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Transom Windows 101: Everything You Need to Know to Beautify Your Home

If you’re looking for a window that adds both beauty and functionality to your home, transom windows are a perfect choice. They add great effect to any room and come in various styles and sizes to suit your needs. Find out how to install and replace them in simple steps.

install transom windows

When it comes to architectural decisions for homes and commercial buildings, many people resort to transom windows. Granted, they are not as common today as they once were. However, there are still some homes that feature this style of window.

Transom windows add interest to your home’s exterior. Plus, installing a small transom over an existing door often requires minimal framing and redecorating.

If you’re wondering about the implications that come with adding transom windows, here’s everything you need to know about these architectural elements.

Everything You Need to Know about Transom Windows

Discover all crucial aspects of transom windows, including sizes, types and styles, transom window treatments, and advantages and disadvantages. You can also find out details about installation, replacement, cleaning, blocking light, repairing, and examples with images.

What Is a Transom Window?

A transom window is a small, horizontal window often found above a door. It’s typically used to provide light and ventilation to a room and can also add extra space to a room by increasing the amount of glass area.

Since transom windows are pretty small, they’re best suited for homes with limited wall space. They’re also ideal for adding an extra layer of light and ventilation to hallways and other small areas.

Due to their size, transom windows are ideal for entryways or hallways, where the additional lighting and air circulation would be most beneficial. However, there are many creative ways to use a transom window even if your home doesn’t have an area that needs it.

For example, you could install a set of double transoms directly across from each other on both sides of a large window. It will create the illusion of two separate windows when viewed from outside your home while still providing a nice design element inside. It’s also possible to combine smaller single transoms with sidelights to add multiple embellishments to your home’s entryway.

Transom Window Sizes 

Transom windows types

Most transom windows are either 6 or 8 inches by 6 or 8 inches. This size window does not have any real structural power, so larger ones will likely need additional support.

The best way to determine the size of the transom window you need is to measure your available wall space. This way, your new window can help maximize what little wall space there may be in a room without taking up too much of it yourself.

As a rule of thumb, the size of your transom window should be no larger than 5/8ths of the width or height of your door. In other words, if you have a 36-inch wide door, your transom shouldn’t exceed 18 inches in either direction.

Transom Windows: Types and Styles

There are a few different types of transom windows. Wood and vinyl versions, in particular, have their advantages and disadvantages.

Transoms can come in many shapes and sizes – from rectangles to arches. Plus, their appearance may vary significantly, depending on whether they’re frameless or encased in wood molding.

It’s important to consider what style will look best with the rest of the architecture in your home before making a final purchase.

Vinyl Transom Windows

Vinyl transom windows cost less than their wood counterparts – but they don’t last as long. Transoms made from vinyl can handle extreme heat and cold better than wood options. They’re also less likely to rot or be damaged by insects over time.

Wood Transom Windows

Exterior-grade wood is the most popular material for this type of window frame. It’s available in a wide variety of colors, finishes, and textures to complement your home’s exterior design scheme. It will typically cost more than a vinyl version, but it’ll add a touch of luxury to your home’s appearance.

Rectangular Transoms

A rectangular transom is the most common type of transom window. These windows usually consist of a single pane of glass and a sturdy frame. They often resemble a door, so they’re so famous for homes with front doors with sidelights or other decorative panes on either side of the main entrance.

Round Transoms

Round transoms are less common than rectangular ones, but they can add an interesting visual element to your home’s exterior. In addition to providing light and ventilation, round transoms come in handy if you want to add more space to a wall while keeping your budget in check.

While two round-topped windows may look odd when placed side by side, they can be very effective when used above a doorway or at the corners of a building.

Arched Transoms 

Arched transoms 

An arched transom window is another good way to add architectural interest to your home’s exterior while keeping costs down. The arch shape can be lovely when used in conjunction with sidelights, which are small windows that sit on either side of the main door.

If you’re struggling to find the perfect finishing touch for your front porch or entryway, consider getting an arched top instead of round or square tops.

Circular Transoms

Just like arched transoms, circular transoms are not as standard as their rectangular counterparts, but they make excellent alternatives if you want to add some flair to your home’s exterior.

Like other styles of transom windows, they come in a variety of sizes and styles and can be placed over doors or walls. They’re also versatile enough to go with most architectural styles and provide ventilation and extra glazing for the rooms they adorn.

