A transom window is a relatively simple and low cost way to add distinction and character to a home. In this guide, learn everything you need to know about this type of specialty window, including types of transom windows, where to install them, their costs, and how to select the right one for your home.
What is a Transom Window?
A transom window is usually distinguished from other window types by its location. Also known as “above door windows,” you will most often see them above a front door’s top frame or transom. Transom windows can also be installed above almost any exterior or interior door or window to bring in more natural light.
We can thank medieval builders for these windows. Transom windows were installed in European homes and other structures as early as the 14th century to brighten and ventilate homes while maintaining privacy and security. Today’s transom windows, also known as transom lights, are largely decorative. They can enhance a home’s architecture and add character.
While their height may vary depending on shape and style, transom windows commonly span the length of a door and its sidelights (the windows on each side of a front door) or an existing window.
How Much Do Transom Windows Cost?
Transom windows are a low-cost window option, costing an average range of just $140 to $300 per window, with a national average of $220 per window. The window materials should cost about $130 to $275 per window, while professional installation will cost around $10 to $25 per window on average.
Average Installation Cost $140 - $300
- Materials 91.8%
- Labor 8.2%
A transom window is a relatively inexpensive window compared to the price of other window types. For instance, a single-hung window has an average cost of $170 to $360 and a double-hung window has an average cost of $310 to $665. Compared to other specialty windows like bay windows, garden windows, or picture windows, which can cost up to $3,000, a transom window looks like a real bargain.
Keep in mind this average cost for a transom window is a starting point. There are several factors that can quickly increase your total cost. For example, vinyl transom windows are the most budget-friendly option, while wood window frames can add approximately 50% more to the cost.
Features that Affect Transom Window Costs
Like any home improvement project, costs can vary slightly based on your needs. When installing a new transom window, some common factors that can make prices lower or rise include:
- Size of window
- Framing material
- Tinted or colored glass
- Stained glass
- Window grills
- Load-bearing wall construction
When purchased as part of an exterior door window kit that includes the door, frame, and sidelights, a transom window can run several thousand dollars.
Types of Transom Windows
Transom windows are customarily organized by location first. Whether the transom window is installed on a home’s exterior or interior will often dictate the material, size, and shape.
Transom window widths typically match the dimension of the door or window beneath them. For example, a transom window will often traverse the width of a front door and sidelights if included. Transom window height will vary depending on its shape and a home’s ceiling height.
Common transom window shapes include arched, semi-arched, rectangular, and square. Fanlights are also a popular choice and consist of a semicircle opening with sash bars arranged in a fan-like look.
Fixed vs. operable
Today, transom windows tend to be more decorative than functional, enhancing the home’s exterior appearance and architecture. Operational transom windows – or those that open and close – are also available and include the traditional crank opening and closure as well as remote operation.
There are a few different types of window glass you can choose from, as well. Due to their location above a door or window, clear glass is a popular choice, though tinted or frosted glass is also common. For a more decorative look, stained glass is also a lovely option if it complements your home’s architectural style.
Benefits of Transom Windows
There has been a resurgence of interest in transom windows, from new home builds to home remodels. They offer several functional and decorative advantages that distinguish them from standard or other specialty windows.
Increase Natural Light
One of the defining features of exterior transom windows is their ability to harness more natural light. Placing a transom window above a front door illuminates an entryway and reduces the need for lamps or other sources of artificial light. Adding transoms above living room or dining room windows will provide another natural light source. They can offer ample illumination even if the window shades below them are closed.
Brighten Darker Rooms
Rooms usually get darker as you move to the interior of a home. Placing an interior transom window above an interior door allows natural and artificial light to travel from one room to another.
Add to a Home’s Character
A transom window can be a lovely distinguishing detail, whether you install one on your home’s exterior or interior. When placed above a front door or street-facing windows, they will enhance a home’s exterior and enhance curb appeal. When used inside a home, a transom window can elevate and complement its interior design.
Because of its high placement, a transom window offers an added advantage of privacy. It provides a good source of natural light even while the window or door below it remains closed.
Improve Energy Efficiency
Transom windows bring in more natural light and reduce the need for artificial light throughout the day. Operational transom windows that open and close improve ventilation and airflow from room to room.
Where Do Transom Windows Work Best?
A transom window is a great choice for any area of the home you would like to add more visual interest and a good source of natural light. As previously mentioned, this type of specialty window can be installed on a home’s exterior or interior. They work especially well in rooms that require some privacy, like bedrooms and bathrooms. Here are several common areas of the home where transom windows are installed:
- Exterior front doors
- As part of an exterior door kit that includes sidelights
- Exterior windows
- French doors
- Sliding glass doors
- Bi-fold glass doors
- Interior doors
Transom Window Structural Requirements
Transom window installation is commonly part of a home’s larger window remodeling project. It requires cutting away a section of the wall and removing the cladding, insulation, and framing to create an opening. For a load-bearing wall, the framing must be reinforced to maintain its structural integrity. Because of the additional construction work required, hiring a professional window installer is recommended for the best results.
Another factor to keep in mind is your home’s ceiling height. Transom windows will require a ceiling height of at least eight feet to accommodate both the door and window.
How to Choose a Transom Window
To determine the shape and style of a transom window, let your home’s architecture be your guide. For example, an intricately patterned stained glass transom window is a hallmark of craftsman design, while a fanlight works best in Victorian, colonial revival, and southern architectural styles. For a more modern look, a rectangular or square transom window offers just the right amount of detail. Research your home’s particular style for ideas and inspiration, or contact a professional installer for recommendations.
Finding the Best Window Professional
Most leading window manufacturers offer transom windows in various sizes, shapes, and materials. Our window comparison guide includes top brands and is a great start for your research and shopping. For expert advice and custom pricing, contact local window professionals to compare quotes.