Bay Window Types: A Complete Guide

By now, you’ve looked at tons of pictures of bay windows, and you really want one. They are so useful and beautiful.

The next question is: What type of bay window do you want?

There isn’t just one type. There are 5 different types of bay windows. They differ slightly in the appearance and ways they’re used.

In this article, we’ll discuss the difference in appearance and pros and cons between all 5 types.

5 Types of Bay Windows

Bay windows add a unique appeal to your home, from the inside and the outside.

Bay windows have three sections to them. Usually, the middle window is a picture window. The two sides are either double-hung or casement windows.

Knowing the different bay window types and terminology can help you talk to your window manufacturers. You’ll be able to get your point across without sounding confused.

Canted Bay Windows

Appearance of Canted Bay Windows

Photo via Canva.com

Canted bay windows are the most common type of bay window. When you think of a bay window, it’s most likely this type.

This one has 3 sections, where there is a flat side that faces directly outside. One either side of the flat side are slanted windows.

The picture below illustrates a canted bay window, if you’re looking at it from the top down.

The flat section usually has one or two windows. Canted bay windows are used primarily for the first floor of a home or a building. These windows use the ground or foundation of your home to support its weight.

This is different from Oriel Bay Windows, that we’ll discuss later, that are used for the upper stories of a home or building.

Pros and Cons of Canted Bay Windows

Canted bay windows are the most common option. Let’s look at some pros and cons of why you might consider adding a canted bay window into your home.

ProsCons
More natural lightExpensive installation
Better ventilationMore windows in a small space increases chance of condensation
Easy to talk to contractors aboutLess exterior room
Adds more square footage into homeLarge glass panes decreases energy efficiency of space
Versatile space inside of home
First floor only

Canted bay windows are a perfect addition for the first floor of your home if you want a space that will have a lot of natural light.

This area is perfect for adding a reading nook, a breakfast area, or a sitting area for conversations.

Bow Bay Windows AKA Bow Windows

You’ll often see this referred to as just “bow windows.” They appear very similar to bay windows, but their design is different.

Bow windows can also be called “bow bay windows,” but this is more rare.

Appearance of Bow Windows

Photo via Canva.com

Bow windows are called that way because they resemble the show of a bow, as in a bow and arrow. They are more curved and semi-circular than bay windows. Bay windows have harsh angles, whereas bow windows are more natural curve.

These are also called compass windows.

Bow windows allow more natural light inside of your home. These windows tend to take up a lot more space horizontally than bay windows.

Bow windows have at least 4 different sections. You can have more if you choose to. Usually, bow windows do not have operable windows. This means you can’t open them to allow air to circulate your home.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t get single-hung or double-hung windows for them. It’s just picture windows are more common for bow windows.

Pros and Cons of Bow Windows

Bow windows may not be considered a bay window by some people, but it’s good to know that bow windows are an option.

ProsCons
More natural light than bay windowsMore expensive than bay windows
More horizontal space than bay windowsMore glass
Uninterrupted panoramic viewMore complex to install
Doesn’t take as much outside spaceLess ventilation because they usually use picture windows

Bow windows are perfect if you want a beautiful panoramic view of the outside without it sticking out too far from your home.

These windows add less square footage than bay windows, but they add a classic Victorian appearance to your home.

Oriel Bay Windows

Appearance of Oriel Bay Windows

Oriel bay windows are just like canted bay windows, except they are commonly seen on the upper stories of a home or a building. They’re supported by cantilevers that keep them from falling.

These cantilevers can be more ornate or just brackets. Oriel bay windows are rarely seen in modern architecture. They used to be very common in Victorian architecture.

Examples of Oriel Bay windows
Photos via Canva.com

The supportive structure sits directly below the window. In modern Oriel bay windows, these structures are more decorative than functional.

These decorative parts can be made of stone, wood, metal, or other interesting materials.

Oriel bay windows are perfect for a more traditional appearance with a focus on the elegant look of it.

Pros and Cons and Oriel Bay Windows

An oriel bay window may seem outdated, but there are still plenty of reasons why you might consider one for your home.

