If light is what you want, light is what you’ll get with transom windows. Not to be confused with clerestory windows, a transom window is a small window that sits above the crossbeam of your main window or door. Before the advent of glass, transom windows were simply an opening high enough to allow sunlight to enter a space without sacrificing privacy.
In pre-HVAC days, transom windows served the all-important purpose of providing cross-ventilation in homes. While now we simply push a button or call upon Alexa to enjoy our central air and heating systems, I’m pretty sure operable transom windows were a much cheaper option!
Even though most of the transom windows of today do not function, they don’t just sit there looking pretty. Located at least 7 feet above your flooring, these small windows flood your space with natural light. In addition, these windows add an elegant touch to your curb appeal and your home’s architecture.
If you happen to have this gorgeous structural feature on the exterior of your home, count yourself among the lucky ones. After market transom windows require some heavy duty remodeling, but it isn’t impossible to get this feature added to your house. In particular, as long as you have the ceiling height, front entry doors can be changed out for a door embedded with a transom. Of course this requires professional assistance with reframing and patching up the exterior of your home.
Transom windows aren’t relegated to the outside; some homes even feature transom windows indoors. These indoor transoms work best in tandem with exterior ones, giving spaces like a formal dining room or a foyer inordinate amounts of light.
Although transom windows are a very cool feature, there are a few downsides to having them. According to John D. Hutton, former professor at Penn State, “Windows lose more heat per square foot of area in winter and gain more heat in summer than any other surface in the home.” Since windows are the main source of heat loss in a home, transoms only serve to add fuel to the fire. This means that there will be additional stress on your HVAC system and your pockets if you are the owner of multiple transom windows.
Another potential disadvantage of having transom windows is that they often reduce the amount of drywall space available to add decorative hardware and curtains. When transoms are placed just below the ceiling line, homeowners are left making tough decisions like whether they will allow an installer to drill into their molding in order to use drapery.
Transom windows can help your home feel more custom, differentiating it from the home next door. You may even find that this architectural feature dresses up your home enough to justify a less is more approach.