transom windows

donaleenSeptember 12, 2012

My kitchen is too big for the number of windows it has. And its windows face north. There is also a french door out the back that faces east. But the eating area is darker than I would like.

Today, I was thinking that the room on the other side of the wall has lots of windows and lots of light. So, why not put in a transom window or two to let a little of that light into my kitchen? It's a very old house thing to do, I think.

I am thinking of the area above that cabinet in the photo.

Anyone have any advice, examples, pictures to share?


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We wanted tile in our new mudroom but wood flooring in the new kitchen and hallway. I had my contractor build a transom window in the hallway to visually separate the two spaces. I was worried because with This Old House, nothing was even and what if it didn't look right considering the constraints we had to deal with. Turns out it's one of my favorite parts of the reno of this old house. Try searching on houzz - that's where I got my inspiration. Just showed it to my guy and he recreated it. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 11:30PM
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It'd be a great thing to do, but: I'm wondering if between your header and that gorgeous wide trim, you'd have enough room for an appropriately sized transom?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:22AM
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The transom window would be over that big furniture piece... that is where the room with all the light is.

Nonetheless, your question is valid. My DH is quite excited even though he knows it is a load bearing wall. We shall see if we can get both function and aesthetics for a reasonable price.

And thanks for the compliment on the trim.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:46AM
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There's not going to be room for any window after you put in a header to support the weight. Unless you spring for some steel.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 1:02AM
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Green Designs, Yes I am afraid of that. Sounds expensive and invasive.

I am also a little afraid of steel beams. I remember reading a story about a lovely bungalow where they put in a steel beam and lightning hit it and burned the house down. I don't remember the details.. just enough to be scared. I know lightning can strike anywhere but in this case it was supposed to be attracted to the steel beam somehow.

We could also move that big cabinet but probably over DH's dead body. He likes it there.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:29AM
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If that cabinet is a built in, then you could put in the header and do a passthrough behind the cabinet. Take out the cabinet back, and install glass doors to the cabinet from the other side, making it a double sided glass cabinet that could pass light through.

A beam of any variety is invasive as in you have to move everything away from that wall, rip off the drywall, assess the electrical, plumbing and HVAC in the wall. Then you re-route stuff, support the ceiling with some temporary wall and start cutting out the existing studs to make room for the header. If there is a lot of weight above, like a second floor or tile roof, support points at the ends of the beam may be needed in the basement or crawl space. Once the header has been installed, the rough opening is finalized and then you start rebuilding the wall parts.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 11:42AM
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It's a simple project if you just frame out the studs. We have an apartment with the opposite problem, lots of light in the kitchen but the foyer behind was too dark.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:36PM
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You can see how the studs are left in place, thus, no header or other structure required.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:38PM
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donaleen, a transom window will look great where you are planning on putting it. Please make sure to post pics when you do!!
Dusty, what a great look you achieved by putting yours in that location! perfect! I searched on GW and looked at alot of your other posts. What is the blk tile that you have in this picture here on the mudroom floor? is it slate? Also, are the black cabinets the pinot noir that you mentioned on another thread? Those cabinets look amazing! Where did you get them? TY sooooo much.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 8:53PM
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Thanks, go_figure01! I wanted the look of slate but chickened out and went with faux - I posted the link. It's Formations Flint by Florida Tile. It's a lovely textured dark charcoal (in this picture, construction was just finishing up so the floor is a little dusty!). The size originally was 12x24. I know it's wasteful, but I didn't want rectangles that big, and I didn't want squares. I looked everywhere but couldn't find a smaller scale rectangle floor tile with the look of slate. I thought again about slate but it would have taken too long for real slate to come in. So I ordered the Formations Flint and had my contractor cut each tile down to 9x18.
Love the cabinets. People keep asking me if they're custom, but they're just Lowes Schuler. The kitchen ones are white icing and the panty in that picture is Pinot Noir - black, rubbed off to show a hint of red wine here and there ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Formations Flint tile

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 10:27PM
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Well, we have twenty inches between the ceiling and the big piece of furniture. We've agreed on a width of about 7 feet, which is wider than the piece of furniture there. I called somebody to talk about putting in a header, beam, whatever.

Here is the look of the window we have agreed on. There would be window trim around it. This window is 116 inches wide and we want 84 inches wide (I tell you that for scale).

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 10:28PM
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Donaleen,I think it will look beautiful :-)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 10:34PM
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Thanks, AboutToGetDusty. We are pretty excited. We already know who would do it. The question remains as to how hard it is and how much it would cost.

This would really improve our kitchen and I think it will look good, too, from both rooms. There is nothing like a little light.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 10:41PM
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Duh, I apparently don't read for comprehension as you clearly stated over the furniture. I guess I fixated on the great doorway to the exclusion of all else.

If you can pull it off, that would be really nice.

One question: are you sure a window that high up will bring a lot of light into the room? Or will the window be backlit by the bright room behind it? I always thought traditional transom windows were more for airflow than light. It's still a nice look, though.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 1:01AM
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you have 20" of height between the cabinet and the ceiling correct? It is a load bearing exterior wall correct? What did the engineer or architect tell you that you will require for a header for this window? The header will more than likely need to be at the very least a double 2x6 or 2x8 all of which will need to be in your 20" opening (thus making the actual opening smaller). As Green said you have made no mention of how your going to support this opening?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 10:01AM
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20" minus the 12" for the beam(You might need a taller beam depending on the load as calculated by an engineer) will leave you with around 8" of space, take away the framing for the window, even with super narrow window framing, and you've got 5" of glass. That is no where near the 12" of glass that the window you picture has. You would need at least 30" of space above the window to be able to have the header and 12" of actual glass space.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 10:05AM
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Thanks for all your thoughts. I don't have answers yet. I do have lots of choices, including moving the cabinet to another room (it is not built in; it's a cool old early 20th century piece of furniture).

If we moved the furniture, there are more choices. Like a cabinet through the wall.

Don't worry. I won't do anything that isn't done right. If it won't work or is too expensive, I won't do it at all.

Deedles, I am seriously thinking about your concern on the amount of light. The room on the other side of the wall faces east and south with five big old windows, three of them facing south. It gets a LOT of light.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 11:36AM
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