Transom windows: a useful design element

Posted by Freda McGlynn on November 09, 2018

There are indeed very few architectural structures & details that have survived centuries of technological advancements & passing trends like transoms have. Whether it is transom windows over doors or other windows, this style has survived since its introduction in 14th century Europe when homeowners appreciated that an opening over an entrance would be high enough to avoid any prying eyes while allowing for a glimpse of the sky & some fresh air. Improvement in style & functionality came about with the development of leaded glass followed by sheet glass as well as hinges & iron bars to make it easier to operate the windows. Although transoms were out of fashion in the 1970s & 1980s, present day home-owners are rediscovering how these windows help inject an original touch to a space alongside adding in a little more natural light.

Starting cost for transoms is under US$100 for non-operable vinyl, aluminum or wood frames, and it gets pricier for operable or intricately designed ones. In some models, cladding is offered over a wood frame- this adds to the cost of exterior transoms AND also to essential weatherproofing; these oftentimes boast of a better quality and can go upto hundreds of dollars. For new residential constructions, it is not unusual to pay in thousands for a design which includes a door, sidelights & transom- all within a single sealed unit. 

Though installation varies according to the door & ceiling height, interior/ exterior wall, and weight-bearing scenario, the standard procedure for incorporating a transom is to do away with the drywall and/or exterior cladding above the door, and then remove a section of wall studs so as to re-frame that very section for accommodating the new addition. Once the window is set, a new drywall is installed on that section. For an exterior wall, the exterior cladding is then replaced. The last step is to install the window trim. It is important to make sure that the transom window is a structural fit to your home and not simply an unsightly decorative piece. High ceilings are more suited to transoms as compared to the standard 8 foot ceilings, although a couple of narrow window models may fit in over doorways in the typical non-load bearing interior partition walls. But, it is crucial to carefully determine the rough-in framing space needed for that specific model. Load bearing walls may need opening up of the entire wall section to change the framing & add more structural support, so it is advisable to seek professional help in choosing a transom window for an existing wall. Once you know the style & specifications of transoms most suited for your home, you can customize it further to your preferences.

Want something more for your windows? Here are some innovative ideas. And if you are looking for some professional guidance on home inspiration, homify free consultation is where you will find all your answers!

Transom windows: a useful design element

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