Bow vs Bay Windows – What’s the difference?

We get asked about the differences between bow vs bay windows all the time. We finally decided it was time to whip up a post with the correct answer for all to see.

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To put it simply the difference is in the layout of the windows.  Both bow and bay windows stick out from the house, but they have a different look.  Bow windows are made up of equal sized lites or panels while bay windows have a center section that is larger than the sides.

We may need a picture for this one.  First we’ll start with a bay window.

bay window vs bow window price and cost

Ok, so that’s a bay window.  3 panels, and the center is larger than the sides.

Now, here’s a bow window:
bow-windowSee the difference?  The bow has several panels and they’re all the same size.  A bow window can have 3, 4, 5, 6 or more panels, but they’re always the same size.

Is a bow window better than a bay window?

Nope, it is really just a style difference.  Do you prefer the look of the larger picture window in the center or a bay window or would you rather have several symmetrical panels?  One is not better than the other, they’re just different.

What is the price difference between a bow and a bay window?

The difference in cost is typically pretty small.  Many manufacturers will charge more for a bigger window, but the difference between a bow and a bay is typically not a huge driver of the cost.  A bow window with many panels (called lites) will typically cost more than a bay window with only 3 lites.

A cost difference of a few hundred dollars wouldn’t be unusual, but you shouldn’t see much more difference than that.

As you’re shopping for new windows be sure to check out our detailed window reviews here.  If you’re looking for anything that you can’t find be sure to post a comment or send us an email.  We read every single one and we’ll do our best to respond.


Single Hung vs Double Hung Windows

Here’s a little bit of terminology that is often misunderstood.  What are the differences between single hung vs double hung windows?  Here we’ll take a look at the basic definition and we’ll look at some of the other advantages and disadvantages including the cost, the operation, the screens, how they function and the typical price.

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First things first!  The basic definition:

Both single hung and double hung windows open up and down.  The difference is that in a single hung window the bottom sash opens up and down, but the top does not move.

In a double hung window the bottom sash slides up and down AND the top sash also opens and closes.

Perhaps this picture will help:

single hung vs double hung windows
Here is the difference between a single hung and a double hung window.

So there it is, the difference is in how the window operates.  People often confuse double hung with double pane.  For the difference between double pane and triple pane windows check this out.

Ok, so how important is this difference?

Well, that’s really up to you.  One important thing to keep in mind is that a single hung window does not allow the top sash to tilt in for easy cleaning.  That means the bottom will tilt in, but the top will not.  Is that a big deal?  Only you can decide.

Beyond that many people don’t open the top very often so the difference is not important to them.  We open the top quite a bit in my house as the window dog is a redbone coonhound from the hills of West Virginia and he would go straight through a screen if he saw a varmint in the yard.  For us it is very important that the top opens, but you may have different priorities.

What is the price difference between single hung vs double hung windows?

This is a question we get asked a lot.  The difference typically isn’t huge, but it can add up.  The two windows are essentially the same with the single hung having less hardware.  The cost difference between the two will depend on the manufacturer, but it wouldn’t be uncommon to see a price difference of $20-$40 per window.

If you have 20 windows in your house that amount can add up.  We’ll often suggest switching to single hung windows as a way to save a few bucks, but it really just depends on how you plan on using them.

We hope that helps, for more detailed info on the greatest replacement windows check out these reviews.  If there is anything you’re looking for that you can’t find just post a comment or send us an email.  We read every single one and we do our best to respond!


Replacement vs New Construction Windows

Folks ask us all the time if they should get replacement windows or new construction windows.   Are the windows the builder uses when they build a new home really any better or worse than the replacement windows that are sold by companies all over town?

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We’re going to get to the bottom of this great debate right here.  Get ready!

Before you can understand which option is better for you, you’ll need to understand what the terms mean.  Basically a new construction or new home window is designed to be installed before the siding or brick is installed on the exterior of the home.  A replacement window is designed to be installed after the siding or brick is already on the home.

