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What is a Sidelight?

By B. Turner
Updated May 16, 2024
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A sidelight is an architectural design element that is typically installed beside a door or entryway. It can consist of many different types of glass panel configurations supported by a wood or metal frame. The sidelight is used to draw attention to the entrance and complement the style and décor of the home. It can also help to bring sunlight and outside views into a building.

Sidelights can be placed on one or both sides of the door. They are often used in combination with transom windows, which are small windows located over top of the door or frame. Sidelight panels are often built to the same height as the door, though some may be taller or shorter depending on the application. In some interior uses, the sidelight is installed next to a framed opening even when no door is installed. Sidelights are usually sold as an integral part of the door frame, but they may also be a separate component in some cases.

While metal sidelights are the most common, these panels may also be made from wood or fiberglass. The frame can be painted or stained depending on the material and the finishes of other nearby features. A sidelight may be made using a single glass panel or many small panels separated by trim pieces known as mullions. While clear glass is often used in these panels, stained or designer glass versions are also available. Many sidelights are stationary, though some features= hinged or removable mullions so that large objects can be brought through the doorway.

It is important to consider safety and security when choosing a sidelight. Look for units made with tempered safety glass to help minimize the risk of injury. Tempered glass shatters into many small pieces when broken, rather than breaking into dangerous shards. A sidelight should never be used to close to the lock side of a door. Placing a sidelight too close to a lock makes it easy for burglars to break into the house by breaking the window and unlocking the door.

Use window treatments to dress up your sidelights, or to increase your sense of privacy. Many types of blinds and curtains are designed specifically for sidelight installation. Frosted or decorative contact paper can be used to decorate the glass while obscuring the view from outside. You can even add plants or other home accessories in front of each sidelight to allow some light to enter while keeping outsiders from seeing into your home.

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