12 Facts About Transom Windows

Have you ever spotted a window atop a door? if yes, then you’ve seen a transom window. So, what are transom windows and what purpose do they serve? Read on to find out more.


What is a Transom Window?

Most of us have probably seen transom windows a countless number of times without knowing what they are. A transom window is a type of window that rests on the horizontal beam above a main door or window. They are usually small and rectangular in shape. These windows are named transom because they rest on top of a window’s or door’s transom. A transom is a structural beam that separates a door from a window above it.

Transom Window

The use of transom windows dates back to gothic times. From time immemorial, transom windows serve no structural purpose. They are installed for purely aesthetic reasons. Most transom windows are definite, many-sided, and fancy. People love transom windows because they expand their view and brighten up their rooms even though they are small.

In terms of design, most transom windows are fan-shaped. Some designs allow transom windows to be opened and closed while in other designs the windows are fixed.


The History of Transom Windows

Transom windows were first used in Europe in the 14th Century. When they became popular during the gothic times, they were mainly used for ventilation purposes. In modern houses, they still serve the same purpose as seen in townhouses that lack central air.

History of Transom Windows

Transom windows are popular in historical row houses. Row houses were attached to each other by the walls on one side. Row houses also had narrow floor plans with windows only at the front and back.  These houses were designed for workers during the second industrial revolution in America. Their architectural design did not have a provision for air conditioning as they were long and narrow

Because row houses for workers lacked windows, transom windows stimulated airflow throughout the structures. They also allowed passage of air and light between rooms when the rooms were shut.

With the advent of air conditioning technology, the need for transom windows has become limited. The fashion of transom windows became outdated in the 1970s. In modern times transom windows are fixed, they do not open at all. These windows are only used for decorative purposes.

You will value transom windows because of their flexibility in design. Their height ranges from a few inches to a couple of feet. With this flexibility in design, transom windows offer a number of appealing possibilities.


What Purpose Do Transom Windows Serve?

Compared to interior transom windows, exterior transom windows are easy to install. Exterior transom windows are manufactured as one sealed unit to offer extra weather protection. Operable exterior transom windows are less operable thanks to insects and weather concerns. As a response to this concern, operable transom models are now motorized. They can be opened and closed through a mounted control panel. In fancy units, you will find moisture sensors which automatically closes the window if it starts to rain.

Transom Windows for home improvement

Transom windows can be installed both on the exterior and interior walls. Before air conditioning was invented, transom windows were opened and closed to allow for ventilation from outside to the inside and from the room within the house. Even with a garden window installed, the door underneath can still be shut therefore retaining privacy and security.

Transom windows are installed in a way that they can be opened to a 30-degree angle. This angle allows for airflow without making the window hard to open or close.

If you are looking to buy a transom window you can choose from stock options in home improvement stores or you can have it custom made to suit your needs.


Modern Transom Windows

Modern transom windows, commonly referred to as transom lights, mainly serve a decorative purpose. Some designs of transom windows offer a ventilation option. Modern extra transom windows are often sold as a part of an entire door system. This makes their installation simple and easy.

Modern Transom Windows

Operable transom windows are less popular due to insects and weather concerns. The commonly used operable models are motorized, they open and close through a wall-mounted control panel. In high-end units, you will find moisture sensors that automatically close the if it begins to rain.


Types of Transom Windows

There are many shapes and varieties of transom windows just as they are different styles of main doors and windows.

Transom windows can be broadly classified based on the following criteria:

  • Shapes

Rectangular transom windows

Transom windows can either be arch shaped or rectangular in shape. Rectangular transom windows are the most common type. Fanlights are mostly arch in shape.

  • Hinge Types

Hinge Types of Transom Windows

With this criterion, transom windows can be grouped into three categories. Bottom-hinged, side-hinged, and top-hinged transoms. Top-hinged transoms come with lifts that can be operated manually.

