Panoramic views – The arc of a bow window allows for panoramic views outside.
  • Customizable – You can customize a bow window to your liking, choosing finishes, number of panels, and whether the window can open or has fixed panels.


  • Expensive – Most bow windows are custom-made and almost double the price of a comparable bay window.
  • Lack of privacy – In some cases, the large expanses of windows can be a privacy issue, allowing passersby to see inside the home.
  • Potential furniture arrangement issues – Since bow windows occupy a lot of wall space, they can make furniture arrangement difficult, especially in smaller rooms.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Which is cheaper: a bay window or a bow window?

Bay windows are cheaper than bow windows. The average cost of a bay window is $2,350 versus the average price of a bow window at $3,600.

Are bow windows outdated?

If you drive past a suburb of modern homes, it’s easy to see that bay windows are much more common than bow windows – but that doesn’t make them outdated. Bow windows are timeless and add curb appeal. One possible reason they’re not as common is because they’re more expensive.

Can you replace a bow window with a bay window?

In most circumstances, replacing a bow window with a bay window isn’t an issue. But before you put a new bay window on order, consult with a contractor or window installer to ensure your framing is adequate.

Can you purchase bow windows at Home Depot or Lowes?

You can purchase bow windows at Home Depot and Lowes. Both companies offer some standard sizes, which you can find on their website. Home Depot also allows you to request a quote for an in-home consultation.

Can you replace a bow window with a picture window?

Yes, you can replace a bow window with a flat or picture window, but it may require patching, making this a difficult DIY job. If you don’t have any experience replacing windows, consult with a contractor.

Final Thoughts

Bow windows are traditional projection windows dating back to the 17th century. They feature four to six glass panels and arc away from the home. While bow windows are similar to bay windows, they have a less harsh protrusion and are more expensive.

Most bow windows are custom-made, which allows you to choose the material, type of glass, finish, hardware, and whether you’d like the windows to be operable or fixed.