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Question - I am a do-it-yourselfer on a limited budget. I am considering installing a natural wood bow or bay window kit in my living room. Are these efficient, and what design features should I consider? - S. F.

Answer - Replacing an old leaky window with a bay or bow window kit can provide the open feeling of a greenhouse/sun-space at a fraction of the cost. Complete units, with header and seat boards attached, are simple to install. These are also ideal to create breakfast nooks or bath surrounds.

The attractive design options from the various window manufacturers are nearly endless, especially with the warmth of natural wood interiors. Standard bay and bow window kits range from 3 feet to 12 feet wide and 3 feet to walk-through door height.

The basic styles are angle bays, box bays, and bows. The side windows in most angle bays are tilted at either 30 or 45 degrees. These are typically double-hung or casement windows with a large center picture window.

For a larger seat or header area, for setting or hanging houseplants for example, a 45-degree design provides more depth. A box bay, with side windows perpendicular to the walls, provides the most room.

One new design of box bay is actually a mini-greenhouse with large side casement windows. The roof is clear and sloped for more natural room lighting.

Wood bays and bows (three to seven angled sections) are made in standard and custom sizes to fit most window openings, so installation is quick. Pre-fitted finishing wood veneer kits make a professional-looking job easy. Optional ornate copper roof kits create an elegant outdoor appearance.

New bay and bow window designs are very efficient. Many glass options are available with super insulating values up to R-8 (triple pane with two low emissivity coatings and argon or krypton gas filled). In warm climates, the glass can also be tinted. Some offer a 20-year, no fog warranty.

Since the side windows, on either a bay or bow, are angled out from the house, they catch even gentle breezes and direct them into your house. Casement windows are particularly efficient because they use tight sealing and durable compression weatherstripping.

The frame material effects efficiency and maintenance. Primed or natural wood, and low-maintenance exterior aluminum or vinyl-clad wood are most common. The indoor surfaces are usually natural wood.

Write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 881 showing a buyer's guide of 19 manufacturers of the most efficient bay and bow window kits, sizes available, frame materials, glass options, prices and features. Please include $2.00 and a self-addressed envelope. James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Question - There is a very small crack immediately under my window frame on the outside. Each year I caulk it, but the caulk doesn't hold well. What is the best way to caulk this narrow crack? - G. W.

Answer - It is difficult get the caulk inside a narrow crack. One method is to enlarge the width of the crack a little with a chisel or knife. One-eighth of an inch width is usually enough for most caulks.