  • Indoors or Outdoors 

interior doors transom windows

The popular trend has been to place transoms on top of  back or front doors.  Nowadays transom windows are also placed over interior doors. When installed over interior doors transom windows increase the open-concept feel of your home.

  • Fixed or Operable 

Fixed transoms

Fixed transoms serve decorative purposes and increase the light flow into your house. They are suitable for houses with no ventilation issues. Operable transoms can be opened either by use of a motor or a window pole.


What Are the Benefits of Transom Windows?

To enjoy the best of transom windows, you’ll have to research window companies that are reputable for their products, installation, and service.

Benefits of Transom Windows

Transom windows have many advantages as mentioned before:

  • Beauty

Transom windows will enhance the architectural beauty of your house. When properly selected and installed transom windows are beautiful to look at. You are also at peace with this trend knowing that it has been there for a while and will still be there in the distant future.

  • Safe 

Transom windows were embraced because they kept the air flowing into the house and between rooms without the risk of the house being broken into. They are located high enough that they don’t raise safety concerns.

  • Good for the environment

Transom windows let into your sufficient natural light lowering your energy consumption.

  • Ventilation

Transom windows allow circulation of air from the outside into the inside of your house even with the main door or window closed. This extra bit of airflow can help cut down on your power bills.

  • More natural light

Transom windows will let in plenty of natural light thus lowering your energy bills.


How Much Do Transom Windows Cost?

The price of a transom window depends on its size, the material used, the design of the window, and motorized functions. The cost of installing a transom window largely depends on the renovations that the wall needs.

A transom window designed to be weatherproof will cost more to buy and install. Custom transom windows are also expensive than stock transom windows.


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Are Transom Windows Only Used on Exterior Doors and Windows?

From the time transom windows first appeared, they have not been restricted to exterior doors. In cases where transom windows are installed to serve a ventilation purpose, they are usually installed inside a building to help increase the airflow between buildings. They also increase the amount of light that reaches the inside rooms.

Transom Windows for Exterior Doors

Modern transom windows not only increase the amount of light that penetrates inside but also make the rooms appear more open and bigger.


How Are Transom Windows Installed?

There are cases where transom windows are included in the original plans when a house is being constructed. As the homeowner, you can request your architect to include the transoms in the plans or it may be his own idea to include them.

Transom Windows installation

It is more complicated to add a transom window to an existing building. Remember it is difficult but not impossible. Engage the services of a structural engineer to help install the transom window. The structural engineer will cut away a section of the wall to create space for the window.

The last and more affordable option is to have the transom window installed as a part of a set with a door that includes a transom window in the frame.


How Do You Choose the Right Transom Window?

Like in any other purchase decision, the first step is to establish whether it is feasible to install the transom window either internally or externally. The second step is usually to consider how the transom will look. It is a proven fact that internal transom windows are suited for buildings with higher ceilings. Here, they give you that feeling of openness. These windows do not work well with homes with low ceilings.

Choose the Right Transom Window

After you’ve made the decision on which type to buy, guided by the two factors above, engage the services of a professional to have the window installed in the correct way. If not properly installed, transom windows can interfere with the structural integrity of your house.


Transom Window Installations- What You Should Know

Structure and style are two important factors that you should put into consideration before installing a transom window. The transom window to be installed has to suit your home structurally. High ceilings are more suitable for transom windows than standard ceilings.

Transom Window Installations

Simple glass transoms are popular styles but you can still choose from a number of sophisticated leaded glass patterns.


Tips for Restoring Transom Windows

Transom windows that have been painted over can be restored to their former glory. This only requires the right tools and knowledge. If the window is made of one large piece of glass, remove the trim around the glass first then replace the old glass panel with a new one.

If the window is made up of multiple glass panels, first find out which glass panels need to be replaced. Remove the glass panels that you feel need replacement by prying away the glazing around that panel. Once you have replaced the panel, reapply the glazing material to hold it in place.

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