Interior Transom Windows

You can also use a transom to add extra natural light and ventilation to your home’s interior. In addition to keeping rooms from becoming stuffy, interior transom windows can add an interesting aesthetic dimension without compromising too much available space.

The only drawback with using them indoors is that they typically don’t offer complete protection from insects, which means you’ll need to keep them closed if you’re going to be away for a while.

Exterior Transom Windows

Exterior transom windows can be sealed very tightly, making them ideal for use in homes with high humidity levels. They let you enjoy the beauty of your outdoor spaces without letting bugs or rain inside.

As mentioned above, exterior transoms are unsuitable for use indoors because they don’t protect from insects and inclement weather. However, some models combine an interior window pane with an external or insect-proofed transom built into the wall surrounding the bottom part of the window.

Doors with Transoms Attached

Some exterior doors have transoms built into their frames’ upper portions. These are generally pricier than traditional versions because they require more artistry, but they may provide a few other advantages as well:

They tend to be energy-efficient because they cut down on airflow. Furthermore, doors with transoms attached allow light to enter the room from above and at floor level. And they can be used to add extra space and natural or artificial lighting above a narrow entryway.

While most transom windows are attached to the outside of building walls, there’s no reason why they can’t be used inside your home either – particularly over doors and wall openings that lead into large interior spaces such as living rooms and dining rooms.

Fixed Transom 

Fixed transom 

A fixed transom window does not open. This type of window is often used for decorative purposes and is best suited for homes with plenty of wall space.

Swinging Transom

A swinging transom window can be opened to provide ventilation or allow access to the room behind it. Swinging transoms are ideal for homes with limited wall space, as they don’t require as much room to open as traditional swing-out windows do.

Hopper Transom

A hopper transom window is a type of swinging window that opens inward. This type of window is perfect for areas where you need easy access to the room behind it, such as a bathroom or kitchen.

Transom Windows vs. Other Window Types

Have you considered all possible options when deciding on a replacement for your current transom? Here’s how they stack up against one another.

  • Transom windows are best suited for smaller homes with limited exterior walls. They’re also ideal for hallways and other small spaces.
  • Casement windows are hinged on one side and open outward, making them perfect for homes with limited space on the exterior.
  • Awning windows are hinged on the top and open outward, providing good ventilation and easy access to the exterior for cleaning.
  • Sliding windows open by sliding horizontally on a track, making them a good choice for homes with limited wall space.

When choosing a transom window design, it’s important to keep comfort in mind. Transoms with larger panes of glass such as fixed units will allow more light into your home than units that consist of smaller sections such as casement windows.

However, when installing replacement transoms over an existing door, you must ensure that the unit will fit without obstructing too much space or adding additional weight to your door’s hinges.

If you’re unsure which type of window is best for you, reach out to a professional for help. They’ll be able to guide you in the right direction and help you find the perfect window for your home.

Types of Transom Window Treatments

If you’re interested in giving your home’s interior or exterior transom windows a makeover, here are some popular options to consider.

Sheer Curtains 

Transom window treatments sheer curtains

Sheer window treatments allow you to control sunlight without blocking it out entirely, making them ideal for rooms that need ventilation but aren’t suited for open-window designs. Depending on the design and color of your sheer curtains, you can use them all year long to match any décor while adding privacy when necessary.

Window Film

Window film is often used by people who want their homes featured on TV shows promoted by channels like HGTV. It comes in an array of colors and allows up to 70% of natural light into your home while blocking heat gain during the summer months.

Beaded Window Treatments

Window bead treatments are popular for their decorative value. They can be used to decorate small or large transom windows and come in various styles, shapes, weights, and colors, depending on the design you like.

Lace Curtains

Lace curtains are both decorative and functional – it allows up to 70% of natural light into your home while providing privacy when desired. There’s also another option that looks like lace but is completely transparent.

Transom Window Blinds

Blinds attach easily to your transom window and come in a wide variety of colors, fabrics, and styles so that you can find something that matches your décor perfectly. You can also purchase special rods designed specifically for blinds so the entire unit looks uniform even though it’s being used with a transom design.

Decorative Rods

Decorative rods resemble fancy vertical blinds that you’ll want to show off rather than hideaway. They’re easy to install and remove when, plus they add just the right amount of decorative flair to your transom windows.