Take a look at this picture.  Here you can see two Pella windows that I bought from Lowes.  The two models are very similar, but one has a fin that goes around the perimeter.  This is called a nail fin and it is the only real difference between replacement vs new construction windows.

new home vs builder grade vs replacement windows.
This nail fin around the edge of the window is the only difference between replacement vs new construction windows.

That’s the only difference.  Now, some people of varying degrees of honesty may tell you there are other differences beyond the nail fin (also called a nail flange).  Let’s take a look at what someone might say.

New constriction windows are builder grade windows.  They’re cheap and flimsy.

This is often true and it’s something to watch out for, but it’s not always the case.  You can see in our review of the ThermaStar by Pella Series 10 new construction window that many of them are cheap.

Manufacturers build new construction windows with builders in mind.  Believe it or not they’re more focused on the builder who buys thousands of windows than you, the guy looking to install 15 new windows in your home.

They know that builders want windows fast and cheap so that’s what they make.  Builders know that when you’re buying a new home you’re looking at the fancy tub and the shiny kitchen.  The windows are often an afterthought so they don’t spend any more money than they need to.

Here’s one way to think about it. When you’re buying a new home you’re buying a whole lot of things all at once.  You’re less focused on each individual thing.  When you’re buying replacement windows you’r just buying windows.  You’re focused on the windows and you’re trying to get the best products you can.

Manufacturers of both new construction and replacement windows know this very well and they prioritize quality and costs based on the typical customer for each product.

If you’re buying new construction windows and you’re looking for quality be careful.  It’s easy to go wrong here.

New construction windows will give me more light than replacement windows.

This may be true, but it may not.  You’ll need to have a good idea of how the windows will actually go in before you can make that determination.  Remember, the only real difference is the nail flange.  The window itself is the same.

Often times replacement windows are installed inside the existing wood window frame.  This is called a pocket installation because the window is placed in a pocket in the old frame.

There is nothing wrong with this installation method. In fact all new vinyl windows have a 3.25″ jamb depth because they’re designed to be installed in a wood frame.

Could you get more glass area by removing the existing wood frame?  Maybe, but maybe not.  If you remove the wood frame a new wood frame would typically need to be installed.  Sometimes this comes with the windows, sometimes the installer will build it on site, but it is typically part of the installation.  Is the new wood frame any thicker or thinner than the old wood frame you removed?

I have no idea, it depends on your house and you’re installer, but the difference is probably not dramatic.  This is often used as a sales tactic, but it typically doesn’t make any noticeable difference.

New construction windows form a better seal than replacement windows.

I would expect this idea is spread by folks who are more familiar with new construction window installations.  When installing a new construction window it’s easy to see how it’s sealed.  Typically the nail flange is fastened to the sheathing then there is a moisture barrier (like a house wrap) and flashing tape applied in a specific manor around the window.  When done properly it looks solid and it’s easy to see that it’s done.

In a replacement window installation it’s harder to see because you’re relying on the seal of the existing frame behind the siding.  There are literally millions of replacement windows installed each and every year with no epidemic of leaks so it’s safe to assume that if they’re installed properly there is no greater risk of a leak from a new construction or new home windows compared to replacement windows.

So, which one is better?

Like most things in the window business there isn’t necessarily an easy answer.  In general new construction windows are cheaper and of lower quality than replacement windows, but there are nice new construction and cheap replacement windows.  The best strategy we can suggest is to find some local experts to take a look at your home and make a few suggestions.

We know the window business can be difficult to navigate and we applaud you for taking the time to do your research before making a decision.  We would suggest doing the same thing when calling local window companies.  We’ve done some of the work for you.  For starters you can find our list of the best local window companies right here.


ThermaStar by Pella Series 10 Windows Reviews From Lowes

The ThermaStar by Pella Series 10 window is a new construction vinyl window and it offers a great way to illustrate the differences between new construction and replacement windows.

It’s not a fantastic window, but it is widely available.  This model is distributed at Lowes stores all over the place.  We bought one at a store in Northern Virginia and you can probably find one at a store new you too.

