Bay Windows Add Character And
Space To A Home
By Charles Mohaney
It was the perfect spot. Our California ranch style house
had a large picture window in the front room. The window extended from a few
inches above the floor to only a few inches below the cathedral ceiling. The
walls and ceiling were redwood stained knotty pine and the floor was a matching
hardwood. The window looked out over a flower bed, shrubs and the expanse of
front lawn. It was the perfect window to be replaced with a bay window.
The window was nearly square. It was 72 X 72 inches. We considered a bow
window, but elected to install a bay window instead. We just felt that our
particular house looked better with three panel bay window rather than the
multiple panel bow windows. Our intent was to fill the seat board of the bay
with potted plants we had sitting in front of the current picture window. The
new arrangement would give us a little more space in the room and improve the
overall appearance of the house. It was time to go shopping.
Scratch vs. Pre-built
When we first got the idea of installing the new window, I began gathering
plans for building a bay window. Thumbing through books and magazines, and the
Internet search engines, I found several plans for building a bay window from
scratch. I also found that undertaking such a project was going to be
unnecessary. Most of the major window manufacturers, such as Pella, Milgard and
Anderson make both completely pre-assembled bay windows as well as pre-built
components for bay windows.
These days very few contractors will take on the project of building a bay
or bow window from scratch. It simply isn't practical when for the same or less
money they can install a high quality pre-built window. If the contractors use
pre-built windows or components for new house construction or renovation
projects, then we could do the same for our remodeling project, we reasoned.
Installing a bay window can easily be a do-it-yourselfer project. Before you
go the diy route, however, you may want to line up a contractor to help out if
necessary. This is not going to be a job that you can complete during a Saturday
afternoon. Chances are you are not going to finish it in a weekend, for that
You are also going to want to line up some help. Bay windows and window
components are heavy. At least they are too heavy for one person to manage.
Be sure and check out the weather forecast, including the long range
forecast. Installing the window means opening a hole into your home. It can take
a couple of days to get the new window in place and sealed. The last thing you
want is for rain to come pouring in on your floor, walls or furniture.
Be sure and check your city or community construction codes. There may be
special local requirements, such as having safety glass in low profile windows.
You are probably going to need a building permit anyway, so that is also a good
time to check the codes.
Tools and Materials Needed
The tools you will need for this project include a tape measure, a framing
square that you can also use as a straight edge, a circular saw or miter saw,
crow bars, drill and bits, level, stapler, utility knife, tin snips and a
The materials you will need include the bay window unit, the support
brackets, nails, roofing paper, shingles, roofing nails, exterior grade silicone
caulking and fiberglass insulation. You will also need 1X6 inch boards for the
window skirting. If you are enlarging an existing window, or if you are
installing the window in a space that was previously the wall, you will also
need 2X4s for cripple studs and additional framing.
Basic Installation Steps
1.Establish window position in the wall. Remove the existing window.
Measuring the bay window, mark on the exterior of the house the opening needed
for the new window. Using your circular saw, cut the required opening.
2.Framing. Build the framing for the new window. This will likely include
cutting through existing studs and putting in a new header, rough sill, jack
studs and cripple studs.
3.Install the support braces. A window up to five feet wide will take a
minimum of two support braces. A wider window will need three.
4.Set the window in place. Lift the bay window on the support braces and
slide it into the rough opening. Shim as necessary to level the window. Anchor
5.Build the window roof. Set the roof frame on top of the bay window unit
and nail in place. Fill the space between the roof and the top of the bay window
with insulation. Fasten the roof sheeting to the frame and cover with roofing
paper. Install the drip edges and the flashing and then shingle.
6.Install the window skirting around the bottom of the window. Fill will
insulation and then attach the skirt bottom to seal the underneath side of the
7.Seal the edges with silicone caulking.
This is a list of the basic installation steps and they have been
abbreviated in the interests of simplicity and space. The window unit you buy
will have complete installation steps. Take it from the voice of experience; it
really makes the project go much more smoothly and it will be completed in much
less time when you read and follow them.
In our case, I had two friends helping with the project. We have worked
together on other projects and work together well. We had the old window out and
the rough framing completed on Saturday afternoon. We buttoned up the hole with
plywood overnight and went back to work the next day. By Sunday evening we had
the new window installed and the roof and skirting completed. On Monday
afternoon I finished sealing up the outside and completed the trim work for the
And, we were right. It was the perfect spot for a bay window. It looked
great from the outside. Inside, it became the focal point of the room and added
a special charm to the house. The window gave the house added character and
When it came time to sell the house, it was one of the features that were
particularly attractive to the buyers.