Other Transom Window Treatments

There are many other types of window treatments designed specifically for transoms. For instance, panel drapes hang from a bar attached across your walls. Valances are a kind of drape that attaches to a bar and wraps around a corner of a room. Meanwhile, cornice boards are a type of valance that consists of a headpiece attached to a decorative board.

Transom Windows: Advantages and Disadvantages 

Transom windows advantages and disadvantages 

If you’re thinking of adding a transom window to your home, the first thing you’ll need to decide is how you plan to use it. Will it be used for light or ventilation? If so, then what type of functionality are you looking for?

A fixed pane of glass that cannot be opened is good for maintaining proper ventilation levels in a room. However, if you’re looking for additional lighting, then look for one with an operable sash.

Keep in mind that larger windows tend to offer better indoor illumination than smaller ones do, so tall people might not want a transom window over their door.

Aside from functionality, you’ll also want to consider the advantages and disadvantages of transom windows. For instance, they are more affordable than most types of larger replacement windows. They are also easier to install since they can be fitted into existing space.

However, transom windows typically have fixed panes that cannot be opened for ventilation. So if you prefer using chimneys, this type of window might not work well in your home. Also, since it is often used over a door or other entryway, some homeowners may feel claustrophobic with this window size in their home.

If aesthetics are important to you, then you should know that these kinds of windows typically don’t enhance the aesthetic appeal of a room  – especially because they are usually placed above doors.

A Few More Things to Consider When Buying Transom Windows

When you’re ready to buy new replacement windows for your home, also consider the following things: if you plan to use the transom window for light and ventilation, then you’ll need to make sure it comes with an operable sash. Also, remember that more advanced ventilation options will cost more than basic ones.

If your home is close to the main road and you need more privacy, consider choosing a frosted glass option for your transom windows. Otherwise, keep in mind that clear glass provides no privacy whatsoever.

You should also measure the height of your door before buying new transoms. This is especially important if you’re looking to replace older style transoms since some newer models require more space up above (and may not provide as much light as they could).

Quick Tip: if you have two doors next to each other with a shared wall, you could install a transom window between the two doors to create a window wall effect. This can be a great way to add natural light and ventilation to two small spaces at once.

How to Install a Transom Window 

How to install a transom window 

It’s best to resort to professionals for adding a transom window to your home. But If you’re feeling handy, you can install a transom window yourself. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Remove the existing window sash and trim from the window frame.
  2. Measure the height and width of the opening to make sure your new transom window will fit.
  3. Cut the new window to size and then fit it into the opening.
  4. Install the trim around the outside of the window frame to cover up any gaps or rough edges.
  5. Reinstall the window sash using new screws or nails (depending on your type of window).
  6. Double-check that everything is level and plumb before finishing up.
  7. Enjoy your new transom windows.

How to Replace a Transom Window

If you’ve decided a transom window is right for your needs, you’ll need to replace it if it’s no longer functional. Replacing one takes only a little bit of basic carpentry skills and about 30 minutes of labor per window, depending on how many windows you’re replacing.

Step 1: Remove the Old Frame (and Glazing)

Remove all hardware from the old frame. You may be able to slide out the glazing – or thin pieces of glass – with ease; otherwise, gently pry them loose using a screwdriver and hammer. Once everything is removed, place the old frame and glazing materials in a recycling bin (unless they’re damaged).

Step 2: Measure the Opening

Take accurate measurements of the opening in which the new frame will be installed. Be sure to include the width and height of the opening, as well as the thickness of the window frame.

Step 3: Cut the New Frame to Size

Using a circular saw, cut the new frame to size based on your measurements. If you’re not comfortable using power tools, have a professional do this for you.

Step 4: Install and Secure the New Frame

If you’re installing a vinyl transom window, use adhesive caulk to adhere it to the opening. But if you’re adding a wooden transom window, utilize construction adhesive and screws to secure it in place.

Secure any glazing that you may have installed in the new frame. Be sure to use caulk or weatherstripping around the edges to ensure a tight seal.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Reattach any hardware to the new frame and give it a good cleaning. You’re now ready to enjoy your beautiful new transom window.

Transom Windows FAQ

Discover more information about transom windows.

How do I block light from a transom window? 

