What is a Bow Window?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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A bow window is a variation of the bay window. Both types of window installations project outward from the flat surface of a wall, providing extra space and light. The bow window is so named because it has a slightly curved shape, instead of the more angled shape of the bay window, and it looks like the curve of a drawn bow (one used with arrows, not one used to top packages).

There are many types of bow windows. Some of them use curved glass, which can be somewhat expensive to purchase and install. Others use panels of straight glass that create more of circular look than the average bay window. Typically three to six panels of glass are used, usually more panels with less width when the glass is not curved.

Like the bay window, the bow window is a lovely piece of architecture, providing extra space, access to views, or great places for houseplants that need lots of light. When there is a splendid view to be enjoyed, many people add cushioned window seats below the glass sections. This can provide greater access to views and extra seating.


When people look at these installations they may note that many of the windows do not open, usually especially the central window. If you’re considering adding a bow window to your home, you can find types that will allow some of the windows to open, usually the windows on either end of the bow. Using double paned glass is also an excellent idea to create better insulation in the home and reduce both heating and cooling costs associated with large amounts of window space in a home. Adding double-paned glass can increase energy efficiency in an older home with a bow window.

As with any new building project, you are likely to need permits to add a bow window, and they can sometimes be difficult to get if the front of your home sits directly on a street. Since the window may overhang the street if it’s on a second or higher story, you may want to consider a flat window installation instead of the bow window type, especially if you want to add extra light and view to a room. When your home has a sizable front yard, it’s usually easier to get building permits to extend part of the home outward.

When people own two-story or greater homes, or apartment buildings, they may add bow windows to several floors, each one stacked on top of another. In a one-story home, you have different options as to how to cover the extension. Semi-circular roofs are one way to go, while other people prefer to use glass above the bow to create yet more light or build a mini greenhouse. Hardware stores and specialists in home improvement have many options for creating bow windows that each dramatically differ from the others. A great place to start looking is at home improvement stores, to see what types of bow windows most appeal.


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Discuss this Article

Post 3

If I want to transform a bow window into a replacement for a window seating area, how would I go about that?

Post 2

OK wisegeek readers, I'm looking for some good ideas for bow window treatments. I've recently gone through the involved process that is bow window installation, and now that they're finally in, I want to get my window treatments up.

So should I go with bow window blinds or drapes? I've looked at a lot of bow window drapes designs, and that's kind of where I'm leaning right now, but I like the look of blinds as well.

What do you all think? Do any of you have bow windows, and if so, what kind of window treatments do you have up? I would welcome any bow window treatment ideas and advice!

Post 1

So a bow window is kind of like a rounder bay window? Is that the main bow/bay window difference?

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