What Are Transoms?

Let the light flow into your home and foyer with custom transoms. Learn more about their history, purpose, and privacy benefits.

Choose the Right Transom for Your Front Door

Let the light shine in—because custom transoms are an excellent way to brighten your foyer and add unique character to your entryway. If transom is a new term for you, let’s break it down. Transoms are transverse horizontal structures that separate a door from a window, and they contrast with a mullion, which is a vertical structure. Most commonly, they are recognized as a door’s transom light, or the window over the crosspiece—and they have a very fascinating and functional history.

Transoms first appeared in 14th century Europe and were vital in providing cross-ventilation while still maintaining a home’s privacy. These small, above eye-level windows were common fixtures in homes, apartments, schools, and other buildings before central air conditioning and heating became popular in the early- to mid-20th century. Perhaps this fact provides a double meaning to the British term for the word—fanlight—named as such because of its often semi-circular shape similar to a hand fan. Today however, many homeowners choose to design a door with a custom transom because it adds a unique architectural element. Follow along as we dive into the benefits of these windows, as well as installation and design tips, and frequently asked questions.

3 Key Benefits

There are several benefits of adding a transom to your front entryway, including: 

  1. Increased natural light. Equip your door with an extra window to enjoy a brighter space, and to enhance the seamless flow between your exterior and interior. For added light, try pairing it with sidelights as well.  
  2. Distinctive character. Pay homage to 14th century Europe, and customize it to suit your contemporary taste. 
  3. Added privacy. Feel secure knowing that you can see out, but others will have trouble seeing in—these above eye-level windows are an easy way to increase light without sacrificing security.

Designing & Installing a Custom Transom

If you’re considering adding a transom to one of your entryways, you must design a completely new iron door to pair with it because we can only replace the whole unit—in fact, our transoms need to be attached or hung from the same steel frames as the door. Otherwise, a detached “transom” that’s added to an existing entry will just be a fixed window that’s positioned above your door.

Have a tricky entryway layout? Our experts will work with you to customize the height of your door to match nearly any vision. While you’re sketching, keep in mind that transoms can range in height from a few inches to a couple of feet, and their width typically spans the width of the door. Your window can also be designed to complement any decorative door style, including modern, ornate, and traditional. Once you and our experts finish and approve the sketch of your new door and transom, we will send your piece through the custom fabrication process. Installation will then take place in 16-20 weeks.

Featured Projects Showcasing Transoms

Gather design inspiration from some of our favorite transom projects in a variety of door and home styles.

Modern & Sleek with Complementary Sidelight

A man walks through an iron door that has a transom.

Intricate & Ornate with Detailed Scrollwork 

An ornate double iron door with a transom window..

Timeless & Traditional with Classic Silhouette

A traditional double door with a transom window.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are transoms used for?

Traditionally, transoms are used as a passage for air and light to flow through rooms and entryways even when doors are closed. However, today, they are often used as an added architectural element to accompany custom door designs.

Are transom windows outdated?

Transoms are no longer used for their traditional purpose which was airflow and cross-ventilation. But, many homeowners still choose to add one to their entryway for added light and architectural intrigue.

What are mullions and transoms?

By definition, transoms are transverse horizontal structures that separate a door from a window, and they contrast with a mullion, which is a vertical structure. A mullion, much like a muntin, is primarily used for decorative purposes only.

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