Block light

If you want to reduce the amount of light that comes into a room through a transom window, consider adding transom window treatments. These can be sheer curtains, window film, beads, lace curtains, blinds, decorative rods, panel drapes, valances, cornice boards, or something else.

Can I open a transom window?

Yes. Most transom windows come with operable sashes so you can control the amount of light and ventilation that comes into the room.

What’s the best way to clean a transom window?

The best way to clean a transom window is by using a mild detergent and water. Be sure to wipe down both the inside and outside of the window. For difficult-to-reach areas, use a small brush or vacuum cleaner attachment.

Can I install a transom window in my home?

It depends on your home’s architecture, the location of the window, and whether you think it’s a good fit for your needs. If you’re not sure, you could consult an experienced contractor or architect.

When would you use a transom window?

Transom windows are typically used on the top of doors and windows, but they may be placed over a garage door or on a wall. They can provide ventilation and an extra source of light in small homes, apartments, and other buildings.

Can you install transom windows yourself?

Yes. Installing a transom window yourself takes about 30 minutes per window, depending on the type of transom window you’re installing.

Do transom windows need to be tempered?

No. Transom windows aren’t typically tempered because they’re made of sturdy materials like wood, aluminum, or vinyl for stability and strength. As long as the material’s thickness matches what it was designed for, there’s no need to temper it.

What is the difference between a transom window and a clerestory window?

A transom window is a small window that’s located above a door or another window. A clerestory window is a large, horizontal window that’s placed high up on a wall to allow light into the room.

What are transom windows made of?

Transom windows are typically made out of wood, glass, vinyl, aluminum, steel, or fiberglass. Some might be made from a combination of materials. You can also find custom-made transoms in many different styles and designs today.

Is there an easy way to remove old glazing from transom windows? 

How to remove old glazing from transom window

Scrape out any caulk that may have been used with a putty knife to loosen it up before removing it completely. You can then use mineral spirits or paint thinner to clean off any residue. Be sure to wear gloves and a respirator when using these chemicals.

What are the benefits of transom windows?

Some of the benefits of transom windows include increased natural light, improved ventilation, and added architectural detail. They can also be an affordable way to add some style and character to your home.

How do I clean transom windows?

When it comes time for cleaning, most transoms can be easily taken down so you’ll be able to clean them from the inside. To ensure they’re completely clean when reinstalled, follow these tips: 

  • To prevent dust and dirt from getting trapped behind your transom’s panes, consider buying an indoor blower brush explicitly designed for this purpose. 
  • Use masking tape to mark each pane before removing it, just in case it breaks during the cleaning process. The tape will make it easy for you to put panes back where they belong. 
  • Remove and clean the transom’s air conditioning vents if equipped with one. 
  • Gently clean and dry each pane and replace them in their proper position.

How can I repair my broken transom window?

If your transom window requires repair, you’ll want to get it taken care of quickly to avoid further damage. The most common problems include: 

  • Broken glass panes. Whether it’s just one or several that broke, you can either buy replacement panes or completely replace the entire unit. If only one pane broke, consider purchasing a single-panel substitute rather than replacing the whole unit since you likely won’t need another set of windows. If multiple panes are broken, you may want to simply replace the entire transom window.
  • Cracked or broken frame. Replacement is your best option if your transom window’s frame is cracked or broken in several places. 
  • Contaminated glazing. This issue can be difficult to spot unless you know what to look for (cracking around the glass panes, missing putty or grout around the glass). If you suspect that there might be something wrong with the unit, ask a professional about it. 

If you’re considering repair services, make sure they offer warranty options and come highly recommended by other customers in your area.

Transom Window Ideas

As we have already established, there are many ways in which you can install transom windows in your home. It all depends on the measurements of your home and your preferred style. If you feel like looking for inspiration, here are some cool transom window ideas worthy of your attention:

1. Transom Windows Everywhere 

Transom windows everywhere 

If you have glass doors facing your backyard, consider adding transom windows all around that side of the wall. This way, you can bring in lots of light and make your space look bigger and airier, ideal for enjoying your morning coffee.

It’s such a beautiful design that it makes you think about an indoor greenhouse. Just check out this Instagram post published by @hackleyarchitects to see what we mean.