We’ll get deep into the physical and philosophical differences between a new construction window and a replacement window in a future post.  For now, here’s what we mean by new construction.

new construction vinyl window
You can see the nail fin in this picture. The nail holes are circled in green.

If you can see past my poor artwork, the nail fin is the part that sticks out all the way around the perimeter of the window.  This fin goes behind the siding or prick on your home.  It’s easy to install a window like this when  you’re building a home, harder when you’re remodeling an existing home.

You’ll also notice this is a single hung window.  That means the bottom opens up and down, but the top is fixed.  The top section does not move, it does not tilt in for easy cleaning, it doesn’t really do anything at all.  That is common with new construction windows and it’s a way they keep the costs down.


What’s good about the ThermaStar by Pella Series 10?

Well, it’s not expensive and that’s good.  We found a pretty good selection of sizes at our neighborhood Lowes store.  I bought a smaller on for this example because I was going to put it in the trunk of my car.  The size of this one is 23.5″ x 37.5″ and it cost me something like $115.  It includes grids in between the panes of glass and a full screen.  Bigger windows do cost a little more.

A window “expert” might tell you why they don’t like this window (I will too), but everyone will agree that it’s not expensive.

Ok, it’s inexpensive, what else is good about it?

Here’s one you may not have expected.  It’s pretty energy efficient.  This is the NFRC sticker from the window I bought.

Thermostat by Pella Series 10
These are the efficiency ratings for the ThermaStar by Pella Series 10 new construction window.

You can learn more about window efficiency ratings here, or you can take my word for it.  These ratings are pretty solid.  It has a decent U-Factor, good Solar Heat Gain Coefficient for the area and a reasonable Visible Transmittance rating.  Overall, a solid performer, especially considering the price.

What’s not so good about the ThermaStar by Pella Series 10?

A cynic might say that everything is bad about a window like this, but I’m really trying to keep an open mind in dealing with products like this so I’ll be specific.

First, buying windows from stock sizes is risky.  As you’d expect Lowes stocks a range of sizes, but they’re not likely to have every exact size you need.  If you’re building a shed and you can cut the hole to match the window, but if you’re installing windows into an existing hole in y our house these might not fit right.

You can do your best to make them fit by modifying the opening, but you’re likely to end up with something that doesn’t look great or doesn’t seal as well as you might like.  If you’re considering buying windows from Lowes you’re likely pretty handy, but the result might not be what you’re looking for.

Next, the finishing just doesn’t seem to be too great.  As you can see in the picture here, the welds are HUGE.

Thermostat by Pella Series 10 quality
Notice the giant weld in the corner of the ThermaStar by Pella Series 10 window.

The lack of attention to finishing touches like this is common on many inexpensive new construction windows.  It is not specific to the ThermaStar by Pella Series 10 window.  It is ugly and if you’re going to be living in this house for years to come details like this may be important to you.

Next, the screen is really flimsy.  It comes with a half screen that is fixed in place.  You may or may not prefer a screen that slides up and down, but this screen doesn’t move at it feels flimsy.

Thermostat by Pella Series 10 Screen
Here you can see the flimsy screen and the weep holes on this ThermaStar by Pella window.

We could go on and on about why this is a cheep screen, but we’ll spare yo the details.  If you get these windows just be really careful with them.

In the above picture you’ll also see the weep holes in the bottom of the frame.  It’s that rectangular hole in the bottom center of the picture.  That is a channel for water to get out.  It’s a bit of an older design, and they have the opportunity to get clogged or filled up with junk.

So what’s the bottom line?

Well, if you decide this morning that you want to install some new windows in the shed you’re building this afternoon these would be an easy and cheep way to get the project done.

If speed and price are your two driving factors you might want to go for it.  If you’re looking for a great fit and great quality you can probably find a better value in a nicer custom made window without braking the bank.

For now, you can take a look through the rest of our window reviews here or if you have a great suggestion for a future Pella window review or window related article just post a comment right here.