Bay windows: a buyer’s guide

Image source: THEBCO

Chris Gennone

By Chris Gennone

June 8, 2021

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Bay windows have been used for hundreds of years and are still a staple in home designs today thanks to their ability to bring in more natural light, add more space, increase curb appeal, and improve airflow. Standard bay windows typically feature three panels in varying sizes and window styles, usually including one large center window and smaller windows angled on the sides.

Bay windows are also highly customizable and include different options for ventilation, materials, exterior colors, and grilles. Let’s discuss the main types of bay windows, the differences between bay windows and bow windows, and help determine which is right for you.

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Types of bay windows

Canted

Castle adorned with canted bay windows

Image source: Twitter

Canted bay windows are typically the most common bay window types available and have the standard appearance of a bay window with a flat front with angled sides. You can usually spot canted bay windows on the first floor of a building.

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Box bay

Box bay window affixed to a home

Image source: Energy Swing Windows

Box bay windows are similar to canted windows but are shaped more like a box with one flat front and two flat sides. Due to the box bay window’s weight, they do require some type of support, typically from knee brackets. Without any support, you could experience potential damage and void your warranty.

Oriel

Oriel windows on a historical property

Image source: Just Wunderlust

Oriel windows are some of the oldest and most elegant types of windows, dating back to the Middle Ages. Similar to dormers, these types of windows are supported by brackets or corbels and extend from the exterior wall of a building, expanding the amount of space without compromising the building’s dimensions. Though they are typically installed on upper levels of a building, modern oriel windows can be found on the first floor as well.

Circle bay

Circle bay window

Image source: Evolution

Circle bay windows typically feature larger windows and more decorative crown moldings and details. These types of bay windows not only bring in additional natural light but also create a circular space, giving homeowners several design options like an open dining area with window seats or a cozy reading nook in your living room.

Bay window configurations

When installing your bay windows, you’ll be able to choose between a variety of window options. While most bay windows feature picture windows, which are fixed and don’t open, it is possible to use casement windows and double-hung windows for more ventilation. Here are the differences.

Casement windows

Dining table in front of a bay window

Image source: Renewal by Andersen

Casement windows allow you to open your windows with a hand crank, bringing in fresh air to your home. While fixed windows are airtight and have higher energy efficiency, casement windows have a tight seal when closed, preventing air leakage. Since casement windows do have measurement limits, larger windows are harder to find.

Double-hung windows

Cat sitting in the sun of a bay window

Image source: Pella

Double-hung windows have two sashes that allow you to open them from either the top or the bottom, providing varying degrees of ventilation. However, double-hung windows aren’t as airtight as casement windows, which can lead to more leakage and drafts. But thanks to its functionality and easy maintenance, double-hung windows are still a desirable option.

Picture windows

Bay window on a brick siding wall

Image source: Heritage Renovations Windows & Doors

While picture windows are fixed and don’t offer any sort of ventilation or airflow, they do provide excellent insulation, energy efficiency, and weather resistance. Picture windows are also low maintenance and can be easily cleaned from the inside. Also, since picture windows feature fewer moving parts, you’ll be able to install larger windows more easily.

Bay window materials

Vinyl

Vinyl bay window on a residential home with a copper roof

Image source: Fieldstone Windows

Vinyl or PVC windows are often used for bay windows because of their durability, weather resistance, and lower price point. Vinyl itself is very low maintenance and is not susceptible to rust, mold, or termites like wood windows are. Though they hold up well in severe weather, their lifespan is around 20 years, which is typically shorter than a stronger material like metal. They typically come pre-made and range between $1,000-$3,000 at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Wood

Wood bay window on a residential home

Image source: SehBac

Nothing beats the appearance of natural wood. Not only does it have insulating properties, but it also works well in most climates. Wood windows do require a little extra maintenance with occasional paint jobs, and they cost more than vinyl. You can expect to pay between $2,000 and $4,500 for wood bay windows but pricing may vary depending on the type of wood you choose.

Aluminum

Aluminum bay window on a residential home

Image source: Climatec

Aluminum is an incredibly lightweight material and very durable, but is also prone to corrosion, which could make it a difficult option for homeowners in wetter climates. While aluminum bay windows are relatively low maintenance, they don’t insulate well and may require some type of insulation foam. For aluminum bay windows, you can expect to pay anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000.

Brands of bay windows

Alside

Alside bay window looking out to a snow-covered yard

Image source: Alside

Alside specializes in vinyl bay and bow windows but also has aluminum and wood windows available with casement, double-hung, and fixed window configurations. Alside includes a limited lifetime transferable warranty which covers repair and replacement of defective materials including the mainframe, sashes, moving parts, and fiberglasses, or screen frames. Alside’s prices typically range from $200-$800 per window, depending on the brand, material, and amount of windows you need.

