Home with Marvin Door
28 April 2020

Sidelights: a Home Improvement Option Worth Considering

Adding sidelights to a door is a great way to lighten up a drab entry space, improve a home’s air quality, and create a stronger connection with the outdoors.


You may not have given them much thought until now, but sidelights can be a budget-friendly, high-impact home improvement option. Here is a helpful guide with some great information on sidelights, their benefits, how much they cost, and why they might be the perfect upgrade for your next build or remodel project.


What is a sidelight

Sidelights are narrow vertical windows located on one or both sides of a door. They can be installed as individual units into individual rough openings but are most often built into the same frame assembly as the door itself. Traditional sidelights are stationary and don’t open or close, but some modern doors offer sidelights that are fully operational. It’s common for sidelights to be installed along with transom windows, which are long, narrow horizontal windows located above a door. Sidelights can be found on interior and exterior doors and are usually available in ½, ¾ and full-length options.


Improved proportions

A standard size door can appear disproportionately small on a home with a vast facade, wide pillars or large windows. Adding sidelights to a door will increase its overall presence and can pull it into proportion with other substantial architectural elements nearby.


More natural light

Increasing the amount of natural light is the most compelling benefit of adding sidelights to a door. Natural light adds warmth and beauty to a room and can create a sense of openness. This is especially important in an entryway, which is a natural gathering place. Adding more light in an entry also makes it easier to track down shoes, coats, purses, etc. without having to turn on an overhead light.


Better views

Sidelights installed alongside a front door can announce arriving guests and help you keep an eye out for that delivery driver you’ve been waiting for. But sidelights are not just an option for front doors. They can also be built into patio doors, which is a great way to take full advantage of that stunning backyard landscaping you’ve worked so hard on.


Fresh air

In the past, screen doors were the only way to enjoy a healthy dose of fresh air through a door opening. But a screen door is not a great option if you own a beautiful handcrafted or historic front door that you don’t want to cover up. Operating sidelights are a brilliant fresh air solution because they are typically too small for a would-be intruder to pass through, which means you can keep the door closed and locked yet still enjoy all the benefits of fresh air.


Privacy solutions

The one potential shortcoming of a sidelight window is that you may not want folks outside looking inside your home. Some owners of sidelight windows choose to treat them with frosted or stained glass, sheer curtains, or other decorative options. Not only do these privacy solutions still allow light indoors, they also provide interesting design opportunities that can enhance your home’s look.


Replacing an existing door

Replacing an existing stand-alone door with a combination door/sidelight unit can be accomplished, but the rough opening would have to be increased, so there needs to be enough wall space on either side of the existing door to accommodate the width of the new sidelights. Increasing a rough opening is not a difficult project for a capable contractor, however there are certain circumstances which could drive up the costs. Moving electrical wires, heating ducts or other mechanical components hiding inside the wall would require the need to hire additional tradespeople. And cutting back and reconfiguring brick or stone can also be an expensive process.  


Adding sidelights to an existing door

If you want to keep your current front door but still want the benefits of sidelights, it is possible to add sidelights to an existing door by creating separate rough openings alongside it. Trim pieces can be purchased or created to cover up the framing structure between the door and windows to make it all look like one connected assembly. This process requires the skills of a seasoned carpenter.


Repairing existing sidelights

It is often possible to replace just the glazing (glass) on a sidelight window without having to replace the entire door/window assembly. Replacing rotten brickmould and other individual wooden components on a sidelight or door may be an option as well.


How much do sidelights cost?

There are thousands of sidelight sizes and styling combinations, so it’s impossible to state precisely the cost of the products you may be considering, but here is an example scenario on a relatively standard entry door:


  • Door without sidelight: $1,000
  • Door with one sidelight: $1,700
  • Door with two sidelights: $2,400