ProsCons
More square footage in homeExpensive to install
Doesn’t protrude outwards too muchRequire a lot of maintenance
More natural lightMay not be HOA approved
Unique aestheticCould look outdated
Increased ventilation

It might be rare to see an oriel bay window on a more modern home. If you are considering building a house from scratch with a more classic appearance, an oriel bay window may be for you.

Circle Bay Windows

Appearance of Circle Bay Windows

Circle bay windows are much more ornate than other bay window types. They usually have smaller windows on top of the larger windows for each section.

Pros and Cons of Circle Bay Windows

ProsCons
More decorative optionsMore windows makes it more expensive
More natural lightDifficult to install
Better ventilationMore areas of potential failure for seal leaks or warping

There are not many differences between circle bay windows and the other types of bay windows other than the number of windows.

Circle bay windows also offer more options in terms of materials too. Since these are more ornate with fancy moldings, they can be more expensive.

Box Bay Windows

Appearance of Box Bay Windows

Box bay windows are exactly what the name says. They’re in the shape of a box instead of a trapezoid, like the canted bay window.

The two side sections are at a 90 degree angle with the flat section.

Box bay windows are a great option if you want a sitting area inside of that space. It offers plenty of natural light.

You can also use box bay windows above your kitchen sink as an area for an indoor garden too.

Pros and Cons of Box Bay Windows

ProsCons
Increases square footage of homeExpensive to install
Versatile space for different usesDifficult to maintain
Offers a lot of natural lightMay appear outdated
Increases ventilation

Box bay windows have plenty of benefits. However, they are more rare to see in modern architecture as well. They offer a unique experience on the inside of your home and provide a lot of ventilation and natural light.

What Type of Windows to Use for Bay Windows

Now that you have a better idea of the different types of bay windows, the next big question is: What type of window do you want for them?

There are 4 different options to pick from:

  • Double-hung windows
  • Single-hung windows
  • Casement windows
  • Picture windows

Each type affects the ventilation, functionality, and appearance of your windows.

They also have various different costs as well.

Double-Hung Windows

Double-hung windows are similar to single-hung windows, except they open from the top and bottom.

This makes the ventilation better. If you want more fresh air for your home, a double-hung window is great.

If your bay window is a breakfast nook or a reading area, having a slight breeze flow by will feel really good.

Having both the top and bottom window open allows cooler air to come in through the bottom and warmer air to go out through the top.

Single-Hung Windows

Unlike double-hung windows, single-hung windows only open from the bottom. However, the biggest benefit is that they are cheaper than double-hung while still letting in air.

If your bay window is very tall or on the second floor, then single-hung windows or casement windows might make more sense.

It’ll be extremely difficult to reach the top sash of the double-hung window anyways to open and close it.

Single-hung windows are the best option if you’re looking to save some money while also still thinking about your area’s air flow.

Casement Windows

Casement windows are going to be the most expensive option of our the four window types.

These windows are more complicated to install and require more maintenance year over year.

They are also the most secure, since casement windows can only be opened from the inside. They have a secure lock that cannot be pried open from the outside.

Casement windows have great energy efficiency too because they have airtight seals when closed, unlike double-hung and single-hung windows.

If you are looking for the best ventilation, then casement windows will be your best choice.

The two angled sides will be the ones with casement windows, opening outwards. If your bay window protrudes into a walkway, then maybe think about double-hung or single-hung instead.

A casement window that opens outward combined with a bay window that protrudes out will block the walkway.

Picture Windows

Picture windows will be the cheapest option of our the four. Picture windows can’t open or close. They offer no air ventilation or additional air flow to your space.

Picture windows exist to give you a good view of the outdoors.

They have great energy-efficiency because there are no openings or movement.

Picture windows are commonly used for bow windows. They look good, but they don’t do much more than that. If you want a slight breeze to come through your bay window area, consider one of the other options instead.

Typically, the flat side of your bay window will be picture windows. However, you can use double-hung or single-hung for that if you choose too.

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