Bob Vila Radio: Transform Your Home with Transom Windows

After falling out of fashion for a few decades, transom windows are enjoying a modest popularity rebound, thanks to their practical benefits and period style.

By Bob Vila | Updated Oct 2, 2017 1:41 PM

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Transom windows rest on the horizontal support beam above a window- or doorframe, enhancing natural light while adding a distinctive architectural touch.

What Is a Transom Window?

Photo: via Peter Stevens


Listen to BOB VILA ON TRANSOM WINDOWS or read below:

Transom windows range in style from simple, uninterrupted panes to elaborate, Arts and Crafts-style diamond patterns. Some models even open to provide natural ventilation.

If you’re planning to install a transom over an exterior door, consider one that’s part of a larger door system. For one thing, it’ll be simpler to install. For another, the one-piece sealed construction may provide better protection from weather and pests over the long term.

But double-check your ceiling height before you do anything else. Obviously, you can’t install a transom window if you don’t have room for one. That said, there’s no fixed rule as to how much clearance a transom requires. Different designs call for rough-ins of different dimensions.

For installation, unless you’re a skilled do-it-yourselfer with extensive framing experience, the wise course is to consult a contractor. Generally speaking, though, installing a transom window over an interior door tends to be simpler, easier, and cheaper than doing so over an exterior door or window.

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