2. Door Transom Window with a Vertical Frame

Door transom window with a vertical frame

This image portrays a beautiful home with a bay window and a glass-paned door that’s equipped with a sidelight and transom window. The door transom window adds that little extra height to the room, helping it feel even larger than it is.

This proves beneficial in small rooms where light is needed most. What’s interesting about this concept is the vertical frame of the transom window. It definitely adds character to an otherwise ordinary house.

3. Interior Transom Windows with Contrasting Colors 

Interior transom windows with contrasting colors 

If you want your interior door to stand out, try painting it a contrasting color to the wall. This allows for an interesting feature that doubles as an architectural detail. Or, you can opt for an all-white door and transom window, which contrasts with the wall colors.

In this photo shown by @ahdandco on Instagram, we see navy blue on the walls, together with a white interior transom window. It’s such a stunning contrast that truly makes the doors pop. The small horizontal window with three bars adds another layer of interest to the space, making it feel even cozier.

4. Transom Windows Exterior

Transom windows exterior

The exterior transom window placed on top of your front door doesn’t necessarily have to have an intricate pattern. Instead, you can opt for an arched style with a plain look since it doesn’t make the door look too busy.

In this example, the transom window is not directly placed above the front door since a small portion of the wall divides the two. But we can notice the brick design on top of the transom window, which matches the brick design on the porch.

5. Arched Transom Window Above Door 

Arched transom window above door 

If your home has a large front door with small windows on both sides, you can install an arched transom window above the door to complete the look and make your house seem elegant and more inviting.

Besides, it will bring in more natural light into your doorway. Simply put, an arched transom window is a way to add some character and beauty to your home.

6. Shed Transom Windows 

Shed transom windows 

If you have a shed in your backyard, you can put transom windows on top of the door to bring some light inside. It’s similar to the exterior transom window design but arched.

And, if done right, the shed transom windows will provide extra storage space. Therefore, it enhances the shed’s look even more without having to buy more shelving units or cabinets for storage purposes. For more inspiration, take a look at this Instagram post made by @minnbarns.

7. Transom Window Coverings in the Bedroom 

Transom window coverings in the bedroom 

Bedrooms need privacy, especially if the windows face a neighbor who might have no trouble looking inside. So, if you want to make the bedroom look more attractive and add more light by installing transom windows, then using transom window coverings is a must.

It can be done by adding a drapery rod above the door and hanging curtains or panels. But there are other options, too, such as window blinds. Here’s an excellent concept we found on Instagram, courtesy of @gotchacoveredofsugarland.

The coverings are hung in a way that allows light to come through while also providing privacy. It’s such a simple solution but makes a significant impact.

8. Vintage Farmhouse Bathroom Transom Window 

Vintage farmhouse bathroom transom window 

Transom windows can bring a lot of natural light into your small bathroom, which is essential, especially when the bathroom is a bit darker and you need some brightness.

In this image portrayed on Instagram by @tannabydesign, the transom window has been placed just above the bathroom door. It’s perfect since you don’t need any blinds for privacy. As such, you don’t have to constantly worry about people looking inside while you’re using the restroom.

9. Front Door With Transom 

Front door with transom 

A front door with a transom window above it can make your home classier. The additional height of the transom will give some depth and light to this space and enhance size perception.

We love this presentation because the bright yellow color of the door doesn’t match the simple white of the columns and transom. So you can use this as an example to make a statement by painting your front door in an unexpected color.

10. Stained Glass Transom Windows 

Stained glass transom windows 

A sure way to add color to your home is by installing stained glass transom windows. These windows can come in all shapes and sizes, so you can find one that matches the look and feel of your front door.

Like the other examples we’ve seen, stained glass transom windows also let in natural light and make a space feel larger. The main difference is that the light that passes through the glass is colorful. So, if you’re looking for a unique way to enhance your home’s beauty, then stained glass transom windows are a great option.

Final Thoughts on Transom Windows

As you can see, there are many benefits to installing a transom window in your home. They provide extra light and ventilation and can also add architectural interest to your home’s exterior.

If you’re considering replacing an old window with a transom window, be sure to do your research first. There are many different types and styles of transom windows available, so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs.

In the end, the decision to install a transom window is a personal one. Consider your needs and preferences, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of this type of window, before making your final purchase. With careful consideration, you can be sure that you’re making the best choice for your home.

What are your favorite transom window ideas? Let us know in the comment section below.

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