Faux Transom Window HACK

Friday, August 31, 2018 -
How to add an inexpensive faux transom window above a pair of doors using mirrors and molding trim hack

 *This post is sponsored by DAP Products and The Home Depot. I have been compensated for my time and provided with product or payment in exchange. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. 

I was reading an article a couple weeks ago and apparently Phoenix is going through a housing shortage. Tract home builders have been  going gangbusters here for decades and I, like many other Arizonans live in an inexpensive, builder-grade home. We've made several upgrades (like our kitchen and bathroom remodel) but there are some frustrating design issues that are more difficult to change.

My living room area has several large windows, which I love, and a pair of sliding glass doors, which I don't love. My ceilings are 9 ft tall. My front door is 8 ft tall, and all of the windows are set at 8 ft. Unfortunately, like all my interior doors, the sliding glass doors are only 70" tall.

Visually, it creates this weird step down on the wall and accentuates the wall space above the slider. The small door is even more magnified by the fact it's directly across the room from the den and the double doors and DIY transom I installed, which are also at 8 ft. 

Also, last year I replaced the dated interior doors, painted them black and added new trim with a cornice above each. I wanted to bring the same moulding detail over to the sliding glass doors as well.

I looked in to either adding a transom window above the slider, or just replacing the whole thing with an 8 ft model. I guess technically nothing is impossible, but that was dang near close to it. It would involve ripping apart half of a very long wall, moving the header and installing a new beam, and then patching and repairing the drywall, as well as the stucco on the exterior side of the house. It's a big job. Just the raw materials would be cost prohibitive.

I thought about it and decided I could make a faux (fake) transom window using mirrors that would be a great substitution. It made a HUGE impact, it only took me half a day to install and cost about $60!

Step 1: Remove the Old Trim

The first step was to remove the old casing around the sliding glass door. 

Since the new flat stock I wanted to use for the window casing is wider than the old stuff, I need to cut back the baseboards a little. Hands down the best tool for that job is a Dremel oscillating multi-tool with wood and drywall cutting attachments.

I've used other multi-tools before, but I definitely love the Dremel the most. My favorite feature is the keyless attachment change ability. Also, the universal Multimax attachment options are REALLY high quality and last longer than other brands I've tried.

I selected a wood cutting blade from my new accessory set, and trimmed back the baseboard an extra inch on the wall next to the door.

Step 2: Build Transom Window Frame

Directly above the metal door frame, I added a primed 1 x 2 horizontally.

I used my brad nailer, but since the longest 18 gauge brads available are 2", that means if I shot through the side of the 1 x 2, it will barely reach through the drywall behind it. To attach the piece of trim more securely, I added a bead of DynaGrip Heavy Duty from DAP to the wall and top of the door frame. It's a ridiculously strong construction adhesive which dries quickly and holds several types of materials together.

Next, I divided the length of the door into thirds to determine where to place the vertical dividers. I used an oversized 12" speed square to make sure everything was straight.

Then, I used an 18 gauge cordless brad nailer to attach the vertical dividers to the horizontal 1 x 2.

Step 3: Cut and Attach Mirror

I have a secret source for large, inexpensive mirrors. I picked up a pair of  "behind the door" mirrors from Walmart for less than $6 each. (find them here)

I carefully removed the paper backing and plastic frames. Honestly, it was a little tricky and I had to be really careful not to break the thin glass, but definitely worth the money savings.

I measured the length between the transom vertical dividers, and used those measurements to cut the mirror to size.

Then, I added a fair amount of DAP DynaGrip to the backs of the mirror panels and pressed them in place on the wall. DynaGrip Heavy Duty has a 5x faster bond strength than other construction adhesive brands, which means I didn't have to clamp or tape the mirrors while the glue dried.

Step 4: Add and Finish Moulding

Following the same steps I used in my interior door trim and cornice tutorial  to add the moulding around the slider and faux transom.

I love the simple design of flat trim, but it shows EVERY LITTLE FLAW! Normally I just fill nail holes with caulk. It's quick and kills two birds with one stone, but it's not perfect and you often can still see a small depression after it's painted.

I really wanted the door casing to look great, so I used DAP PlasticWood-X to fill in the nail holes. PlasticWood dries quickly and is super easy to sand. I also really like that the convenient pink indicator color lets you know when it's dry and ready to paint or sand.

With the holes and defects filled, I ran a bead of caulk on every seam of the casing and cornice, using my favorite DAP Alex Plus. It's easy to clean up, and I was ready to paint in only 30 minutes.

Step 6: Paint and Decorate

I brushed on 2 coats of paint, rehung the curtains, and stood back to check out the new transom window.

Does it look like a real window? Well, it depends on the angle you're standing at.

Of course, if you really scrutinize it, you can tell it's just a mirror, but the wood frame and cornice really make it believable.

I absolutely love it! I think it fills up the awkward blank space above the sliding glass door well. For a reminder, here is how it looked before:

And here's how this half of the room looks now, with the transom window hack installed.

What do you think of the hack? Is a a good and affordable option for an undersized door? I kinda wish I would have added mirrors above all my short interior doors as well. It would be a great way to help move light down dark hallways. Would you ever ad a faux transom window in your house?

Like this idea? Feel free to pin the image below to save the idea for later.

If you like that, you'll love these ideas:


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1 comment

  1. Came in via Pinterest.
    How pretty these turned out! I wasn't certain about mirrors, but the light they reflect has got to be nice. It sure distracts the eye from big, white wall space!
    Good idea. Thanks for sharing!


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