Andersen

Andersen bay window looking over a dining room

Image source: Renewal by Andersen

Andersen is one of the leading manufacturers of bay and bow windows, and one of the most affordable ones as well. Among its most popular brands are the 400 series and the E-series, which are both available with either casement or double-hung windows and wood protected by vinyl exterior. Andersen sells several brands to authorized installers only, but you can find others at big chain stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Prices for Andersen bay windows range anywhere from $200-$500 per window and $1,500-$1,700 per unit.

Jeld-Wen

Jeld-Wen bay window looking over a lawn

Image source: Pinterest

Another top manufacturer of bay windows is Jeld-Wen, which is more widely available in retail stores. Jeld-Wen mostly specializes in wood and vinyl available as new construction or as replacement windows. Jeld-Wen features a large variety of interior and exterior color finishes and offers several different options of energy-efficient glass. You can expect to pay anywhere from $300-$800 per window or between $1,000-$1,500 per unit at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Marvin

Marvin bay window looking out onto some trees

Image source: Marvin Windows

Marvin offers bay and bow windows at a competitive price, ranging from $350-$550 per window and up to $1,300 per unit. Marvin features two lines of bay windows: the Ultimate Bay and the Elevate Bay, which are both Energy Star certified and include a wood-fiberglass hybrid material. You’ll also be able to customize your windows every step of the way, choosing between finishes, configurations, glass options, screens, and hardware.

Milgard

Milgard bay window in a kitchen with a person looking out onto the lawn

Image source: American Reliable Windows & Doors

Milgard is one of the most trusted brands of windows and was even named the Brand Leader in Overall Vinyl Quality by BUILDER Magazine. Milgard offers three different lines of bay windows: the Tuscany series, the Ultra series, and the Aluminum series, which feature vinyl, fiberglass, and aluminum materials, respectively. Another attractive selling point is that Milgard tends to be less expensive than other brands, and they feature a lifetime limited warranty.

Pella

Pella bay windows in a bedroom

Image source: Pella

Pella is one of the top manufacturers of bay windows in the market, offering a variety of vinyl, fiberglass, aluminum, and wood-based materials. Pella features five different lines of bay windows ranging in price and functionality. Pella often compares with Andersen in terms of craftsmanship but differs in cost, warranties, and energy efficiency. You can expect to pay between $400-$900 per window for cheaper brands, like Pella’s 250 series but more than $1,000 for more expensive options.

Simonton

Simonton bay windows in a living room

Image source: Simonton

Simonton specializes in long-lasting vinyl bay and bow windows that are available in most big retail stores. Although Simonton’s windows are widely available and inexpensive, their bay and bow windows are more expensive and the quality is not quite as high as other brands. After installation, you can expect to pay up to $3,000 for Simonton’s top bay window.

Bay windows vs. bow windows

Bay window vs. bow window

Image source: MCMA NET

Though bay and bow windows may look similar and serve similar purposes, they differ in size and dimensions. Let’s take a look at their differences and determine which one is right for your home.

Appearance

Bay window – Bay windows typically have a flat center window with two smaller angled windows on the sides. These side windows can be used as casements or double-hung for extra ventilation or they can be fixed with no ventilation.

Bow window – Bow windows utilize a curved shape and usually have four to six window panes. Bow windows don’t normally create the same amount of additional space bay windows do, but they do function better for balconies, dining rooms, and living rooms for more light.

Cost

Bay window - Depending on the materials and labor costs, installing a bay window could cost you between $1,000-$3,500 per unit.

Bow window - Because bow windows are larger and have more glass, they run a little more expensive, costing between $3,000-$5,000 and sometimes more.

Light

Light coming in through a bay window

Image source: Canglow

Bay window - Both bay and bow windows offer more sunlight than traditional windows due to their size and larger panes, but bow windows have a slight edge because of their wider area and additional windows.

Bow window - Bow windows have less framing, are wider, and have more panes than bay windows, which makes them able to bring in more light than bay windows.

Ventilation

Bay window - If you’re looking to add some additional airflow to a specific room, bay windows feature casements and double-hung windows that let in air. Fixed picture windows however do not.

Bow window - One downside to bow windows is that they are typically fixed and do not open. While it is possible to install opening mechanisms for them, it’s not a practical solution.

If you’re interested in installing a bay or bow window, there are many manufacturers and materials to choose from. We recommend choosing vinyl bay windows from either Alside or Milgard for a durable, cost-effective window if you’re on a tight budget. But if you’re willing to spend a little more, a wood bay window from Marvin, Andersen, or Pella.

No matter which brand, material, or design you choose, bay windows are incredibly customizable and attractive addition to any home. Installing bay windows is not cheap, but they can increase your home’s value, add space, sunlight, airflow, and have an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

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